Glenn Beck, referencing a recent Supreme Court decision determining that California prison conditions constitute "cruel and unusual punishment," absurdly accused former White House advisor Van Jones of orchestrating a plot to release prisoners "out onto the streets." But California state officials have proposed shifting low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities as a response to the court ruling, rather than releasing large numbers of prisoners.
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Beck: Van Jones Wants Prisoners Released To "Create Chaos" Like Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi
Beck: Releasing Prisoners "Out Onto The Streets" Is "Exactly What...Van Jones Ha[s] Been Waiting For." In a segment dedicated to the CA prison decision, Beck said:
California has a budget problem. Their solution? They have to cut the inmates by 33,000. They have to put that many inmates back on to the streets before the prison sentence are fully served. The headline was cut 33,000. But don't worry, it's not like they're just flinging open the doors of jail or anything. Officials have two whole years to release those criminals out onto the streets. That's only 1,300 people a month that just get out of jail for free.
As if the slow ,steady relief of convicted pedophiles or thieves or abusers, or violent criminals,or whatever they're releasing out on the street, any variation of dirt bags, releasing them slowly into the streets is somehow better or different than just releasing all of them. The decision calls on the state to release up to 110,000 inmates in California.
Now, you would think this isn't a popular idea and you'd be right for people like you. But this is exactly what people like Van Jones had been waiting for. Remember, Van Jones, we told way back, he'd been meeting with prisons. He's talking to prisons, he's given speeches, he's gave a speech to San Quentin, and he's telling them that they are the entrepreneur of the future.
They -- and the president knows this -- are the ones that are going to change the course of America and they're counting on them. And oh, I bet they are. Aren't you, Van?
I contend that people like Bill Ayers and Frances Fox Piven are counting on them, too. Let me ask you this, what's the first thing that Saddam Hussein did, or Moammar Gadhafi, to create chaos? If they're in trouble or they want to create trouble, they open the prisons. Now, we're doing it because the Supreme Court says we have to. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 5/24/2011]
SCOTUS: CA Prison Overcrowding Violates The Eighth Amendment Ban On Cruel And Unusual Punishment
NYT: "Justices, 5-4, Tell California To Cut Prisoner Population." From a May 23 New York Times article:
Conditions in California's overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.
Monday's ruling in the case, Brown v. Plata, No. 09-1233, affirmed an order by a special three-judge federal court requiring state officials to reduce the prison population to 110,000, which is 137.5 percent of the system's capacity. There have been more than 160,000 inmates in the system in recent years, and there are now more than 140,000. [The New York Times, 5/23/11]
LA Times: "[Justice Kennedy] Cited A Former Texas Prison Director Who Toured California Lockups And Described The Conditions As 'Appalling' [And] 'Inhumane.' " From a May 24 Los Angeles Times article:
In presenting the decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a Sacramento native, spoke from the bench about suicidal prisoners being held in "telephone booth-sized cages without toilets" and others, sick with cancer or in severe pain, who died before being seen by a doctor. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, and as many as 54 may share a single toilet, he said.
Kennedy, whose opinion was joined by his four liberal colleagues, said the state's prisons were built to hold 80,000 inmates, but were crowded with as many 156,000 a few years ago.
He cited a former Texas prison director who toured California lockups and described the conditions as "appalling," "inhumane" and unlike any he had seen "in more than 35 years of prison work." [Los Angeles Times, 5/24/11]
NYT: Justice Kennedy "Described A Prison System That Failed To Deliver Minimal Care To Prisoners ... And Produced 'Needless Suffering And Death.' " From the May 23 New York Times article:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, described a prison system that failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems and produced "needless suffering and death."
Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. filed vigorous dissents. Justice Scalia called the order affirmed by the majority "perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation's history." Justice Alito said "the majority is gambling with the safety of the people of California."
The majority opinion included photographs of inmates crowded into open gymnasium-style rooms and what Justice Kennedy described as "telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets" used to house suicidal inmates. Suicide rates in the state's prisons, Justice Kennedy wrote, have been 80 percent higher than the average for inmates nationwide. A lower court in the case said it was "an uncontested fact" that "an inmate in one of California's prisons needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies."
