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October 2, 2011

Los Angeles' DA predicting "doom" and huge "spike in crime" with prisoner transfer

The rhetoric surrounding the implementation of new prisoner rules in California is heating up, as evidenced by this local story headlined "As Prisoner Exchange Begins, LA County Officials Predict Doom." Here are excerpts:

Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor is predicting doom and gloom with a prospect of thousands of convicted felons being diverted to the county’s jail system rather than state prisons....

District Attorney Steve Cooley says with thousands of new, convicted felons coming into the jail system and 8,000 or more nonviolent felons being released early on parole; it’s a prescription for disaster. “I’m also predicting in connection with that population, we’re going to experience the greatest spike in crime of the last several decades,” Cooley said.

Only Deputy Chief Probation Officer Reaver Bingham, whose department will have to keep track of the thousands of new parolees, is hopeful that with increased funding and smaller caseloads, things might not turn out as bad as predicted. “If we do supervision correctly, we have seen the positive outcomes that we are projecting,” Bingham said.

On Saturday, the first group of 45 nonviolent felony inmates already serving time will gain early release and will be allowed to head home to LA. They’ll be the first of nearly 9,000 inmates who will also be released over the next nine months.

October 2, 2011 at 10:28 PM | Permalink


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Please, never say, non-violent offender. In 95% of cases, the adjudicated charge is fictitious. Only the indictment charge should be used to make decisions in mass releases of ultra-violent gang bangers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 2, 2011 10:34:01 PM

If people do wind up being victimized as a result of this, then the 5-4 majority in Plata has blood on their hands, and as the appointer of two of the five, President Obama has blood on his hands.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 3, 2011 9:16:09 AM


Actually, I would put the blame with the CA voters who over years refused to build more facilities despite being told (and even agreeing) that their current facilities were insufficient to house the population they wished removed. Don't blame the mirror for showing an ugly reflection.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 3, 2011 10:19:13 AM

I wouldn't. This game was rigged from the get-go (i.e., the composition of the panel).

Posted by: federalist | Oct 3, 2011 11:11:21 AM


I might agree with you except that the state agreed under several different administrations that the facilities were not meeting constitutional standards. That agreement pretty much loses the game for thin my book.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 3, 2011 11:19:23 AM

I'll remember that brilliant analysis the next time the State fails to repair a bridge for like 20 years, and then fails to shut the unsafe bridge, and a court is forced (after trying like 15 times not to interfere in executive/legislative business) to issue an injunction to shut the unsafe bridge. When excessive traffic builds up in the adjacent tunnel, leading to numerous traffic accidents, I will be sure to accuse the court of having the blood of the victims on its hands.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 3, 2011 11:59:19 AM

The remedy was overblown. Make no mistake, the release order was not required by law. And Obama can take his piece of the blame.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 3, 2011 11:59:54 AM

Who gets the blame, federalist, for the one-unnecessary-death-per-week among prisoners that existed for years before the release order? In past Plata discussions, you have forthrightly admitted, federalist, that you do not value the lives of prisoners as much as you value the lives of non-prisoners. But even if you care not a whit about the hundreds who died in prison because California was violating the Constitution for years, what about the families and friends of those who died while California kept stuffing more bodies but not more resources into its prison system?

In other words, federalist, are the non-prisoners who suffered because of California's long-standing constitutional violations produced a grim roster of prisoner victims also completely beyond your care and concern? Do you at least acknowledge that they might have genuine tears over the blood already spilled because of the failure to remedy these known problems for a decade?

The Plata release-order remedy was (1) authorized by Congress, (2) implemented as a last resort due to California's failure to fix the problem for years, and (3) can/should be handled without unique harms to public safety (as has been done in Texas and other states that have reduced incarceration while still having crime drop). Blaming Justices and/or Prez Obama for harms/costs from Plata would be like blaming the Warren Court and Prez Ike for the harms/costs of all the lawyers that had to be appointed for accused criminals due to Gideon.

I find especially telling, federalist, that you are so eager here to place blood on others' hands for defending constitutional principles while you lack the courage to use your real name in comments that cast blame so recklessly and foolishly. As Soronel rightly points out, if there is blame to be cast, a lot of others should get it before the ones you are so eager to attack.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 3, 2011 12:59:02 PM

More made-up stats from Supremacy Claus, with no cite to any source. "In 95% of cases, the adjudicated charge is fictitious." What are you talking about? What is your source?

