Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Big News from CA

Via a kind reader in CA, this word that the effort to cap the prison pops there is moving forward despite opposition from the traditional forces.

Two federal judges tasked with overseeing California's troubled prison system have decided to create a three-judge judicial panel charged with setting a population cap for California's prison system.
The decision, by U.S. District Court Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton, is to create a three-judge panel empowered to force the early release of thousands of prisoners from the California system.
Lawyers for state prisoners have appealed successfully to the judges that inmate overcrowding is contributing to constitutional violations of inadequate medical and mental health care in the state's prisons.

"There is no dispute that prisons in California are seriously and dangerously overcrowded," wrote Karlton in his decision, released Monday.
The three-judge courts were created as a component of the Prison Litigation Reform Act signed in 1996 that was designed to restrict the power of a single federal judge to order early inmate releases from jails and prisons.
Once empaneled, the three-judge courts can order early inmate releases only if there had been an earlier finding of a constitutional violation, if the defendants failed to fix it in a reasonable amount of time and if they found that overcrowding is the main cause of the problem.
Before they order the early releases, three-judge courts must first hold hearings in which interveners that include legislators, prosecutors and county jailers are allowed to file briefings and testify. Republicans in the California Assembly have said they plan to intervene if a three-judge court is empaneled.

The legislative reaction? First from the major legislative leader on the issue there, Senator Romero, and then from the main opponent, at least who gets quoted.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) hailed the ruling as "profound" and "the right decision." She said the Legislature and executive branch in California have "largely abdicated their responsibilities" to operate effective, humane prisons.

She urged Schwarzenegger to sign her pending legislation, SB 110, which would create a sentencing commission to simplify and organize California's 1,000 felony sentences and 100 felony sentence enhancements, which were largely passed piecemeal by the Legislature.

Romero also urged prison officials to begin figuring out which inmates might be suited to getting out of prison before finishing their sentences.

"To some extent we do early release already — it's called parole," she said. "We have to take out our risk assessment measurements and figure out who might be eligible for release, because we're going to have to have that ready when the judges convene that panel."

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) called early release "not an option because it will jeopardize public safety" and said Assembly Republicans would try to intervene legally so that they can address the three-judge panel when it takes testimony to weigh a prison cap.

He expressed disappointment that Karlton and Henderson dismissed this year's prison bond package, known as AB 900, as insufficient.

As I've said before, CA's situation is the classic social Gordian Knot that can only be resolved by a swift and sharp sword. Hasn't hit the knot yet, but at least it's out of the scabbard. We'll keep watching to see if it really gets cut.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

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