U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up California Prison Crowding Case

WASHINGTON (KCBS/AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about a federal court order requiring California to release inmates from its overcrowded prisons.

The case to be argued Tuesday stems from medical care judged so poor it once was blamed for contributing to an average of one inmate death a week. It pits states’ rights against the power of the federal judiciary.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

Last year, a panel of three federal judges ruled that reducing California’s prison population by about 40,000 inmates is the only way to improve medical and mental health care.

“We have fewer and fewer examples of federal judges exercising these broad powers when they feel that an agency of the state executive branch has failed,” theorized Santa Clara University law professor Ed Steinman following. “It felt that the response of the defendants, primarily the Schwarzenegger administration, was not there. ”

Eighteen other states joined California in the case, arguing that releasing tens of thousands of inmates would needlessly threaten public safety.

“We’ve had, in the past, issues of courts asserting powers over various kinds of governmental functions and the U.S. Supreme Court the last few years has given a message that they don’t think that courts should be using these broad powers,” Steinman suggested.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • johnsmith

    Those 40k inmates are there for a reason, now you just wanna release them to the sheeps.

  • McD

    Stack em in like sardines…they didn’t give a rats banana who they killed or raped to get in there….THEY HAVE NO RIGHTS….THEY BROKE THE LAW…..

  • http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2010/11/30/kamala-harris-finally-claims-victory-in-attorney-general%e2%80%99s-race/ Kamala Harris Finally Claims Victory In Attorney General’s Race « CBS San Francisco- News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of SF

    […] said she will build on Jerry Brown’s work in environmental enforcement. As the Supreme Court considered Tuesday ordering California to release thousands of inmates to ease …, Harris says she’ll work to reduce the worst recidivism rate in the […]

  • diane

    A lot of “non violent people are in San Quentin”. We spend more time on how to put a bad person to death with being humane. We are not third world country. Don’t assume that people in San Quentin are violent. Yes we are crowding the prisons with non violent people and learning how to suvive with gangs and a lot of bad people. Treat people like animals and do you expect. The people that are animals are people that we are concerned about in being “humane in being put to death” Non violent offenders do nothing but to themselves, they are not the bad people, poor choices that only hurt themselves. Re think bad thoughts, check out who is really in there overcrowding the prisons.

  • diane

    This protecting society. With non violent offenders there are lots of solutions other than prison that we can turn these people around and have society be safe. How about SCRAM/GPS devices for alcohol monitoring. Drugs, alcohol are the issues with non violent people. There are people in there for breaking probation, maybe a traffic ticket for breaking probation/parole. You as a tax payer are paying for “one non violent inmate in San Quentin the same as what it would cost for one person to go to Harvard for the year”. Non violent people should not be in prison, our tax payer money should be for treating non violent offenders and believe it or not, cost the tax payer half the money in the end. Allowing more money to go back to the State for things you might want and need. Meantime proven, do research, the non violent offender has very good odds with treatment and monitors protecting society in being turned around into have a good life and not repeating. Guaranteed they go to prison for the non violent situations and you just conditioned a person to be worse because they are learning how to survive with the worst. No separation, too crowded but again, “look at the news”, the worst of the worst that are being put to death, we are holding up because they want to be more humane.
    Get research and information before judging. Prison is filled with a lot of people and I do not excuse one paying a price for breaking the law but our prisons are filled with people making “non violent poor choices” that need treatment, therapy and your tax paying money would be cut in half doing the right thing and society would not have a problem. Again, non violent people are not a threat to society. No injuries, no accidents, no killing nothing with these people.
    A persson receiving several speeding tickets is just as bad to society and repeat cell phone users, research proves and shows this.
    Before judging, do some research.
    It is not an area that a lot of people really know the information.
    Pennyslvania proved that removing non violent offenders, going to other solutions, including treatment and therapy has reduced a deficit of $350 million dollars and proven how they turned thousands of people around that were non violent.
    I thought prisons had all bad people, unfortunately it is not. I assume also until I did research.
    Money going somewhere and coming out of your tax money. I look at it like AIDS a while back, it was one of those things that it was a disease but was treated in a very unrespectful manner, hidden, shame. After celebrities educated people and put up money, we now treat it as a disease as it should have been and educated people on this disease, many people didn’t know and were to quick to judge. This is a very similar situation with prisons. Again, a lot of bad people in prison but we have some serious issues in prison.
    Do some research.

  • diane

    Read this for understanding our “prison issues in California” and why.
    Non violent offenders should pay their dues but from “county level”. County has many solutions that could work for these people. We are not separating people in the process.
    Here is some research for some onf you who are assuming:
    Jean Bickmire is the legislative director of Justice and Mercy Inc.,
    “The state prisons were built for violent or hardened criminals, not for these low-level people that they’re sending there by the truckloads that could be better served in other places.”

    More information and proven:

    PA Auditor: Release Non-Violent Prison Offenders And Save $350 Million
    30 commentsBy Susie Madrak

    PA Auditor General Jack Wagner wants the state to get non-violent offenders out of state prisons.
    This is something reformers have been yelling about for years. Why put nonviolent offenders into an institution where not only does it cost more, you’re practically guaranteeing that they come out as hardened criminals?

