Monday, May 23, 2011

SCOTUS* vs California Republican Demagoguery

In case you didn’t know it, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the State of California’s prison system is in dire straits. Check out this bit of information provided by the Supreme Court of the United States today:

The degree of overcrowding in California’s prisons is exceptional. California’s prisons are designed to house a population just under 80,000, but at the time of the three-judge court’s decision the population was almost double that. The State’s prisons had operated at around 200% of design capacity for at least 11 years. Prisoners are crammed into spaces neither designed nor intended to house inmates. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, monitored by as few as two or three correctional officers. App. 1337–1338, 1350; see Appendix B, infra. As many as 54 prisoners may share a single toilet.App. 1337.

This court case has been going on since the early 1990’s.

Don’t quote me, but I blame the Republican Party’s draconian misuse of the ballot initiative available to Californians.  (OK, these ballot measures passed, which means a majority of voters agreed with them.) Specifically, the three-strikes issue, and the 2/3 majority in the legislature needed for tax increases.

By one vote (*thankfully, Mr. Justice Kennedy provided it, otherwise I’d’ve been forced to call it a SC(r)OTUS decision because it would’ve gone the other way) the Court has upheld a lower 3-member Court’s decision to require California to reduce its prison population by some 40,000 inmates.

That’s a tough number, but it brings home the lesson of the dangers of falling for hyperbole during election cycles. We can’t get away from responsibility by believing those who don’t have our societal best interests at heart.

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