US Supreme Court Orders California to Reduce Prison Population

prison-reformIn a 5-4 Decision determined by swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy, the US Supreme Court cited “serious constitutional violations” in California’s overcrowded prisons and ordered the state to ease overcrowding by releasing tens of thousands of prisoners, if no other solution can be arrived at.

“The violations have persisted for years,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “They remain uncorrected.”

“For years, the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs,” Justice Kennedy argued.

Immediately, some suggested that this would force the state to enact Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to transfer non-violent offenders from state prisons to county jails.  In the long run, such a move could save money, as studies suggest it would be cheaper to keep inmates local. 

But in the short term, counties are not equipped to handle the influx without additional funds.

This immediately sounded the alarm for local sheriffs like Yolo County’s Ed Prieto, who noted that the state would have to provide additional funding to the counties in order for this to occur.

“There’s no way, absolutely no way, we could take additional inmates without some sort of funding,”  Sheriff Prieto told a local news station on Monday.

On the other hand, this becomes a boon for proponents of prison reform, who have been pushing for alternative sentencing.

Sacramento County’s Chief Deputy Sheriff James Lewis suggested they are considering alternative sentencing models.

“Home detention being one of those,” Deputy Lewis told a local news station. “We have a very robust home detention program here in the county as it is, so we’d be looking to expand that because it’s cheaper than traditional incarceration.”

Matthew Cate, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, issued a statement in which he suggested that the court ruling was disappointing, as it failed to recognize improvements the state had made over the last several years.

Mr. Cate further stated that state officials would push even harder for the Legislature to approve the governor’s plan, which he agreed would save money over time.

“Our goal is to not release inmates at all,” Mr. Cate said. However, he said that while the Governor’s plan would address the overcrowding problem, it would take longer than the two-year timeline that the court laid out in their decision on Monday.

Mr. Cate indicated that the state could apply for an extension.

For his part, Governor Brown issued a statement pushing for the enactment of AB 109, the measure that would implement his prison reform plan.

“The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision that California must reduce its prison population. In its ruling, the Supreme Court recognized that the enactment of AB 109 is key to meeting this obligation,” the Governor’s statement read.

He continued, “We must now secure full and constitutionally guaranteed funding to put into effect all the realignment provisions contained in AB 109. As we work to carry out the Court’s ruling, I will take all steps necessary to protect public safety.”

Advocacy and civil rights groups were quick to celebrate the decision, while two newspaper editorials argued that the prison ruling does not undercut safety and, in fact, keeps safety in mind.

“The Supreme Court has done the right thing by acknowledging what even the state itself has not disputed — that the egregious and extreme overcrowding in California’s prisons contributes to a failure by the state to keep its prisoners safe by providing the basic levels of medical and mental health care mandated by the U.S. Constitution.”  David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project said in a statement on Monday.

“Today’s decision crystallizes the urgent need for California to invest in meaningful parole and sentencing reforms and alternatives to incarceration, especially for low-level, non-violent offenders,” his statement continued.  “Reducing the number of people in prison not only would save state taxpayers half a billion dollars annually, it would lead to the implementation of truly rehabilitative programs that lower recidivism rates and create safer communities.”

Sumayyah Waheed of the Ella Baker Center applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling stating, “One thing’s clear: we need to take a critical look at our prison system.  California locks up way too many people for way too long.”

However, she also noted that the Governor would push for his realignment, which would reduce the state prison population only by transferring the problem to county jails.

“It doesn’t address California’s addiction to incarceration,” she stated. “We can start to address it by reducing the penalty for simple drug possession.  Most Californians support this policy. It would save money and lives.”

“California doesn’t need to wait for the Supreme Court to declare that overcrowded prisons cause ‘needless suffering and death.’ But the justices have spoken, and it’s past time to act.  California must enact sentencing reform, now,” Ms. Waheed concluded.

Writes the NY Times editorial, “Looking at the photos, there should be no doubt that the conditions violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.”

The paper continues, “The state has two years to reduce the overcrowding. Whatever means it chooses, it needs to rethink laws and policies that keep a large number of people in prison for technical parole violations and others for minor, nonviolent crimes.”

The paper notes that while Justices Scalia and Alito allege that the court majority is affirming “what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history,” that Judge Kennedy’s opinion is attentive to safety.

