Press Release  | 05/23/2011

US Supreme Court Upholds Order to Reduce California Prison Over-crowding

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Advocates Urge California to Focus on Resolving Crisis, Including Ending Prison as Response to Drug Use

9,000 in Prison for Drug Possession at Cost of $450 Million a Year

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Supreme Court ruled today in Brown, et al. v. Plata, that the unconstitutional conditions of California's prisons were caused primarily by overcrowding and ordered California to reduce its prison population from over 200% of design capacity to 137.5% of capacity within two years.

"The U.S. Supreme Court was right to uphold the order to reduce California's prison population. Tough on crime policies have crowded prisons so severely with people convicted of nonviolent offenses, including drug possession, that they are not only unsafe and overly costly, but also a net negative for public safety," said Theshia Naidoo, staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance.

"To end prison overcrowding, California must reserve prison for serious offenses and that requires sentencing reform," continued Naidoo. "Even minor changes to sentencing laws could reap major rewards. By reducing the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, for example, the state would save $450 million a year and reduce the prison population by over 9,000. We urge California to take the logical step of ending incarceration as a response to drug possession, while expanding opportunities for drug treatment in the community," continued Naidoo.

Theshia Naidoo 510-229-5214 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215

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