The transformation of the California prison system

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At its peak, California had 173,000 prisoners in a system built to house half that many people. Prisoners were sleeping on top of each other in hallways and gyms. Riots and attacks on guards happened routinely.

In 2011, the Supreme Court decided that California’s prison system amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The state was forced to reduce the number of prisoners. That has resulted in the release of more people serving life sentences. 



  • Heidi Rummel - Professor of Law and Director of the Post-Conviction Justice Project at USC