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The Prison Overcrowding Fix

Publication Date: 
February 11, 2009
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
Solomon Moore

Lecturer in Law and Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Center Kara P. Dansky is quoted in The New York Times in a story about California's overcrowded prisons and a judge's order to restrict the number of prisoners currently serving time:

Federal judges tentatively ruled Monday that packed facilities were the chief impediment to adequate health care in prisons — a system so flawed it was tantamount to a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Monday’s ruling signaled the court’s intention to cap the number of prisoners at about 101,000, a reduction of 55,000. It came after more than a decade of federal court orders from exasperated judges who demanded that the state improve its facilities and personnel, after the appointment of the most powerful federal receivership since the days of forced racial integration in the South, and after the death of scores of prisoners who committed suicide or died of preventable illnesses.

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Kara P. Dansky, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, believes that the judges may have the authority to push through sweeping reforms, including more financing for counties, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

The state disagrees that the court has such authority and plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, which could delay any outcome. Ms. Dansky said policy makers would be watching the case closely. “This is one of the areas that the law is unclear on because we’ve never seen a case like this,” she said.