A three-judge panel has ordered California to start releasing inmates so the state can cut its prison population by 10,000 by the end of the year because medical care and other conditions are unconstitutional.

The judges—U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of Sacramento, Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson of San Francisco—ordered the state to expand the use of good-time credits to cut the inmate population, a tool the judges indicated would trim prison sentences of some inmates by several months without endangering the public, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The state must reduce its prison population to less than 137% capacity, the judges said Thursday. The ruling immediately drew fire from the California Police Chiefs Association, which released a statement saying the chiefs are appalled.

"We find it incredible that the court is putting the concerns of convicted felons before the safety of our communities, whose members depend on us for their safety and well-being," said Covina Police Chief Kim Raney, the association's president. "This will have a direct, unambiguous and severe impact on public safety."

Gov. Jerry Brown is attempted to obtain a judicial stay that would halt the release.