Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coming Soon To A Neighborhood Near You

California has led the way to both tremendous wealth, and more recently, bankruptcy. Now, with the assistance of a United States Supreme Court ruling, California will lead the way with the largest number of state convicted felons released in history. Speaking for the majority in a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said: "California prisons have fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements" because of overcrowding.

Of course it was the then-majority liberal Justices, led by former Court Guru William Brennan, which made several decisions which determined what kind of treatment was constitutional in the first place. Overcrowding and "insufficient" medical treatment were the great bete noir for the prior Justices, basing their decisions on conditions that they had never experienced or observed. They got their information from leftist ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center lawyers who wanted prison cells to look like their homes, and medical treatment to be better than civilian private insurance could provide.

Dissenting, Justice Antonin Scalia was very pointed, calling the ruling "staggering and absurd." He added that the ruling will result in the release of "46,000 happy-go-lucky felons," even though the High Court had overruled several very similar decisions from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the recent past. Justice Clarence Thomas joined in Scalia's dissent. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito wrote a joint separate dissent arguing that the ruling was inconsistent with their own prior rulings limiting federal interference in state incarceration matters based on recent federal legislation.

This will be a brief summary of how California will be affected, but there are already cases pending in several other jurisdictions, and you can make book on the fact that this decision will result in similar litigation in nearly every state of the union. Justice Scalia based his "happy go lucky felons" number on a slightly out-of-date California prison population. California had already begun reducing its prison population high of 160,000 by modifying its parole laws, farming prisoners out to other state corrections facilities and local halfway houses, and building new facilities while adding medical staff. That action had slowed as a result of California's huge budget deficit, but the action was already in the works long before the Supreme Court ruled. The actual number of felons to be released is currently more like 42,000 than 46,000, but that's close enough.

It has been estimated that the number of felons to be placed in programs other than full release was close to 35,000 over a two-year period. This program had the support of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, current Governor Jerry Brown, the State Department of Corrections, and the state legislature. The out-of-state incarceration program was to be ended because it was costing too much, but the state will now have to re-evaluate that decision, even though it has no money to pay for the program. None of this was good enough for Justice Kennedy and the four liberal bleeding-hearts on the High Court. They were unclear on whether the 35,000 prisoners in the California plans overlapped with the 42,000 they have ordered released.

Prison is a very unpleasant experience. Is it intended to be otherwise? It is, in the minds of insulated Justices living in mansions in Georgetown, Arlington and other D.C. locations. "Cruel and unusual" punishment is in the eye of the beholder, in this case the Supreme Court. You wouldn't allow your children to live in conditions like this, but then maybe you've taught them not to be criminals. As for overcrowding, they never saw my frat house in Berkeley. Medical care in the state prisons is on a par with the British National Health Service, without the death panels. It's not very good, but it's not medieval either. And the Brits don't even think it's cruel. Naturally, there have been gross violations of standard care from time to time, but no worse than in the general civilian population.

When the prisoners get back into the civilian population, they will be enjoying the benefits of reduced police, law enforcement personnel, and parole supervisors to greet them as a result of budget cuts. No problem, say the liberals. Serious crime is down, after all. They fail to see the connection between strict law enforcement, imprisonment, and three-strikes laws as the major cause of reduction in crime. They are likely to see a concomitant increase in serious crime statewide as a result of the Supreme Court ordered prisoner releases.

The left has been attacking the California three-strikes laws as if bicycle thieves and drug-users are the ones filling the state's prison facilities. Nonsense. There are multiple escape valves available to the courts, prosecutors and law enforcement officials for minor, non-violent criminals to avoid lifetime incarceration. Those filling the prisons are recidivists, and the vast majority are repeat violent offenders.

Which brings me to another topic. From liberals to conservatives, polls and studies show that somewhere between 29% and 31% of California's prisoners are illegal immigrants. If you take the lowest estimate of the state prison population (+ 130,00) and multiply it by the lowest percentage of estimated illegals in those prisons, you get approximately 37,700. You could get pretty close to solving the Supreme Court's problems with California prison populations by releasing all the illegals, putting them on flotillas of jumbo jets, giving them parachutes, and dropping them over Mexico City. But I digress.

