Thursday, November 12, 2009

Judges reject California plan to cut prison crowding

Three federal judges on Wednesday forcefully rejected a Schwarzenegger administration proposal to ease prison overcrowding, threatening to impose their own plan for reducing the inmate population if the state does not submit an acceptable one within three weeks.

The panel said California officials had failed to comply with their order to produce a plan to pare the number of state prisoners by 40,000 within two years. The judges agreed to postpone a decision on a request by inmates' lawyers to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in contempt of court for defying the earlier order, issued Aug. 4, 2009

A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, Rachel Arrezola, said the state would respond to the order by its Nov. 12 deadline. She said the administration is continuing to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the judges' "arbitrary" reduction order. That appeal was filed last month.

The push to reduce overcrowding stems from the judges' ruling in a pair of inmate lawsuits. The judges said the teeming conditions of the state prison system, which contains nearly 170,000 people, is the main cause of medical and mental health care so poor that it violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.


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