U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's request to lift a federal judge's order giving the state five months to reduce prison crowding.
Brown had sought the stay to buy California time to appeal prison crowding orders before the full high court.
Under protest, California already has begun preparations to expand parole programs, continue shipping inmates out of state, and release its lowest-risk inmates. The state had argued that requiring counties to house low-level felons and parole violators -- lowering the inmate population by 25,000 prisoners since October 2011 -- is enough.
It is the second time the Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in on California prison crowding. In a May 2011 decision written by Kennedy, the high court found that crowding, along with poor medical care, amounted to "cruel and unusual punishment," causing the needless death of an inmate a week.
But in documents filed last month, Brown's corrections administrators said their current plan would still fall short of the order to lower prison crowding to 137.5% of capacity. The state's 33 prisons are at almost 150% capacity, requiring removal of some 9,600 prisoners by the end of the year to meet the order.