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Federal judges ready to release up to 60,000 California prisoners to relieve overcrowding
California's 33 prisons hold nearly 160,000 inmates, about twice their designed capacity. The judges said they were prepared to impose a limit of between 120 and 145 percent of capacity, which would require 37,000 to 58,000 prisoners to be released.
Judges tell state to free thousands of inmates
Bob Egelko,Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
(02-09) 18:48 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- California needs to release tens of thousands of California inmates over the next two to three years to relieve overcrowding that has ravaged prison medical and mental health care, a panel of federal judges said Monday.
In what it labeled a tentative ruling, the three-judge panel said prison populations must be reduced so health care for inmates can be brought up to constitutional standards.
Crowding at prisons can be eased by measures that will not flood the streets with dangerous inmates, such as changing parole policies and sending some low-risk inmates to county custody, the panel said.
"The evidence is compelling that there is no relief other than a prisoner release order that will remedy the unconstitutional prison conditions," said the judges, who held a trial on prison overcrowding in San Francisco last fall.
The Schwarzenegger administration immediately announced plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court once the ruling becomes final.