Brown v. Plata
May 23, 2011 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.

Brown v. Plata is a ruling on a three judge federal case determining that the overcrowding in California prisons violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision was a 5-4 split with two separate dissents, both described as pungent and combative. The judgement was split down ideological lines. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan joining. Justice Scalia wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Thomas, . Justice Alito also wrote a dissent, with Justice Roberts joining.

Justice Scalia went so far as to summarize his dissent from the bench, marking the second oral dissent of the current term.

SCOTUSBlog
Full decision
posted by Mister Fabulous (236 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow.
posted by jillithd at 11:18 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guess they'll need to build some more prisons then...
posted by zeoslap at 11:18 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, fuck Scalia forever: “Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness,” Justice Scalia wrote, “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”
posted by boo_radley at 11:19 AM on May 23, 2011 [81 favorites]


Yeah, I can't tell if that's barely veiled racism or barely veiled homophobia.
posted by elizardbits at 11:20 AM on May 23, 2011 [27 favorites]


Scalia is a sick man.
posted by basicchannel at 11:20 AM on May 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


I would guess that there is room to trim the prison population.
posted by tomswift at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Guess they'll need to build some more prisons then...

Since the plan is to reduce the overall number of prisoners, I can't see how this makes any sense at all.
posted by elizardbits at 11:22 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Pungent" is an accurate way to describe Scalia.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


depressing. They say they're ruling just on the law but they're ruling on cartoonish tv tropes. sigh
posted by the mad poster! at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


i know it's considered poor form to wish death on someone, but does that rule hold if they have a job for life? because, damn, i just want Scalia off the bench, no matter what the method.
posted by nadawi at 11:24 AM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Those pictures on pages 57-58 of the opinion are depressing as hell.
posted by mattbucher at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Glistening, rippling muscles," Scalia added, mopping his brow.
posted by theodolite at 11:26 AM on May 23, 2011 [118 favorites]


nadawi: Perhaps if Scalia ended up in prison it would suffice without involving wishing for death?
posted by rmd1023 at 11:26 AM on May 23, 2011


Michigan wants your prisoners.

"...despite delays, the inmates are coming."
posted by clavdivs at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2011


What is it about Scalia that he can't pass up an opportunity to turn off his filter and lash out angrily at people? Was he relentlessly bullied as a child or something?
posted by mkultra at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Scalia's small mind is itself a kind of solitary prison cell.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. Can't they close some more schools and libraries first?
posted by three blind mice at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


...many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym. Their well-toned muscles, glistening with sweat in the noon-day sun of the prison yard as spotters gaze down with guarded admiration, waiting their turn on the bench. At night, in the stifling heat of the overcrowded cells, these hard men are forced to strip down and face the darkness the only way they know how: together.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


Scalia's dissent summarized: "Sure thousands of people are needlessly dying, but what of my fears of muscular brown people? Do those deserve no consideration!?"
posted by ND¢ at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2011 [19 favorites]


“Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness,” Justice Scalia wrote, “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”

Because if we consider them specimens instead of humans, then we don't have to worry about treating them humanely. Problem solved.
posted by Tsuga at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2011 [19 favorites]


Justice Scalia wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Thomas, . Justice Alito also wrote a dissent, with Justice Roberts joining.

Two more pairs of assholes, and they can have a square dance.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:30 AM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Since the plan is to reduce the overall number of prisoners, I can't see how this makes any sense at all.

In life in general, and politics and government in particular, things don't have to make sense. At all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:30 AM on May 23, 2011


So, people awaiting a mental health crisis bed are put in cages? Really?

Also, on the first page of Scalia's dissent:
There comes before us, now and then, a case whose
proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and
common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law,
rather than vice versa. One would think that, before
allowing the decree of a federal district court to release
46,000 convicted felons, this Court would bend every effort
to read the law in such a way as to avoid that outrageous
result.
To paraphrase, "criminals are bad, okay? Fuck the constitution, keep the bastards locked up regardless."
posted by Jehan at 11:31 AM on May 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


So now we know why Governor Brown closed all those state parks! The "Parks to Prisons" program should be announced any day now.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:31 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justice Alito acknowledged that “particular prisoners received shockingly deficient medical care.” But, he added, “such anecdotal evidence cannot be given undue weight” in light of the sheer size of California’s prison system, which was at its height “larger than that of many medium-sized cities” like Bridgeport, Conn., Eugene, Ore., and Savannah, Ga.

