May 23, 2011

"Today the Court affirms what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our Nation’s history..."

"... an order requiring California to release the staggering number of 46,000 convicted criminals."

Writes Justice Scalia, dissenting today in Brown v. Plata:
...  My general concerns associated with judges’ running social institutions are magnified when they run prison systems, and doubly magnified when they force prison officials to release convicted criminals....
The majority opinion in this 5-4 case is written by Justice Kennedy:
This case arises from serious constitutional violations in California’s prison system. The violations have persisted for years. They remain uncorrected....

After years of litigation, it became apparent that a remedy for the constitutional violations would not be effective absent a reduction in the prison system population....
The central dispute was about the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), which was designed to reduce the role of federal courts in supervising state prisons.

65 comments:

Joaquin said...

That should be a boom for the local economies and the reduced police departments..................

Coketown said...

Prison was probably the only thing keeping these people in California. They'll flee the state like everyone else. It'll be Idaho and Wyoming's problem. You know. States that didn't liberalize themselves to hell.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why the order to release? Why not an order to build more prisons?

Overcrowded prison suffering > society suffering from 46,000 felons on the loose

???

Given mandatory drug sentencing guidelines, does this mean that they'll be letting out the violent people before the drug crimes people?

blake said...

Freem--

I think they started with orders to build more prisons. NIMBY-ism took hold and there are so many other, better things to spend money on. (Like raises for wardens and prison guards!)

Of course, when the gov't runs out of money, the first thing it does it cut back on the useful things it does. (Like when Prop 13 passed, the threat was that they would stop picking up the garbage.)

Following that logic, they'll let the most violent criminals out to teach us a lesson.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Why the order to release? Why not an order to build more prisons?





Not a Lawyer, but an order to build more prisons is an order to SPEND public money, on the buildings and the guards and their pensions. It is cheaper and easier to order the RELEASE of prisoners than it is to order, via Judicial diktat that the people of California spend more money on jails. Just one thought.

blake said...

I guess they could just let all the non-violent drug offenders out, period, but surprisingly the prison union isn't for that.

rcocean said...

5 of our philosopher Kings have declared thousands of criminals must be released because the Constitution - as they interpret it - says so.

We must obey.

David Smith said...

"...which was designed to reduce the role of federal courts in supervising state prisons."

Proof positive that at least a majority in the SCOTUS has a sense of humor, if a perverse one.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Following that logic, they'll let the most violent criminals out to teach us a lesson.





There’s a POLITICAL cost to that….Yhwh help the Governor whose Parole Board releases Charles Manson or whose Parole Board releases Willie Horton, so all joking aside, the Parole Board(s) will be trying to release the LEAST damaging upon society, and crossing their fingers on many cases…..

Maguro said...

Wonder how many illegal aliens are incarcerated in California.

Would it be racist to suggest that perhaps we might ship these folks back where they came from?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Would it be racist to suggest that perhaps we might ship these folks back where they came from?


Yes.

"Today the Court affirms what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our Nation’s history..."-Really that’s a laugh, Griswold V. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, or even Dred Scott were more RADICAL, this is just a ruling with a large effect, but not necessarily a “radical” one…Griswold, Roe, created, IMO out of whole cloth a new “right”, and Dred Scott overturned several important pieces of legislation and basically tried to, via law, make Slavery unchallengeable and undefeatable. These cases seem to be “radical” all the SCOTUS is saying here is that California has to let a lot of prisoners go, which courts have held several times previously, even if not in such large numbers.

gerry said...

Hmmmm.

Sounds like the Constitution is a suicide pact.

Freeman Hunt said...

The Arkansas Supreme Court dictated that the state spend more money on education years ago. That was probably out of line, but it's what makes me think that an order to build prisons seems better than an order to release prisoners.

edutcher said...

Granted, they're there to render decisions, but, in their many attempts to achieve a specific outcome under the guise of Constitutionality, they're about consequences.

Scalia wants them to worry about them here, but they couldn't be bothered.

