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Judges approve Schwarzenegger's prison plan

January 12, 2010 |  4:42 pm

A panel of three federal judges has approved a court-ordered plan submitted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce overcrowding in California prisons, under a decision released today.

Schwarzenegger has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn last year’s decision by the federal judges presiding over a pair of lawsuits by inmates who said overcrowding violates their rights to adequate medical and mental healthcare.

In the meantime, the governor was required to submit a plan showing how, if the state loses, he would reduce the inmate population by up to 40,000 over two years. His first plan was rejected by the judges in October because it did not meet the required population targets or timeline.

[Corrected, 5 p.m.: A previous version of this post reported that the governor's first plan was rejected in November.]

His second, submitted in November, told the judges how the state could achieve the population reduction. Schwarzenegger said the governor would work with lawmakers to approve measures they rejected last year, including home detention with satellite tracking devices for some inmates; permitting some felony offenders to serve time in county jails instead of state prisons; and reducing sentences for property crimes.

If lawmakers refuse to go along with the plan, the judges could waive state law and order the measures implemented, Schwarzenegger said. The governor’s aides said they oppose such a solution, but would implement the orders if they lose their appeals.

The judges said they would postpone implementation of the plan pending resolution of the state’s appeal.

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento