Symbol of Calif. prison overcrowding comes to end

DON THOMPSON Associated Press Published:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California prisons are marking a milestone as they remove the last of nearly 20,000 extra beds that had been 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 is announcing the end of the nontraditional beds at a news conference Friday.

The prison population has dropped by nearly 19,000 inmates since a 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 change the way it punishes criminals. The nontraditional beds once held more inmates than the entire prison populations of 25 other states.