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State says crowding report for Valley State Prison was overstated

January 18, 2013 |  8:55 am
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California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says that its past reports showing male inmates packed at 350% capacity in Valley State Prison near Chowchilla were in error.

The agency on Thursday revised its population reports for the prison, showing 1,562 men in space intended for 1,468, or just 5% over design capacity. The women's portion of the prison is being emptied as they are shipped out. California has converted a substance abuse treatment facility adajcent to Folsom State Prison to house female inmates.

"We learned from our Data Analysis Unit that the design capacity on our population report was incorrect," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the corrections department. "The shifting of men and women in and out of the facility resulted in some confusion about the design capacity where the men were being moved."

The error was included in material California filed with a panel of three federal judges hearing the state's case that prison crowding is no longer a serious enough problem to require federal oversight. The state failed to meet a Dec. 27 benchmark of 145% crowding overall, and has acknowledged it is unlikely to comply with a June 30 deadline to reduce crowding to 137.5%

The federal judges, presiding over class-action lawsuits that claim substandard prison mental, dental and medical care, have yet to respond to California's request that the caps be lifted. A federally appointed receiver in control of the state's prison medical care is due to file his own status report Friday.

Advocacy groups seeking to lower the state's incarceration rate and beef up community programing criticize the shift of female inmates from Valley State in Madera County in California's Central Valley to Folsom outside Sacramento.

"Opening 400 beds in Folsom and converting Valley State to a prison for men doesn't solve the state's crowding crisis," said Debbie Reyes of the California Prison Moratorium Project. "CDCR has reverted to their old line that they can build their way out of any problem."

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-- Paige St. John in Sacramento

Photo: Valley State Prison near Chowchilla has been converted into a men-only facility. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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