Supreme Court Hears California Prison Conditions Case
The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Plata, the lawsuit over whether California must release prisoners pursuant to a court order as a step towards rectifying abysmal prison conditions in the state.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the conditions documented in court papers were horrendous. He referred, for instance, to a passage in one brief describing prisoners “found hanged to death in holding tanks where observation windows are obscured with smeared feces, and discovered catatonic in pools of their own urine after spending nights locked in small cages.”
Justice Sotomayor to the lawyer for California:
When are you going to avoid the needless deaths?” she asked. “When are you going to avoid or get around people sitting in their feces for days in a dazed state?”
“At some point the court has to say: ‘You have been given enough time. The constitutional violation still persists, as the state itself acknowledges,’ ” he said.
Who disagreed with the decision to release inmates? Justice Alito.
At issue is an order by a federal court three-judge panel finding that the severe overcrowding was a primary cause of "the constitutionally inadequate medical and mental health care" provided to inmates and that only a reduction in the prison population would relieve it.
The proposed prisoner release plan applies mostly to non-violent offenders. It is not applicable to sex offenders, and violent offenders will get greater scrutiny. This should be a no-brainer. More here and here.
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