California’s prisons fall under population cap for the first time

In an article written by the LA Times on Jan. 29, it was announced that the prison population of California – known for being one of the largest in the nation – fell below the court-ordered population cap.

State prison incarceration rate (Source: Prison Policy Initiative)

State prison incarceration rate (Source: Prison Policy Initiative)

In 2013, a court ruling gave California the deadline of February 2016 to reduce the issue of overcrowding. The state was given a population cap of 113,722, and is currently, according to a weekly report, at a “modern low of 113,463, or 137.2% of capacity.”

California prisons, in total, are currently housing 132,240 inmates, with a majority of those held in private prisons that are not factored into the population cap, which only accounts for state-owned prisons.

The California budget allocated to state prisons is known for cutting down on the budgets of higher education and mental health institutions, which have now been almost entirely eradicated with the exception of private institutions. A 2015 article by The Sacramento Bee poses the idea that prison overcrowding can be solved with the availability of help for the mentally ill – many of whom are put in prison due to crimes committed because of mental issues that could have been solved with the state’s help.

While is is clear that overcrowding in California’s prisons is at an all-time low, the issue is not solved. Court orders like early release, extended parole and Proposition 47, making drug possession a misdemeanor, contribute to the fall of inmates – but is that for the best? Could this issue be solved with a reallocation of funds, as The Bee suggests?

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