Archived: Editorial: Court’s Decision on Prisons Will Inflict Even More Pain


A panel of three federal judges has ruled this week that California must cut its prison population by 43,000 in two years.

They also ruled that the state must come up with a plan on how it intends to make the reductions by mid-September.

Coming on top of a state budget that already cut $1.2 billion from the prison budget — the court ruling detailed appalling conditions in the state’s prisons which they say have contributed to why so many prisoners return to prison, un-rehabilitated,
The governor and a large number of legislators are considering a plan that includes a combination of early releases for non-violent offenders, changes to parole policies and sending some prisoners back to local jails; many that are already experiencing an overflow of detainees.

We agree that overcrowding in the state’s prisons leads to illness, prisoner-on-prisoner crime and is a danger to those who work in the prison system.

But the federal courts need to understand and accept the fact that the release of prisoners to home or community detention also creates extremely dangerous conditions for the public that must absorb a large number of criminals at a time when the local health and public safety systems have been dealt a setback due to the states’ bad economy. These services are already stretched very thin, and in many instances are no longer available even to those who have committed no crime or offense against society,

Just trying to figure out where the state will be come up with $2 billion to upgrade and build new prison hospitals is mind-boggling.

Will the court’s decision mean that even more of the state’s poor children, seniors and disabled citizens will have to face additional cuts in healthcare and other safety net services?

Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes.

True leadership to resolve these problems is needed more than ever, even if it is time for summer recess.

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