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State Grapples With Prison Overcrowding

The clock is ticking for California officials to cut the inmate population, in the state’s overcrowded prison system.Back in May of 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce the prison population to 137.5% of capacity by next June, in an effort to improve safety and health conditions in grossly overcrowded facilities.”The reduction in overcrowding is a means to an end. The reason the federal courts ordered the reductions is not simply to reduce overcrowding, its to create conditions where healthcare can be improved to constitutional levels,” explains Jeffrey Callison, Press Secretary of the California Department Of Corrections and Rehabilitation.The state has made huge improvements.”We’ve made enormous progress toward improving the quality of healthcare in California prisons. We are improving healthcare, we’re getting close to the level it needs to be.”Despite their efforts, including legislation that diverts low-level offenders to county jails, officials say they are unlikely to meet their June deadline. They are now asking judges to increase the cap on overcrowding to 145 percent.”It’s quite possible we won’t meet the fourth benchmark. At this point, we are in discussions with the court about what to do if in fact we do not reach the final point.”One option the court is asking them to consider: early releases based on good behavior. An issue that has some, including Santa Barbara County District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, concerned for public safety.”When you release a prisoner before their term is over in state prison, you’re increasing the likelihood public safety will be affected in a negative way.”State Officials plan to open a new 1,700 bed prison hospital in Stockton to house critically ill and long-term-care patients, which they say will also help ease the overcrowding issue.

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