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No Easy Fix For California's Prison Crisis

Publication Date: 
May 25, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Jack Dolan and Carol J. Williams

Lecturer Michael Romano spoke with Jack Dolan and Carol J. Williams in this Los Angeles Times article on the long-term population problems created by the state through the three-strikes law.

California's effort to shift tens of thousands of inmates out of its chronically overcrowded prisons to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court order could be undone by the state's tough sentencing laws, persistent recidivism and recurring budget crises, analysts say.

More than 33,000 offenders must be moved out of the prisons under the high court's Monday decision, which upheld an earlier ruling that conditions in the teeming facilities cause preventable deaths and amount to cruel and unusual punishment.


With many sentenced to at least 25 years, the state has created a long-term population problem, said Michael Romano, head of a Stanford Law School program focused on the three-strikes law.

"The most egregious part of the three-strikes law, and what is contributing to the prison overcrowding and financial strains, are the people serving life for minor crimes," Romano said.


Even if Brown finds a way to implement his plan, experts say, the prisons could still become overcrowded. Some inmates are serving life sentences for stealing a $2 pair of socks or $20 work gloves, Romano said.