FEDERAL COURT ISSUES ORDER PROHIBITING CALIFORNIA FROM APPLYING PROPOSITIONS 9 AND 89 TO SOME LIFERS; ORDER IS STAYED PENDING APPEAL.

March 5, 2014 -- A federal court has held that California Propositions 9 and 89 unlawfully increase punishment for life prisoners who committed their crimes before the effective dates of those propositions. For lifers whose crimes were committed prior to November 4, 2008, the court's order would forbid the Board of Parole Hearings from applying a Proposition 9 provision that increases the length of time between hearings. The order also would forbid the Governor from using his Proposition 89 review authority to increase the time served by lifers whose crimes were committed prior to November 8, 1988. The order is stayed unless and until it is affirmed on appeal. Read the Gilman v. Brown Order.

FEDERAL THREE-JUDGE COURT ISSUES ORDER ON CROWDING REDUCTION.

February 15, 2014 -- The three-judge federal court has granted California's request for a two year extension of time to fully reduce prison overcrowding to the 137.5 percent level required and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Prison Law Office and other lawyers for the prisoners strongly opposed the State's request. The Order among other things requires the State to immediately state steps that will result in some prisoners paroling earlier than they otherwise would have. Read our information letter about the overcrowding case, which includes a copy of the court order.

For more background information about the overcrowding case, see the entry U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES CALIFORNIA PRISON OVERCROWDING UNCONSTITUTIONAL on this page.

NEW SUPPLEMENT TO THE CALIFORNIA STATE PRISONERS HANDBOOK NOW AVAILABLE

January 2014 -- The 2014 Supplement to The California State Prisoners Handbook is now available. The Supplement contains 185 pages of information on legal developments between 2008 and the end of October 2013, plus updated forms and resource lists. Check out our Handbook Order Form.

PRISON LAW OFFICE DIRECTOR NAMED A "CALIFORNIAN TO WATCH IN 2014"

December 26, 2013 -- The Sacramento Bee has named Prison Law Office Director Donald Specter a Californian to Watch in 2014 based on his successful efforts to bring an evidence-based approach to prison overcrowding problems. Read the Article.

REPORT PUBLISHED ON EUROPEAN-AMERICAN PRISON PROJECT

October 31, 2013 -- The Vera Justice Institute has published a Report on the European-American Prison Project, which was funded by the Prison Law Office. The Project's goal was to expose American correctional officials to radically different systems and practices in Germany and the Netherlands, in order to advance an international dialogue around effective corrections and to stimulate reform efforts in the United States.

NEW SPECIAL MASTER REPORT IN DIVISION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE CASE

March 2014 -- The Special Master in the Farrell v. Cate case released the Twenty-eighth Quarterly Report.

Farrell is a lawsuit brought to remedy abysmal conditions in the DJJ, the state's lock-up units for young offenders. For more information on the case, or to review prior expert and special master reports, please visit the Major Cases page.

STANISLAUS COUNTY GIRLS JUVENILE JUSTICE INITIATIVE PRAISED FOR SUCCESSES

October 2012 -- The Stanislaus County Girls Juvenile Justice Initiative, a project of the Prison Law Office, was highlighted in the report Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls: Lessons from the States from the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy. The report called the project a "good example of the nuts and bolts involved in getting a new reform effort off the ground" and lauded the positive changes that the project has achieved in the juvenile justice system.

LAWSUIT CHARGES ARIZONA PRISON OFFICIALS WITH FAILING TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE HEALTH CARE AND INHUMANE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

March 6, 2012 -- The Prison Law Office, the ACLU and co-counsel law firms have filed a federal class action lawsuit over horrible conditions faced by prisoners in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections. The lawsuit describes grossly inadequate medical, mental health and dental care that causes prisoners to suffer serious and preventable injury and death. The lawsuit also charges that thousands of prisoners are routinely subjected to physical and psychological harm in extreme solitary confinement. Read thecurrent version of the Class Action Complaint (updated 3/22/2012) and Press Release.

