Supreme Court orders California to free thousands from crowded prisons

Gov. Brown trying to eat an invisible sandwich

Gov. Brown trying to eat an invisible sandwich

Would you care if thousands of prisoners were released from our state’s prisons at once? As it comes to stand, that may happen soon.


In June, a lower court ordered California to release about 10,000 prisoners due to overcrowding—that’s nearly 8 percent of all state inmates—when Gov. Jerry Brown was able to delay the date. After the postpone, the Supreme Court had a vote as to whether there should be another defer. In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court denied California the second delay of releasing thousands of inmates from state prisons to relieve crowding.


A few Justices, including Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, disagreed with the high court’s decision, predicting rapes and murders in the streets of California.


Gov. Jerry Brown was among the higher-ups to dissent, pointing out that “California must now release upon the public nearly 10,000 inmates convicted of serious crimes, about 1,000 for every city larger than Santa Ana.”


The state argued that it had made very good progress by transferring thousands of “low-risk” inmates to county and local jails. Mike Bien, a man representing the inmates in the case, stated that Brown appeared to be gambling everything on getting the Supreme Court to agree with him.


California has already taken steps to start moving some inmates out of state, but these steps have not been met without protest.


This was back in early August.


Gov. Brown asked the court on a fairly recent Monday for a second three-year delay in their requirement that the state release thousands of inmates by the year’s end to ease prison overcrowding. He is afraid that the influx of prisoners will heighten the crime rate and not be very good for our society. If the judges reject, the administration would spend $315 million this fiscal year to keep the prisoners in private prisons and county jails instead of releasing them. The state made that Monday the court-ordered deadline to report on how far reducing the inmate population has gone.


As an alternative to spending a lot of money to lease open cells, the state is offering to spend part of it on substance abuse, mental health treatment, etc. if the court extends its year-end deadline. The goal is to keep parolees from re-offending and being sent back to prison. Gov. Brown also made a deal with both parties that the state gives counties more money when working with prisoners.


The new law, according to Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, “will reduce recidivism, promote public safety, and help divert inmates from our state prisons. Without an extension, these important initiatives will be delayed.”


There is no guarantee, however, that the courts will agree to the state’s latest plan.
As stated by Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office that sued over inmate crowding, “There is no timetable, there’s no promise of what programs will be in place when, all there is is a promise to talk some more even though they’ve had five years to evaluate these different alternatives. The definite trend in the rest of the nation is to go away from incarceration. Instead, California is going in the direction of another incarceration binge.”