Even genuine conservative writers have taken on the topic and concluded that the prisons are overcrowded and medical care inadequate. At TownHall.com, Steve Chapman penned an article entitled: "When Punishment is a Crime." But he makes the mistake of the liberals. He sees nasty conditions in California prisons as being equal to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. That's over-the-top and fails to recognize the actions which were already being taken by two California administrations. And like too many decent, hard-working, law-abiding citizens, he fails to recognize that prison conditions will never be anything like what he considers minimal civilian standards. He simply doesn't have the experience to know that most of these violent felons are living a better, even safer life than they ever lived on the outside.

Living the thug life on the mean streets of Oakland and South Central Los Angeles is far more dangerous than being in a state prison. Notice I didn't say it was "safe." I said it was safer. Likewise, prison medical care is at least as good as what the imprisoned felon would have gotten as a free man using Med-Cal/MedicAid. It is simply ridiculous to compare prison conditions to life on the outside and decide that the conditions on the inside are unnecessarily cruel and unusual. If prison conditions are at all unusual, it is because those who chose to commit violent crimes are likewise unusual. If the treatment seems cruel, it's largely because "please" and "thank you" don't work very well when you want a hardened criminal do do something, or more likely, to stop doing something.


Notawonk said...

i had no idea that so many criminals were illegals. personally, i like your idea of parachuting them back over their homeland. hell, if we really want to help recoup california's expenses in the process, offer them the idea of making the release and subsequent "adventure" a reality series for all to watch. this would hit at andrew's "taking away the incentive" issue...

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Maybe they should release the illegals back in their home countries? Just thinking...

Seriously, when I saw this, my first thought was -- WTF?

Then my sense of irony kicked in and I realized this was only happening to California. So I thought, if anyone deserves to have 45,000 predators released on their streets, it's the happy liberals of California who believe that criminals are good and cops are bad, taxes should be 100% on the non-Hollywood "rich", everyone should live free forever on the state, farms and energy companies should be banned, and laws should be passed that don't apply to big liberal companies.

I still vote for building a wall to keep people in (at least around the big cities) and then we can all watch the state turn into a liberal paradise akin to John Carpenter's Escape from L.A.! Consider a social experiment! :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

I can't help but worry a bit about Justice Kennedy. He is so squishy and I worry about his maybe being prone to the "I want to be loved" by the media that I could see him coming down on the wrong side of some extremely crucial decisions.

Unknown said...

Patti: It's a border state problem. There are illegals in jails and prisons throughout the country, but they are not the staggering percentage that they are in the mass immigration border states.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I like your idea of a "keep 'em in" wall. That would keep me from having to patrol my property outside the big cities.

T-Rav said...

Okay, so I'll just ask: Why is California obligated to release these prisoners at all? I mean, how does the Court possess the power to make this kind of decision? Every time I hear of something like this, I keep wanting to invoke Andrew Jackson's line against John Marshall.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Kennedy is all about procedure and formal legalisms, so he's easily influenced by the old-timer liberals on the court. He came aboard when liberals were the majority, and has since become the "swing vote." I don't trust him because it's very difficult to know which way he's going to swing. That's why I've worried about Obama getting a really sharp "living constitutionalist" on the court to replace doctrinaire but not very bright Ginsburg. Knocking off Goodwin Liu here in the Ninth Circuit allowed me to breathe a little easier. He would have had Ginsburg's old boy thing going for him (he clerked for Ginsburg), plus he's a brilliant scholar who could lead Kennedy down the primrose path. I've always suspected that Liu actually was the author of some of Ginbsurg's opinions.

Let's hope we don't have to dodge another bullet during Obama's remaining year and a half.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I've always understood that the problem in California is really only 3-4 cities. So if we could wall them in or sink them into the ocean, the rest of the state should be a pretty nice place.