Posted by: Alex | Oct 3, 2011 1:18:11 PM

The blame for CA mess is extremely broad, as its been growing for a decade...The admisistrators of prisons, guard unions, biggest blame is of coarse
the laws that required such ridiculous sentences..IE 3 strikes law, they are now using it in selected cases for someone who needs to be gone, I understand..

Ex Governors, initially the people of california who demanded tougher laws, 3 strikes and drug sentences...But the laws went a little too far and nobody wants to admit fault....Its slow to unwind criminal statues and turn loose what the politicians label as violent criminals...Most arenot viloent, they use drugs/alcolhol and after a period of time, they get into all sorts of scraps...
Its that way across america....

Look at the Federal system...For a few yrs (prior to Begay) OWI'S were considered violent crimes....It took the Scotus to reverse it...

I say there needs to be a system where they can work there way down in classification of prison...So they can get training and obtain job skills...Technical schools, OJT type, anything that gets them real life training. Thats what everyone needs...Upon existing, they instantly are much better off...How could you not be....

But is it our goal to punish the unfortunate for life or remove there freedoms for a spell and rehabilitate them...SO upon discharge they can be prioductive..

How in the world you can corral young people in a small area and not give them reasons or goals to achieve is beyond me...This is my $.02 worth...

Posted by: Josh2 | Oct 3, 2011 2:03:56 PM

Doug, so now my "courage" is an issue? Please. Let me know when you have stepped into a boxing ring in front of thousands. Maybe you're still sore from the woodshed treatment I gave you a few years back. I know that you don't like meanie states locking up criminals, and that you think, what the heck, let's release a bunch to vindicate other criminals' rights. Whatever.

Barack Obama appointed the "wise Latina" and the liberal twit to the bench, and they voted to affirm a decision of a lunatic fringe panel and go well beyond the strictures of PLRA. Sorry, I don't believe that the votes of a woman who, upset about DADT, decides to subject military members to second-class treatment instead of criticizing Congress and the President are made in good faith. With respect to the "wise Latina", I don't take the votes of a less-than talented hack (see, e.g., her respose to Kohl's question on term limits) who thinks that prisoners should be granted the franchise at face value. Your prattling about defending constitutional principles is just so much noise. What basis do you have to presume the good faith of these two? Their position as a Supreme Court Justice?

Posted by: federalist | Oct 3, 2011 2:44:05 PM

Ahh, federalist, it seems you are back to your tendency to substitute ad hominen attacks (and delusionary recollections of prior debating success) for rational dialogue. Whether you are a fan of Obama's appointees or not, the reality remains that the Plata release-order remedy was (1) authorized by Congress, (2) implemented as a last resort due to California's failure to fix its prison problems for years (while a prisoner died each week as a result), and (3) can/should be handled without unique harms to public safety (though probably will be bungled by folks on the ground in California).

I question your courage, federalist, because all the folks you are quick to assail are easily named because their work is transparent and thus subject to your misguided attacks. In contrast, while you are eager to place blood on the hands of messengers, we are unable to know who you are and thus cannot really hold you accountable for your foolish messages. That's fine by me --- I always welcome anon comments --- but it does speak a certain lack of courage to your convictions.

Returning to matters of substance, I wish to have you again explain your convictions in this setting. As you have indicated before, you seem not at all bothered by the shedding of prisoner blood and seem disinclined to blame anyone for the harms and constitutional violations from California's years of prison overcrowding problems. (I am inclined to surmise you actually favor prisoners dying from unconstitutional prison condition, though I can understand your disinclination to admit this point even as you hide your name.) Do you think prisoners should have NO constitutional rights at all -- or is it just your belief that the congressional remedy adopted in Plata was the wrong response to the violations long admitted and long not remedied by California?

And, I still wonder if you have any concern or sympathy for those non-prisoners related to and concerned about prisoners getting sick and dying in California's overcrowded prisons. Again, even if one embraces your hatred for all prisoners, it is unclear whether and why that hatred can and should extend to non-prisoners who care about prisoners.

