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California Briefing / Sacramento

Inmates' lawyers seek court action

October 09, 2009|Michael Rothfeld

Lawyers for state inmates asked a panel of federal judges Thursday to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in contempt of court and impose a fine for the state's failure to comply with an order to submit a plan for reducing the inmate population by 40,000 over two years.

The state submitted a plan Sept. 18 to U.S. District Court that would meet the order's requirements within five years, provided the Legislature changes state law. Without the legal changes, the governor's plan would not meet the judges' requirements even within six years.

The inmates have said prison overcrowding violates their rights to adequate medical and mental health care. Their lawyers told the federal judges that the state had shown "utter contempt" for the judges' orders.

Rachel Cameron, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the governor's office objects to the panel's "arbitrary" population reduction plan and its two-year timeline, and is continuing its appeal of the order to the U.S. Supreme Court.

-- Michael Rothfeld

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