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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court of a federal order to reduce the state's prison population by more than 40,000 inmates over the next two years, his office announced Tuesday.

A federal three-judge panel last month ordered California officials to reduce the state's prison population because overcrowding has led to unconstitutional levels of care. The order required the state to present a reduction plan by Sept. 18.

Schwarzenegger on Tuesday asked the panel to delay that order, a procedural move likely to be rejected. If that happens, the governor plans to file a similar request Friday with the Supreme Court. Schwarzenegger, who is being represented by Attorney General Jerry Brown and outside counsel, also will notify the three-judge panel Thursday that he is seeking an appeal with the Supreme Court.

In today's court filing, Schwarzenegger's attorneys assert that the three-judge panel should grant a delay of the order because the state's appeal with the Supreme Court has a "strong likelihood of success." They argue that there is no nexus between reducing the prison population and improving medical or mental health care for inmates.

Schwarzenegger's attorneys make an additional argument "that such a dramatic reduction in California's prison population is likely to result in increased crime."

That assertion comes just as Schwarzenegger is trying to convince the Legislature to reduce the state's prison population by roughly 37,000 inmates over the next two years. Schwarzenegger last week framed his plan as a way "to create safer streets."

Yet today's court filing warns that the three-judge panel order to reduce the prison population would result in "a statistically significant increase of over 6.6 percent in California's crime rate."


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