That all said, my point here is not to assert that the Plata remedy is ideal or even that it won't have some societal harms. My point rather is to unpack the reasons and rationales for your apparent defense of California's dysfunctional past and for your misguided attack on those Justices who, with congressional statutory blessing, approved a remedy in Plata that simply demanded that California do better after years of failing to deal with problems that were killing a prisoner every week.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 3, 2011 3:12:15 PM

Doug, go back and read our discussion about your comment that the Founding Fathers were "obsessed with procedure" (I am going off memory.) I think we all know who won that one. In any event, you assume the point that I have placed at issue. I don't accept the idea that Sotomayor, Kagan et al. are merely messengers. You do. It's fine to disagree, but you simply appear to be taking it on faith that they don't have a thumb on the scale. So, pray tell, Doug, how do you get to Sotomayor's lunatic idea that prisoners get to vote? She's either dumb (as compared to the average federal appeals court judge) or an activist (or both). As for Kagan, well, doesn't her abject cruelty towards innocent military recruiters speak volumes about her morality? I happen to think so, and given the lack of morality of her position, I don't think her a paragon of virtue and I don't believe she calls 'em as she sees 'em either.

As for Plata, I am not going to go into that much detail. I will point out that your comment about PLRA, which was adopted in response to intrusive federal orders requiring the release of criminals, is sophistry. PLRA authorizes prisoner release, but it certainly doesn't require it, and it has strict limits on it. Your argument is akin to me saying that the death penalty for jaywalking is authorized by the constitution because the constitution authorizes the death penalty. In any event, the panel was bad, and the reality is that the "remedy" is simply giving a windfall to the released prisoners due to the violation of others' rights. I believe I was quite clear on this point beforehand. As for prisoners' constitutional rights, I certainly don't believe that they are entitled to the absolute very best medical care.

As for my hatred of prisoners? Where did that come from? All I am saying is that I view societal safety as more important than prisoner safety, and I doubt that you can have a bunch of people released with the concomitant cap on prisoners (which creates the revolving door problem) without a significant impact on public safety. As for their families, well, not much I can do about that. I think that dangerous criminals need to go to jail.

You give away the game when you say that aren't asserting that the remedy is ideal. Well, read PLRA. The message Congress was sending was that prisoner release orders were to be a last resort. In the face of California's improvement, the release of tens of thousands of criminals certainly does not seem to have been a last resort. Well, I am not willing to simply accept the good faith of those people who okayed the release. You are. Perhaps, if some of these released prisoners would live next to you, you'd have a different view. (Speaking of lack of courage, it's always interesting how federal judges and law profs don't have to live with the reality of their enlightenment)

Of course, if the feds actually enforced immigration laws, perhaps California wouldn't have to deal with the diktats of activist federal judges like Reinhardt, Henderson and Karlton, and then Kennedy and the reconstituted Gang of Four.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 3, 2011 3:54:50 PM

I read the Plata record as evidence that it was finally time for the congressionally-approved "last resort" in light of the undisputed proof (1) that there was an average of one extra prisoner death every week for years (not to mention lots of other harms from overcrowding), and (2) that Gov Schwarzenegger in 2006 proclaimed a state of emergency in an effort to fix these problem that produced no results, and (3) that the chief reason California was even starting toward a solution (the "improvement" you cite) was because of the release order put forward by the original congressionally-approved PLRA panel.

What makes the Plata remedy less than ideal is that this should not have had to come to litigation. Notably, responsible Republican legislatures in Texas and Mississippi and other states (most recently Ohio) have enacted statutory reforms to reduce prison populations by significant amounts without any obvious adverse impact on public safety. You assail the "good faith" of those who okayed the release order, but do not seem to question the "good faith" or even the accuracy of the assumption that everyone whom California sends to state prison is a "dangerous criminal." That itself surprises me given that the state has been largely controlled by Democrats for most of my lifetime. Why do you have such faith in the "good faith" of those who have run California's criminal justice system so poorly for so long? (Notably, the last California Governor who did reduce the state's prison population was named Ronald Reagan.)

