California Prison Population Caps

The California State Prison System, which is run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, is once again admitting that they will be unable to meet their goals of reducing the overcrowding in the state prison system. The overcrowding has proved difficult to deal with, as recent legal filings have shown.

Between 1982 and 2000, the number of prisoners within the system increased dramatically by five hundred percent within the thirty three state prisons. This is an increase that the system is still reeling from. At one point, prisons were housing inmates in community rooms and gymnasiums. While this phenomenon largely does not occur anymore, double-bunking still persists within the system. Moreover, several prisons within the state prison system hold more than seventy percent more inmates than they are designed to house.

The Californian government was supposed to reduce the overcrowding within the system to 147% by December of this year. Another decrease to 137.5% was supposed to be reached by June of next year. Nevertheless, governor Jerry Brown’s administration has released figures this November stating that it is projected that the system will hold seven thousand prisoners too many by the June 2013 deadline. Therefore, the Californian government has put in a request to the federal judges that the deadlines be pushed back. The Californian government is asking for the deadlines to be pushed back by six months preliminarily. This distancing of the deadline will allow the government more time to pursue alternative solutions that will better suit the situation.

Legal filings presented by the Californian government state that figures presented by the state corrections department show that the number of prisoners within the system has remained largely unchanged throughout the past two months. The department attempted to make changes by moving low-level offenders to county jails. This change would decrease the number of prisoners within the state system by thirty three thousand. A three judge panel has been appointed and has a deadline of January seventh, 2013 to produce an alternative plan.

The lead counsel for the Prison Law Office, Don Specter, has stated that he would oppose the Californian government’s request for more time to deal with the situation. The Prison Law Office represents inmates in the litigation involving prison caps. Both sides will meet in the future to discuss potential solutions to the problem.

While the two sides meet and attempt to find a feasible solution, the Californian government’s spending on the prison system is astronomical. Within the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the government’s spending rose to $10.4 billion. Moreover, while building new prison facilities provides more employment opportunities to those that live in the surrounding community, residents are reluctant to permit a prison to be built near their homes. Ultimately, building new prisons in communities has proven to not be beneficial to the communities.

Time will tell if the Californian government can deal with the gross overpopulation of its prison system. For the foreseeable future, however, it seems that the system will continue to reel.

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