California’s progress in reducing its prison population has slowed so much that it probably won’t comply with a court-ordered population reduction, and judges have raised the prospect of letting some inmates out early, reports the Los Angeles Times. Three federal judges have given the state until Friday to come up with a schedule for identifying prisoners “unlikely to reoffend or who might otherwise be candidates for early release” and to detail other ways to hasten the emptying of double-bunked cells.
In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court gave California two years to comply with the three judges’ determination that prisons should not be overcrowded by more than 137.5 percent. State officials concede they are unlikely to reach that target by the June 2013 deadline and have told the judges they intend to ask for a new cap of 145 percent. That would mean about 118,000 prisoners, which is about 6,000 more than the court wants, in quarters built for 81,500. The officials say they can comply with the spirit of the order — improved medical care and humane living conditions — if not the letter. Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment” program, the prison population was shrinking by more than 4,000 inmates a month in October. That has now shriveled to fewer than 1,000 and is expected to fall further as many of the remaining low-level offenders leave the system.