FEDERAL COURT STRIKES DOWN PROPOSITION 9'S PAROLE REVOCATION PROCEDURES

January 24, 2012 -- A federal court struck down provisions enacted by Proposition 9 that greatly limited due process rights in parole revocation hearings and conflicted with an Injuction previously entered in the class-action case Valdivia v. Davis. Although the court modified the Valdivia Injuction to allow parole officials additional time (45 days) to conduct full parole revocation hearings, the court otherwise held that Proposition 9 was unconstitutional. See the Court Order. The state has filed an appeal from the order.

FRESNO JAIL PRISONERS SUE OVER DANGEROUS CONDITIONS

December 13, 2011 -- The Prison Law Office and other law firms filed a class action lawsuit seeking to remedy cruel and unusual conditions in the Fresno County Jail. The suit describes how prisoners have been subjected to violence and denied mental health care and medical treatment for life-threatening illnesses. Read the Complaint and Press Release.

U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES CALIFORNIA PRISON OVERCROWDING UNCONSTITUTIONAL

May 23, 2011 -- In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in California's prisons results in cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court's ruling means the state must reduce its prison population by approximately 32,000 prisoners within the next two years. Read the Court Opinion and Press Release.

Other materials from the U.S. Supreme Court case are available, including the recording and transcript of the oral arguments, the Prison Law Office's brief on behalf of prisoners with medical needs (the Plata class), Rosen, Bien & Galvan's brief on behalf of mentally-ill prisoners (the Coleman class), and the California Correctional Peace Officers' Association's brief supporting the prisoners' position. A selection of the trial transcripts and exhibits, including videos and photos, is available at Rosen, Bien & Galvan's website.

The Court affirmed a January 2010 order made by three federal judges directing California officials to reduce the state's severe prison overcrowding. The Order requires California to reduce its prison overcrowding to 137.5 percent of design capacity, in accord with a plan submitted by the state in November 2009.

The population reduction order is the result of lengthy litigation. The matter was initiated when federal judges who oversee California's prison medical and mental health care systems ordered that a three-judge court be convened to consider placing limits on California's prison population. The orders were issued after the judges concluded that California prisons are unable to provide constitutionally-adequate medical care (Plata) and mental health care (Coleman) due in part to severe overcrowding. View the Plata v. Schwarzenegger Order and the Coleman v. Schwarzenegger Order.

A trial in front of a federal three-judge court began on November 18, 2008. On August 4, 2009, the three judges found that overcrowding is the primary cause of unconstitutional conditions in California's prisons, such as the system's inability to provide competent and timely health care for prisoners. The judges also found compelling evidence that reducing the prison population is the only way to address the problems. The judges issued a 184-page order for the state to come up with a plan to reduce the prison population by up to 40,000, to 137.5% of the system's design capacity within two years.

On November 12, 2009, the State submitted its plan. Included in the state' plan are changes adopted by recently-passed legislation. The plan calls for increasing the prison system's capacity in various ways, diverting some felons to county jails or home detention, reducing revocations of probation and parole, and granting some prisoners additional sentence credits.

For more detailed background information on the Plata and Coleman cases, visit our Major Cases page.

PRISON LAW OFFICE FILES CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT TO END RACIALLY DISCRIMINATORY LOCKDOWNS

April 27, 2011 -- The Prison Law Office and Bingham McCutchen LLP have filed a class action lawsuit demanding that California prison officials stop imposing racially discriminatory lockdowns. Read the Complaint and Press Release. Under official CDCR policy, when there is an incident involving people of any race, all prisoners of that race are locked in their cells for 24 hours a day. More than 350 race-based lockdowns are imposed each year; these lockdowns last on average more than two months, and sometimes stretch on for years.

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Morgan


Photo courtesy of Ruth Morgan


Photo courtesy of Bob Gumpert


Photo courtesy of Bob Gumpert