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Thread: SCOTUS Orders drastic prison population reduction in California

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default SCOTUS Orders drastic prison population reduction in California

    The Supreme Court has affirmed a federal order telling California to reduce its overflowing prison population, a situation the majority said "falls below the standard of decency."

    The 5-4 ruling Monday from the justices come in a classic battle over state versus federal authority, focusing on whether U.S. courts can step in and essentially run state prisons when officials have repeatedly violated basic constitutional guarantees afforded inmates.


    The issue came down to a sharply divided debate between public safety concerns and individual rights, a debate that goes into how the three branches of government should balance competing state interests.


    The swing vote was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote of the "continuing injury and harm resulting from these serious constitutional violations," including as many as 156,000 people crammed in correctional facilities designed to hold about half that many.


    He noted "needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result. Over the whole course of years during which this litigation has been pending, no other remedies have been found to be sufficient."


    In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito warned any mass release of inmates to alleviate overcrowding would be "gambling with the safety of the people of California."


    The state now has a two-year window to comply, with the clock starting Monday. Officials have not fully explained how their ongoing inmate reduction plan will need to be modified to meet the federal order.


    Prison overcrowding is a nationwide problem, but California's dilemma is unique in its massive scope and time frame. There is general agreement that the prison conditions across California are disturbing and long-standing:


    Prisoners are stacked three deep in 6- by 9-foot cells designed to hold only one. Open spaces meant to be gymnasiums and clinics have been transformed into crowded encampments with bunks and unsanitary conditions. Suicides occur once every eight days on average.


    California has the nation's largest prison system, and the state says it has reduced the prison population to meet overcrowding concerns. But a special federal court panel had ordered 36,000 to 46,000 more inmates released or transferred quickly, about a quarter of the total.


    Despite some recent drops, the prison population in the state has increased by about 75 percent in the past two decades.


    Two lawsuits -- one filed in 1990, the other in 2001 -- say overcrowding is the core cause of what has become a domino effect of unsafe and unhealthy conditions for those on both sides of the iron bars.


    State legislators and corrections officials have admitted the prisons violate the ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" contained in the Constitution, and have organized more than 20 panels and commissions to address the crisis.


    Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who left office in January, had blamed the legislature for not approving more money to build new prisons, or reforming the way defendants are punished and sentenced, particular repeat offenders.


    "I don't blame the courts for stepping in to try to solve the overcrowding crisis," he said three years ago. "The fact of the matter is, for decades the state of California hasn't really taken it seriously and hasn't really done something about it."


    The special federal court in 2009 had ordered the state to shrink the prison population from the current 200 percent over capacity to a maximum of 137.5 percent, and to accomplish that in two years. The state was given wide latitude to meet the goal, but the court was adamant the state do it without delay and without excuse.


    The task was made more difficult by the state budget crisis and a national economic downturn that has created turmoil over funding solutions not just in prisons, but also in education, transportation, and social programs.
    Kennedy spent most his 52-page majority opinion affirming the right of federal courts to step into the situation.


    "This extensive and ongoing constitutional violation requires a remedy, and a remedy will not be achieved without a reduction in overcrowding," he wrote. "The relief ordered by the three-judge court is required by the Constitution and was authorized by Congress in (federal law). The state shall implement the order without further delay."


    The state has already begun to comply; about 9,000 inmates have been released since the 2009 trial stemming from the lawsuits.


    Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan supported Kennedy's conclusions.


    Two tough dissents followed the majority's ruling. Reading from the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia said the ruling represents "the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation's history." He said it "takes federal courts wildly beyond their institutional capacity." Justice Clarence Thomas backed him.


    In a separate dissent, Alito spoke of the potential impact of the decision.
    "The prisoner release ordered in this case is unprecedented, improvident, and contrary" to federal law, he said. "I fear that today's decision, like prior prisoner release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims. I hope that I am wrong. In a few years we will see."



    Chief Justice John Roberts added his support to Alito's dissent.




    High court orders drastic prison population reduction in California - CNN.com
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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by witchcurlgirl View Post
    He noted "needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result. Over the whole course of years during which this litigation has been pending, no other remedies have been found to be sufficient."
    Here's a simple one, legalize marijuana. Regulate it and tax it like booze and cigarettes. See how easy that was.
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    (Replying to MontanaMama) This is some of the smartest shit I ever read

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    Elite Member SHELLEE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMama View Post
    Here's a simple one, legalize marijuana. Regulate it and tax it like booze and cigarettes. See how easy that was.
    OMG, I was just going to post the same exact thing.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    ha-ha.
    about time the US started re-thinking its ridiculous prison system, even if it has to be one state at a time.
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    I agree on the pot - what a surprise, right? a pot head that supports legalization- but CA only has about 1600 people in jail for pot related offenses.



    http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Resea...LPRISd2009.pdf
    (Source: Page 16, Table 8)

    Reworking the ridiculous prison overpopulation is going to take a lot more than legalizing pot.
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    Elite Member SHELLEE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by witchcurlgirl View Post
    I agree on the pot - what a surprise, right? a pot head that supports legalization- but CA only has about 1600 people in jail for pot related offenses.



    http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Resea...LPRISd2009.pdf
    (Source: Page 16, Table 8)

    Reworking the ridiculous prison overpopulation is going to take a lot more than legalizing pot.
    True but at least it would be a start, and there would be 1600 less people in jail that don't deserve to be, imho.
    See, Whores, we are good for something. Love, Florida

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    ^ yes, but getting rid of for-profit prisons would be better. as long as there is money to be made on keeping people in jail you're going to have a totally fucked system.

    I think all non-violent drug offenders- not just pot related ones- should be released.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SHELLEE View Post
    True but at least it would be a start, and there would be 1600 less people in jail that don't deserve to be, imho.
    It wouldn't be nearly enough to make a dent in the compliance with SCOTUS demands. If you let out all people with controlled-substance sentences, it would get you around 15,000 inmates.

    Letting out all burglars would get you about 13,000 inmates - but what kind of message would that send?

    What is pretty scary is that crimes against persons inmates totals about 89,000 of the 168,000 inmate population. So, to get down to the SCOTUS required number, you would have to let out most people who have committed property offenses, or give a lot of rapists, murderers, and assault offenders time-served sentences.

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    Elite Member Jezi's Avatar
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    Legalizing marijuana worked for us. Our prisons are practically empty.

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    Elite Member NoNoRehab's Avatar
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    Let out all the non-violent, non-trafficking and non-vehicle related drug offenders. I don't care if it's a pot smoker or someone busted for heroin - as long as they weren't dealing, driving or hurting other people, let them out.

    Take everyone who's up for parole in the next five years. Then, out of that group, take the ones who don't have any (or a very few) DOC violations, and give them parole hearings early to evaluate whether they would do well with a secured release like home arrest, ankle monitoring, etc. for the rest of their sentence.

    The goal should be to keep the most violent offenders behind bars and let the prisoners who have a decent chance of reform out and away from the prison system, which will just corrupt the ones who do have a chance at reform.
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    Elite Member CornFlakegrl's Avatar
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    Lindsey Lohan probably heard this news, snorted a few lines, serviced a john and is on her way to a jewelry store.

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