Federal court orders California to reduce prison population; DPA calls for release of nonviolent drug offenders

By Lynne Lyman, drugpolicy.org

A federal US District Court ordered California to take immediate steps June 20, 2013 to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity, or about 110,000 inmates. After 18 months of reductions, primarily through the Public Safety Realignment Act, the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prison population plateaued at 120,000 before trending up in the past month.

In a sharply worded brief, the panel made it clear that the state’s proposed plan did not comply with its earlier order, and it ordered additional measures, such as expanding good-time credits. If those measures are deemed insufficient by Dec. 31, the Court ordered the state to release inmates identified as low-risk (a list that the CDCR is now required to develop).

A 2012 Tulchin Research poll found that 75% of Californians favor alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenses such as marijuana.

People of color — especially Black men — are disproportionately ensnared in our criminal justice system. Blacks comprise just 6.2% of California’s population. Yet, in 2010, Blacks represented over 18% of all felony drug arrests made here, and in 2009 Blacks represented a staggering 29% of all people incarcerated in state prison. — West Coast Leaf News Service

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