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Federal Judges Order Calif. To Reduce Prison Population

Prisoners lay on their bunks at California State Prison in Los Angeles County...
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Above: Prisoners lay on their bunks at California State Prison in Los Angeles County, located in the city of Lancaster. (Eds. note: The Department of Corrections said it no longer uses triple bunks in its facilities.)

— A panel of three federal judges is ordering the state to reduce its prison population by 44,000 inmates within two years. But, the state’s top corrections official is vowing to appeal.

Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Matthew Cate says state prisons are housing more than 160,000 inmates. That’s nearly double their capacity.

But, Cate says the ruling may be appealed because the state already is working on a plan to address overcrowded prisons.

“Governor Schwarzenegger has said previously that if we get a federal order to reduce the prison population in a decision of this magnitude or we get a population cap, then we will appeal to the United States Supreme Court. We’re just reviewing at this time whether this order does that.,” says Cate.

The court order comes after several lawsuits were filed by different groups that allege California’s overcrowded prisons violate the constitution and deny inmates adequate health care. As a part of his latest state budget plan, Governor Schwarzenegger wanted to reduce the state prison population by 27,000 inmates. He said it would save the state more than a billion dollars. Lawmakers are expected to take up the issue when they return from their summer recess in a few weeks.

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