What Tecumseh Sherman said about the Governor of Texas and the Kiowas applies.

WV "unking" What happens when the Queen catches the Sovereign putting His Majesty in the Royal Upstairs Chambermaid.

Trooper York said...

Lawyers!

Ya gotta love them douchenozzles.

Phil 3:14 said...

Are they getting their money's worth?

traditionalguy said...

What would Wisconsin do if the Republicans allowed this happen because of they went along with broken state finances?

Phil 3:14 said...

Are they getting their money's worth?

Phil 3:14 said...

More evidence for George Will's conviction

rcocean said...

This is why Scalia thought it "radical":

There comes before us, now and then, a case whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law, rather than vice versa. One would think that, before allowing the decree of a federal district court to release 46,000 convicted felons, this Court would bend every effort to read the law in such a way as to avoid that outrageous result. Today, quite to the contrary, the Court disregards stringently drawn provisions of the governing statute, and traditional constitutional limitations upon the power of a federal judge, in order to uphold the absurd.

The proceedings that led to this result were a judicial travesty. I dissent because the institutional reform the District Court has undertaken violates the terms of the gov- erning statute, ignores bedrock limitations on the power of Article III judges, and takes federal courts wildly beyond their institutional capacity.

Jose_K said...

Not a Lawyer, but an order to build more prisons is an order to SPEND public money
It is the same in Miranda. Miranda requires internal affairs.It means money.
The same with Board of education and the following busing rulings.
The problem began when courts meddled into the prsion system and began the administration by themselves.

Rights have cost. Even negative rights
Still , i agree with you, the Courts have no legitimacy to order spending but they do all the time

Almost Ali said...

I think some of us fail to recognize what a racket the penal/justice system has become, facilitated by the so-called War on Drugs - which is essentially a war on recreational pot smokers, jaywalkers, and scofflaws who fail signal lane changes. Anything to feed the system.

If you really want in lock up serious criminals, lock up these two. And these trigger-happy thugs. And the tens of thousands just like 'em.

Charles said...

Joe said:
"-Really that’s a laugh, Griswold V. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, or even Dred Scott were more RADICAL"

You are conflating deciding cases with injunctions. The other cases did not enjoin anyone, so Scalia may be correct.

WV: decisin - What counts sometimes do.

Fred4Pres said...

I am going to pop off and say this might have some political implications.

blake said...

There’s a POLITICAL cost to that

In a one-party state like California, there's never much of a political cost to anything, from the standpoint of the machine.

What're Californians gonna do? Start voting Republican?

Freeman Hunt said...

Just called my mom.

"So, are you glad that you don't live in California anymore? They're going to release 46,000 prisoners due to overcrowding."
"WHAT?!"

Freeman Hunt said...

I would imagine that gun sellers in California are beginning to see some brisk business.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why the order to release? Why not an order to build more prisons?"

The litigation has been going on since 1990. I haven't read all the details, but presumably the state had plenty of opportunity to build more prisons. They've been operating at 200% capacity for 11 years. Read some of the details.

Ann Althouse said...

"5 of our philosopher Kings have declared thousands of criminals must be released because the Constitution - as they interpret it - says so."

The 5 Justices were affirming the decision of the district court. It was the district court that decided that was the right remedy.

J said...

They are mainly releasing prisoners with serious mental or medical issues, not the hardcore thugs. Which is to say, CA if not the USA needs more Atascaderos (plenty of 'Dero material here on A-house as well. Put a Republo-Gump in a mental hospital too-day).

Roger J. said...

I do hope californians like their new neighbors--this is a win win for those of us who think the courts are nuts and who believe californians should not be able to sleep safely in their beds

And Althouse--if I am not mistaken SCOTUS can overrule federal district courts; your comment seems to say that SCOTUS affirmed a dumb ruling and its the fed district court ruling that should prevail -but I am not a con law expert.

Quayle said...

The 5 Justices were affirming the decision of the district court.

Yes, a district court in the ninth circuit, so that should tell us all we need to know about how well they follow the law.

