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Three-Judge Panel to Consider Cap on California Prison Population

Two federal judges have cleared the way for a possible cap on the number of inmates in California prisons. Marianne Russ reports from Sacramento.

Three-Judge Panel to Consider Cap on California Prison Population

Two federal judges have cleared the way for a possible cap on the number of inmates in California prisons. Marianne Russ reports from Sacramento.

Federal Judges Lawrence Karlton and Thelton Henderson have granted a motion to create a three-judge panel. The panel's job is to consider whether to set a limit on the number of inmates in the state's prison system. That could lead to the early release of thousands of prisoners.

The ruling is in response to successful lawsuits that argued overcrowding led to unconstitutional medical and mental health care in prisons.

In the decision, Judge Henderson noted that a cap would be a radical step, and said it might not be necessary if action by the state to relieve overcrowding brings medical care up to constitutional standards.

In a statement, Governor Schwarzenegger said he would appeal the order, and that he was confident the steps the state has taken would address the court's concerns.