Supreme Court orders release of over 30,000 prisoners in CA to … improve health care

posted at 12:57 pm on May 23, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

California will have to release over 30,000 inmates from its prison system to comply with a Supreme Court ruling earlier today.  The court cited chronic violations of inmates’ rights in its 5-4 decision.  The reductions will improve the delivery of health care services to the remaining inmates, claims the majority:

The Supreme Court on Monday endorsed a court order requiring California to cut its prison population by tens of thousands of inmates to improve health care for those who remain behind bars.

The court said in a 5-4 decision that the reduction is “required by the Constitution” to correct longstanding violations of inmates’ rights. The order mandates a prison population of no more than 110,000 inmates, still far above the system’s designed capacity.

There are more than 142,000 inmates in the state’s 33 adult prisons, meaning roughly 32,000 inmates will need to be transferred to other jurisdictions or released.

Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberal jurists in the decision, while the four conservatives were aghast at the implications.  Calling the ruling “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history,” Antonin Scalia’s dissent predicted a higher number of releases, 46,000.  Those may end up going to county jurisdictions rather than state prisons, or perhaps sent to other states with more room in their penal system, but that will cost California money the state simply doesn’t have.

The immediate effect of the order will almost certainly be a large-scale release.  That will increase pressure on an already-overburdened parole system and send career criminals back to ply their trade in communities throughout the state — and the country.  The increased costs on communities won’t help the state improve medical care to prisoners; it’s more likely to sap the state’s treasury.

This poses other questions as well.  What is California supposed to do with convicts now?  If they can’t add to the current level of inmates, then they’re going to have to release even more on a one-for-one basis, putting revolving doors on the prisons again.  The same will be true in other states, which had joined California in opposing the order, which now have to operate under a new Supreme Court mandate on prison populations.

The state could build more prisons, which would solve the problem.  Unfortunately, California spent its money on practically everything but new prisons over the last few decades.  The average age of their prisons was 55 years in 2009′s report from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  California has a responsibility to invest in its prison infrastructure, as well as a responsibility to provide for the safety and basic health needs of its inmates.  But the Supreme Court has its own responsibility to keep criminals from victimizing their communities, too.  This looks like a big failure all the way around.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3

The country continues it’s slide to destruction

Wade on May 23, 2011 at 5:43 PM

We’re still locking up people for marijuana though, right?

I mean, it’s worth releasing murderers and rapists back into the general population, so long as some dope busted on a marijuana rap remains incarcerated.

Jeddite on May 23, 2011 at 5:46 PM

Liberals with power live to inflict suffering on average citizens. And the more pain they cause, the more outrageous the abuse they impose, the more they think their policies are “teachable moments” that the average rubes deserve.

Django on May 23, 2011 at 5:47 PM

So, when they lock us up for not buying Obamacare we can use this ruling to get out of jail, right?

SouthernGent on May 23, 2011 at 6:01 PM

People have already been killed by early released prisoners.

Polly Klass, Chelsea King, et al.

PattyJ on May 23, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Yes, all these released prisoners are sure to improve the health of the citizens of California.

infidel4life on May 23, 2011 at 6:25 PM

Anyone actually thinks Kennedy would rule against ObamaCare? I don’t.

JellyToast on May 23, 2011 at 6:35 PM

There seems to be this critical mass after which prisons act like tonsils during tonsillitis. It seems to me that a true “correctional” facility wouldn’t allow criminals to interact with each other.

Count to 10 on May 23, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Congratulations, drug warriors!

CTD on May 23, 2011 at 9:00 PM

What on earth can Anthony Kennedy be thinking?

Jaibones on May 23, 2011 at 10:06 PM

California should contact Sheriff Joe. Tents are relatively cheap, California has lots of desert. The math should be easy.

AZfederalist on May 23, 2011 at 11:06 PM

Perhaps. How much has the total population increased since 1982?

rogerb on May 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM

23 million in 1980. 38 million in 2010. That’s a 65% increase in population. Prison space increased 300%.

dirc on May 24, 2011 at 12:12 AM

Kennedy is morphing into a Souter…

Gohawgs on May 24, 2011 at 12:35 AM

Just a foretaste. These people get reelected in 2012 and get to fill 2-3 more slots then the country’s theirs forever. All the prisons will be emptied (among other things.) Judges are where the rubber meets the road. The Republican candidate should point that out. Not holding breath.

curved space on May 24, 2011 at 5:53 AM

This is insane. Now it’s more important than ever that a Republican wins the Presidential Election in 2012.

SoulGlo on May 24, 2011 at 5:55 AM

Sorry, just reading this for the first time. How many of these prisoners can be sent back to their country of origin?

Cindy Munford on May 24, 2011 at 9:01 AM

Perhaps. How much has the total population increased since 1982?
 
rogerb on May 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM

 
23 million in 1980. 38 million in 2010. That’s a 65% increase in population. Prison space increased 300%.
 
dirc on May 24, 2011 at 12:12 AM

 
The 300% increase in prison space might’ve been sufficient if incarceration rates hadn’t also increased by ~300% at the same time the population was growing by 65&.
 
(I don’t have any real insight beyond the basics, btw. I’m just an interested observer since CA is often a crystal ball for the rest of us)
 
To revisit the original issue:
 

That does not seem like a state neglecting its responsibility to maintain the prison infrastructure to me.

 
That they’re having to take these measures indicates that something(s) was done wrong. “Neglect”? Maybe not. Poor vision, planning, management, and/or legislative decisions regarding said infrastructure? Maybe.

rogerb on May 24, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Personally, I’d release all of the illegal aliens into ICE custody and if there’s still any prisoners left, I’d release them directly onto a bus leaving the state.

John Deaux on May 24, 2011 at 10:19 AM

ROAD TRIP!!

mojo on May 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM

“improve health care”

Yeah summer’s coming and there is a tendency for the body to overheat. It’s been scientifically proven that nothing cools a body faster than bullet holes. Ah the wisdom of lawyers in black bathrobres.

MaiDee on May 24, 2011 at 11:54 AM

The 300% increase in prison space might’ve been sufficient if incarceration rates hadn’t also increased by ~300% at the same time the population was growing by 65%.

Agreed. The space provided is not adequate for the size of the prison population.

Poor vision, planning, management, and/or legislative decisions regarding said infrastructure? Maybe.

rogerb on May 24, 2011 at 9:07 AM

I’d even say “Definitely” to your list.

My disagreement with Mr. Morrissey’s article was his characterization of a state that had done nothing to increase capacity (“spent its money on practically everything but new prisons” is what he wrote). Not enough, given the incarceration rates, but a 300% increase is not nothing.

California is screwed up in many ways, and it is easy to write off every problem as the result of having the wrong priorities. Prison capacity is not a case of ignoring the problem. The problem was not ignored, it was addressed with substantial, if ultimately inadequate resources, given the size of the problem.

dirc on May 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Execute the illegal aliens until their countries do the right thing

Sonosam on May 24, 2011 at 10:25 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3