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U.S. Supreme Court: Release California Prisoners

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U.S. Supreme Court: Release California Prisoners

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A guard stands at the entrance to the California State Prison at San Quentin January 22, 2007 in San Quentin, California. The U.S. Supreme court threw out California's sentencing law on Monday, a decision that could reduce sentences for thousands of inmates in the California State correctional facilities. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

There's at least one government entity that is determined to cut the California budget: the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision released Monday morning (and written by one-time Sacramento lawyer Anthony Kennedy), the nation's highest court ordered California to comply with a plan by federal judges that could result in the release of as many as 46,000 inmates from a state prison population of 156,000. The state's facilities are too crowded -- and medical care too poor -- to be constitutional, the court determined. In a rare move, the court included photos of overcrowded California prisons in its decision.

The court, with this decision, has done Sacramento politicians a favor. Lawmakers had made some prison population reductions (the number is down to fewer than 150,000) but had balked at further reductions because of fears of what released inmates might do. Now they can release prisoners -- and realize budget savings from those releases -- in the knowledge that whatever grizzly crimes are committed by those let go can be blamed on a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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