Judges Eye Possible California Inmate Release Plan

By: Don Thompson AP
By: Don Thompson AP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Three federal judges are considering whether they can force California to release 52,000 inmates to relieve crowded prisons without creating a public safety nightmare.

The special panel seems persuaded by seven days of testimony that overcrowding in California prisons has led to unconstitutionally poor conditions for sick and mentally ill inmates.

Now the judges must decide what to do about it. Witnesses are testifying in a San Francisco courtroom about whether releasing inmates early will increase crime.

The judges are hearing several weeks of testimony about how to make such an order. It would face a certain appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they may not decide until next year.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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