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California Supreme Court rules in favor of prison overcrowding ballot measure

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of California [official website] on Friday ruled that Governor Jerry Brown [official website] can put his plan to ease prison over-crowding on the ballot this November, reversing a lower court's previous ruling. A court in Sacramento decided days earlier that Brown improperly amended the initiative [LAT report] and prevented his office from collecting the required number of signatures to put it before voters. Brown urged the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court ruling, stating that starting over would prevent [AP report] his office from collecting the required 586,000 signatures. With this ruling, the governor's office can begin gathering signatures this weekend. The ballot measure proposes [LAT report], among other things, to allow nonviolent offenders to obtain parole earlier and make it easier for correction officials to award good behavior credits.

The treatment of prisoners and prison reform [JURIST podcast] has been a growing concern in the US for years. Last month the US Supreme Court ruled that a landmark decision banning mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles should apply retroactively [JURIST report]. In August the Department of Justice reached a settlement [JURIST report] with Los Angeles prisons on mentally ill inmate care. In May Human Rights Watch released [JURIST report] a report stating that mentally disabled prisoners experience "unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force" at the hands of prison staff across the US. A federal court in February 2015 approved [JURIST report] a settlement agreement between the Arizona Department of Corrections and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a class action lawsuit over the health care system within Arizona prisons. Also last February rights group Equal Justice Under Law filed suit [JURIST report] against the cities of Ferguson and Jennings, Missouri, for their practice of jailing citizens who fail to pay debts owed to the city for minor offenses and traffic tickets. The ACLU and the ACLU of Texas released a report in 2014 exposing [JURIST report] the results of a multi-year investigation into conditions at five Criminal Alien Requirement prisons in Texas.

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