You're doing logic wrong, Sam.
posted by Osrinith at 11:31 AM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Two more pairs of assholes, and they can have a square dance.

Or a human centipede.
posted by elizardbits at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm going to be the first person in this thread to say that this seems like a great verdict!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: can't pass up an opportunity to turn off his filter and lash out angrily at people
posted by The World Famous at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yay for the good decision! Maybe this will help break the stranglehold that the prison guard's union has on California politics. Yeah, I'm an optimist.
posted by straw at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2011


Wouldn't legalization of marijuana (not this candy-ass decriminalization nonsense) make this problem vanish at a rapid pace?
posted by adipocere at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


no
posted by clavdivs at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guess they'll need to build some more prisons then...

Building more prisons was certainly an option, at one point, but California simply doesn't have any money.

Like nearly everything in California, the penal system has become the victim of voter initiatives which simultaneous increase demands for state resources and decrease avenues for funding those demands.
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


There comes before us, now and then, a case whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law, rather than vice versa. One would think that, before allowing the decree of a federal district court to release 46,000 convicted felons, this Court would bend every effort to read the law in such a way as to avoid that outrageous result.

Scalia: I believe in originalism...except when I don't.
posted by jaduncan at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2011 [28 favorites]


clavdivs: thanks for clearing that up! I had been wondering.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Scalia strikes me again and again as a weird caricature of a man, a kind of modern day American Ebenezer Scrooge, grumping along and hating things. I could only wish for some heavier editing of this guy. He's a bit over the top for my tastes.
posted by lriG rorriM at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I can't tell if that's barely veiled racism or barely veiled homophobia.

Why pick just one?
posted by The Bellman at 11:37 AM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


adipocere: "Wouldn't legalization of marijuana (not this candy-ass decriminalization nonsense) make this problem vanish at a rapid pace?"

I'd think getting rid of their ridiculous "Three Strikes Law" would have a greater impact.
posted by mkultra at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Kennedy's retirement, and the subsequent hunt to find his replacement, is going to be a circus.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow. If ever electing a president who will put center-to-liberal-leaning justices on the court didn't feel important...

I'm sure I've said this on MetaFilter before, but even so, this particular instance seems reason enough to repeat myself:

I met Scalia once. It was just in passing after he spoke. And, seriously, as much as you may dislike him based on his words from the bench, he's even worse in person. I don't believe in auras. But seriously, I'm talking Emperor Palpatine bad. If you drew him as a comic, you'd have to include stink lines. Of evil.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:39 AM on May 23, 2011 [90 favorites]


Wasn't Scalia or Alito the one that said that innocence wasn't a valid consideration for the court in matters of law? Seems like guilt IS a valid consideration in matters of law. What a piece of shit to be given so much authority.
posted by Green With You at 11:39 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd think getting rid of their ridiculous "Three Strikes Law" would have a greater impact.

Nah with CA the biggest issue is mandatory probation, you get out and get back in on random technical violations
posted by the mad poster! at 11:40 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's no ban on cruel and unusual judges.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:40 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I can't tell if that's barely veiled racism or barely veiled homophobia.

I read it more as not-quite-repressed gay lust. But of course, it could still be d) all of the above.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:41 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like nearly everything in California, the penal system has become the victim of voter initiatives which simultaneous increase demands for state resources and decrease avenues for funding those demands.

This is the problem. Had the three strikes initiative had "oh, and to do this our taxes will go up by X each year for housing prisoners" it would have either a) failed (taxes are bad!) or b) had properly funded the prisons so overcrowded wouldn't have happened in the first place.
posted by birdherder at 11:41 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


And, seriously, as much as you may dislike him based on his words from the bench, he's even worse in person.