Writes the NY Times, “California can give early release only to prisoners posing the least risk; it can divert low-risk offenders to community programs; and so on. And he bends over backward to let California decide how to solve the problem. The state retains the choice of how to reduce the overcrowding, through parole reform, construction of new prisons and otherwise. It can propose remedies not yet considered and ask the three-judge court for additional flexibility in using them.”

However, the paper notably concludes, “If the Supreme Court did not impose a limit on California’s prison population, there would be an ‘unacceptable risk’ of continuing violations, ‘with the result that many more will die or needlessly suffer.’ And that would defy the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Sacramento Bee editorial argues, “No longer can California avoid the inevitable task of reducing the state’s prison population.”

The Sacramento Bee argues that the state can reduce prison population “without compromising public safety and without mass prison releases.”

The paper continues, “Most importantly, they do not require a mass early release of prisoners onto California streets, as the scaremongers falsely claim.”

The Bee argues that California can reduce the prison population by 13,000 by stopping a practice that few other states have enacted – putting people in state prison for short-term sentences as the result of technical violations of parole.

Moreover, they can transfer people convicted of non-violent crimes to the local level.

The paper concludes, “With clarity and finality after 20 years of delays, Kennedy – a Reagan appointee who knows Sacramento well as a native, attorney and judge – has pushed California in the right direction. Now it’s up to California to show, as other states already have, that it is possible to reduce crime and downsize the prison system.”

What the papers do not suggest is that the state could achieve these goals without putting the problem on the counties at all, by simply changing the way they sentence drug violations and move toward alternative sentencing requirements.  There is no evidence that non-violent drug offenders are helped by incarceration. 

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Crilly

    California’s prisons are a growth industry. They keep thousands of over-paid correctional officers raking in $100K+ paychecks at the cost of ruining lives. I don’t blame the officers, I blame the system. In 2009, there were 118,684 felony arrests in CA for drug offenses including 17,008 for marijuana alone. FELONY arrests. CA imprisons more people than the next five largest COUNTRIES combined. Something has to be done.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    Just some observations:
    1) I find it amazing that it has taken the conservative Supreme Court to make CA understand its obligations to prisoners of basic human decency.
    2) Pushing the problem onto local gov’t is hardly a solution. Local gov’t is ill equipped to handle the problem. Local jails are just as crowded as the state prison system.
    3) What community based programs are we going to send low level offenders to? We have just drastically cut all those services…

  3. David M. Greenwald

    “I find it amazing that it has taken the conservative Supreme Court to make CA understand its obligations to prisoners of basic human decency. “

    That’s a bit misleading as the four most conservative members voted in dissent and the four most liberal members were joined by the swing vote.

  4. rdcanning

    David, I think Elaine’s point was that of all courts to order the state to reduce inmate overcrowding, it took the most conservative supreme court in recent memory to do so. Maybe it is testament to how bad conditions are in California’s prisons.

  5. Bystander

    One major problem is the 3 Strike Law. They are sending people to prison for life for minor offenses,e.g., stealing small amounts of food, breaking probation, running from an officer. The 3rd Strike should be for very serious crimes. This is not hearsay. It comes from someone in prison saying how ridiculous it is.

  6. debjeff051510

    Lets start by “looking in our own backyard”. Yolo County will waste time and taxpayers money on a long and lengthy trial for petty offenses. Quoted by a lawyer in the Public Defenders office in Yolo County. Yolo County is known for not running cases concurrent to other counties. So if a person is convicted of petty theft in Yolo County gets released until trial and gets arrested in Sacramento County for another petty theft if the person is convicted and sentenced to 16 months state prison in Sacramento and then transferred to Yolo County they will not run the person time concurrent with Sacramento. They would recieve 1/3 the middle term of 2 years and do an extra 8 months on top of the 16 months. The problem is that if it were reversed Sacramento County would run it concurrent. WHY?????? The judges and prosecuters all went to the same law schools so why is it an unwritten “rule” in Yolo County. Maybe the Supreme Court should take a look at some of these issues. What does Yolo County hope to accomplish with this unwritten policy?

  7. Frankly

    We could satisfy the Supreme Court ruling by deporting all illegal immigrants in state and county jails. Another idea is to bill Mexico for the cost of all illegal Mexican nationals incarcerated in American prisons and jails to fund the building of more. If Calderon will not pay the bill, then we just add a 30% tax to all money wires from the US to Mexico. Actually, I think we should tax the money wires regardless to help pay for the healthcare and education costs incurred by so many illegal immigrants from Mexico.

