Judge Gives Deadline To Ease Prison Overcrowding
A federal judge yesterday ruled against setting a population cap on the state's overcrowded prison system and gave state officials a six-month deadline to make progress toward downsizing the population, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton delayed until June 2007 a request by inmate rights lawyers to appoint a three-judge panel to recommend options that include a population cap and early release of inmates. Federal law permits early releases if the panel determines that "all options have been exhausted" (Thompson, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/12).
Karlton said that state progress must be "respected [and] encouraged" before he "takes a radical step" and orders the court panel.
The overcrowding prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in October to declare a state of emergency for the state's prison system, which hold 73,000 more inmates than its 100,000 capacity (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 12/12).
Karlton is the presiding judge in a 10-year lawsuit filed by inmate rights lawyers charging the state with failing to provide sufficient care to inmates with mental illnesses. The lawyers last month filed a request to install a population cap, arguing that the overcrowding is hindering the state's ability to provide proper medical care (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12).
Oscar Hidalgo, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson, said the agency will present the Legislature with a "package of proposals" aimed at addressing the overcrowding problem (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 12/12).