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State’s prisons built to accommodate only 80,000 inmates for 143,000 prisoners
The Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court order that tens of thousands of violent felons in the California prison system to be released or transferred to other facilities due to unacceptable conditions at the state’s prisons. More than 143,000 inmates are housed in the state’s 33 adult prisons, built to accommodate only 80,000 prisoners. The prison population remains about 32,000 more than the limit set in 2005 by a federal appellate panel.
Health care for ailing prisoners has degraded to a point that one inmate a week died from ailments that could have been prevented. Judicial wrangling and administrative posturing have not corrected these inexcusable conditions.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority said California prisons had “fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements” due to over crowding. In some institutions, as many as 200 prisoners live in a gymnasium, with as many as 54 sharing a toilet.
In addition, health care for ailing prisoners has degraded to a point that one inmate a week died from ailments that could have been prevented. Judicial wrangling and administrative posturing have not corrected these inexcusable conditions.
The justices have also duly noted that releasing dangerous felons into society is not acceptable. Writing for the minority, Justice Samuel A. Alito warned that, by ordering the wholesale prisoner release, the court’s majority “is gambling with the safety of the people of California. I fear that today’s decision, like prior prisoner release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims. I hope that I am wrong.”
The genesis for many of California current prison woes is partially the consequence of voters and elected representatives refusing to consider the problems that arise when tough penalties are combined with limited tax revenue. The prison system is only one of many public institutions from which Californians demand particular outcomes without regard to cost, then are shocked to discover there isn’t enough money to do the job properly.
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