SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Supreme Court has again ordered an immediate end to severe overcrowding in California’s prisons, a decision that was deemed “very disappointing” by some San Diego County politicians.
In a 6-3 decision, the high court ordered California to find other quarters for nearly 10,000 inmates, easing what has repeatedly been ruled to be “cruel and unusual punishment.” Federal judges at the trial, appeals and Supreme courts have already ruled in favor in inmates.
The governor had argued that recent shifts of prisoners to county jails, and other steps, have shown solid progress to eliminate those unconstitutional overcrowding conditions. Today, the court ruled again that the prison population must be reduced, immediately.
Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, and wrote, “California must now release upon the public nearly 10,000 inmates convicted of serious crimes, about 1,000 for every city larger than Santa Ana.”
But the majority voted to back up its 2011 decision that putting three inmates in single-bunk cells, providing spotty and inferior health care and other serious overcrowding violations violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It ordered the state to reduce the prison census to 137.5 percent of the prisons’ design capacity.
An attorney with the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, Paul Clement, denounced the state’s delaying tactics and appeals as “open defiance of the
“They’ve already released 30,000 people are out of the prison system, so they’ve shown the court that they are working on it,” said Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego County District Attorney. “So for the court to say we’re not going to give you any more time, December 31 whether you like it or not, whether it hurts people or not, that’s pretty disappointing.”
San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts said the County is already preparing for the release.
“We have new jail space under construction, 400 beds down in Otay Mesa,” said Roberts. “As of last month we’ve got the courts, and the District Attorney and the Public Defender and everybody working on other ways we can, in a safe way, can cut down on our jail population so we have the space here for any people that need to be housed.”
A state assembly member decried the ruling. “I believe the state demonstrated a very strong case against early release, both in improved prison conditions but also in the negative impacts that realignment has had on public safety in California,” Lorena Gonzales said.
In Los Angeles, county supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said the governor should “stop pussyfooting and immediately utilize available detention beds, at less than half the cost of the state’s prison beds.”
Antonovich said those beds were at private and out-of-state prisons.