A three-judge court that has ordered California to reduce its prison population issued strict deadlines Thursday for what will amount to a reduction of 37,000 inmates in two years.
The special panel of federal judges set June 27, 2013, as the deadline for compliance, paying little heed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s call for flexibility. In May, the high court cited California’s cash crisis in suggesting that officials might need more time to resolve the overcrowding problem.
The three-judge court ruled in August 2009 that conditions in state prisons violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The inmate population -- then exceeding 160,000 -- was twice the number for which the state’s 33 prisons were built, the court said, and the crowding resulted in deprivation of medical and mental health care for many inmates.
By Dec. 27, the number of prisoners must be at or below 133,600, or 14,400 fewer than were in state custody last week.
Further cuts of 9,600 by next June and 6,400 by December 2012 were also ordered. In two years, the population must be no larger than 111,000. Some reductions have already been accomplished since the original court order.
Gov. Jerry Brown has already taken some steps to reduce the inmate numbers. He signed a bill in May that would transfer thousands from state prisons to county jails.