Number of California Prisoners Falling; Lifer Population Declines Slightly as Well
by Ed Lyon
As of April 1, 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) counted just over 122,000 prisoners in custody, more than 25 percent lower than its 2006 peak, continuing a downward trend that began after a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that capped the state prison system’s population at 137.5 percent of capacity. The current population represents 130.6 percent of capacity.
To reduce its prisoner population, the state has made increasing use of diversionary programs for nonviolent offenders and reclassifying other prisoners so they can serve sentences in county jails.
CDCR’s Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) has also revamped its policies and procedures, making the process more transparent as it implements a 2008 state Supreme Court ruling that parole decisions need not be based solely on the seriousness of the crime. “I’m not sure that there are really any other places in life where somebody is scrutinized so much in such a public way by people they don’t know,” observes BPH Executive Officer Jennifer Shaffer.
During the first 11 months of 2019, BPH granted release to 1,074 California prisoners serving an indefinite term. That still left CDCR with over 38,000 “lifers,” a number higher than the next three states – Texas, New York and Florida – combined. Yet it was slightly lower than the 2006 peak in California of 40,000.
Meanwhile, Americans serving life sentences in the rest of the nation combined increased by 15 percent between 2008 and 2016, according to the Sentencing Project.
Sources: nytimes.com, sfchronicle.com, npr.org, themarshallproject.org, thecrimereport.org, cdcr.ca.gov
More from this issue:
- These Sheriffs Release Sick Inmates to Avoid Paying Their Hospital Bills, by Connor Sheets, AL.com, with ProPublica
- North Carolina Prisoner Escapes to Flee Coronavirus Death Sentence, by David Reutter
- From the Editor, by Paul Wright
- Company Hawking Prison Phone Monitoring Technology as Way to Discover Coronavirus Infections, by Matthew Clarke
- Thinking in a Pandemic: Let the People Go, by Joseph Margulies
- BOP Loses Fight Against Orders to Release Ohio Prisoners Threatened By Coronavirus
- Staying Alive: A Doctor’s Guide for Prisoners on Staying Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic, by Michael D. Cohen, MD
- ‘Prisons Are No Place for a Pandemic:’ Advocates Fight to Free Their Loved Ones, by Victoria Law
- Former Missouri Jail Prisoner Ordered to Repay $1.3 Million Settlement for Faking Injuries But Whereabouts Unknown, by Jayson Hawkins
- GEO Jail in New York City Sees Rapid Spread of Coronavirus
- Coronavirus Kills Michigan Prisoner Days Before His Release After Serving 44 Years, by Chad Marks
- Prison Postcards: Official Accounts Differ from Prisoner Accounts as the Pandemic Spreads, by Ken Silverstein
- Interview: David Fathi of ACLU’s National Prison Project on Criminal Justice Reform in the Age of Coronavirus, by Ken Silverstein
- Coronavirus Pandemic Could Vastly Reduce Prison Voting, by David Reutter
- Eleventh Circuit Says COVID-19-Wracked Miami Jail Can’t Be Forced to Give Prisoners Soap, Masks, by David M. Reutter
- Ohio Prisoner with Coronavirus Released Without Use of Preventative Measures; Cases Inside Soaring, by Kevin Bliss
- Large Scale Releases and Public Safety, by Peter Wagner
- Alabama Reopens Ancient Prison to Quarantine COVID-19 Prisoners, by Edward Lyon
- CoreCivic Detention Center Demanded Detainees Sign Liability Release to Receive Masks, by Kevin Bliss, David Reutter
- COVID-19 Cases Soar at Federal Prisons in California; Half at Lompoc Have the Coronavirus, by Derek Gilna
- Unsealed Documents Expose Treatment Failures at San Diego Jail, by Anthony Accurso
- Federal Court Slams Michigan Jail for Bungling COVID-19 Pandemic, Demands Names of Vulnerable Prisoners for Release, by Christopher Zoukis
- Prison Officials Limit Prisoner Communications During COVID-19 Crisis, by Derek Gilna
- Rhode Island Corrections’ Union President Fined for Excessive Political Donations, by Bill Barton
- Silence: The Bureau of Prisons’ Pathetic Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, by Christopher Zoukis
- Hawaii Institutes Non-Contact Visits at Another Prison to Control Contraband, by Kevin Bliss
- Number of California Prisoners Falling; Lifer Population Declines Slightly as Well, by Edward Lyon
- New York Judge Orders Release of 18 Rikers Island Detainees Due to COVID-19 Risk, by Christopher Zoukis
- Kansas County Jails People for Unpaid Medical Bills, by Douglas Ankney
- $200,000 Awarded to Missouri Prison Guard Over Sexual Harassment, Retaliation, by Matthew Clarke
- New ACLU Study Says COVID-19 Deaths in Prison Will Soar Without More Releases, Fewer Arrests, by Derek Gilna
- Deplorable Conditions at South Carolina Prisons Prompt Call for UN Intervention, by Edward Lyon
- Louisiana Governor’s Inaction Prevents Release of Grandmother Hospitalized with COVID-19, by Kevin Bliss
