« Effective Washington Post commentary talks up great (and still puzzling) crime decline | Main | Intriguing list of "Ten Most Significant Criminal Justice Stories of 2011" »

December 28, 2011

California having success(?) in complying with Plata prison reduction order

According to this new local media report, "California’s prison system has been shedding an average of 933 inmates a week since the governor’s realignment plan took effect this fall, and the state almost hit a court-mandated goal to reduce the population to 133,000 inmates by Dec. 27." Here is more:

As of today, the state’s prisons held 134,804 inmates — just 1,800 short of the target and far closer to that goal than many expected. California prison officials announced the numbers Tuesday and said they are in the midst of preparing a report, due by Jan. 10, that details the progress made toward meeting the court-ordered reductions.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that California must obey a lower court order to reduce its prison population, agreeing with federal judges who had found that overcrowding was the main cause of “grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care.” In the 5-4 ruling, the high court agreed that the prison system — which has held nearly twice its designed capacity for more than a decade — should cut its population to 110,000 by spring of 2013. The court also and set a series of benchmarks for state officials to reach before then.

While state officials did not meet the first target — 167 percent of designed capacity, or 133,000 inmates — by Dec. 27, they got pretty close. In a short statement announcing the numbers, prison officials appeared to credit Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment plan for the progress. The plan calls for most lower-level and nonviolent offenders to serve their prison sentences in local jails and report to county probation departments instead of the state parole agency upon release. In the written statement, prison officials said the plan — instituted Oct. 1 — has resulted in state prisons taking in an average of 933 fewer inmates per week.

The progress puts the state exactly where it said it would be in an August court filing. In that filing, state officials predicted they would miss the 167 percent by two percentage points (the system is now at 169.2 percent of capacity) but would hit the next goal, a reduction to 155 percent, or 124,000 inmates, by June 27.

I have placed a question mark following the work success in the title to this post because simply meeting court-ordered prison reduction benchmarks is not the only real measure of how successful California is being with its prison-reduction efforts.  But if crime continues to decline in the state AND the prison population keeps shrinking, then California will truly have had a successful response to the Plata litigation.

December 28, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference California having success(?) in complying with Plata prison reduction order:


persoanly i think it's a FRAUD.... now the new big question is how many of the 1,000's of local and country jails are NOW OVER POP! since they have been forced to house STATE PRISONERS! in VIOLATION of a FEDERAL COURT ORDER!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 28, 2011 4:31:07 PM

I think rodsmith has a point. For purposes of "complying" with the Plata order, the California prison system has shifted hundreds if not thousands from being behind bars in state prison to being behind bars in county jails. This gets advertised far and wide as a "reduction" in the PRISON population -- and technically it is -- but rodsmith's cynicism about what's actually going on seems justified.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 28, 2011 5:16:36 PM

if in fact they are overloading the local jails. maybe they can use the same salution some of the alabama jails did a few years back when the state was taking 6-10 months to pick up inmates sentenced to prison that they were legally required to pick up in 30 days. Jails got a court order to obey the law then simply loaded up the ones over 30 days and took em to the nearest state prison and then unloaded and handcuffed them to the fence and then left!

think they only had to do it once or twice and damn'd if SUDDENLY they COULD get them in the 30 day limit!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 28, 2011 11:38:53 PM

i'm not sure about alabama but in florida any sentence under 1 year and 1 day can be served in the country jail after that they are required to go to a state facility unless the local facility has some type of paid contract to keep them with the state picking up the tab

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 28, 2011 11:42:26 PM

This is the California government. Even assuming the skepticism about their claimed success is warranted, we are dealing with a kid who has failed every class for decades, and now has received a passing grade. Let us celebrate that the California government can get a D instead of its usual neverending parade of F's.

Posted by: Paul | Dec 29, 2011 12:48:41 AM

"But if crime continues to decline in the state AND the prison population keeps shrinking, then California will truly have had a successful response to the Plata litigation."

The issue is how many innocent victims were caused by the release, not macro trends in the whole state.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 29, 2011 2:43:18 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB