Mixed News From California Prisons Audit

      SACRAMENTO (CN) – Release of thousands of low-level offenders has reduced overcrowding in California prisons and the prisons’ troubled health care system is improving as well, a state audit claims.
     Changes begun in 2011 by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have substantially decreased state prison populations, and the number of inmates released has increased by 37 percent, according to the state auditor’s April 22 report .
     The realignment system allows low-level offenders and parole violators to be sent to county jails to free up space in California’s notoriously overcrowded state prisons.
     The audit praises the CDCR for decreasing prison populations and reaching a 2010 Federal Court mandate to reduce the inmate percentage to 137.5 percent of combined design capacity.
     The state appealed the mandate to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost and was forced to meet the order by 2015.
     The audit credits Proposition 47, which California voters passed in November 2014, with helping to reduce prison populations.
     Proposition 47 allows certain low-level felonies, such as petty theft and simple drug possession, to be reclassified as misdemeanors. Voters passed it overwhelmingly. As of February, approximately 2,470 inmates has been were released because of Proposition 47.
     California’s prison population has grown by more than 700 percent since the 1970s. The state prison population of 121,000 inmates – more than any other state-would constitute California’s 49th largest city, between Santa Clara and Victorville.
     According to The Sentencing Project, the United States incarcerates 2.2 million people, the most of any country.
     Corey Salzillo, spokesman for the California Sheriffs Association, declined to comment about the affect Proposition 47 has had on county jails.
     California’s inmate health care system has been under federal control since 2006, when the government declared California Correctional Health Care Services incapable of providing adequate treatment to inmates.
     In 2007 the state auditor classified the CDCR as a high-risk institution. In the recent audit the auditor says the prison system will remain under the classification until the feds give control of prison healthcare back to the CDCR.
     Despite the problems, the CDCR is improving inmate medical care and has California close to gaining full control from the feds, according to the audit. The federal government has given the state a process to follow that will gradually reduce federal control of inmate care.
     Central Valley prisons have been riddled with Valley Fever infections, and in January the state revealed it spent $5 million administering Valley Fever tests to thousands of inmates. The fungal disease causes severe flu symptoms and can spread to the brain and eyes: 197 cases of Valley Fever in inmates were reported in 2013.

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