Supreme Court Rules To Release 32,000 Inmates From CA Prison

Began writing this when the news was first published, in the following days, the state of California has said that most of the non-violent offenders covered under the SCOTUS ruling would be transferred to county and city jails – not released.

Ruling on prison crowding may have impact beyond California

WASHINGTON — All 50 states got a wake-up call this week when the Supreme Court ordered California to aggressively reduce its prison overcrowding.

The court’s decision will make it easier for judges to shrink prison populations elsewhere. It also could embolden other challenges to prison conditions well beyond California.

“It’s a helpful precedent, and it says that the federal courts will step in when necessary to enforce the essential rights of prisoners,” David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said Tuesday.

That’s exactly what Texas, Louisiana, Alaska and 15 other states seemed to be skittish about when they filed a friend-of-the-court brief on California’s behalf.

Graph showing prison population in US compared to world

The idea, faith, tenet of ideology which holds that everyone who breaks a law should go to jail is a substantial portion of the reason America has so many citizens in prison, by per capita measurement more than any other OECD nation, in fact more people are in American prisons than any other country in the world. Here’s an article with one explanation

Non-violent drug offenders fill prisons

Brenda Pearson is a mother of two children and wife for over 20 years; she is now serving a minimum of 50 years in prison.

Pearson could be considered a completely normal American woman, except for one thing. Pearson is a heroin addict.

While Pearson never stole from anyone or sold drugs to support her addiction, she made one mistake that she will regret for the rest of her life.

About fifteen years ago one of Pearson’s close friends, who was also a heroin addict, moved across the country. Upon arriving there her friend asked her to send heroin to her through the mail because she could not find any on her own.

When the authorities learned that Pearson was doing this, they charged her with heroin distribution. Pearson pled guilty to 10 of these charges and is now serving a minimum of 50 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

This unfortunate story, along with many others just like it, is featured on the Families Against Mandatory Minimums’ website.

Pearson is in a rapidly growing section of the American prison population made up of non-violent drug offenders.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, of the 2.2 million Americans that are currently incarcerated, 21.2 percent of them are non-violent drug offenders.

While these individuals are felons, they are not career criminals, just people who were caught up in a drug addiction. However, the U.S. justice system does not differentiate between the two.

Here’s an attempted justification by the DEA. It reads like the thinking of many Americans, with just a bit of internal contradiction and cherry picking of data.

Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not just jail time.
There is a myth in this country that U.S. prisons are filled with drug users. This assertion is simply not true. Actually, only 5 percent of inmates in federal prison on drug charges are incarcerated for drug possession. In our state prisons, it’s somewhat higher—about 27% of drug offenders.

Hmmm, seems the percentage of drug users has risen from the earlier report cited in the article about the “heroin-dealing” mom.

As crime rates continue to fall, America’s prison population continues to rise

pulled from the Pew report linked above

…when it comes to preventing repeat offenses by nonviolent criminals — who make up about half of the incarcerated population — alternative punishments such as community supervision and mandatory drug counseling that are far less expensive may prove just as or more effective than jail time.

Florida, which nearly doubled its prison population over the past 15 years, has experienced a smaller drop in crime than New York, which, after a brief increase, reduced its number of inmates to below the 1993 level.

Like it says, punishment ain’t always the answer – treatment often is a better and cheaper solution. Plus like Ron Paul advocates, drug legalisation would also be of great benefit and a big cost saver for America. Legalisation takes away money from criminal gangs, reduces prison population and with taxes would raise revenues along with the reduced expenditures on enforcement and incarceration.


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