By Kyla Cook |Staff Writer|
Within the next two years, California must release at least 30,000 inmates from its prisons.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that overcrowding in California’s prisons results in cruel and unusual punishment, a constitutional violation.
Even though the court has ordered California to release a minimum of 30,000 prisoners, how it will be done is in the state’s hands.
Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that California’s correctional facilities house 156,000 inmates, which is twice as many as they are designed to hold.
The Drug Policy Alliance has said that California can easily release 40,000 non-violent offenders because their crime was just possession, reported KABC.
However, in a Prison Law Office press release it is stated that “approximately, two-thirds of the prisoners released fail to complete parole and are re-incarcerated within three years.”
“I have two concerns with that statement,” said CSUSB student Lindsay Lenaeus. “One, will the laws change in California to accommodate for the people who have broken them? And two, will these 40,000 people receive unemployment and contribute further to the demise of our economy?”
While announcing the decision, Kennedy also gave a description of the prisons saying that inmates are held in tiny cells, living in gymnasiums, suffering from cancer and dying without receiving medical attention. The state prison in Chino has been mentioned in various articles as one that is overcrowded.
“As a resident of the city of Chino it is worrying enough to know that there is a prison about five minutes from my parents home, never mind now that some are going to be released,”said CSUSB student Liliana Serrato. “I worry about the well being of my youngest siblings. It’s frightening to think that any given day my family can encounter a recently released inmate; the safety of everyone is being compromised.”
“This landmark decision will not only help prevent prisoners from dying of malpractice and neglect,” said Donald Specter, director of the non-profit Prison Law Office in San Quentin, “but it will make the prisons safer for the staff, improve public safety and save the taxpayers billions of dollars.”
Although, just two days after the court ruling an estimated 450 prisoners with a “high risk of violence” were released due to errors in a computer program designed to assist in eliminating the overcrowding problem, reported the Los Angeles Times.
These prisoners were part of a “non-revocable parole” system enacted in January 2010, which means the prisoners released do not have to report to parole officers and can only be arrested if they commit a crime.
Justice Samuel Alito has said that the Supreme Court decision is “gambling with the safety of the people of California,” reported ABC.
“I keep hearing that with the release of criminals, public safety will be ensured,” said CSUSB student Julia Martinez. “I have yet to see how, and seeing that violent criminals have already been released, I’m more skeptical. Upon enacting a law, they should have already had a plan so it’s more effective.”
The court’s decision aligns with Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment plan that would transfer non-violent offenders to the care of county jails.
The Los AngelesTimes reports that Gov. Brown’s plan would cost millions of dollars to be paid for in tax hikes.