"A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society," Justice Kennedy wrote on Monday. [The New York Times, 5/23/11]
AP: "A Second Judge In The [Lower Court] Case Has Blamed Crowding For Contributing To Poor Care For Mentally Ill Inmates, Leading Some To Kill Themselves." From a May 23 Associated Press article:
A special panel of three judges based in different parts of California decided in 2009 to order the prison population reduction. Monday's order puts them in charge of how the state complies. The 2009 ruling grew out of lawsuits alleging unconstitutionally poor care for mentally and physically ill inmates. One case dates back 20 years.
The growth in the prison population in the nation's most populous state can be attributed in part to years of get-tough sentencing laws, including a three-strikes law that sends repeat offenders to prison for life. As of May 11, there were roughly 143,000 inmates in a 33 adult prison-system designed to hold 80,000.
At the peak of overcrowding in 2006, nearly 20,000 inmates were living in makeshift housing in gymnasiums and other common areas, often sleeping in bunks stacked three high. Prison doctors conducted examinations in shower stalls or in makeshift offices without running water, often in full view of other inmates.
One of the federal judges involved in the lower court ruling once blamed the prison system's poor medical care for causing the death of about one inmate every week due to neglect or medical malpractice.
The same judge in 2006 seized control of the prison health care system, putting it under the management of a federal receiver. A second judge in the case has blamed crowding for contributing to poor care for mentally ill inmates, leading some to kill themselves.
At the time, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a public safety emergency because of the crowding. He then began shipping inmates to private prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. More than 10,000 California inmates are now housed in private prisons out of state. [AP, 5/23/11, emphasis added]
And CA State Officials Want To Shift Inmates "To County Jails And Other Facilities" -- Not Simply Set Them Free
LA Times: "State Officials Vowed To Comply [With The Ruling], Saying They Hoped To Do So Without Setting Any Criminals Free." From a May 24 Los Angeles Times article:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must remove tens of thousands of inmates from its prison rolls in the next two years, and state officials vowed to comply, saying they hoped to do so without setting any criminals free.
Administration officials expressed confidence that their plan to shift low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities, already approved by lawmakers, would ease the persistent crowding that the high court said Monday had caused "needless suffering and death" and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Gov. Jerry Brown's transfer plan "would solve quite a bit" of the overcrowding problem, though not as quickly as the court wants, said Matthew Cate, secretary of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "Our goal is to not release inmates at all.''
But the governor's plan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, to be paid for with tax hikes that could prove politically impossible to implement. And at present, Brown's plan is the only one on the table.
The governor issued a muted statement calling for enactment of his program and promising, "I will take all steps necessary to protect public safety." [LA Times, 5/24/11]
AP: "The Decision ... Doesn't Mean The Prison Gates Will Swing Open In An Uncontrolled Release." From a May 24 AP article:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that California must drastically reduce its prison population to relieve severe overcrowding that has exposed inmates to increased violence, disease and death.
The decision, however, doesn't mean the prison gates will swing open in an uncontrolled release.
The high court's 5-4 decision calls on the state to cut the population to no more than 110,000 inmates. To get there, state officials have two years to either transfer some 33,000 inmates to other jails or release them. California has already been preparing for the ruling, driven as much by persistent multibillion-dollar budget deficits as by fears for the well-being of prison inmates and employees. The state has sent inmates to other states. It plans to transfer jurisdiction over others to counties, though the state doesn't have the money to do it.
The ruling gives California two weeks to submit a population-reduction plan and two years to comply. However, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native who wrote the majority opinion, said the state could ask a federal court for more time to reach the 110,000-inmate target, even as he chastised California for allowing unconstitutional conditions to persist for years.
"Our goal is to not release inmates at all,'' said Matthew Cate, the state corrections secretary. Shorter term inmates will leave prison before the Supreme Court's deadline expires, and newly sentenced lower-level offenders would go to local jails under the plan.
With that said, there are no plans at this time to release any of the inmates currently housed at the two Monterey County prisons, Salinas Valley State Prison and the Correctional Training Facility, said Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The eventual goal, Hidalgo said, is to reduce the inmate population at the state prisons through initiatives such as the realignment program.
But sending more prisoners to Monterey County Jail presents its own problems, with the jail badly in need of upgrades and already housing more inmates than it was designed for, said Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller. Concerns over prison crowding and security grew over the weekend with a pair of riots that injured inmates, but no guards. [AP, 5/24/11]