Hemingway wrote, "Some people show evil as a great racehorse shows breeding."
posted by Trurl at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


The obvious solution is to turn Manhattan into a penal colony and make sure the president never flies over it, or, failing that, have a former Special Forces soldier turned criminal on hand to rescue the president with the help of a cab driver, a prisoner who lives in the public library, and his well-armed girlfriend, before the president is killed by Issac Hayes.

I can't believe nobody has thought of this already.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2011 [33 favorites]


Ok, we all know about those justices that are douches. Let's talk about what this may mean going forward..

Surely this means changes will be made to stop jailing people who engage in victimless crimes?
posted by eas98 at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2011


So if I'm reading this right basically today would be a good day to rob a bank.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


adipocere - no, not really. It would reduce the amount of funding available to the black market, but not eliminate it. There would still be a lot of money to be made in cocaine, meth, heroin, and others. As long as there's money to be made in black market goods, people will be willing to kill each other to make it.

The brutality of American corrections actually kind of makes this a shitty situation either way. There's a saying something along the lines of "you get your GED in crime on the streets, your BA the first time you go to prison, and your MA the second time". People actually do, by and large, come out of prison more dangerous to society than they were when they went in. This results in things like this, which aren't really great regardless of decision.

On the one hand, it is absolutely true that if we value our constitution, we can't just keep the prisons as they are. Indeed, it is no longer reasonable to give a state an order that says something like "fix it within the decade" - those orders have been given, and the shit still be broke.

On the other hand, Alito is right - some of these released felons are going to re-offend, and some of those offenses are going to be violent. People are going to get hurt and killed.

There is so much that is just structurally completely wrong with the entire criminal justice system that decisions like this are going to be bad no matter which way they go.
posted by kavasa at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


clavdivs: thanks for clearing that up! I had been wondering.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:36 PM

Your welcome.
Can California afford to flip the bill for legal changes to it's law to release a fraction of the prison population who are non-violent criminals in prison for this drug only. The laws were already changed to prevent this and seem to be working.
posted by clavdivs at 11:43 AM on May 23, 2011


I'd think getting rid of their ridiculous "Three Strikes Law" would have a greater impact.

C'mon, where would "America's Most Dangerous, Desperate, and Pointless Car Chases!" get material if every two-time Californian loser facing life for the slightest of infractions didn't feel obliged to jump in a car and endanger the welfare of everyone? How would our need for vengeance be slated? Who would we get to shoot at and chase? HOW WOULD WE SURVIVE?
posted by umberto at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ok, we all know about those justices that are douches. Let's talk about what this may mean going forward..

Going forward, you can expect to see people on MetaFilter spending more time complaining about douchey dissents instead of caring about the actual opinion.
posted by The World Famous at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


My general concerns associated with judges’ running
social institutions are magnified when they run prison
systems, and doubly magnified when they force prison
officials to release convicted criminals.


Does this seem like a weird thing for a judge to say to anyone else?
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


There comes before us, now and then, a case whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law, rather than vice versa

American conservative thought, in a sentence. Law and human decency are no matter, they've got tradition to worry about
posted by crayz at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Man, fuck Scalia forever: “Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness,” Justice Scalia wrote, “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”"
posted by boo_radley at 7:19 PM on May 23 [7 favorites +] [!]


"Yeah, I can't tell if that's barely veiled racism or barely veiled homophobia."
posted by elizardbits at 7:20 PM on May 23 [2 favorites +] [!]

homophobia? racism? Sounds to me like he's hot for toned black guys. Good luck to him, hope he gets a good servicing soon.
posted by marienbad at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


46,000 criminals — the equivalent of three Army divisions

Ah yes. Brown people, black people, misbehaving white people: a terrible army that you valiantly fight in your war on drugs.

Sickening use of language, a bastard who has no business safeguarding citizens from the bench.

Can't wait to see how they take citizenship away from felons... the fuckers.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Except for they got rid of the gyms in CA prisons years ago.

And turned a lot of them into dorms, actually.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


President: "Man is too dumb to survive L.A."
Malloy: "We're holograms, Plissken."
posted by clavdivs at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2011


approximately 46,000 criminals — the equivalent of three Army divisions.

WTF - um, no, they're not actually? this is just flagrant scare tactics?
posted by Bwithh at 11:55 AM on May 23, 2011


There comes before us, now and then, a case whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law, rather than vice versa

American conservative thought, in a sentence. Law and human decency are no matter, they've got tradition to worry about


Really? I don't think that's conservative at all. It's saying that the court's decision ought to shape the law, rather than the law shaping the court's decision. I don't think express and open rejection of the rule of law in favor of blatant and intentional legislating from the bench is really the epitome of American conservative thought.
posted by The World Famous at 11:58 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justice Scalia went so far as to summarize his dissent from the bench, marking the second oral dissent of the current term.

For contrast, Justice Ginsberg, who gave the first oral dissent of the current term, was angered by this decision: Connick v. Thompson
posted by Bwithh at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2011


Connick v. Thompson

Sorry, link didn't work first time I posted.
posted by Bwithh at 12:00 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Remarkable. I really hope that this marks a permanent paradigm shift in our attitude towards prison in this country.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"WTF - um, no, they're not actually? this is just flagrant scare tactics?"

No, that's relatively accurate. A brigade is between 2-2,500 Soldiers, and a Division will have 4-6 brigades.
posted by kavasa at 12:03 PM on May 23, 2011


Remarkable. I really hope that this marks a permanent paradigm shift in our attitude towards prison in this country.

:( won't be.
posted by the mad poster! at 12:06 PM on May 23, 2011


The judgement was split down ideological lines.

whaaaaat no waaaay
posted by penduluum at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


So, people awaiting a mental health crisis bed are put in cages? Really?

Well, in comparison, the ones who aren't in prison tend to be waiting on the streets, so I'm not sure the system is working for anybody there.
posted by zachlipton at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


“Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness,” Justice Scalia wrote, “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”

"Alright thats enough. You're the worst kind of scum on the face of the Earth. You're an animal, a filthy big-lipped beast. You'll receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison where you'll have plenty of time to lift weights and convert to Islam."
posted by Sangermaine at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lest we get too caught up in the morally horrendous Scalia / Thomas dissent, we shouldn't ignore the slightly vaguer but ideologically similar Alito / Roberts dissent:
I fear that today’s decision, like prior prisoner release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims. I hope that I am wrong. In a few years, we will see.
For as boring as most Court decisions are most of the time, it still blows me away that the Chief Justice would sign onto a decision that prematurely accused the majority of his colleagues of cultivating rape and murder. Then again, I suppose I'm naive.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, so in the spirit of answering my own damn question, it looks like marijuana prisoners would only be 5% of the needed amount cut, which is more than a drop in the bucket but still falls far short of 30,000.

This is pretty sweet. Pages 64-65 break it all down by crime category and page 28 has a nice timeline of institutional population over time. Page 31 is the designed vs. actual population. Drug crimes account for 30%.

Page 83 has some info on the parole violations, so maybe the mad poster! is onto something. I am not seeing anything on the Three Strikes business in there, but I might not be searching on the right thing.
posted by adipocere at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ok, if you ignore the bombastic language at the beginning of the discent you get to the heart of the matter here:

If (as is the case) the only viable constitu-tional claims consist of individual instances of mistreat-ment, then a remedy reforming the system as a whole goes far beyond what the statute allows

They believe that only individual instances of mistreatment deserve remedies.
posted by Green With You at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


“Perhaps,” [Scalia] went on, “the coda is nothing more than a ceremonial washing of the hands — making it clear for all to see, that if the terrible things sure to happen as a consequence of this outrageous order do happen, they will be none of this court’s responsibility. After all, did we not want, and indeed even suggest, something better?”

