California Ordered to Reduce Prison Population

On Monday, May 23rd, a New York Times article reported that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the overcrowding of California’s prisons violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In Monday's ruling on the case Brown v. Plata, the court ordered the release of more than 30,000 California prisoners over a two-year period in hopes of reducing the prison population to 110,000, 137.5 percent of the system’s capacity.

Since 1987, the United States prison population has almost tripled to 1.6 million, which has increased state spending on corrections by 127 percent (after adjusting for inflation). In recent years California's prison population has been as high as 160,000 inmates. Overall, however, that number has been declining; right now more than 140,000 inmates crowd the system. Approximately 46,000 prisoners, “‘equivalent to three Army divisions,’” are expected to be released within two years, although the state may ask for more time.

According to the article, “prison release orders are rare and hard to obtain,” and this ruling will unlikely have an effect on prison systems around the nation. However, the release of prisoners will likely have an impact on local communities, especially those lacking the resources for re-entry programs that can facilitate prisoner acclimation into society.

In his dissent, Justice Alito fears that the decision, “‘like prior prison-release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims’”. Only time will tell.

LJ cf

SSDAN Office

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