A sharply divided Supreme Court Monday affirmed a controversial prisoner reduction plan forced on California prison administrators that requires the state to reduce its inmate population by tens-of-thousands to ease overcrowding.

The 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native, is a wholesale acceptance of a ruling by a special three-judge panel tasked with resolving chronic overcrowding in the state’s penal system. The February 2009 decision orders California to reduce its prison population that has at times run nearly double its capacity. Approximately 37,000 to 46,000 inmates will have to be released in order for the state to comply with the ruling.

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