I should probably go back and re-read my gospels, but I'm pretty sure the hand washer's mistake wasn't releasing too many prisoners of the state, it was releasing too few.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:20 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anyway, that might be a sensible belief if it were consistently held. I'm guessing that the scalia court hates the Miranda v Arizona decision for the same reason they hate the majority decision in this case.
posted by Green With You at 12:23 PM on May 23, 2011


There comes before us, now and then, a case whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that its decision ought to shape the law,rather than vice versa.

Strict Constitutionalism - UR DOIN IT RONG
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:24 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guess they'll need to build some more prisons then...

This was actually covered in the article. I guess that would be an acceptable solution except that:

Justice Kennedy, citing the lower-court decision, said there was “no realistic possibility that California will be able to build itself out of this crisis” in light of the state’s financial problems.

Quite.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:26 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I fear that today’s decision, like prior prisoner release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims. I hope that I am wrong. In a few years, we will see.

You won't be wrong. In fact, as soon as they are released, there will be a grim roster of victims on the streets: the 30,000 people you had so poorly jailed that it violated their eighth fucking amendment rights.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


the only viable constitu-tional claims consist of individual instances of mistreat-ment

They believe that only individual instances of mistreatment deserve remedies.

The massive disconnect between the language of the dissent and your characterization of that language is a fantastic illustration of the huge difference between the constitutional philosophy of conservative and liberal jurists. To Scalia and those like him, the question is not what "deserves" a remedy but what claims are constitutionally viable (which is what he said - he didn't say that only individual instances deserve remedies - he said that only individual instances have constitutional remedies). But to more "liberal" interpreters of the law, the Constitution is not so much a document that states what remedies exist, etc., but an ideal of what the law and remedies ought to be - a sort of mission statement of guiding principles that allows for pronouncements of what "deserves" a remedy.

I'll give you one guess which of those approaches is more consistent with Chief Justice Marshall's pronouncement in McCulloch v. Maryland that "'we must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding," and that the Constitution is "intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs."
posted by The World Famous at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


The problem is a real one. And Calif spends more money on prisons than on education. What is to be done? Air lift the released prisoners into the middle of Mexico. They can joint gangs and kill each other off, or become policemen and take bribes and make a nice living. We keep the Mexican illegals here and send our illegals there in a tradeoff.
posted by Postroad at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


i know it's considered poor form to wish death on someone, but does that rule hold if they have a job for life? because, damn, i just want Scalia off the bench, no matter what the method.

Don't retreat, reload! Metaphorically! But really! But not! ::wink, unwink, double wink::
posted by FatherDagon at 12:42 PM on May 23, 2011


Man, fuck Scalia forever: “Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness,” Justice Scalia wrote, “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”

Dude watches too much TV, 24 for torture decisions and OZ for prison cases. I can't wait for his decision on the constitutionality of aging pills.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Technically, they don't have to release 30,000 people. They have to "remove" 30,000 people from the record. Shouldn't be too hard. Accidents happen. Records get lost. Sometimes, you just have to sell excess merchandise for pennies on the dollar out of the back of your truck. If this were truly a free market, the problem would solve itself.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:49 PM on May 23, 2011


Re: Three Strikes,

I don't actually know how much the original 3 Strikes law itself specifically contributes to prison populations - my guess is that it's a small percentage, given that it really only applies to serial serious or violent offenders. However, I think it's a good example of a type of CA ballot initiative that is designed to sound like a good idea to the majority of the population without actually providing any means of implementing it.

However, in 1994 we passed the 3 Strikes Initiative, which increased the penalties for all repeat felony offenders if the first felony was a "serious or violent" felony.
posted by muddgirl at 12:57 PM on May 23, 2011


We just need to make storing prisoners more efficient, like those square-grown watermelons.
posted by rosswald at 1:00 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're only talking a 21.5% reduction people. If "drug possession" alone occupies 16%, all those can be pardoned immediately. After that, the remaining 5.5% (now 7%) could be selected from the non-violent 15% (now 19.1%) doing time for "drug sales".

If they need more space for the 25% admissions coming from violent crimes, they could simply release more inmates convicted of "drug sales", and evaluate the other non-violent categories more closely.