I think we both agree that the challenge here is to balance constitutional rights with public safety and limited tax dollars. Your "blood" rhetoric throughout this threat reinforces your obvious interest in assailing anyone who does not put public safety above all else. But the PLRA itself shows that even a Congress fed-up with prisoner suits still understood that extreme failures by states to fix their own problems could/should still sometimes demand an extreme remedy. What more could or did California have to do wrong before you would agree that the "last resort" remedy was finally justified?

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 3, 2011 5:56:55 PM

'her abject cruelty towards innocent military recruiters speak volumes about her morality?'

Please spare me the visual horrors of this thoughtless act.

'In any event, the panel was bad,'

Concur, it's always more platable coming from people you agree with.

'I am not willing to simply accept the good faith of those people who okayed the release.'

Again concur, it's much easier to accept when its from people you agree with and there's irrefutable proof to back it up.

'Perhaps, if some of these released prisoners would live next to you, you'd have a different view.'

Think again, in this day and age if you really knew how many people with criminal records lived in your local area you might be quite unpleasantly surprised.

Posted by: General comment | Oct 3, 2011 6:11:05 PM

no offense federalist but i have to call you on this drivil!

"You give away the game when you say that aren't asserting that the remedy is ideal. Well, read PLRA. The message Congress was sending was that prisoner release orders were to be a last resort. In the face of California's improvement, the release of tens of thousands of criminals certainly does not seem to have been a last resort."

The problem has been there for over TWNETY YEARS! and dozens of court orders to fix the problmem.. Just when would YOU say a last resort has been hit?

Now me i figure if you build a facility that will hold 10,000 people and your called into court because it's got 50,000 in it and TWENTY YEARS LATER it now has 75,000 people in it. Guess what i'm not only GOING TO ORDER 65,000 people released IMMEDIATLEY...i'm going to make it lower than that...buy the number of each and every govt official who has stonewalled me for the last 20 years...BECASUE TRUST ME THEY WILL BE GOING INTO THEIR OWN PRISON!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 3, 2011 6:24:52 PM

Doug, none of that explains why some prisoners should benefit from the mistreatment of others. And, given California's undeniable improvement, the idea that this was a last resort is a fantasy in a liberal judge's mind.

As for reducing prison populations and public safety, I don't necessarily agree that a falling crime rate is necessarily indicative of a prisoner release measure being done without harm to public safety. Crime could be otherwise dropping. I agree, and I have repeatedly said so here, that a prison bed is a scarce resource and that it should be used wisely. I have also said, less often, that we may lose someone's contribution to society when that person is locked up. So I am no fan of willy-nilly locking people up. What I am a fan of is stiff sentences for violent criminals (robbers, burglars, rapists etc.), and serious supervision of these guys when the get out. And if they are caught using coke when they're out, lock them up again. A violent felon with a drug habit is a violent crime waiting to happen.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 4, 2011 9:02:44 AM

You still have not dealt with the reality, federalist, that "California's undeniable improvement" was primarily a result of the prisoner release order. And, if California had just kept improving, rather than "wasting" monies on appeal, SCOTUS never even would have had to consider this case. And, the Plata majority made clear that California could go back to the PLRA panel and get the order modified if/when it no longer seemed necessary or proved to impact public safety.

Moreover, there is nothing in the Plata release order that prevents "stiff sentences for violent criminals (robbers, burglars, rapists etc.), and serious supervision of these guys when the get out." Indeed, this whole problem resulting from California's persistent failure to treat a "prison bed [as] a scarce resource [to] be used wisely" and the reality of the Plata order is not a court command for California officials to do what you and everyone else realizes that should have been doing for decade. And, of course, prisoners do not need to benefit from the mistreatment of others if and when California is willing to spend more money to build more prisons in order to deal with overcrowding.

I understand your instinct, shared by so many, that public safety is a value to be placed above all others. Such an instinct drives not only mass incarceration, but red-light cameras, and torture of crime suspects, and punishments without trials, and prohibition and lots of other security measures that give little or no respect to other values. All that Plata does is require California to fund this policy choice more responsibly or make another policy choice. And yet you continue to give California a pass, it seems, because you not only think public safety comes first, but also that Californian should be able to avoid paying for this choice.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 4, 2011 9:17:24 AM

what "undeniable improvment" is that fed? the fact that it's now only 50% over capacity instad of 100% get real!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 4, 2011 5:32:32 PM

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