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CA heightens push to ease prison crowding

  Politics  -   POSTED: 2007/02/23 19:15

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged legislative leaders yesterday to act swiftly to ease prison overcrowding, saying he would consider early release of inmates who are “old, feeble and sick” and “pose no threat to the public.”  The governor said that if lawmakers do not solve the long-standing overcrowding problem, the federal courts may order the release of criminals and the construction of new prisons, taking money that would otherwise go to education and health care.

“This is, of course, unacceptable. But we can make certain this doesn't happen if we act now,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference after meeting earlier with legislative leaders. He said he is confident that a Superior Court decision Tuesday blocking an emergency move to transfer inmates to prisons in other states will be overturned on appeal.

The out-of-state transfers have been the administration's only plan to quickly ease overcrowding. About 360 prisoners have been transferred, far short of the goal of 5,000.

AdvertisementIn response to a question, Schwarzenegger said the new urgency comes from an order last week by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco giving the state 90 days to spell out how the inmate population will be reduced in each of the next two years.

“I think by having this order it helps us to speed up the process and really start negotiating,” Schwarzenegger said.

California has more than 170,000 prisoners jammed into prisons designed for 100,000. Inmates are packed into gyms, classrooms and hallways – sometimes in beds stacked three high. Officials are concerned about potential riots.


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