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June 13, 2010

"Who should control California's prison budget? U.S. Supreme Court may weigh in"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article in the Los Angeles Times.  It gets started this way:

A legal battle over who gets to control California's massive spending on prisons — judges or corrections officials — may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with overcrowding at the state's 33 prisons at the center of the debate.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state officials have challenged an edict from three federal judges that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must cut the prison population by 40,000, or about a quarter of its 165,000 inmates. The judges' order, issued last August, cited overcrowding as the main cause of healthcare failures that amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and left inmates to die from treatable conditions at the rate of one per week.

The three-judge order brought to a head the tension over a decades-long judicial practice of intervening in prison management to correct what have been deemed unconstitutional deficiencies in state custody.  Courts have empowered a phalanx of overseers and experts to mandate reforms on prisoners' healthcare, psychiatric treatment, parole rights, access to law libraries and other matters.

But as California's budget woes increasingly pit the jailers and judicial monitors in a struggle for scarce resources, the monitors have become a point of contention.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide as early as Monday whether to review the three-judge order to reduce overcrowding.  Some observers of the legal tug of war over inmate treatment believe the conservative justices on the high court want to weigh in on what they may see as judicial activism.  When the state appealed the reduction order, the justices suspended a two-year deadline for releasing inmates or building prisons to house them.

UPDATE on June 14:  According to SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court "has postponed the question of its jurisdiction to hear the case [concerning California's prison litigation] until it holds a hearing next Term."  This official order list explains: "Further consideration of the question of jurisdiction is postponed to the hearing of the case on the merits."

June 13, 2010 at 08:15 PM | Permalink


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Protection for these prison monitors should be quietly removed, by prison authorities. The number of guards assigned should be tapered, and eventually, they should find themselves alone in the general population. One good punch in the face is worth hours of arguing with these pro-criminal rent seeking government workers. All released prisoners should be housed in halfway houses on the streets where these activist judges live. Their neighbors' homes should be seized under Kelo.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 13, 2010 8:39:34 PM

Why is this so complicated? California prisons have been found to be in violation of the Constitution. The political branches of government have not cured the violation. The remedy is release.

Posted by: dm | Jun 13, 2010 10:18:39 PM

Why shouldn't the government continue to control the prison budget? They already control whether or not and who can get credit cards: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/02/25/under-21-and-want-a-credit-card-better-get-mommys-permission-first/
It's been functional so far, no need to change it.

Posted by: Danny | Jun 14, 2010 1:19:45 AM

DM: Please forward your home address to the parole board, to volunteer your street as a transition station for all prisoners you propose to free. After all, their charges are all non-violent ones. And they are in state prison merely for smoking a joint or two.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 14, 2010 5:15:21 AM

SC, is there any limit to the cruelty and deprivation you're willing to tolerate in an apparent quest for a life free of risk?

Have you eliminated other threats to your safety (eating greasy foods, spending too much time in the sun, driving in rush hour traffic, climbing ladders to replace light bulbs, having an extra beer or two at the ballgame and so forth)?

As others have noted numerous times, those who would be considered for early release from crowded prisons eventually will be freed. And my guess is the longer they languish in over-crowded cages, the greater the risk they will pose to your fantastical notions of absolute security.

Of course I realize that in SC World the solution to that (or any other) problem is summary executions.

Posted by: John K | Jun 14, 2010 11:22:42 AM

Why on earth should dark skinned people carry the burden of criminality, when light skinned people are equally qualified to have them move into their neighborhood?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 14, 2010 3:48:36 PM

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