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California Inmates Must Be Released, Supreme Court Says

California Must Free 9,600 Inmates By 2014

California inmates due for release by the end of the year will still be getting out. California’s request to the US Supreme Court to delay these releases was denied Friday. This means by the end of December thousands of inmates will be facing early release.

This decision upholds an order from the US Supreme Court to the State of California. Issued in May this year, the court order requires California to let 9,600 inmates out of prison this year. The state has fought against the order, saying that releasing that many inmates could become a public safety issue.

This order was rooted in a decision made by the Supreme Court back in 2011. That decision lead to prison population limits being set for California. Overcrowded then and now, California’s prison system was found to be unconstitutional. The state was given a deadline to meet the new population limits, December 31, 2013, CNN reports.

The Supreme Court was asked earlier this week to stall the order. This was shot down in a 6-3 vote. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito voted to allow delay in a deadline for releasing California inmates.

This decision is the latest chapter in an attempt to address California’s overpopulated prison system. Inmates have sued the state on the federal level, claiming prison conditions violate civil rights. In recent weeks many California inmates have participated in hunger strikes to protest alleged unreasonable conditions.

California Governor Jerry Brown and his administration say they will still pursue an appeal of Friday’s decision. In the meantime, state officials are considering alternatives to releasing thousands of prisoners, LA Times says. One option may be to send more inmates out of the state to private prisons elsewhere. This would be expensive for the taxpayers, though, and guard unions would likely oppose it.

It is looking more and more likely the state will have to comply with the court order. Officials have started creating a list of California inmates that are near the end of their sentences as well as non-violent convicts.

[Image via ShutterStock]

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