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Sentencing Reform Advocates Say CA Is Not Dealing With Underlying Prison Problem

January 22, 2013 06:07:00 am

Inmates in the California Institution for Men in Chino no longer are housed in the gymnasium, says the New York Times. For the first time in recent memory all inmates are sleeping in cells that were designed to house them. The state is a long way from cutting the prison population by 30,000, as the Supreme Court mandated, but Gov. Jerry Brown says “the prison emergency is over in California,” arguing that the federal courts should relinquish control of the state prison system.

Critics, including the lawyers who sued the state on behalf of prisoners, say that many of the changes the state has made are nothing more than cosmetic and that the system still does not provide adequate care to physically or mentally ill inmates. Many advocates hoped that the court rulings would prompt more changes in the state’s aggressive sentencing laws. Officials have argued that they have already released the lowest-level offenders and that further releases would threaten public safety, even if there were no increase in overall crime. “The state refuses to engage with the fundamental problem, which is that we incarcerate far too many people for far too long,” said Allen Hopper of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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