A federal court order to release 40,000 inmates to relieve prison crowding in California was delayed for up to a year on Tuesday, pending a final review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justices turned down a challenge by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration to the court order that forces the state to reduce its prison population. The action opens the door for another appeal by the state.
A three-judge federal panel last summer ordered the state Department of Corrections to reduce the prison population by about 40,000 inmates over two years in order to provide inmates with a constitutional level of health care. At issue for the Schwarzenegger administration is whether the judicial panel exceeded its authority in ordering the release of inmates.
"The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today is a win for the state because it guarantees there will be no early release of prisoners while the three-judge panel's latest order is appealed," said Andrea Hoch, the governor's legal affairs secretary.