Hundreds of prison employees get layoff notices 

California prison officials have sent layoff notices to 548 employees, including 140 guards, as the state's inmate population declines to comply with a federal court order.

Corrections officials said Friday there are 14,000 fewer inmates than four months ago, when a new law began sending those convicted of lower-level offenses to county jails instead of state prisons.

Federal judges, in an order backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, gave the state two years to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates to improve their medical care. The population peaked at 162,000 in 2006.

The layoffs will take effect Feb. 29, although those affected can transfer to other prisons that have vacancies.

Another round of layoffs is planned this fall. Officials could not say how many notices will go out then.

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