Brown v. Plata: prison overcrowding in California

J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2012;40(4):547-52.


California's prisons are currently designed to house approximately 85,000 inmates. At the time of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Brown v. Plata, the California prison system housed nearly twice that many (approximately 156,000 inmates). The Supreme Court held that California's prison system violated inmates' Eighth Amendment rights. The Court upheld a three-judge panel's order to decrease the population of California's prisons by an estimated 46,000 inmates. They determined that overcrowding was the primary cause of the inmates' inadequate medical and mental health care. As a result, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has been working to redistribute inmates and parolees safely and decrease the overall population to the mandated levels. These large-scale adjustments to California's penal system create potential opportunities to study the long-term effects on affected inmates.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Crowding / psychology*
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Human Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Human Rights / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Prisoners / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisons / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Supreme Court Decisions*
  • United States