California Rebuffed by Top U.S. Court on Inmate Reduction
The U.S. Supreme Court turned away California’s appeal of a ruling that requires the state to cut its prison population by almost 10,000 inmates by year-end.
The justices today left intact a lower court order that the state at one point said would force the release of violent offenders. California is planning to rent private prison space to avoid that possibility. The state’s prison population is currently 124,000.
The high court foreshadowed today’s action in August, when the justices voted 6-3 not to put the lower court ruling on hold.
The Supreme Court in 2011 upheld an earlier order requiring the state to cut the number of inmates by tens of thousands. The high court said that order, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, was an appropriate step to remedy the constitutionally inadequate level of health care provided to prisoners.
The latest appeal centered on a follow-up order issued in June by the same three-judge federal panel requiring the state to take new steps to reach 137.5 percent of prison design capacity by Dec. 31.
California’s prisons operated at 200 percent of design capacity for more than a decade. In the 2011 ruling, the high court said that as many as 54 prisoners had to share a single toilet and that suicidal inmates had been held in cages the size of a telephone booth because of a shortage of treatment beds.
In the latest appeal, California’s lawyers argued that the appellate panel should have considered changes that have been made in the penal system during the interim.
The case is Brown v. Plata, 13-198.
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