SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Federal judges are telling California to speed up its process for releasing some nonviolent inmates as part of a previous order forcing the state to sharply reduce its prison population.

The three-judge panel on Friday gave the state a Jan. 1 deadline to start considering parole for nonviolent second-strike inmates.

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The state is required to forward the names of inmates who meet the criteria to the parole board once they have served half their prison sentences.

In February, the judges ordered California to take that step as one of many designed to cut the prison population and improve conditions for inmates.

Attorneys representing inmates said the state was taking too long to set up the parole process.

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Corrections department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman says the state will comply with the deadline.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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