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Court Orders Calif. to Slash Prison Population

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California's prisons violate constitution prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment of inmates because of overcrowding and inadequate health care, according to a panel of federal judges which ordered the state to cut its prison population by 27 percent within two years.

The New York Times reported Aug. 5 that the panel rejected proposals to build more prisons, saying that such construction would take too long and that a remedy is needed now for a chaotic and out-of-control prison system.

“In these overcrowded conditions, inmate-on-inmate violence is almost impossible to prevent, infectious diseases spread more easily, and lockdowns are sometimes the only means by which to maintain control,” the judges wrote. “In short, California's prisons are bursting at the seams and are impossible to manage.”

The judges excoriated California officials for failing to address prison problems as ordered in previous court rulings. The most recent decision came as the result of a trio of class-action lawsuits charging the state with allowing inadequate medical, mental-health and dental care for prisoners.

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