California’s prisons will soon be a little less overcrowded thanks to a Supreme Court decision.
On Friday, six justices rejected a plea by California officials to delay an order to reduce the state’s prison population by 10,000 inmates. The court ruled in 2011 that the state had to cut the number of prisoners because the overcrowding problem was causing conditions in the system that amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
A three judge panel ordered Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to reduce the population by approximately 8% by the end of the year and threatened to cite him for contempt if he did not comply with their order. Brown had argued that the state had made significant enough progress in improving prison conditions to avoid releasing more inmates. The state also argued that dangerous criminals would have to be released in order to satisfy the panel’s order, a claim the Supreme Court rejected.
Prisoners in California have repeatedly protested the conditions of their confinement, from inadequate health care and mental health services, to being held in solitary confinement when there is no room for them in the general population. In July, thousands of prisoners joined a hunger strike to demand more humane treatment.