November 30, 2010

ACLU Amicus Brief Supports Federal Court Order Mandating That Prison Population Be Drastically Reduced

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today heard arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Plata, a case examining a federal court order requiring the state of California to resolve the extreme overcrowding in the state prison system by reducing the prison population to 137.5 percent of the system's design capacity. The system is currently at nearly 200 percent of capacity.

The order to reduce the prison population was issued in two long-running cases in which the medical and mental health care provided in California prisons was found to be so deficient that it endangers the lives of prisoners and violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

A special three-judge federal court determined last year that severe overcrowding was a primary cause of the constitutionally inadequate medical and mental health care provided to prisoners and would only be improved by a reduction in the prison population. California is appealing that ruling.

The following can be attributed to David Fathi, Director of the ACLU National Prison Project:

"Gov. Schwarzenegger has acknowledged that prison overcrowding increases recidivism while creating 'conditions of extreme peril' that threaten the health and safety of staff and prisoners alike. Our public safety is jeopardized by overcrowded prisons, in which high-risk prisoners don't rehabilitate and low-risk prisoners learn new criminal behavior. It is far past time to abandon failed 'get-tough' ideologies and invest in policies that are rooted in evidence, fiscal prudence and common sense."  

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