Courts & Crime

Federal court panel tells California to cut its prison population

SACRAMENTO — In a historic move, a panel of three federal judges Tuesday ordered the state of California to reduce its prison population by more than 44,000 inmates in the next two years.

The order, which will not result in the immediate release of any of the state's 160,000 inmates, almost certainly will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first time the high court will have faced such a case.

California's prison system is operating at 190 percent of its design capacity of 84,210 inmates, and the judges said the state must devise an inmate reduction plan within 45 days unless a stay is ordered to allow an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The convergence of tough-on-crime policies and an unwillingness to expend the necessary funds to support the population growth has brought California's prisons to the breaking point," the judges' 184-page order said.

The judges added that "federal courts do not intervene in state affairs lightly," but that conditions in California's prisons have become "horrific" in some cases.

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