  8. JayTee

    I’ve felt for a long time that one of the reasons our prisons are so overcrowded is because there are too many people locked up for drugs and petty offenses. Lets get the drug addicts into some sort of re-hab and save prisons for violent offenders. I’m also not at all opposed to the idea of sending illegals who commit prison-worthy crimes back to their own country.

  9. rdcanning

    JB: As a technical matter the SCOTUS ruling only applies to inmates housed in the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation facilities, not county jails. Second, there are not enough undocumented aliens in CDCR custody to satisfy the Three-Judge Panel’s order (that’s the order that the Supreme Court said was correct), which was to reduce the overpopulation to 137% of capacity. Based on the 2009 order, that means a reduction of around 40,000 inmates (give or take a few thousand).

  10. Frankly

    rdcanning: I don’t have time to run the numbers right now, but my idea was to also deport the illegal immigrants from the county jails to make more room to reduce the state prison popluation by shifting some non-violent legal inmates.

    As I understand there are about 25,000 state prisoners that are deportable. I also remember reading that the local jail population is about half the state prisoner population. Assuming the same ratio of deportable and non-deportable, that is another 12,500. So, this gets us to 37,500… damn close to the 40,000 number you provided.

  11. Frankly

    Note too that deporting illegal immigrants currently paroled would also free up resources to parol more non-violent legal-resident prisoners.

  12. Frankly

    From Wikipedia:
    [quote]Prior to the election of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 1993, the prisoner population in Maricopa County Jail, Arizona, the 4th largest jail system in the world,[37] exceeded the maximum number of inmates allowed in its facilities. Prisoners were routinely released from custody prior to completing their sentence due to the overcrowding. In a study conducted in 1993 it was estimated that construction of a new facility would cost approximately $70,000,000.[citation needed] Sheriff Arpaio, concerned about the cost of a new facility and reasoning that military tents were good enough for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who fought in Operation Desert Storm, ordered that a Tent Jail be constructed utilizing inmate labor.[38] It consisted of Korean War era tents donated by the United States armed forces, and a 50 ft (15.4 m) observation tower with a vacancy sign mounted on the front. The final cost of the project was approximately $100,000 and it is capable of housing over 2400 inmates.[/quote]
    Works for me.

  13. rdcanning

    JB: I think the court said we can’t house inmates in places like gyms, etc. Have you ever visited one of our prisons? Maybe you should come visit my work. I think the attitude you take about crime and punishment is pretty much what got us into these lawsuits in the first place.

  14. medwoman


    while housing inmates in substandard housing may “work for ” you, thank goodness it does not work for the most conservative Supreme Court in my lifetime. It would seem that there is still some sense of humanity and compassion within our institutions.

  15. Frankly

    rdcanning: Tents are not places like gyms. I don’t get your points about visiting your work and my attitude getting us into these lawsuits. What is your favored solution then? Please elaborate.

    medwoman: What do you mean substandard housing? These are tents that serve as adequate rooms for our military. Have you ever vacationed in a tent? These are prisoners serving time you know… not your average house guest.

    The Supreme Court has not ruled out other forms of housing that could be done on the cheap.

  16. rdcanning

    JB: Sorry for the confusion – I work for the prison system and my suggestion is that you should educate yourself a little about conditions in prison in California – and you can do that by visiting my work.

    Your beloved sheriff in Maricopa county has been successfullly sued under the same section of the Federal code that resulted in this week’s Supreme Court ruling against California. And for essentially the same issues – mental and medical care of inmates. See the Wikipedia article cited by Shor.

    Your comment that tents “works for” you suggests, at least to me, that you have little knowledge in these matters. Simply suggesting that tents work for the military so why not prisoners makes little sense. I have had correctional officers complain that inmates get better health care than those outside – also a nonsensical statement.

    The constitution says we have a duty to provide adequate mental and medical care for inmates. What our citizens have demanded and gotten from the lawmakers is an abysmal system that has been a major element in our current budget problems and has cost the taxpayers over $20 million paid out in litigation costs since the Coleman mental health litigation began 20 years ago. And we’ve got probably another 5-10 years before we can get out of that lawsuit.

    Even, as Elaine says, the most conservative Supreme Court of this era recognizes the awful state of the prisons. Building tents is not the solution. How about better education, better social services for the mentally ill, better substance abuse education and treatment, and better programs in the prisons so people don’t have to come back.

  17. medwoman


    Just because we choose to house troops in tents does not mean that they are “adequate rooms”. I would find it very questionable to point out any aspect of having troops in Iraq as a standard for any element of our society. For me, the humane response would be to bring the troops back from this inhumane situation, not to force others to live in similar circumstances.
    And I would like you to consider the flip side of your comment. These are prisoners serving terms, not vacationers choosing to spend time in the natural setting of their choice.

  18. Frankly

    rdcanning: Thanks for the clarification.

    [i]”How about better education, better social services for the mentally ill, better substance abuse education and treatment, and better programs in the prisons so people don’t have to come back.”[/i]

    I am in complete agreement with you on these things, especially “better education”. For example: more industrial arts education; more polytechnic education; more reform to create a system that more non-template learnes would be engaged with. Also, we should make significant investments in our community colleges to provide more of the same. We need to be teaching trades to many more students.

    We also need a robust economy with many more blue-collar jobs that pay a living wage and provide career upward mobility.

    We also need to start being honest about out of wedlock birthrates and race.

    We also need to be honest about the prison costs and other costs related to illegal immigration… and how the flood of low-skilled, uneducated immigrants has displaced more lower-socioeconomic Americans with lower pay and lower job prospects.

    We also need to be honest about the war on drugs and the war on poverty… what is working and what is not working, and what paradigm shifts are required.

    We can’t solve the problem unless we can have an open dialog about the problem, its causes and its potential solutions. PC-correctness and media-enflamed ideological-based polarization makes us ineffective problem-solvers.

    I think PC-correctness and ideological polarization will prevent us from addressing any of these things as the root of the problems that lead to prison overcrowding. Instead we will line up on two sides: one that sees prisoners as just another victims’ group entitled to copious public service and/or empathy; and another that wants the most serious of criminals off the street to protect the life liberty and property of all the law-abiding population… for the minim amount of cost so we can use the money that would otherwise be spent on other more valuable things.

    The court just confirmed that we need to get creative, or we need to spend more money, or we need to let out more prisoners. I would prefer we get creative before we decide the other two approaches are required.

  19. biddlin

    “Another idea is to bill Mexico for the cost of all illegal Mexican nationals incarcerated in American prisons and jails to fund the building of more. If Calderon will not pay the bill, then we just add a 30% tax to all money wires from the US to Mexico. Actually, I think we should tax the money wires regardless to help pay for the healthcare and education costs incurred by so many illegal immigrants from Mexico”
    “We also need to be honest about the prison costs and other costs related to illegal immigration… and how the flood of low-skilled, uneducated immigrants has displaced more lower-socioeconomic Americans with lower pay and lower job prospects. “
    “PC-correctness and media-enflamed ideological-based polarization “
    Someone’s agenda is showing ! Did ya get it straight from Fox news ? Yeah Don, I know, keep it sweet .(but at least I didn’t correct his spelling.)

  20. Frankly

    biddin: No racism, just honest opinions and facts concerning the topic at hand. I wish there was a more sensitive way to address the topic so you and other don’t get “rubbed the wrong way”. Note though how you jab with “Fox News” and “neo-con”. I see you indended these to be derogatory. I have no problem with you or anyone else owning a different ideological view getting heated; but can we do so while we are contributing something to the topic other than name calling?

  21. biddlin

    Racist? How could one get such an idea ?

    03/28/11 – 05:08 PM

    It is a perfect storm. Spanish-speaking moochers invade California and provide the looters with the votes they need to retain power. Unfortunately, the producers have been complicit. It is the middle class that suffers as a result.

    09/27/10 – 07:12 PM

    See the following:

    82China 1
    125India 2
    23USA 3
    167Russia 9
    90Japan 10
    35Germany 14
    62France 20
    41UK 22
    10Canada 36
    15The Netherlands 60
    7Sweden 87
    3Austria 92
    2Switzerland 93
    1Denmark 108
    6Finland 110
    19Norway 114
    13Costa Rica 116
    11Ireland 118
    18New Zealand 121
    12Luxembourg 163
    5The Bahamas 166
    4Iceland 168

    Got the data here:…ypopls.htm

    Seems I am on to something.

    So, if we kick out all the immigrants (starting of course with the illegal immigrants) maybe we would all be happier.

