The Supreme Court has decided that California’s overcrowded prisons are in violation of the Constitution’s 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment against American citizens.
On May 23, the high court ordered the State to reduce its inmate population by more than 30,000 prisoners over the next two years, The New York Times reported. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote for the majority in the 5-4 decision, said that California officials have failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners who suffer from serious medical and mental health issues.
Kennedy described some of the prison cells as “telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets.” He added that suicide rates in California prisons have been approximately 80 percent higher than the national average in recent years.
Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Antonin Scalia submitted strongly-worded dissents, arguing that the inmate release will compromise the safety of California citizens. According to the news source, Scalia wrote that the decision is “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), a labor union, said that the Supreme Court’s ruling — combined with the City Council’s recent decision to cut police resources — creates a “perfect storm for a wave of crime.”
The LAPPL said that it agrees with the opinion of Alito, who said that the mass prisoner release will lead to a “grim roster of victims.”