Governor Loses Appeal To Block Prison Population Cap
A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to prevent a three-judge panel from considering a population cap on the state's prison system, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The governor contends that the limit is unnecessary because a $7.4 billion prison expansion plan recently signed into law will ease overcrowding.
About 172,000 inmates are incarcerated in 33 state prisons that were designed to hold 100,000.
Andrea Hoch, Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, said the administration "continues to aggressively work to resolve prison overcrowding" through changes in the parole system, addiction treatment programs and transferring some inmates to other states.
If the three-judge panel determines that overcrowding is straining efforts to improve health care and mental health services for inmates, it could impose a cap that would require the state to release prisoners.
The appeals court said that the creation of a three-judge panel was an interim step in the case and that the state cannot appeal until the court completes its work in the case.
The panel consists of Judges Thelton Henderson, Lawrence Karlton and Stephen Reinhardt. The judges will hold their first session on Sept. 24.
Federal law only allows three-judge panels to place limitations on a state's prison population (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12).