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Supreme Court upholds ruling to reduce California prison population

May 23, 2011

Groups demand population reduction measure, not costly jail construction

by Lisa Marie Alatorre

In March 2010, when this photo was taken, the state prison in Lancaster was at double capacity, with 4,600 prisoners – 150 of them in this gymnasium. – Photo: Ann Johansson, New York Times
Oakland - This morning the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed a previous court order requiring the state of California to reduce dramatically the number of people in its horribly overcrowded state prison system. The long awaited ruling came in the conjoined Plata and Coleman cases on the terrible health and mental health conditions caused by severe overcrowding in California state prisons. California will have two years to reduce overcrowding by 46,000.

“This landmark decision opens an important new chapter in California’s long struggle over whether to expand or contract our bloated prison system,” says Emily Harris, statewide coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget or CURB, a broad statewide coalition working to reduce the number of people in California’s prison system.

“This is an important moment for California to push forward much needed parole and sentencing reforms to reduce California’s prison population, including for example amending or repealing Three Strikes, releasing terminally ill and permanently medically incapacitated prisoners, eliminating return to custody as a sanction for administrative and technical parole violations, reforming drug sentencing laws, and many other reforms that have been proven to reduce incarceration rates and corrections costs while improving public safety,” continued Harris.

The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit approved a plan from former Gov. Schwarzenegger to use AB 900 lease revenue bonds to build tens of thousands of new prison and jail cells, increase out of state transfers and expand programming to reduce recidivism. Gov. Brown has added “re-alignment” to these strategies.

Under “re-alignment” tens of thousands of people convicted of non-violent, non-serious, non-sex crimes will serve their sentences under county rather than state supervision. This is a significant revision of the court-approved plan that raises major concerns about California passing overcrowding from state prisons to county jails.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s “re-alignment” tens of thousands of people convicted of non-violent, non-serious, non-sex crimes will serve their sentences under county rather than state supervision, passing overcrowding from state prisons to county jails.

“County jail expansion does not solve the underlying problems,” says Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of “Golden Gulag,” a book the San Francisco Chronicle called “the first must-read book of the 21st century” for those concerned with California prisons.

“We know that public safety is a direct outcome of public education, affordable housing and living-wage jobs. These are goals we can achieve now if we take this opportunity to shrink prisons and jails. Building bigger jails to ease prison numbers is the same as rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic: wasting the same dollars in different jurisdictions.

“The U.S. Supreme Court decision is a long-awaited cue for California’s elected officials to stop messing around with superficial changes and start saving lives with real social investment, especially in communities where it makes the biggest difference.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court decision is a long-awaited cue for California’s elected officials to stop messing around with superficial changes and start saving lives with real social investment, especially in communities where it makes the biggest difference.” – Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of “Golden Gulag”

In the past decade in California spending on prisons has grown from 5 percent to 10 percent of the state’s general fund; 30 years ago, Corrections spending was 2 percent. States like Texas, New York and Michigan have successfully reduced their prison budgets and populations without negative public safety impacts.

Lisa Marie Alatorre, campaign and projects director for Critical Resistance, can be reached at 1904 Franklin St., Suite 504, Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 444-0484, ext.1002, or lisa@criticalresistance.org.

 

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2 thoughts on “Supreme Court upholds ruling to reduce California prison population

  1. loveta

    The Supreme Court also demanded the release of battered and abused women in prison in CA. Women who had to defend their own lives and those of their unborn and born children…..when ususaly women are killed. In CA District Attornies, Judges, Prosecutors often ignore the abused woman's defense. Steve Cooley is quilty of deliberately rolling over on Debbie Pagelowe as a young women held hostage by a sexually and physically abusive "drug lord". She was blamed for his murder and spent 33 years behind bars and was compassionately released a few months before her death of Cancer. http://www.freedebbie.org and a documentary….CrimeAfterCrime. Bring it to your neighborhood and http://www.sinbysilence.com. Glenda Crowley's life is only one example of a battered women spending long and lengthy sentences for defending her own life from an abuser. Instead of her freedom….she got life. Call the Governor's office and ask Jerry Brown why we do not have a release program and a date set for their release. Ask Jerry Brown why is it that
    women do not have the right to self defense? Set terms for involuntary manslaughter that are reasonable…."7 years"……not 25 years to life.

    Reply

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