A proposed legal settlement on California prison overcrowding would vastly reduce the number of state inmates without releasing criminals early, by diverting low-risk offenders to community-based rehabilitation programs and county jails, reports the Los Angeles Times. The draft agreement emerged after six months of negotiations among state officials, advocates for inmates, local law enforcement leaders and two mediators appointed by a panel of three federal judges. The judges are scheduled to meet in 10 days, and are expected to proceed to trial if a settlement has not been reached by then. A number of interested parties must sign off on the agreement.
There are 171,000 inmates in California’s 33 prisons, which were built to accommodate 100,000. Instead of releasing prisoners early, the agreement would reduce the number who enter for short stays and those who churn through frequently on parole violations. They would be given treatment and confined locally, including in home detention and by electronic monitoring. The median time served by nearly 45,000 inmates paroled for the first time in 2005 was less than a year, according to a report last year.