- Report: Oaks of Justice Pitch to Help Prisoners Return Home Appears Shady, by Bill Barton
- First Prisoners and Staff, Including a Warden, Dead from COVID-19 in Louisiana; Hundreds Infected, by David Reutter
- Florida Continues to Use Slave Labor During Coronavirus Outbreak, by Kevin Bliss
- Interview: Don Specter of the Prison Law Office on California Prisons, COVID-19 and Governor Newsom, by Ken Silverstein
- Report: Tennessee Prison Population Climbs, Bucks Nationwide Trend, by David Reutter
- Mississippi Jail to Stay Open Despite Massive “Financial Trouble”, by Chad Marks
- Audit: Massachusetts Department of Corrections Failed to Provide Timely Health Care or Reentry Services, by Douglas Ankney
- Nebraska Prison Employee Labor Agreement Contains Unusual Provision, by Matthew Clarke
- Sandoval County, New Mexico Settles Public Records Lawsuit with Human Rights Defense Center, by Derek Gilna
- Coronavirus Crisis: Wisconsin Releases Around 1,600 Prisoners, an ‘Inconsequential’ Number
- New York Federal Guard Sentenced to 25 Years for Sexually Abusing Prisoners, by David Reutter
- California Prison Reform Results in Housing Challenges for Former Prisoners, by Anthony Accurso
- Sign the Papers! Alabama Prisoners Get Masks for COVID-19 but With Strings Attached, by Edward Lyon
- HRDC Settles California Jail Censorship Suit for $143,500, Consent Decree, by Derek Gilna
- More Than 200 Convicted of Corruption at Baltimore Department of Corrections; More Charges Announced, by Kevin Bliss
- Innocence Project Working to Prove Arkansas Executed Innocent Man, by Edward Lyon
- $500,000 Settlement for Colorado Prisoner Beaten During Seizure, by David Reutter
- Tenth Circuit Reinstates Colorado Prisoner’s Claim that Requires BOP to Release Him from Imprisonment for Marijuana Possession, by Matthew Clarke
- $500,000 Settlement From Psychiatrist for Failing to Treat New Mexico Prisoner Who Committed Suicide, by Matthew Clarke
- Florida Prison Officials Ordered to Not Retaliate Against Prisoner, by David Reutter
- Nevada Supreme Court Holds Firefighting Prisoner Cannot Challenge Worker’s Compensation Based on Prison Pay, by Matthew Clarke
- $2,800 Verdict As Jury Finds Pennsylvania Jail Discriminated Against Women Prisoners in Reentry Center, by David Reutter
- Tornado Rips Through South Carolina, Displacing Federal Prisoners, by Matthew Clarke
- Gallup Poll Shows Growing Opposition to Death Penalty, by Douglas Ankney
- Federal Judge Keeps Heat on Florida to Implement Amendment 4 Voter Restoration for Ex-Felons, by David Reutter
- News in Brief
More from Edward Lyon:
- Successful Alternatives to Armed Police Response, Sept. 15, 2020
- When Police Caught Lying, the Spin Begins, Sept. 15, 2020
- North Carolina Criticized for Prisoner Transfers During Pandemic, Sept. 1, 2020
- COVID-19 in Hawaii’s Lockups: Still a Success Story but Cracks Starting to Show, Sept. 1, 2020
- Prisons Banning Black Culture and History Books, Sept. 1, 2020
- From Super Villain to Super Man, Tennessee Prisoner Still Executed, Sept. 1, 2020
- Many of Aging Kansas State Prison Population Could Be Released, Sept. 1, 2020
- Dallas County, Texas Jails Finally Enter the 21st Century on Phone Rates, Sept. 1, 2020
- The Warrior Cop Mindset, Aug. 15, 2020
- Police Body Cams Are not a Cure-All, Aug. 15, 2020
More from these topics:
- Jails and Prisons Have Reduced Their Populations in the Face of the Pandemic, but Not Enough To Save Lives, Sept. 1, 2020. COVID-19, Reduction of Prison Population.
- Lifers Now Exceed Entire Prison Population of 1970, Sept. 1, 2020. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, De Facto Life Sentence.
- Oregon Federal Court: 8th and 14th Amendments Mandate Miller Hearing, July 1, 2020. Juveniles, De Facto Life Sentence.
- U.S. v. Suarez, No. 14-2378 (2nd Cir.) (791 F.3d 363) (June 30, 2015) (Judge Barrington D. Jr. Parker), July 13, 2015. Punch And Jurists, De Facto Life Sentence.
- Brown v. Plata, No. 13A57 (U.S. Supreme Court) (570 U.S. 938; 134 S.Ct. 1) (August 2, 2013) (Per Curiam), Aug. 12, 2013. Punch And Jurists, Reduction of Prison Population.
- Coleman v. Brown, No. Civ. S-90-520 LKK/JFM (PC) (E.D.Cal.) (922 F.Supp.2d 1004) (April 11, 2013) (Judge Lawrence K. Karlton), April 15, 2013. Punch And Jurists, Reduction of Prison Population.
- Brown v. Plata, No. 09-1233 (U.S. Supreme Court) (563 U.S. 493; 131 S.Ct. 1910) (May 23, 2011) (Justice Kennedy), May 30, 2011. Punch And Jurists, Reduction of Prison Population.
- Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, No. Civ. S-90-0520 LKK JFM (E.D.Cal.) (2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118210) (November 23, 2009) (Per Curiam), Oct. 1, 2009. Punch And Jurists, Reduction of Prison Population.
- Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, No. Civ. S-90-0520 LKK JFM (E.D.Cal.) (922 F.Supp.2d 882) (August 4, 2009) (Judge Stephen Reinhardt), July 1, 2009. Punch And Jurists, Reduction of Prison Population.
- Plata v. Schwarzenegger, No. 08-17412 (9th Cir.) (560 F.3d 976) (March 25, 2009) (Judge Jr. William C. Canby), Feb. 1, 2009. Punch And Jurists, Reduction of Prison Population.