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Supreme Court Hears Arguments About Need To Decrease California's Prison Population

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

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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