In December 2008, Rosen Bien & Galvan attorneys completed 14-day trial on prison overcrowding. On February 9, 2009, the Court issued a tentative ruling regarding overcrowding and public safety. Updated Mar. 31, 2009 with link to new NPR story on nationwide movement to reduce prison crowding, prison budgets and crime.
After a 14-day trial on the harmful effects of prison overcrowding for both prisoners and the public, a special three-judge court issued a tentative ruling on February 9, 2009. Attorneys from the non-profit Prison Law Office and from two private firms, Rosen Bien & Galvan and K&L Gates, demonstrated at trial that chronic overcrowding deprived prisoners of vital medical and mental health care, and harms public safety.
The Courts tentative ruling found that Californias overcrowded prison system is itself, as the Governor as well as experts who have testified before the Court have recognized, a public safety hazard. The Courts tentative ruling does not anticipate ordering a wholesale release of prisoners, but rather a gradual reduction in the prison population. The Court reviewed the ample evidence presented at trial that other states have reduced their prison populations through changes in parole policies and sentencing credits, without reliance on early release of prisoners who would not otherwise have been released.
The Court noted that these changes can improve public safety by reducing prisoner recidivism.California prisons are currently running at nearly 200% percent of design capacity. Officials responsible for other state prison systems and for many of Californias county jails testified that the safety of both prisoners and staff are compromised when prisons are run beyond their design capacity. The Court ruled tentatively that California would have to reduce its population to between 120% to 145% of design capacity within a period of two to three years.
The Courts tentative order can be found Here.
Recent coverage of the Courts order can be found at the links below.