    Just joking of course, …

    07/23/10 – 09:52 AM

    Related to this topic, it certainly appears that race relations at the national level have degraded since the election of our first African American President. I see a few reasons:

    One – As Fred Barnes points out in a recent Op Ed in the WSJ: “Claims of racism are last political refuge of scoundrels on the left.” Barnes is correct… the term “racist” is flippantly and/or tactically used by many activist liberals as a political tool to defame and discredit people or groups with apposing viewpoints. These attacks are more disgusting to me as are displays of true (non-violent) racism because no ignorance is involved.

    Two – Illegal immigration combined with the actions of national government lead by a Black President have provided the Democrats with a political opportunity to exploit race as a deflection for the real issues confronting us. Again, a disgusting and socially damaging practice.

    Three – The Obama administration continues to lead as if insecure: playing to the media and in constant campaign mode. Their projected insecurity raises cerebral and emotional hackles of voters and this seems to invoke more insecurity from the Obama Administration which deflects in a cycle of blame.

    The template of the left is to blame right-leaning Americans for poor race relations. However, Americans have not suddenly become more racist. On the contrary, under Bush’s multi-colored and multi-ethnic cabinet, race relations as a media topic had moved to page three. Now, despite the dream of Obama, he appears to have set race relations back 50-60 years.

    The media asked the question “is American ready for a black President?”. With what we see happening today, the question should have been: “is this minority President ready to lead America?” At this point, it is clear that Obama is in over his head and the realization of this is what is stressing race relations at the national level. Also, I think we are seeing some trickle-down at the local level.

  22. Frankly


    Ah yes. That was a nice post, was it not? I’m kinda’ flattered that you would care enough to revisit my old posts. Did you have it stored as a link, or have to back-track?

    In any case, what is your point? My last post still applies. Like I said, facts don’t lie. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are Spanish-speaking, and the vast majority of them are poorly educated, have little in marketable job skills and consume more public resources than they contribute in tax dollars. The term “moochers” seems to send a few people with your ideological views into a little fit. Maybe it is a poor choice of words, but you obviously have not read Rand and don’t get it, so I suggest get over it and focus on the substance of the topic. Hyper-sensitivity political correctness is a sort of thinking-cancer preventing adequate social and political discourse in this country. Yup, I read that direct from my neo-con teleprompter which also includes a Fox News feed!

    I’m still waiting for an idea or two from you. How would you solve the CA prison overcrowding problem?

  23. biddlin

    This is not an easy fix . There are about 1400 people in state prisons for marijuana offenses . About another 16,000 are there for simple possession Their incarceration cost the state about 425 million bucks per anum. Add the savings in not prosecuting the crimes in the first place, and you’ve reduced the prison population and cut about 450 million bucks, probably more, from the budget . If that nonsense about taxing money transfers is what passes for an idea in Davis, your decline is swifter than I feared !

  24. Don Shor

    [i]”There are about 1400 people in state prisons for marijuana offenses . About another 16,000 are there for simple possession.”[/i]
    That seems like a good place to start for reducing the prison population.

  25. Frankly

    biddlin: I know you might find it hard to believe, but you and I agree (and Bill O’Reilly and I disagree) on this. I say release all the convicts of non-violent drug possession (not including repeated felony DUIs). I am also in favor of de-criminalization of pot. One of the big reasons I am for this is all the damage we are doing to Mexico with our country’s unstoppable need to catch a buzz. I would support redirecting some of the money saved from the reduction in prisoners and drug enforcement to a drug-addiction treatment program. I might even tax myself more for a well-designed program of treatment.

  26. Frankly

    [quote]“Of the immigrants in state prison, the most come from Mexico, according to the CDCR data. As of December 2010, they show a total of 15,985 inmates from our neighbor to the south. Of those, 1,928 are listed as being here legally, having no ICE hold.

    Another 14,057 California prisoners are illegal immigrants from Mexico that are on an ICE hold or potential hold.”[/quote]

    Can you explain this? It reads like there are 13,000 plus another 14,057.

  27. jimt

    Jeff Boone,

    You provide a good balance to this website; hope you keep up the posts!

    I like your idea about the tents; seems to me it should be a workable way to handle the overflow
    (perhaps rotate segments of population between tents and buildings).
    The critics of this suggestion have offered no concrete examples of what makes this ‘inhumane’, instead are just deriding and ridiculing the idea without any specifics.
    As the USA slowly continues the slide from its Golden Age, we will no longer have the luxury to provide for prisoners at the current standard. Seems to me there may be more cost effective solutions that are more humane than the current conditions at our prisons; and one of the primary inhumanities in the prisons is leaving the prisoners free to have the opportunity to abuse and debase each other, and not providing more honorable prisoners protection from such abuse; much worse that having to live in a tent.

