In Lancaster, the only California state prison in Los Angeles County, a rehabilitation program that once won raves was on the brink of closure recently because of overcrowding, reports the Los Angeles Times. When the program started five years ago, 600 inmates lived in relative harmony in the honor yard; those who vowed to stay away from drugs and fighting could take in classes such as painting, woodworking, and yoga and receive mail and canteen privileges.
The quality of the program declined over the last two years as prisoners who did not meet the criteria were allowed in, marring the once-calm environment with fighting, drug use and an uncooperative attitude, staffers and inmates said. A former acting warden said he he was going to close the program; after protests, officials decided to keep it open for now, citing its record of reducing prison violence and drug use. The honor program was handcuffed by a population boom in California’s prisons, which are expected to absorb 23,000 more felons in the next five years. The state prison population is expected to climb to 193,000 by 2011 – up from 170,000 today.