California's governor has announced plans to raise the cap on the state’s penitentiary population, adding more inmates to already overcrowded prisons.
Governor Jerry Brown has recently stated that he is set to raise prison capacities, defying court orders to decrease the number of prisoners.
In a federal court on January 15, Californian officials told the judges that the state would not be able to meet the maximum limit of inmates set by a federal court and also approved by the Supreme Court in 2011, which had stated that prisons should not be housing more than 137.5 percent of their capacity as of June 30, 2013.
The 2011 ruling came after reports on the dire conditions of inmates. The federal court decision documented cases where sick inmates were held in cages while waiting for medical treatment.
In the Supreme Court ruling, it was stated that overcrowded prisons result in at least “one needless death per week,” which according to critics is a conservative estimation.
Currently, the 33 prisons holding about 120,000 inmates in California are on average at 149.4 percent of their capacity. Almost half of the individual prisons hold much higher numbers, such as the Central California Women’s Facility at 187 percent and Valley State Prison at nearly 352 percent.
In the US, excessive incarceration is a problem. The country holds the world’s largest number of inmates and the highest per capita rate of incarceration at 730 inmates per 100,000 people in 2012.