Inmates in 14 California prisons are being housed in some of the last spaces available to corrections officials – “dayrooms,” or communal spaces where prisoners watch TV, mingle and play cards. The emergency move – outlined in a memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times – is being enacted as new inmates, primarily from Los Angeles County, continue to flood the prison system despite predictions that the convict population would decrease this summer.
Moving bunk beds and prisoners into dayrooms has raised new safety concerns as convicted felons jostle for a shrinking slice of elbow room. It has some insiders wondering how much worse the crowding can get. “This is it – we’re to the rim,” said Lt. Charles Hughes of the state prison in Lancaster, where four dayrooms are jammed with full-time inhabitants. “Let’s hope people stop committing crime.” California’s prison system – the nation’s largest, with an inmate population of about 160,000 since the late 1990s – has operated at or near capacity for years, corrections officials say. No new prison has opened since 1997, and the only one under construction, called Delano II in Kern County, will not open until April.