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Reported violent crime was down last year in America according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is the third consecutive year that Americans saw lower violent crime rates. Across the country allegations of violent crimes were down 5.3 percent in 2009 when compared to 2008. More than 1.3 million violent crimes were reported in the United States in 2009, according to the FBI.

California violent crimes reportedly fell 5.8 percent in 2009 from the previous year. FBI statistics show that California reported 174,459 violent crimes in 2009. The California violent crime rate in 2009 was roughly 472 alleged offenses per 100,000 residents.

Allegations of murder and non-negligent manslaughter are listed by the FBI as among the violent crimes. Murder and manslaughter dropped 7.9 percent last year. Allegations of robbery declined 7.6 percent, aggravated assaults fell 4.8 percent and reports of California burglary dropped 3.2 percent.

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Horror stories in California prisons have been on the radar for roughly two decades. A sometimes heated debate regarding the issues of overcrowding and substandard medical care filled a 90-minute U.S. Supreme Court hearing last week. U.S. Supreme Court justices are being asked to rule on the extent to which federal courts can issue an order to ease overcrowding in California prisons.

People convicted of a California felony may be sent to the already overcrowded prisons in the state. The case on review in the Supreme Court stems from suits filed against the state of California dating back to the 1990s alleging that overcrowding violates inmate's Eighth Amendment constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. Over the years federal courts have issued orders demanding that California implement better treatment for inmates in the overcrowded prison system.

A three-judge federal appellate panel issued a ruling last year that requires the state of California to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity within two years. Roughly 36,000 to 45,000 prisoners would have to be released or transferred to other facilities to comply with the court order.

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250 more criminal cases are on appeal after dismissals for violations of the right to a speedy trial. The Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial. A California defendant in a felony matter is entitled to trial within 60 days. Misdemeanor cases should be brought to trial within 30 days under California rules.

The ruling Monday arose from the dismissal of a California burglary charge in September 2008, and 17 other cases consolidated for review. No cases have been dismissed in the county since July 2009 based upon a shortage of judges.

In 2007 a task force comprised of judges reported that Riverside County had a culture of continuances that caused delays in the justice system. The agreed upon delays in 2007 led to delays of over a year for as many as 25 percent of the inmates in the county. One defendant sat for eight years awaiting trial, according to the 2007 task force.

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