Calif. meets first inmate target set by court

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California has met the first target set by federal courts to reduce its inmate population as a way to improve health care in the nation's largest state prison system, prison officials said Tuesday.

Federal judges ordered the state to reduce the population by about 10,000 inmates by the end of 2011, to about 133,000 inmates, as a means to improve the care of mentally and physically ill inmates. The population in the 33 prisons for adults fell to 132,887 as of last week's court-imposed deadline.

"Based on that number, we have met the benchmark," said Jeffrey Callison, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "It's gratifying to see that we have in fact made it."

The state is reducing its population mainly through a new law transferring responsibility for lower level criminals from state prisons to county jails.

The population is now two-tenths of a percentage point under the goal required by the courts. It means the state is on track to reduce the state's inmate population by 33,000, or 23 percent, over two years.

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