This could be a win-win. We put up the wall and they can't escape once things go horribly, "unexpectedly" wrong as any sane person knows they will. That keeps them from running away from their messes and then trying the same crap all over again by deluding themselves that somehow it wasn't their fault that they all ended up as dirt poor, jobless, cannibal rapists.

And they can keep us and our pesky "reality" and "common sense" from interfering with taxing themselves into prosperity, regulating happiness, joy and an end to all evil things, and using government oppression to generate real freedoms for their people. . . with extreme prejudice.

Unknown said...

T-Rav: Frankly, I don't think the court does have that legitimate power. But it does have the actual power nonetheless because it grabbed it, starting with the Warren court. It's all based on the concept of fundamental rights, which have been tortured into near unrecognizability over the past fifty or sixty years. As one of the Justices once said "prisoners don't check their constitutional rights at the prison door." Says who? Well, so far, only the Supreme Court.

My argument is that they do check their civil liberties and privileges at the prison door, including their right to be comfortable while being punished for their crimes. They have a right to humane treatment, and I have no quarrel with that.

But overcrowding? Medical care that we would kill to have? I don't think so. Unfortunately, Justice Kennedy and four others don't agree with me.

I like Jackson's position. The Constitution grants no specific power for the Supreme Court to overturn state or federal law. That precedent was set in Marbury v Madison by the same Chief Justice Marshall whom Jackson ignored. But with Jackson's exception, presidents and congresses have accepted the Supreme Court's "wisdom."

Unknown said...

Andrew: I'd probably say three or four metropolitan areas, but your thesis is right on the money. California would be an idyllic spot if we could just get rid of those places or wall them in.

Of course sooner or later some liberal would co-opt Ronald Reagan and demand that we "tear down this wall."

And you and I both know that the prisons are filled with innocent men. LOL

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That would be hilarious!

Smelly Cannibal Hippy: "President Ryan... tear down this wall."

President Ryan: "No."

Oh, I'm sure they are all innocent. What is crime after all except an attempt by "the man" to impose his culture on the rest of us. Yep, good times ahead for California....

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I don't think I shall ever understand the facts behind judicial review as long as I live. I want to fault the Founding Fathers for not being more specific, but I'm sure they never imagined that that branch of government could ever become so powerful. I'm not saying it wouldn't have consequences, but I think we're going to keep playing this game until one of our executives says, "You and what army?"

Unknown said...

T-Rav: It was the earliest abandonment of the federalist concept of three co-equal branches of government. In the Federalist Papers, there was considerable discussion of each branch exercising its own power to determine what the Constitution meant in a given situation. Only Jefferson clearly seemed to see the danger of an all-powerful judiciary working against the will of the people. He called it "the most dangerous branch of government." Very prescient.

Judicial review, though precedential rather than clearly a constitutional mandate, worked rather well for many decades as long as the judiciary was running with or slightly behind the people. It wasn't until the court started making up its own rules and making political rather than constitutional decisions that we started running into trouble. The court is supposed to work the will of the people through its constitutional apparatus, not get out in front of them and torture the clear meaning of the Constitution by simply re-writing it from the bench.

Judicial review works for good only when it is accompanied by judicial restraint. When the nine member court becomes a super-legislature, the rule of law goes down the drain. Judicial review was meant to resolve the problem of conflicting legal theories, not create law of its own. The umbras, penumbras and emanations that mysteriously appear to activist justices when it's time to write their own Constitution would have given the Founders the galloping whim-whams.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, in that case maybe I should rethink my position, as it was first articulated by Henry VIII, Andrew Jackson, and Stalin. Eh...oh well.

I did see that about Debbie What's-herface. I think she also criticized the Republicans for actually trying to do something about Medicare, and then got all deer-in-the-headlights when her own party's plan (or lack of one) came up. What a surprise.

Unknown said...

T_Rav: Look at it this way. Even the baddies get it right once in awhile. LOL

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