  28. rdcanning

    JB: If you add the two smaller figures together you get the total: 1,928+14,057=15,985. The writer (or the copy editor) probably shouldn’t have made the last sentence a separate paragraph – it’s misleading.

  29. Frankly

    rdcanning: Thanks. Yes, this is misleading. The number is still a big number, but less than other sources have quoted. I would tend to trust the numbers direct from CDRC.

    jimt: Thanks. Will do.

    [i]” Seems to me there may be more cost effective solutions that are more humane than the current conditions at our prisons”[/i]

    I completely agree. Personally, if I was serving time, I would rather do it 2 or 4 to a tent rather than a gymnasium filled with several hundred bunk beds.

  30. kathryndruliner

    Couple of legal points:
    1. The U.S. Supreme Court has given California about ten years to solve this problem;
    2. Bystander is so correct — 3 strikes in California was passed by initiative, the only state that allows the people to make law without input by the legislature. The legislature would no doubt have required each county DA to follow the same rules. In Yolo County for example the DA files a 3d strike, mandatory state prison, when someone steals a carton of cigarettes. In Sacramento, or other counties they don’t. And yet, the prosecutions are all by the People of the State of California.
    3. With regard to illegal immigrants, what is crazy is that both the State and Federal System require convicted illegals to do their time here, at the cost of our taxpayers, with an INS hold on them, and when they are done doing whatever time they have been sentenced to — they are deported. Why not just deport then when they are sentenced rather than support them in our prisons for 3-20 years and then deport the?
    4. Our penal code used to state that prisons were (punishment) intended for rehabilitation and punishment. Then rehabilitation was deleted. When I was a new deputy disitrict attorney in Sacramento and covered the Calendar court where everyone coming into the system (about 50 or more newly charged people a day), about 80% of them were drug offenders. Does it make sense not to have a rehabilitation system? These folks were in a revolving door and usually went to prison on their 3d offense.
    This problem was avoidable. David is correct. The U.S. Supreme Court has 4 sort of liberal justices, 4 extremely conservative justices and Anthony Kennedy (from McGeorge Law School) is the swing vote.

  31. rdcanning

    kathryndruliner: The three-judge court order in Plata gives the state 2 years to reduce it’s overpopulation to 137.5% of capacity, not ten. SCOTUS affirmed the order and said that it was narrowly drawn as the PLRA requires. The three-judge panel can, as SCOTUS noted in its ruling, extend the deadline beyond the two years. The whole SCOTUS ruliing can be found here:

  32. kathryndruliner

    I was not just talking about the SCOTUS ruling. See link Professor Clark Kelso, Justice Kennedy’s law clerk at McGeorge was appointed receiver of the Prison System to try to solve this problem years ago to no avail.

    Also for more information, read the Sacramento Bee article ( or pg. E6 of Sunday’s Bee.

    And, if you are a lawyer you will know that cruel and unusual punishment is just about the hardest argument of unconstitutionality. This means California’s treatment of prisoners has been egregious and California has had plenty of time to solve the problem. Now, they have no more time…. the ruling says “without further delay” rather than the normal in due coourse or in fullness of time….

    To those who read the dissent by Scalia: note that he states the buff, weight lifting prisoners will be released on society states this without stating that apparently weights were removed from the prisons in 1997.

  33. rdcanning

    kathryndruliner: Not sure what you mean that SCOTUS “has given California about ten years to solve this problem…” and yet say you were not referring to the SCOTUS ruling. Did you mean “has given” in the historical sense? If so, the courts started down this road in the Gates case from the 1980’s at Vacaville and San Quentin and Madrid at Pelican Bay in the early 1990’s. Gates was eventually rolled into the Coleman mental health case in 1998 and Madrid two years ago. Coleman itself was found for the plaintiffs in 1995. So, it’s taken more than 20 years to reach this point. Given the conditions that continue, it will take another 10 to get out of Coleman.

    Not a lawyer but too familiar with both Coleman and Plata case from CDCR headquarters level. Kelso is the second receiver appointed by Judge Henderson in Plata – came on board in early 2008 to replace too-blunt-speaking first receiver. And receiver only of health care, not dental (has it’s own litigation – Perez) or mental health (Coleman). Plaintiffs counsel in both Plata and Coleman are the same and 3-Judge proceedings was long time in coming.

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