Lawyers Seek Population Cap on Prison System
Inmate rights lawyers on Monday asked federal judges in San Francisco and Sacramento to impose a population cap on the prison population in an effort to improve inmates' access to medical and mental health care, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The motions were filed by the Prison Law Office and Rosen, Bien & Galvan, a San Francisco-based law firm. The lawyers said that the overcrowding problem is delaying the state from focusing on solutions to improve health care services to inmates.
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that the Schwarzenegger administration would contest the implementation of a population cap (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/14).
There are about 172,000 inmates in California's prison system, more than 30,000 above the capacity (AP/San Francisco Examiner, 11/13).
Don Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, said that a shortage of health care professionals in the state's prisons, combined with the overcrowded populations, has denied inmates access to a constitutional level of care.
The motions filed Monday were part of two ongoing class-action lawsuits accusing the state of failing to provide basic medical and mental health care to inmates (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/14).
Lawyers said they are not advocating for a court-ordered release of inmates and that they asked the court to reduce the amount of low-risk convicts, especially parole violators, entering prisons.
Specter said that these convicts could be penalized in the community, through home detention, electronic monitoring or residential drug treatment programs (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 11/14).
The motions asked the federal judges to appoint a three-judge panel that would take up the issue of the population cap under the federal Prison Litigation and Reform Act. The motions are expected to be heard on Dec. 11 (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 11/14).