Let's see Obama defend this in 2012 - his two nominees believe we should be releasing prisoners regardless of the sentence.

ndspinelli said...

Makes me reconsider spending Winter in San Diego.

Enlighten-NewJersey said...

Given that a high percentage of prisoners in California are illegal aliens, the state should be able to achieve the court’s goal by deporting every illegal alien in the system back to their country of origin.

damikesc said...

House them with the liberal members of the Court.

Easy to make decisions when your ass isn't on the line.

Phil 3:14 said...

They've been operating at 200% capacity for 11 years.

They've decided they'd rather spend their dollars on personnel vs bricks and mortar.

Bricks and mortar don't vote; people do.

A particularly difficult dilemma for Jerry Brown

PatCA said...

Terrible! They have been releasing them early for a while, and many have re-offended.

Last year CA spend $500 million on outside hospital visits for sick inmates, 25% of its health budget, because it's been under receivership by the courts to manage its health care. That apparently is not good enough.

We're doomed.

Eric said...

Given that a high percentage of prisoners in California are illegal aliens, the state should be able to achieve the court’s goal by deporting every illegal alien in the system back to their country of origin.

The state can't deport people. What we ought to do is give them a choice: Stay in jail or use the supplied one-way plane ticket to Washington D.C.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Note to self: buy more ammo.

James said...

I'm ready fine with the idea of releasing 46,000 criminals onto the streets of California. Or more specifically, I would be if we could only ensure that they would remain in California.

Peter said...

I'd guess that the political issue in California is not so much building new prisons- although these are expensive- as the cost of staffing them.

According to a number of sources, the base pay for California prison guards is in the order of $92,000. And with overtime, annual pay can go well over $100,000. And when their active duty is done, a nice guaranteed-benefit pension awaits.

The CCPOA (California Correctional Officers Peace Officers Association) has done very well for its members.

Expenses like this are a large part of the reason why California, despite high tax rates, has an expected budget deficit of $26 billion for 2011.

So, California's choices appear to be:

1. Release huge numbers of felons.
2. Bankrupt the state by staffing new prisons.
3. Control the power of public-sector unions

California, new York, and Wisconsin- all are on the same fiscal road. It's just that CA and NY are far enough ahead of us on this road to ruin that we still have time to avoid a similar fate.

elcrain said...

I do hope californians like their new neighbors--this is a win win for those of us who think the courts are nuts and who believe californians should not be able to sleep safely in their beds.

Gee, thanks. I've already got weird people walking by my house day in and day out, having conversations only they can hear and screaming at things only they can see.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They are mainly releasing prisoners with serious mental or medical issues,

Oh....that makes it much better. Mentally ill and sick people. Yes...much much better.

I was hoping the felons being released were card sharks and white collar criminals. Those I can deal with having been a stock broker for many years.....I probably know some of them.

Note to self: Buy another house gun and make sure the motion lights are on and the alarm at the end of the driveway is functioning.

george said...

Once Obamacare is in effect, and healthcare in the entire country is worse than that currently supplied in CA prisons, will the Supreme Court order us all released to another country?

The Supremes made a value judgment here. They have in effect said they value a child molester's right to get his viagra prescription refilled over the right of honest citizens to be safe in their homes.

And then having made such a ridiculous judgment they proceed to order prisoners released to the outside world where there will be no free dispensary or doctors waiting to see them free of charge. SO their ridiculous "solution" is no such thing at all.

I suspect that many of these criminals will themselves be liberating their own drug supplies from pharmacies and individual citizens very shortly. Maybe that is what the court had in mind to the extent that they thought things through at all.

Once again it is proven that we have the worst ruling class of a major Western power since Roman times.

PatCA said...

Californians didn't vote for this, so don't think you are exempt. This came from the ACLU, which is coming to your State soon, as soon as they think they have a sympathetic court. IMHO this issue is just a screen for their belief that most people don't belong in prison.

http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/conditions-confinement

Freeman, one reason for the substandard medical care is that no doctor wants to work there. Too bad we don't have Obamacare yet--the govt could just order doctors to report for duty.

george said...

