SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Inmates who work as janitors, cooks and groundskeepers in California’s overcrowded prisons would be eligible for early release under a proposed legal settlement.

The settlement was filed Friday in federal court, where judges would need to approve it before any changes take effect.

READ MORE: Folsom Ice Rink Opens After Three Week Delay Due To Vandals

The Los Angeles Times reports that an estimated 4,300 inmates who form the backbone of the prison system’s menial labor force could start earning sharply reduced sentences as early as January.

READ MORE: Sacramento Kings Rout Shorthanded Clippers 124-115

The settlement represents a change for state officials, who had argued that minimum custody inmates are vital laborers whose sentences should not be cut.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman told the newspaper that the state agreed to the settlement following negotiations with lawyers for inmates that the court had ordered.

MORE NEWS: Folsom Ice Skating Rink Reopens After Weeks Of Delays

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.