California Prisons Shedding Inmates Fast
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
California prisons have been shedding about 900 inmates a week and are nearly on pace to meet the aggressive target set by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, when it ordered the state to reduce its prisoner population to 110,000 inmates by the spring of 2013, according to the San Francisco Chronicle . "As of today," the paper reported, "the state's prisons held 134,804 inmates," with the reduction in numbers just 1,800 less than an initial goal set by the high court in advance of the 2013 deadline.
Earlier this year, the California inmate population exceeded 150,000, as Stateline noted in an April feature about overcrowded facilities . That huge population, and the state's long-running effort to reduce it, led the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in May, citing unconstitutionally bad prison conditions.
The state's response to the high court was to pass a prison "realignment" plan, which went into effect in October and requires low-level offenders to serve their time in county jails rather than state facilities. While the plan has had the intended effect of easing the state prison population, many counties say they cannot handle the influx of new inmates. Some law enforcement officials have said that the policy is a dangerous one.
From the state's perspective, however, low-level offenders should not be serving time in state prisons anyway, and the Brown administration is pressing forward as it tries to comply with the Supreme Court order. "The progress puts the state exactly where it said it would be in an August court filing," the Chronicle reports , noting that the next target is to reduce the prison population by another 10,000 inmates - to 124,000 - by June 27.