Wednesday, December 01, 2010

SUPREME COURT - California Prisons

"Supreme Court Examines Overcrowding in California Prisons" PBS Newshour Transcript 11/30/2010 (includes video)


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Should California be required to move thousands of inmates out of the state's prisons to relieve drastic overcrowding? That was the question before the Supreme Court today.

Here are the underlying facts. California prisons currently house 144,000 inmates. In 2009, a three-judge panel ordered the state to reduce that number to 110,000 within two years. Yet, even if that goal is met, the system would still hold 30,000 more inmates than it is designed to.

Marcia Coyle of "The National Law Journal" was at the court today for the arguments in this case. And she joins us now.

So, I guess two questions right off the bat: How did the prisons get so crowded and how did this get to the court, Marcia?

MARCIA COYLE, "The National Law Journal": Well, I'm sure there are many factors as to why the prisons are so crowded, but I think a major factor, all would agree, is that the United States and California, as part of that, have -- has very tough sentencing laws, tougher sentencing laws in the last two decades than probably ever before.

I think California may still be what we call a "three strikes, you're out" state. This case that came to the court today that was heard today really stems from two lawsuits, one filed back in 1990 on behalf of mentally ill inmates. The -- the suit charged that California was violating the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, because there was basically no treatment for mentally ill inmates.

The second lawsuit, filed in 2001, was over substandard medical care in general for prison inmates in California.

Reminder, prisons are NOT for rehabilitation no matter what others say. Prisons ARE places of punishment, period. That is why the USA has so many repeat offenders.

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