A special panel of three federal judges ruled this afternoon that California must begin releasing tens of thousands of prisoners in order to alleviate overcrowding.
"The judges," reports the Associated Press, "say no other solution will improve conditions so poor that inmates die regularly of suicides or lack of proper care." A later hearing will determine the precise number of convicts to be released.
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Locally, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was attacked by politicians and on editorial pages several years ago for early-releasing prisoners from county facilities on much the same humanitarian grounds. Late last summer the L.A. Daily News reported that the Board of Supervisors authorized $3 million for the purchase of home-detention monitoring bracelets to help lower prison populations while extending the time convicts spend in some form of custody. The amount of time served by country prisoners, the DN article said, has risen from 10 percent of sentences to 70 percent over the last few years.