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California seeks extension to comply with prison population caps

November 15, 2012 |  2:16 pm

Photo: Inmates at dinner at the California State Prison in Lancaster. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
Admitting once again to federal judges that the state won't be able to reach goals set for reducing crowding in its prisons, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has asked for a delay while it works on alternatives.

In legal filings Thursday, the state corrections department said the number of inmates in its 33 prisons has remained roughly unchanged for two months. It is highly unlikely, the state filing said, that  California will meet a December target of trimming its total prison population to 147% of capacity, let alone the goal of 137.5% of capacity by June.

Brown had relied on shifting low-level offenders to county jails to reduce the state prison population by some 33,000 inmates. But the plan has fallen short of original estimates. State projections released this month suggest California will have 7,000 too many inmates by the June deadline. A three-judge panel presiding over the case has ordered the state to produce an alternative plan by Jan. 7.

Those possible steps will be discussed with inmate lawyers in meetings later this month, the state said Thursday. In the meantime, it is asking judges to move its population deadlines back by six months, and to drop the requirement for a December report to the court.

Don Specter, lead counsel for the Prison Law Office, which represents inmates in the long-running litigation that led to the court-ordered caps, said he would oppose the state's request for more time. He confirmed that both sides were meeting later this month to discuss possible solutions.

Though inmates are no longer housed in community rooms and gymnasiums, double-bunking is common throughout the state prison system. Four state prisons — Avenal, Mule Creek, North Kern and the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad — hold at least 70% more inmates than they were designed to accommodate.


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Proposition 36 and prison overcrowding

California plans to drop outstanding parole warrants

-- Paige St. John in Sacramento

Photo: Inmates at dinner at the California State Prison in Lancaster. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times