“The three-judge court ordered the premature release of approximately 46,000 criminals — the equivalent of three Army divisions.”
— Justice Alito
On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that California’s overcrowded prisons violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Supreme Court’s solution? Reduce California’s prison population by 46,000.
Did I mention this was awesome?
The picture above looks fairly similar to the training conditions one may encounter during a stint in the United States military. That is, the more comfortable ones.
These prisoners should be thankful they have three square meals a day, indoor sleeping berths, and access to a gym.
In the military, we got to sleep outside, shivering in the rain and mud. We smelled like goats and suffered through sleep deprivation. We did it because it made us stronger. We did not do it because we hurt someone or committed some other felony.
In the worst case, the state will release all of these prisoners. In the best case, California will transfer most of them to new facilities. Either way, California’s population suffers at the behest of five unelected jurists 3,000 miles away.
At best we get more taxes. At worst, more crime.
Either way, it’s win-win for Californians.
Part of the problem is that this country thinks it can solve crime by locking everybody up. We’ve discussed this a bit over on our blog – beginning in about 1980 (just when Reagan took office) the U.S. saw a drastic increase in incarceration. A portion of that drastic increase was a product of a decision to increase criminal penalties for crimes like drug possession.
We should be doing much more to distinguish between the big violent crimes (murder, rape, armed robbery) where the aim should be to keep the perpetrators off the street, and crimes like drug possession where the aim should be to treat and rehabilitate. Instead, they’re all punished very similarly, drug addicts not only don’t get treatment, their convictions mean they are unlikely to find jobs when they get out and make them more likely to commit other crimes out of desperation.
I agree to some extent. Believe it or not, one big driver in California’s massive prison system is the very powerful prison guard’s union. A huge percentage of the state budget is spent on prisons (I think it is around 13% of the budget- The Economist has a pretty good article on the topic that I cite somewhere in one of my pieces on unions). The union funds politicians who keep their paychecks and pension high and who pass tough laws against criminals. This leaves the prisons full with less money to run them.
Then, as you note, minor criminals like drug offenders are lumped in with hardened criminals. An altogether unsustainable strategy.
Pingback: An Expert’s Perspective on California Prisons with Special Guest Jesse Jannetta | Reflections of a Rational Republican