By: Solomon Moore
LOS ANGELES — California took a major step toward overhauling its overburdened prisons on Friday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved changes to parole and early-release programs that could reduce the prison population by about 16,000 inmates.
Even as the governor prepared to sign the legislation into law, the United States Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a federal court order to draft a plan by next Friday to reduce the prison population by 43,000 inmates within two years.
“The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the court is denied,” the terse rejection said.
The governor said he would continue to appeal future rulings of the three-judge panel that ordered the state to draft a prison plan. The panel has found that overcrowding is the main reason California has failed to provide a constitutional level of health care to prisoners.