Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SCOTUS: California prisons overcrowded -- duh

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court said that California is in violation of its own consent decree regarding prison conditions related to overcrowding -- an unfortunate result of the well intentioned but totally misguided three strikes law that applies to even petty thieves -- and ordered the release of 40,000 inmates.   As it is right now, the Golden State incarcerates 148,000 people in spaces for only 80,000 (the consent decree allows a max of 110,000 and the order would bring the number of inmates to just about 2000 under that limit).   The swing vote as usual was the always unpredictable Justice Anthony Kennedy who indeed wrote the 5-4 judgment in Edmund Brown v. Marciano Plata, 09-1233.

Yet this road (more people in prisons, that are overcrowded, unhealthy and potentially lethal to some inmates) is precisely the path that PMS wants to take Canada on.   The only difference is that those doing two years less become the responsibility of the provinces and territories -- stiffing the jurisdictions with an unfunded mandate.   It won't be long before the courts have to intervene and then you'll hear the Cons scream to high heaven about "activist" judges rather than doing what is the correct course:   Fighting crime as well as its causes. 

Which seems to be the approach Kennedy favours.   It's worth pointing out the US Supremes are still dominated by the GOP although its huge dominance just a few years ago has dropped from 8-1 down to 5-4; but while still essentially conservative is only willing to tolerate so much.

As PMS gets ready to name two appointees to our high court this summer my hope is that he should be scrupulous in choosing judges who look at the broad picture and not limited special interests, as Mulroney and prior to him Clark wisely did in their selections.   If we can get wise gals and guys like Beverley McLachlin and the late Julien Chouinard, then there's no reason why we shouldn't settle than for the very best.

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