California prisons remove symbol of overcrowding

DON THOMPSON Associated Press Published:

TRACY, Calif. (AP) -- California prisons are marking a milestone after removing the last of nearly 20,000 beds that were jammed into gymnasiums and other common areas to house inmates who overflowed traditional prison cells.

Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate says double- and triple-stacked bunk beds became the iconic symbol of California's prison overcrowding crisis. He announced the end of the arrangement at a prison news conference Friday.

The inmate population has dropped by nearly 19,000 inmates since a new law took effect in October that is sending less serious offenders to county jails instead of state prisons.

The law was prompted by federal judges who forced California to radically change the way it punishes criminals.

The nontraditional beds once held more inmates than the entire prison populations of 25 other states.