Packed Calif. Prisons Must Dump 1/3 of Inmates: Judges

Judges say squeeze threatens inmate health
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted Feb 10, 2009 11:39 AM CST
An inmate in one of the triple tier bunks in a gymnasium converted to house prisoners at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, Calif., Jan. 14, 2009.    (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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(Newser) – A panel of federal judges ruled yesterday that overcrowding in California's 33 prisons—158,00 inmates in space meant for 84,000—poses a threat to inmate health. The court tentatively required the state to reduce the prison population by up to 57,000, the LA Times reports. The governor’s corrections secretary says the ruling “poses a significant threat to public safety.”

The order is not yet final, and the state plans an appeal. However, inmates triple-bunked in prison gyms, and doctor, nurse, and guard shortages don't paint a pretty picture for the state. Should the ruling be upheld, the state would likely have 2 to 3 years to carry it out through methods like giving prisoners more time off for good behavior and limiting new admissions.
(Read more prisons stories.)