Free the Felons?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    California must reduce its prison population because of overcrowding.

    California lawmakers will take up a divisive piece of unfinished business when they return from their summer recess this week.

    The revised budget they passed last month to close the state's deficit calls for cutting $1.2 billion from the state corrections department but does not specify how to do it.

    The lead solution is such a lightning rod that lawmakers agreed to deal with it later. That time has arrived.

    Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and majority Democrats propose reducing the inmate population by 27,000 within a year. They would do so by diverting thousands of convicts to local jails, placing them under house arrest or reducing some crimes to misdemeanors.

    Republican lawmakers oppose an early release program, saying it would flood the streets with felons.