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Federal judges establish panel to supervise California prisons

[JURIST] Two federal district judges separately ordered Monday the formation of special three-judge panel to supervise and reduce California's prison population after finding that California's prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive] is preventing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] from adequately providing mental health care. Judge Thelton E. Henderson of the Northern District of California ordered [PDF text] the suspension of the CDCR Secretary's authority and transferred all "administration, control, management, operation, and financing" authority to the panel. Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the Eastern District of California said that the receivership, which the CDCR is required to comply with within 30 days [order, PDF], is to oversee "the development of remedies for the systematic constitutional violation and to monitor implementation of court-approved remedies." The orders will have to require final approval from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which will likely approve Karlton's recommendation to combine the two orders under one receiver.

In May, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] signed off on a $7.7 billion program to construct facilities [JURIST report] to provide 53,000 new prison and jail beds over the next five years. The construction program and other measures, including a plan to release prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes [JURIST report] in response to threats of federal oversight [JURIST report], failed to persuade the federal judges, who were not convinced that the measures would bring compliance with the Eight Amendment guarantee of constitutionally adequate mental health care for individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses that are incarcerated by the CDCR. The New York Times has more.

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