Supreme Court Counters Gov.


The Supreme Court rejected a legal gambit on the part of the governor to overthrow the authority of a judicial panel that was ordering prisoner releases on the grounds that overcrowded prisons resulted in such poor health care that it violated prisoner rights. But Gov. Schwarzenegger will have another chance to halt the releases themselves. Despite the legal victory though, prisoner releases are happening by the thousands anyway in California.

Story continues below

The legal details of Schwarzenegger v. Plata, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Schwarzenegger administration's attempt Tuesday to dismantle a judicial panel that wants California to improve inmate health care by making its prisons less crowded,...

The panel ordered the administration to submit a plan that would reduce the inmate population by 40,000 in two years. State lawyers appealed, arguing that the panel was illegally established, had exaggerated the health care problems and misidentified their cause, and lacked authority to order prisoner releases.

The Supreme Court's dismissal of the appeal Tuesday does not prevent the state from making the same arguments when challenging an order that actually requires it to lower the inmate population.

The three-judge panel issued such an order last week and said it would leave the details up to the state, which had reluctantly submitted a population-reduction plan in November. The plan relies on a combination of new public and private prison construction, releases some low-level offenders and changes state laws and parole policies to send fewer people to prison....

The Schwarzenegger administration said Tuesday it was appealing the panel's latest order to the Supreme Court....Andrea Hoch, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary...cast Tuesday's order as "a win for the state because it guarantees there will be no early release of prisoners" during the new appeal.

Despite all the legal fooferaw, as the Daily News reports, 6,000 Cali convicts are about to get early release anyway:

Monday marks the start of a new law that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last year to expand incentive credits for inmates to reduce their sentences and place parolees on non-revocable parole status.

"Many of these individuals are not going to be able to find jobs and they are going to go right back to doing what they know best, which is being a criminal," said Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

As the story goes on to point out, some legal changes the governor is pushing for should lessen the number of California criminals going to state prison down the line:

The upcoming early releases of the state inmates comes as the governor last week proposed to save $334 million next fiscal year through a proposed statutory change that would require jail time instead of state prison for certain felonies, including grand theft, receiving stolen property, check fraud and various drug offenses.

The changes, if approved, are expected to shift 12,600 of the state's 168,000 adult inmates to county jails on an annual basis.

The image associated with this post was taken by Caitlyn Willows. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading