No Delays for California Prison Early Release Plan, Says SCOTUS

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on August 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In what's become a political ping pong match dating back to 1990, the most recent play by SCOTUS, denied California Governor Jerry Brown's application to stay a court order requiring California to reduce its prison population.

Six justices, with the exception of Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas, denied the Governor's application for stay. The court order required California to ease prison overcrowding by providing early release to certain prisoners.

The state and law enforcement expressed grave concern over a drastic influx of prisoners into society. President of the California Police Chiefs Association, Covina Police Chief Kim Raney, stated: "[the Justices] chose instead to allow for the release of more felons into already overburdened communities."

Law enforcement officials point to the strides California has made in improving medical and mental health facilities for prisoners. The Governor points to new spending and facilities costing $2 billion for inmate mental health and medical treatment. Since 2006, the state has reduced the prison population by 46,000 inmates. But that is not enough.

According to a 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, California must reduce its prison population to "137.5% of design capacity within two years" to avoid conditions reaching levels of cruel and unusual punishment as prohibited by the Eight Amendment.

Though the state will continue appealing the decision of the three-judge panel, the Supreme Court's stay may foreshadow the results of the appeal, reports The Huffington Post. Don Specter, an inmate lawyer stated: "The conditions are still overcrowded....The medical and health care remain abysmal."

Not only that, but the panel has continuously rejected the state's argument that releasing prisoners would be unsafe. Instead, the panel points to other states that have reduced prisoner sentences without seeing a resulting uptick in crime. Most notably, these issues have been litigated in court since 1990 -- twenty-three years. It's very likely that the courts will say "enough is enough" and not entertain any more delays.

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