Oh, and I forgot. I called my friend in France and read off the terrible healthcare the inmates are being provided and she laughed and said that none of that would be considered unusual at all in France. Her boyfriend even has a misshapen collarbone bone from where he had to wait several weeks just to have it set and by that time it had knitted back together incorrectly.

So there you have it. The Supreme Court has ruled that France's entire healthcare system is unconstitutional. Now if it would only do as much for Obamacare we would all be ecstatic.

bagoh20 said...

This should be the solution to the entire nation not having enough resources to meet everyone's "constitutional rights": order a bunch of people out. Any suggestions on who should go first?

bagoh20 said...

First out should be those on death row, and not via the front door.

Bruce Hayden said...

So, California's choices appear to be:

1. Release huge numbers of felons.
2. Bankrupt the state by staffing new prisons.
3. Control the power of public-sector unions


Governor Moonbeam has indicated which he prefers, by recently signing a new, fairly generous, agreement with the prison guards' union.

Someone recently quipped that it costs more to house someone in a CA prison than to pay tuition at Dartmouth. And that is with the overcrowding. Just think of how the cost per inmate is going to look when all those inmates are let go.

Let me suggest that this is precisely what happens with runaway government combined with strong government employee unions. CA is essentially bankrupt, but is giving prison guards nice raises, while letting a lot of inmates go.

Of course, declaring the War on Drugs over would solve the whole problem, which is why it isn't about to happen. Without the WoD, the state wouldn't have to hire all those prison guards making all that money.

BTW - they guards can apparently make over $200k, not $100k with a lot of overtime. And, that translates into a very nice pension after a couple of decades.

This makes it sound like a great job - it isn't. Pays well, but I couldn't handle it very long.

bagoh20 said...

Averge cost to house a prisoner in CA = $47,000/yr

In Texas = $13,800

Stupid cowboys!

Freeman Hunt said...

The litigation has been going on since 1990. I haven't read all the details, but presumably the state had plenty of opportunity to build more prisons. They've been operating at 200% capacity for 11 years. Read some of the details.

If they didn't abide by rulings to build more prisons, why would they abide by rulings to release prisoners?

themightypuck said...

Note that Texas isn't being told what to do by the SCOTUS. This suggests that it ain't the money that is the problem.

Revenant said...

Why the order to release? Why not an order to build more prisons?

Building new prisons takes years.

If the state had actually started building prisons when it was first ruled that the current prisons were inhumanely overcrowded, that could have worked as a solution. Unfortunately the state government took the approach of "yeah we know the prisons are overcrowded, and we totally swear we'll eventually do something about that, maybe".

So eventually we end up in a situation where a remedy is required -- and there's only one guaranteed remedy.

pst314 said...

"House them with the liberal members of the Court."

Good, but not good enough: Require those justices to live in the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates. :-)

Hagar said...

Justice Kennedy's sentiments would be admirable in a speech addressed at, say, the California State legislature, but in a court order?

bagoh20 said...

"If the state had actually started building prisons when it was first ruled that the current prisons were inhumanely overcrowded, that could have worked as a solution."

This is California. We don't solve problems - we spend money, and we are unparalleled at it. We call it Californian Exceptionalism

bagoh20 said...

I would like to see a study of the long term effects of following the order versus not. How many murders, assaults, rapes and robberies and their attendant fallout on the innocent versus the effects of the overcrowding of the guilty. Then we can decide what the moral and constitutional thing to do is and whether they are the same prescription.

RuyDiaz said...

I would like to see a study of the long term effects of following the order versus not. How many murders, assaults, rapes and robberies and their attendant fallout on the innocent versus the effects of the overcrowding of the guilty.

