Brown v. Plata Decided

May 25, 2011

Whether a federal court appropriately exercised its authority by ordering the State of California to reduce the size of its prison population, which was more than double the system’s intended capacity, after dozens of remedial orders had failed for more than a decade to ensure that California prisoners received constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care.

California has failed to provide prisoners in its care with constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care. After dozens of remedial orders issued over more than a decade had failed to correct the constitutional problem, a three-judge court ordered California to reduce the size of its prison system, which was operating at more than 200% of its intended capacity. The ACLU argues in its amicus brief that the prison release order in this case was proper under Prison Litigation Reform Act. We further argue that a contrary interpretation of the PLRA would raise serious constitutional questions and also call into doubt our national compliance with international treaty obligations.

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