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How One Law Helped Pack California’s Prisons

A single state law from the 1970s completely transformed the way California sentences its criminals.

The Uniform Determinate Sentencing Law was signed in 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown (yes,  same guy). Shortly thereafter the prison population metastasized.

Here’s what happened:

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Building the Empire: California’s Prison Building Bonanza

In 1950, California had four state prison facilities and about 11,500 prisoners. By 2006, at the peak of the state’s prison overcrowding, there were 33 prisons and more than 172,000 inmates! That’s an increase of more than 900 percent!

Since 1950: California’s Prison Building Boom

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Packing the House: The Back Story on California’s Prison Boom

California’s prisons are old, crumbling, and packed to the gills with inmates. The inmate population  exploded in the late 1980s and 90s. It rose almost 900 percent over three decades and reached an all-time high in 2006, with more than 172,000 inmates behind bars. During that same period, the state almost tripled the number of prison facilities: Continue reading