Federal judge issues restraining order to combat California prison crowding

[JURIST] A federal judge issued [ACLU press release] a temporary restraining order Friday designed to alleviate crowded conditions in California's Los Angeles County jail system [LASD website]. The order from US District Judge Dean D. Pregerson came in response to a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] seeking to remedy "almost unspeakable conditions" in county jails, where up to 60 men were housed in holding cells designed for 20 and prisoners had to take turns standing because there was no room to sit or sleep. Pregerson, who toured the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles in May, wrote: "...inmates, particularly pre-trial detainees who are imbued with presumption of innocence, deserve better than to be housed in a system which has defaulted to the lowest permissible standard of care."

Pregerson directed that immediate improvements be made to facilities, that inmates could not be held in the Inmate Reception Center for more than 24 hours, and that the county could not hold more than 20 people in a holding cell "without first exhausting every other means." His order also requires inmates be provided with cells that are clean and sanitary and include access to a toilet and water for drinking and washing. A hearing on the restraining order is scheduled for December 11. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.

California's prison system has recently faced heavy criticism for overcrowding and other systemic inadequacies. In May 2005, US District Judge Thelton E. Henderson threatened to take over the state prison health care system [JURIST report], citing the "terrible" medical care that prisoners received. In February 2006 the head of the state prison system resigned [JURIST report] after a two year reform effort. In early October, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an emergency proclamation [text] to relieve prison overcrowding by allowing inmates to be transferred to privately-run facilities in other states [JURIST report]. The $8.2 billion California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [official website] houses more than 171,000 youth and adult convicts.



 

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