Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Prison Overcrowding Crisis Continues, Says ACLU Report

Washington,  D.C.  - February 14, 1994- Thirty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, are under court order to reduce prison overcrowding and/or to remedy unconstitutional conditions, according to the new Status Report released today by the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. In each case, conditions of confinement and/or overcrowding in the facilities were found to violate the ban against cruel and unusual punishment of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.- (See enclosed report summary.)

Since 1982 (the year the Prison Project initiated the report) the total number of states (including D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) under these court orders has increased from 28 to 39. During the same period five states have been completely relieved of federal court supervision and two other states have been relieved of active court supervision.

Overcrowding lies at the root of most of the lawsuits as the population of both state and federal prisons swells by the week. California, for example, holds 110,049 prisoners in a system designed to hold 59,385.

According to Alvin J. Bronstein, executive director of the National Prison Project, "Our political leaders--President Clinton, Congress, state legislators--should review this report. If the political hysteria surrounding the `war on crime' results in the passage of the `three strikes you're out' legislation and other harsh sentencing changes, every state system plus the Federal Bureau of Prisons will be under court order for overcrowded conditions within a few years. And crime will continue to go up and down for reasons totally unrelated to how many people are put in prison."

The total number of jurisdictions under court order has decreased by one since last year; the state of Tennessee was released from active court supervision in 1993. However, the number of states with cases pending before the court increased by one--major litigation was filed against the Vermont Department of Corrections by the ACLU.

Copies of the report, entitled "Status Report: The Courts and the Prisons," are available for $5, prepaid, from the National Prison Project, 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 410, Washington, D.C. 20009. Telephone (202) 234-4830, Fax 202.234-4890.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login