Studies have been done on previous mass releases, so there is no need to wait. The result is always the same. As the authors of Super Freakonomics wrote:

"[...]The ACLU wins virtually all of these (Prisoner-release--Ruy) cases, after which the state is ordered to reduce overcrowding by letting some prisoners go free. In the three years after such court decisions, the prison population falls by 15 percent relative to the rest of the country.

What do those freed prisoners do? A whole lot of crime. In the three years after the ACLU wins a case, violent crime rises by 10 percent and property crime by 5 percent in the affected states."

Bruce Hayden said...

Why doesn't (or didn't) CA just build more prisons?

I think that the answer is that they couldn't afford to. Prison construction costs a lot of money. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that so much of the budget is going to pay the prison guards and other unionized employees.

So, why didn't the judge just order them to build those prisons?

Again, I would suggest that the state may have just responded, that if the courts thought that they should be building more prisons, then maybe the courts should fund the construction, because the state surely couldn't afford to do so.

Sure, the courts could have, maybe, ordered taxes be raised. But that would not go over very well. The federal courts would be taking state power, and would also be preempting legislative power, and possibly overriding actual votes of the citizens of that state for taxing caps imposed as ballot initiatives or amendments to the state constitution. In short, about the fasted way to get themselves lynched.

I should also note that the track record for federal courts imposing state and local spending has not been the least bit good. I remember one court mandating a bunch of spending on education somewhere in the mid-west (Missouri? Maybe KC?) The result was much higher spending, much on relatively useless items (no, not every high school needs their own pool, etc.), and no improvement whatsoever in student achievement.

Bruce Hayden said...

I have no sympathy, whatsoever, for the people of California in this matter. They brought back Governor Moonbeam, who very quickly signed that very lucrative contract with the prison guard union. This was the same guy who gave state employees the right to unionize in the first place.

They brought the guy back, and this is just one place where they are going to pay for that mistake. I just hope that most of released felons stay on their side of the state line.

(Here in Northern NV, the state pays quite a bit less per inmate, the prison system is only slightly overcrowded (they are shutting down the old prison in Carson City), and a lot of the people are armed).

Titus said...

You know which way Kennedy is going to sway on gay marriage too.

Get ready.

Baby we were born this way....and were going to get married...even in Mississippi.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Perfect illustration of reverse-nimby.

That is, the judges that voted for the release have absolutely no stake in the decision. The released convicts will not be anywhere near their homes/neighborhoods, so why do they give a rip?

They are most concerned with how they look to their colleagues and other elites on the DC cocktail circuit.

Thorley Winston said...

If they didn't abide by rulings to build more prisons, why would they abide by rulings to release prisoners?

Good point, something else to consider is that SCOTUS didn’t order the State of California to release 30-40 thousand specifically named individuals from prison. Instead it ordered them to essentially pick 30-40 thousand individuals and release them from prison or find somewhere else to put them. How would you like to be the politician who had to pick those 30-40 inmates to release and then be held responsible for everyone that commits a rape, robbery or homicide after they’re released? It did such wonders for Mike Dukakis and Mike Huckabee’s political aspirations.

Thorley Winston said...

That is, the judges that voted for the release have absolutely no stake in the decision. The released convicts will not be anywhere near their homes/neighborhoods, so why do they give a rip?

Then perhaps the governor should order that every prisoner that is released under the order be driven out to the street in front of the judge’s house and released there. Preferably by the busload.

J said...

The dissent was correct in this case, much as one hates to side with Scalia. Releasing mentally ill prisoners into the streets is not effective social policy--ie, ie better some overcrowded gyms than insane felons in the streets (or at least make some other arrangements---).

Then for some judges living in pricey burbs or gated communities, who cares about Californians, especially those middle class or working class who live around prisons?? Maybe let the felons loose in rich areas of CA where the liberal judges and attorneys live.

For the confused liberal rant of the week, check out Ben Wolfson's sentimental pipsqueaks on unfogged. Sort of the Harvey Fierstein of the corporate liberal sites, Benji sure hates that meanie Scalia. Maybe Scalia's people will...eh take care of the little schmuck (and the rest of the unfogged trash).