California will forcibly shift thousands of inmates to out-of-state prisons because only a few hundred volunteered to leave, reports the Los Angeles Times. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision escalates pressure to overhaul a corrections system that officials say will be out of space by summer. A federal judge has given the state until June to relieve the crowding or face a possible cap on admissions.
Between 5,000 and 7,000 inmates will be forcibly moved. The first to go will be inmates scheduled for deportation after they’ve served their sentences and those who get few visitors. California prisons contain 172,000 inmates, far more than their intended capacity. “I think it’s pathetic policy,” said Steve Fama of the Prison Law Office, which represents prisoners. “Because the elected officials don’t have the will to figure out how to solve the crisis, we instead export convicts and spread our mess across the land.” The nonprofit group would sue to block the transfers if asked to do so by an inmate. State law requires an inmate’s consent before he or she can be moved out of state, he said. In October, the state signed contracts worth $153 million with privately run prisons in Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arizona to house 2,260 California convicts.