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August 10, 2009

Is SCOTUS partially to blame for rioting in a California prison?

Just when it might seem things could not get any worse for California's over-crowded and politically dysfunction prison system, a massive riot breaks out.  And, as this New York Times coverage of the riot reveals, it might be appropriate to blame a Supreme Court ruling for helping to create the conditions in which this riot broke out:

Rioting inmates smashed and burned a large California prison on Saturday night and Sunday morning, injuring 250 prisoners and hospitalizing 55. The 11-hour riot, at the Reception Center West at the California Institution for Men in Chino, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, broke down along racial lines, with black prison gangs fighting Latino gangs in hand-to-hand combat, the authorities said.

No prison employees were injured, no deaths were reported, and no inmates escaped, state officials said. But 10 of the 33 prisons in the state system were put on lockdown to prevent unrest from spreading. Those 10 were in the southern part of the state.

Damage to the 1,300-inmate medium-security prison was “significant and extensive,” said a spokesman, Lt. Mark Hargrove. One housing unit was virtually destroyed by fire, Lieutenant Hargrove said. The other housing areas were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable, he said, so some inmates were being temporarily housed in tents while others were sent to alternate prisons.

With more than 150,000 inmates, the California prison system is one of the most crowded in the nation, with many of its facilities holding more than double the number of inmates they were designed for. A federal three-judge panel ruled last week that crowding and poor health care caused one avoidable inmate death each week and that the system was “impossible to manage.”...

The Chino prison is trying to put into effect a 2005 Supreme Court decision that prohibits automatic and systematic racial segregation of prison inmates after more than three decades of racial separation in the corrections system. Lieutenant Hargrove said that inmates could now opt out of segregation and that a growing number of black, Latino and white prisoners shared cells, increasing racial tensions in the prison....

In its order last week, the federal panel directed the state to come up with a plan to reduce its prison population by 40,000 inmates within two years. Attorney General Jerry Brown, a possible candidate for governor next year, said he would probably appeal the ruling.

Barry Krisberg, the president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland, said the riot illustrated the many problems plaguing the state prison system, including growing cost overruns and pending cuts. “There are proposals to eliminate all programs including reducing visiting days for inmates participating in programs,” Mr. Krisberg said. “But if you isolate these men from their families and cut down even the most basic educational and counseling programs, you’re going to create more idleness, and this is what happens.”

August 10, 2009 at 10:26 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Aug 10, 2009 1:38:15 PM


I like how Thomas and Scalia are oh so much against affirmative action and for race neutral actions by the government, but dissented together in this case.

Posted by: . | Aug 10, 2009 10:49:01 AM

10:49:01, these aren't necessarily inconsistent positions.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 10, 2009 10:52:47 AM

Maybe if the prisons weren't insanely overcrowded the staff would be better able to quell a riot like this before it got totally out of hand.

Posted by: Monty | Aug 10, 2009 5:38:56 PM

CA prisons are still segregated because the inmates segregate themselves. At intake, each inmate is asked whether he will house with an inmate of another race. The answer is almost always, "no." At that point, the classification officer usually writes up the inmate for failing to follow an administrative decree and house with any available inmate. The inmates, however, would much rather deal with administrative penalties than bear the brand of a "race traitor." That label is a one-way ticket to either protective custody or the morgue.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | Aug 10, 2009 6:33:28 PM

The Supreme Court has no competence to micromanage a prison system. They know nothing, and are like two year olds throwing things about a room. Wherever these ignorant incompetents step in, chaos results. Self-selection of friends and associates is not discriminatory.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 10, 2009 8:24:55 PM

"like two year olds throwing things about a room"

Now there is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 10, 2009 9:25:49 PM

I don't coerce experts in a field I know nothing about into sick, pretextual, idiotic policies, at the point of a gun. Then I don't deal myself absolute immunity, from the horrible consequences of my incompetence, precluding all recourse but public self-help. These are horrible, self-dealing people, seeking to destroy our way of life, and our safety, to generate a few lawyer jobs.

I would like to see halfway houses put all around their residences. Force them to live surrounded by gangbangers. Use their Kelo decision to seize surrounding properties.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 11, 2009 12:52:47 AM

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