But in doing so, they are appointing a compliance officer who will release inmates early if the state fails to meet interim benchmarks or the final goal. Monday's order from a three-judge panel delays an April deadline to reduce the population to about 112,164 inmates.
California remains more than 5,000 inmates over the limit set by the courts, despite building more prison space and using some private cells.
Gov. Jerry Brown's administration says it can reach the court-mandated level by February 2016 by expanding a Stockton medical facility, paroling elderly and incapacitated inmates, and increasing good-time credits for some nonviolent offenders.
The judges call those plans "the least intrusive possible remedy" to the overcrowding problem.