On Friday, November 14th the Pacific Legal Scholars program will present a panel discussion titled Prison Overcrowding in California: Healthcare Challenges and Solutions. The panel will include three highly respected experts on the topic: Clark J. Kelso, Federal Appointed Court Receiver overseeing health care for California prisons; Howard Mosley, Governor Jerry Brown’s appointee as Chief Counsel of the Board of Parole Hearings; and Michael Vitiello, Professor of Law and nationally recognized expert on criminal law and sentencing reform. The event will take place in WPC 140 from 4:00-5:30, and will be free to the public.
Because of population increases, sentencing laws, and high recidivism rates, there is severe overcrowding in the California prison system. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is currently the largest state correctional system in the United States, with a total inmate population of more than 132,000 inmates across 33 adult institutions. All 33 CDCR prisons are now at or above maximum operational capacity. Most of California’s prisons are so overcrowded that inmates are being housed in areas never designed or intended for inmate housing, including gymnasiums and dayrooms, with approximately 1,500 inmates sleeping in triple-bunks.
In 2001, a federal class action lawsuit alleged that the overcrowding and the lack of medical care in California state prisons was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In 2002, the State agreed to a series of reforms hoping to end the litigation. But after years of inaction the court appointed federal Receiver Clark Kelso to oversee the reform process. Receiver Kelso is now responsible for making sure the level of medical care in California prisons complies with Constitutional standards. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal three-judge panel’s ruling that forced California to reduce its prison population by approximately 40,000 prisoners in two years. Recently, at the request of Gov. Brown, that panel granted a two-year extension. Gov. Brown has said that he intends to reduce overcrowding by using early release and rehabilitation programs.
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