20 Sep 2009

California submits prison plan

8:49 am on 20 September 2009

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has submitted a plan to relieve prison overcrowding - but it falls short of demands by federal judges.

The BBC reports a federal court recently ordered California to reduce its prison population by 40,000 within two years. A deadline of 18 September was set for a plan to be presented.

Under the governor's plan, the number of inmates would fall by 18,000 over two years, and 35,000 over five years.

This would be done through transfers and changes to sentencing guidelines.

If the state legislature approves changes to indictment guidelines for crimes such as burglary and on at-home monitoring for low-risk offenders these numbers would rise to 23,000 in two years and 47,000 in five years.

California has 150,000 people behind bars, in prisons built for half that number.

Court ruling

A three-judge panel ruled in August that inmates were housed in dangerously overcrowded conditions and ordered the 40,000 reduction.

As the state's proposals fall short of the demands by the judges, the BBC reports Governor Schwarzenegger could in theory be held in contempt of court.

However, the state argues that the court is overstepping is authority and should not interfere in state prison policy.