    It’s more than just the politics of law and order. Across the country, politicians and their cronies have invested heavily in the for-profit prison systems. The more people go to jail, the more money they make:

    Pennsyvlania Auditor General Jack Wagner has found a way for the state to save as much as $350 million dollars over the next four years. Wagner’s formula is tied to inmates and correctional facilities.

    Wagner is now urging Governor Tom Corbett and the General Assembly to take on several reforms including better ways to use an existing alternative-sentencing program.

    The auditor general noted that over,19,000 inmates, 39 percent of the state’s prison population is made up of non-violent offenders at a cost that has tripled over the past 30 years. Find ways to give these folks more opportunity and there is no longer a need to house them on the state dime.

    And, Wagner observed that if Pennsylvania adopted this, it would, at least for now, mean not having to build more prisons, which adds up to saving hundreds of millions of dollars.

    “With Pennsylvania facing its greatest budget crisis since the Great Depression, we must look for sustainable savings in every nook and cranny of state government, and that includes the criminal-justice system, which is one of the three biggest drivers of increased spending over the past decade,” Wagner said.

    Pennsylvania had the fastest-growing prison population in 2009. Wagner said tougher sentencing guidelines for non-violent crimes is costing the state more than it can realistically afford.

  • diane

    People talk about releasing non violent people as a threat, well lets talk about who never gets to jail that are really bad people. Did you know in California 365 rapist are released a month in California, “are they a threat and where are they”? Non violent people “are non violent people” needing other types of confinement, help in changing. Do some serious investigating on why “the repeats for non violent people” going back. There are deep rooted problems never addressed and punishment does not fix this in being in prison. Where are the SCRAM, ankle devices? We are guaranteed that taking non violent offenders and putting them in prison, they will come out retrained to be “worse”. This has been proven over and over and ignored, why? Jail/prison is not the Four Seasons and shouldn’t be but as stated with a Warden in an Australian prison, going to jail/prison is “punishment with confinement” but not “punished more inside. We should be working on what it takes to change people when we have the window of opportunity “non violent offenders”.
    One should not be judgemental until you have investigated and researched the outcome of what happens to “non violent offenders”. It took a long time with educated people on AIDS and being treated as a “disease with some respect” unlike how it was treated years ago. People did research and became educated changing how AIDS victims are being treated today.
    People should pay their dues, not excusing that but understand “treating people like animals, mis treating an animal, they become violent”.
    We handle celebrities, prisoners of war better than the average person today. We are working with old technology and methods, “how is that working”. Overcrowed jails filled with “what”?
    Don’t place judgement until you are well educated on everything in the system.
    Look at the legal force in Contra Costa County. The legal system has allowed these people to be released on a “cheap bail” and 28 felonies. Arresting people, selling drugs, do you really think law enforcedment with this situation will end up in prison? Guranteed this will go on for yeaers, what would happen to the average person doing this?
    I am saying not every county, every situtation is treated in the same manner. It depends on who you are and how much money one has.
    I do not excuse paying your dues for breaking the law but how do we handle the punishment? People going to San Quentin have done some bad things, broken the law. How people are processed is lacking. Way over crowded, not classified immediately. Non violent offenders should not be around violent offenders from the minute they step off the bus. Celebrities and special people do not go into the same areas, do you think that is fair? Separating inmates immediately based upon their violation allows the right staff for the right situations and inmates. We are separating and working on punishment yes but window of opportunity in changing the people that we can stopping the revolving doors.
    Don’t judge unless you have all information in knowing what has been proven to work and what has been proven “not to work”.
    Prisons should be for the hardcore inmates that are violent have done violent things. Jails and courts need and have other solutions for the non violent offenders with being able to turn these people around. Money is being spent, millions and it is not turning people around and finding other solutions for the “non violent”. Drug dealers get off easier than “non violent” alcoholics” who need serious help, it is a disease that we are treating the symptom not the root of the problem that creates the symptom. SCRAM devices, medical treatment could change many of these people, money being spent in a manner that stops these people and and their addictions. Confined medical facilities should be for these people, confined but being treated legally, not prisons which makes them add more issues to their lives and guaranteed and proven “bad results” when they come out.
    I will finish by stating, a judge in Maryland with DUI, accident, a judge, goes back to work being drug test twice a day while being a judge, processing people like him and where are they going and where is he, working as a judge, not in jail.
    The lady on TV yelling at the judge because her son killed himself, finding that this judge was taking pay offs to send kids to jail. Look at the whole picture before making comments and judging.
    We should be looking at how to make things better within the system and working with solutions that could be better for everyone. Prisons should have the rapist, murderers and violent people, absolutely. Non violent should be separated and other solutions. Not excusing again penalities but talking about how we can make this a better place and turn people around when we have the opportunitiy.
    We need law enforcement, we need fairness, we need accountability but we also need solutions for today with the technology and information we have. Ending this with “why are the jails and prisons so overcrowded”?

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