State Senator Sharon Runner has a suggestion for federal authorities to address a Supreme Court order that prison populations be decreased by 46,000 inmates: since the borders are a federal responsibility, take back the 20,000 illegal immigrants confined in California’s prisons and take care of them.
“We’re housing them and they’re supposed to be paying us and they don’t, so we’d like to give them back to them. That’s the first thing the federal government can do since they put this decision on us.”
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The largest prisoner release injunction in history was handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, ordering the state of California to reduce its prison population by tens of thousands within two years.
The Court upheld the contention of a lower court that overcrowding in state prisons has resulted in a gross violation of prisoners’ 8th Amendment rights and the lack of swift medical attention and social programs (such as suicide prevention) constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Currently, California prisons that were designed to hold just under 80,000 inmates are confining nearly twice that number. Medical and mental health care available has been ruled inadequate, with court documents stating that there is a 700-person backlog to see a doctor.
“The Supreme Court decision was the most radical injunction in U.S. history, ordering California to release an unprecedented 46,000 convicted criminals,” said Senator Sharon Runner. “It’s a terribly unfortunate decision and really a great threat to Californians.”
To remedy the problem, the judges ordered the state to reduce its population to 137.5 percent of capacity.
“The vast majority of prisoners whose prison incarceration will soon end have no actual claim of deficient healthcare, but are included on the theory that the staggering reduction of inmate population will improve healthcare for those who remain,” Runner said. “In fact, the order approved was opposed by Attorney Generals representing 17 states who are concerned that their states may suffer similar federal intrusions. Most of these states have higher inmate mortality than California, which ranks 38th in the nation. None spend more than California on per-prisoner healthcare.”
While she acknowledges that there are problems with overcrowding in the prisons, she has a suggestion for the feds.
“In my opinion, there are 20,000 illegal inmates that the federal government should be taking care of and they’re not. If they take over those 20 thousand illegal inmates, at least we’d be halfway to what the court has ordered.
The Court has suggested that California approach the overcrowding issue using a multi-level approach: building new facilities, sending inmates to other states for confinement, reassigning them down to local (county) facilities or releasing them altogether.
Runner said that California currently houses approximately 10,000 prisoners in other states, so that avenue could be expanded. She also said that building more bed space is something the voters authorized with a bond measure several years ago.
“We knew this was coming,” Runner explained. “But with that bond, we have built very few beds. I think there’s about $6 billion still left in the bond, but California moves very slowly, as you know from business, there’s bureaucracy as it pertains to building prisons as well. That will take more than two years to come online.”
What remains is the trickle-down inmate proposal that everyone fears.
“There are 15,000 beds available in county jails,” she continued. “The decision is where and who do you let out. This governor has a plan for realignment that includes releasing felons out into the communities or into the county jails, which would then have to release them because they don’t have the space.”
“Right now with the governor’s realignment proposal, the three strikers would stay in prisons, as would the sex offenders. But there are a lot of felons in there whose last offense might not have been as egregious as the one, two, three or four that they had before that. They may be let out because their last offense was not that bad. It’s hard to know who is going to re-offend.”
“There is a better way to do this, a much better way than the governor’s proposal,” Runner said. “As I have said many times, California isn’t going to keep you safe. You need to get a gun and a dog and an alarm system.”