CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, September 18, 2006

Packed Prisons, Solution-Stalement: Is the Eighth Amendment the Answer?

Stanford CrimProf Robert Weisberg, director of Stanford Law's Criminal Justice Center says "there's a general sense of caution on anything involving crime and prisons" in California.  Three months ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger urged legislators to take action to resolve California's prison overpopulation and "deplorable inmate healthcare."  But at the end of August, lawmakers adjourned for the year without addressing the system's myriad of problems. And while the legislators have gone home, prison officials warn they will run out of beds by June. Already inmates are stacked on double and triple-bunks in gymnasiums and day centers.

Steve Fama of the Prison Law Office is considering a federal lawsuit contending that overcrowding conditions amount to "cruel and unusual punishment.'' If successful, the case could cap prison populations.  If prison populations were capped, of course more facilities would be necessary.  Schwarzenegger has indicated that he may declare a state of emergency in the prisons, allowing him to impose measures, such as shipping inmates to other states or re-opening mothballed prison facilities. Story from . . [Michele Berry]

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1. Do you actually know how many inmates are housed in facilities not in compliance with American Correctional Association (ACA) standards ?

The DC&R consistently reports that institutions/camps operate at about 200% of design capacity. Design capacity is a California definition based on one inmate for each cell. That does not reflect American Correctional Association standards requiring single cells “for inmates assigned to maximum custody”. DC&R should be asked to indicate how many inmates are housed in facilities not in compliance with ACA standards, particularly how many inmates are housed in gyms/libraries etc and how many maximum security inmates are housed two per cell.

2. How many prison beds are occupied by offenders serving less than 12 months?

These short term offenders, including parole violators, occupy about 30,000 to 40,000 prison beds, and are the main reason for prison overcrowding. These offenders should, and historically did, serve their terms in county jails. There has been a shift of “county jail inmates” to the state prison system. Historically about 50% of all offenders were held in county jail and 50% were held in prison. The current ratio is about 33% (83,000) in county jail and 67% (167,000) in prison.

Posted by: Richard McKone | Feb 12, 2007 12:10:39 PM

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