Not a direct order, but this will be the result of their decision released this morning.
A closely divided Supreme Court on Monday cited “serious constitutional violations” in California’s overcrowded prisons and ordered the state to abide by aggressive plans to fix the problem.
In a decision closely watched by other states, the court by a 5-4 margin concluded the prison overcrowding violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Pointedly, the court rejected California’s bid for more time and leeway.
“The violations have persisted for years,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “They remain uncorrected.”
The court agreed that a prisoner-release plan devised by a three-judge panel is necessary in order to alleviate the overcrowding. The court also upheld the two-year deadline imposed by the three-judge panel.
“For years, the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs,” Kennedy wrote.
Driving the point home, the court’s majority made the highly unusual if not unprecedented move of including stark black-and-white photographs of a jam-packed room at Mule Creek State Prison and cages at Salinas Valley State Prison. Conservative dissenters, in turn, warned dire consequences will result.
But, California is broke and on the verge of insolvency. Where does SCOTUS seem to think the money to relieve overcrowding will come?
The simple solution will be letting tens of thousands of convicted felons out of prison and onto the streets. What could go wrong?
“Today the court affirms what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history, an order requiring California to release the staggering number of 46,000 convicted felons,” Justice Antonin Scalia declared.
Eighteen states — including Texas, Alaska and South Carolina — explicitly supported California’s bid for more leeway in reducing prison overcrowding. These states worry that they, too, might face court orders to release inmates.
California’s 33 state prisons held about 147,000 inmates, at the time of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments last November. This is down from a high of some 160,000 previously cited in legal filings. The higher figure amounted to “190 percent of design capacity,” officials said.
Last year, a three-judge panel ordered California to reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years. That’s the equivalent of about 110,000 inmates.
The California Legislature dominated by the Democrats and Democrat Governor Jerry Brown are scrambling to transfer 30,000 prisoners to Count Jails rather than let them go. But, how will the counties pay for this transfer?
Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 109, which shifts to counties the responsibility for incarcerating many low-risk inmates. Up to 30,000 state prison inmates could be transferred to county jails over three years, under the bill; first, however, state officials must agree on a way to pay for it.
“The prison system has been a failure,” Brown stated when he signed the bill “Cycling (lower-level) offenders through state prisons wastes money, aggravates crowded conditions, thwarts rehabilitation and impedes local law enforcement supervision.”
Somehow I don’t think California residents when they are subjected to the increased crime and the recidivism of these felons are going to take to kindly to the POLS who are letting these folks go. But, the biggest effect may be the hesitation of business to remain in California where their employees do not feel safe.
Of course, California may decide to not release thousands of felons but transfer them to other states and the counties. But, who is going to pay for this?
California could change the parole rules as well but this would result in more felons out of incarceration and on the streets. – ready to commit more crimes.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the Court, and a Californian did nothing for his fellow Golden Staters.