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Supreme Court declines to hear California prison case

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined for the second time to take up a long-running dispute about overcrowding in California prisons.

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, had asked the court to overturn a lower court ruling that requires the state to reduce overcrowding to 137.5 percent of design capacity. The state says it might have to release up to 9,000 prisoners by the end of the year to be in compliance.

The state is in the midst of negotiations over what further steps to take. On September 24, the state won an extra four weeks to reduce prison overcrowding, giving Brown until January 27 to discuss options with attorneys for inmates.

Brown reached a deal with legislative leaders in September to address the overcrowding problems in part by spending up to $400 million on rehabilitation efforts, including mental health services for inmates.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed a lower federal court's ruling requiring overcrowding to be reduced but the state contests the findings.

The case is Brown v. Plata, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-198.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Bill Trott; Editing by Howard Goller)

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