It doesn’t take much to see that California’s prisons are overcrowded; it does however take a United States Supreme Court to solve the problem. In a highly divisive ruling, the Supreme Court has ordered the release of around 46,000 inmates of the next two years.
Our state’s prisons have exceeded capacity by over 30,000 inmates for years and forced many facilities to make makeshift cells. We published a feature about this problem, Anatomy of a Prison, two years ago, detailing how the state’s lack of adequate medical care was causing at least one preventable death per week. The Supreme Court ordered California to limit its prison population to 137% capacity on Monday.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voiced the majority’s opinion that the prisons fell far short of “minimum constitutional requirements,” upholding an order from a California panel of three judges. The court is allowing the state more time to make the reductions in a manner that would not threaten public safety.
While the decision marks progress, it may not be the kind of progress that Californians wanted. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for dissent, believes that “terrible things are sure to happen as a consequence of this outrageous order.”
The effects of this decision cannot be measured for some time, but one thing is for certain: the local justice system needs to find a new balance.