Thursday, May 26, 2011

scotus orders massive california inmate release


Video - California has to clean up its jail overcrowding problem.

LATimes | The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must remove tens of thousands of inmates from its prison rolls in the next two years, and state officials vowed to comply, saying they hoped to do so without setting any criminals free.

Administration officials expressed confidence that their plan to shift low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities, already approved by lawmakers, would ease the persistent crowding that the high court said Monday had caused "needless suffering and death" and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Gov. Jerry Brown's transfer plan "would solve quite a bit" of the overcrowding problem, though not as quickly as the court wants, said Matthew Cate, secretary of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "Our goal is to not release inmates at all.''

But the governor's plan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, to be paid for with tax hikes that could prove politically impossible to implement. And at present, Brown's plan is the only one on the table.

The governor issued a muted statement calling for enactment of his program and promising, "I will take all steps necessary to protect public safety."

The court gave the state two years to shrink the number of prisoners by more than 33,000 and two weeks to submit a schedule for achieving that goal. The state now has 143,335 inmates, according to Cate.

Monday's 5-4 ruling, upholding one of the largest such orders in the nation's history, came with vivid descriptions of indecent care from the majority and outraged warnings of a "grim roster of victims" from some in the minority.

In presenting the decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Sacramento native, spoke from the bench about suicidal prisoners being held in "telephone booth-sized cages without toilets" and others, sick with cancer or in severe pain, who died before being seen by a doctor. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, and as many as 54 may share a single toilet, he said.

Kennedy, whose opinion was joined by his four liberal colleagues, said the state's prisons were built to hold 80,000 inmates, but were crowded with as many 156,000 a few years ago.

67 comments:

ProfGeo said...

Our county sheriff just got back from Sacramento, looking for $$ to support the county jail system in this ironic Bizarro-world application of "trickle-down economy." He didn't come back smiling a-tall. There are also Sheriff Dept. layoffs on the horizon (double whammy) but he really wanted the job back in November so we'll wish him luck now. Area police also facing the same.

They (you know, they) could really parse this at the prison end and just release a frackload of non-violent offenders-- drug users etc. While there would still be some recidivism it would be of a different nature and scope than the white-flight fear as it tends to be framed, namely hordes of newly-released Latino gang members roaming urban & suburban streets with impunity. The photos the Supreme Court used as evidence in their decision were bunches and bunches of tattooed white guys in orange jumpsuits crowded into gyms, not exclusively of course, but all out of proportion to Anglo fears of the dark.

CNu said...

California is the high-profile canary in America's collapse coal mine..., http://youtu.be/FWOsbGP5Ox4 - Pac was a prophet....,

Rembom said...

There are plenty of factual data to support ProfGeo's POV.

The idea of reducing CA state prison crowding by shipping inmates to county jail lockups and county probation systems is great for political consumption, but never made any sense in the reality based world.    It assumes that collectively, all the municipal, county, and state lockups and supervised release programs have the capacity to handle all the criminals in the state.  This is fantasy.
Even before this idea started gaining traction, the LA county jail (the largest county jail in the country) was already profoundly overcrowded. And the LA county probation dept is among the most under-resourced, per capita, of any in the country.  The jailers have to make increasingly aggressive use of bail schedules, resulting in the bar being raised on who actually gets held.  Jails (county facilities, as opposed to state prisons) are supposed to hold misdemeanants working off their sentences (up to one year), and also folks with appearances scheduled in a local courthouse.  In practice, much of the county jail space is occupied by felons, people who ordinarily by law would be in a state prison.  And as the crowding gets worse, even low level felons are released on bail.  This was the case before the current fiscal problems.

Now the state proposes to send several thousand prison inmates to LA county jail.

Ask yourself, how do other jurisdictions manage to survive with far fewer people per capita locked up?  Perhaps CA's societal security could afford keep lots of non-violent offenders (often drug related) out of custody, and into various community based treatment programs?  Or maybe to partially rollback the accumulated results of politicians' (both parties do this) kneejerk "tough on crime" position?

Rembom said...

"...a brochure from the CDC boasts..."  A recruitment effort most likely wouldn't mention things like shanks and divorce rates.

Interesting question on the Koch Bros. position on the prison guards' union.  Ideologically, I would think they would  favor both "law and order" and less govt spending, while opposing the guards' union.  That might lead them to ProfGeo's POV.

But ideology isn't the only thing driving the Kochs.  There's a redistricting angle!  Check this out:

http://kochwatch.org/index.php?q=node/240

CNu said...

Sho's you right. 

All's I know is that one of their major midwestern acolytes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Patterson has been angling on that electronic medical records and informatics contract in an effort to "make health care smarter" in overcrowded prison systems for the past decade.

sheeeiiiiitttttt....., I got sent out to the L.A. county jail to peep game on how someone might go about  implementing informatics that would yield better survival stats for inmates cooped up like they were in a Frank Purdue industrial poultry plant, and that was a looooong time ago.

Got summoned in just a couple years back as a knowledge resource for a pimpish vendor who had CCPOA influence to peddle wrt selection of that prospective "health" informatics system. At the end of the day, $$$$ will prove definitive in determining the outcome of California's prison overcrowding problem. 

I guess a question nested in all of this, is, how many if any of these California state penitentiaries are operated by private for-profit incarceration services providers?

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