California's prison population reduction plan begins

The state's controversial plan to reduce its prison population by 6,500 inmates over the next year begins today, with victims and law enforcement groups once again warning it will increase crime.

"We are concerned for the public's safety," said Christine Ward, director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance in Sacramento.

"We understand that this is a move by the Legislature to help relieve prison overcrowding and save money in the budget. But we're very disappointed that public safety seems to have taken a back seat to other issues."

The idea, which opponents label an "early-release" plan, was hammered out last year during contentious budget talks.

The plan calls for inmates deemed low-risk offenders to earn credits on their prison sentences by completing rehabilitation and education programs.

In addition, offenders deemed low-risk would not be subject to parole supervision upon release from prison, meaning they would be less likely to be returned to prison for minor parole violations.

Corrections officials say the effort will result in a gradual release of low-level offenders over the course of the year rather than a mass exodus today.

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