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?”


Justice Kennedy:

“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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  • Display: Sort:
    I have a comment on this case, but (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 10:27:05 PM EST
    will wait for others.

    No brainer is right.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 08:50:14 AM EST
    can't believe we need the Supremes to decide this...if the state can't or won't maintain humane conditions in their cages, the cages must be opened...this is Human Rights 101 sh&t.

    You got that right (none / 0) (#5)
    by republicratitarian on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:39:47 AM EST
    Brutal... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 11:01:18 AM EST
    though the public ones are no prize, the same sh*t goes on...but at least no one gets rich of the suffering, just a living.

    How can there even be a question about this? (none / 0) (#3)
    by sj on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:05:30 AM EST

    economic boon (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:24:45 AM EST
    Build new prisons, thus creating high-paying jobs in the construction and corrections fields for Americans without post-graduate degrees and both helping the prison overcrowding and unemployment problems.  

    Human Rights bust... (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by kdog on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 10:56:17 AM EST
    then you need to create criminals to fill those puppies...our problem isn't a lack of cages, our problem is we created too many crimes, and by extension "criminals", who by any objective measure are nothing of the sort.

    If you're serious about this (none / 0) (#8)
    by sj on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 12:08:26 PM EST
    And, based on your previous comments, I presume you are, it's a small, sad, dark world that you live in.

    In my opinion.


    don't need new inmates (none / 0) (#11)
    by diogenes on Thu Dec 02, 2010 at 09:46:38 PM EST
    The prisons are overcrowded with the current prisoners, thus the demand to release prisoners.  The categorical rejection of the idea of building more prisons shows that people are using the overcrowding issue not to deal with prisoner welfare but as a judicial-activism driven wedge to decrease imprisonment.  If you want to decrease the number of prisoners then either commute their sentences or change the sentencing laws legislatively to shorten future sentences.

    What will the inmates (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 02:58:51 PM EST
    released per court order do re medical care?

    Same as the rest of us uncaged souls... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Wed Dec 01, 2010 at 03:40:21 PM EST
    buy coverage, get a job with coverage, Medicaid, or be uninsured and just show up at the ER when the pain/symptoms become unbearable.

    If I were locked up my only concern would be freedom...not food, not shelter, and certainly not medical care...just freedom.  Once free, you can figure the rest out.