California Must Cut Inmate Population
California needs to cut its inmate population from the current 150,000 to about 100,000 in two years, by order of a panel of federal judges. The judges found that the prisons currently are grossly overpopulated, which leads to at least one unnecessary inmate death every week. They are calling for a change in the prison health care system, and accuse the prison system with lacking sufficient means to safely house the number of current prisoners. According to the court, the California prisons are currently at 200 percent capacity.
“In these overcrowded conditions, inmate-on-inmate violence is almost impossible to prevent, infectious diseases spread more easily, and lockdowns are sometimes the only means by which to maintain control,” the three judges wrote. “In short, California’s prisons are bursting at the seams and are impossible to manage.”
California has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrading its prisons over the past couple of years, but the judges still ruled that the state is in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials are going to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, if the verdict stands.
The ruling, a result of three class action lawsuits addressing health issues in the prison system, is so far tentative, and will only be implemented if no other action is taken to improve the situation of the inmates. Those released would be prisoners who are considered of low risk to society, inmates who are serving time for parole violations, as well as those who are able to qualify for early release after partaking in rehabilitation programs.
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Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada