By OPEC Staff

After years of crowded conditions and resulting lawsuits, California prisons now appear to be on a path to meet the requirement of the courts.

Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed an order of a federal Three-Judge Court that CDCR reduce the inmate population in its 33 adult institutions to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years. The order established benchmarks at six-month intervals to measure the progress of CDCR.  The first benchmark called for institutional population to be at 167 percent of design capacity by December 27, 2011. A head count on December 28 revealed that the target was met – 166.8 percent.

“Meeting the Three-Judge Court’s six-month benchmark to reduce prison overcrowding was our top priority,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “Reducing overcrowding enhances safety and security for staff, inmates and the public. It also increases inmates’ access to medical and mental health care, and gives us more space to provide rehabilitative programs.”

The bulk of the inmate population reduction was a result of implementation of Assembly Bill 109, 2011 Public Safety Realignment, which shifted the responsibility of low-level offenders – non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders – from the State to the counties, thus closing the revolving door in and out of state prisons.
Implemented October 1, 2011, Realignment enabled the State to safely reduce the prison population without resorting to a wholesale release of inmates from prison.

CDCR was able to meet the first benchmark – 167 percent of design capacity by December 27, 2011 – by reducing the inmate population to 132,887.
The subsequent benchmarks are:

  • 155 percent by June 27, 2012,
  • 147 percent by December 27, 2012, and
  • 137.5 percent by June 27, 2013.

Design capacity is the number of inmates a prison can house based on one inmate per cell, single-level bunks in dormitories, and no beds in places not designed for housing. Current design capacity in CDCR’s 33 institutions is 79,650.