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California Gets More Time To Address Prison Overcrowding

A federal three-judge panel Monday gave the state an additional month to comply with its order to release or transfer thousands of inmates to reduce overcrowding. The new deadline is at the end of February. The court wants to allow more time for the state to negotiate with the plaintiffs' attorneys to come up with a long-term plan to ease overcrowding.

Aired 10/22/13 on KPBS News.

California is getting a little more time to address prison overcrowding.

Attorney Don Specter represents some of the inmates involved in the case. At a legislative hearing on the state of California’s prisons, he emphasized how crowded prisons have become.

“There are about 50 percent more prisoners in the prisons than they were designed to hold,” he said. “Some prisons are operating at 170 percent of their design capacity today.”

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it is pleased with the extension and will continue to reform the prison system. CDCR has said the state has reduced the prison population by about 25,000 inmates in the past two years.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has argued for better mental health services for inmates. He said that can still happen as the state looks to reduce overcrowding.

“There still remains an opportunity to make fundamental change in California’s correctional system by providing more resources for mental health, substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs so that once people leave prison they won’t come back,” he said.

A federal judge has been appointed to mediate negotiations and report back to the panel. His next update is scheduled for mid-November. If California cannot come up with an acceptable long-term plan, the judges could allow the out-of-state transfer of about 4,000 inmates - or the judges could block any out-of-state transfers, forcing the state to release the prisoners instead.

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