There is obviously some cost form all the new probation officers required to check on the releases, but presumably one probation officer handles shit tons of probation cases simultaneously, making the final cost less than even feeding the guy.

Alternatively, there are apparently good outsourcing opportunities in China, South America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe (non-EU countries only). There is apparently even one prefecture in Japan looking to import inexpensive labor, I forget the name just now, but it seemed pretty well known these days.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:01 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The massive disconnect between the language of the dissent and your characterization of that language is a fantastic illustration of the huge difference between the constitutional philosophy of conservative and liberal jurists.

There's only a disconnect between what I wrote and what Scalia wrote if you don't understand the multiple meanings given to the word 'deserves'. To whit: "To be worthy of; merit" was the meaning I was going for, and in context I thought it clear I meant worthy of constitutional remedy.
posted by Green With You at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2011


Why will I feel happier when Scalia dies naturally than when OBL got blasted by SEALS?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2011


Release doesn't quite handle anything, does it? Unless they change the law and how it is enforced they will just fill right back up again.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2011


I'd think getting rid of their ridiculous "Three Strikes Law" would have a greater impact.

It took years for it to cause problems. It will take years to clear them up.

I think that what they should do is set up a post-incarceration buddy program. Select former inmates to be paired with prisoners from Guantanamo that can't be repatriated. Two birds, one stone.
posted by plinth at 1:06 PM on May 23, 2011


Check it out - according to Wikipedia, there are 30,000 Abu Ghraib prisoners. I smell total win-win here.
posted by plinth at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I reread what The World Famous wrote a few times and I think I may have a better understanding of what was meant in which case yes there is a huge discconect. I still maintain that to be consistent in their views it seems like they should be against things like Miranda. And maybe they are.
posted by Green With You at 1:09 PM on May 23, 2011


Green With You: "I still maintain that to be consistent in their views it seems like they should be against things like Miranda. And maybe they are."

In Dickerson v US, both Scalia and Thomas argued Miranda should be overturned. Neither Alito nor Roberts were on the court at the time (2000).
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:13 PM on May 23, 2011


Scalia: “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”

elsietheeel said it above, but it's worth elaborating. There are few if any functioning gyms in the California prison system. They have been converted into massive dorms. Here's an article, for example, about the "gym" at San Quentin.

Also, weightlifting is effectively banned in California prisons. California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section 3220(g) reads:

"Inmate weight lifting programs and equipment shall not be permitted at departmental institution/facilities. Exception shall be permitted as specifically authorized by the director, in compliance with Penal Code Section 5010."

I'm not aware of any exceptions that have been granted. You can check it here, by searching for "weight lifting."

This may seem a small point to some, but it highlights one of the frustrations in dealing with Scalia's opinions. He will ignore (or not investigate) the facts when there is a rhetorically attractive point to be made. I haven't found the same problem with the other conservative justices.
posted by ferdydurke at 1:17 PM on May 23, 2011 [25 favorites]


There is obviously some cost form all the new probation officers required to check on the releases

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Probation officers are over-taxed now. Where do you think they're going to find new probation officers? Ooo, ooo. I know. We'll pull police officers off the streets...

But seriously...

We're only talking a 21.5% reduction people.

Believe what you want ... and this goes for everyone on the thread ... We can talk all day about appropriate jurisprudence ... but just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you. Don't be that guy that lies and says "some of my best friends were unjustly treated by the justice system."

Whatever you believe, just be consistent.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Slackermagee: "46,000 criminals — the equivalent of three Army divisions

Ah yes. Brown people, black people, misbehaving white people: a terrible army that you valiantly fight in your war on drugs.

Sickening use of language, a bastard who has no business safeguarding citizens from the bench.

Can't wait to see how they take citizenship away from felons... the fuckers.
"

You know - this is what I thought of when reading these comments on "specimens"... Then I thought well they still have protections - then I thought "Unlawful combatant" and bingo! War on drugs - unlawful combatants... ship em to gitmo.

We're FUCKED. I bet you anything this is gonna be the new thing. Ratchet up the lingo on drugs even more than they already did when trying to tie to terrorism - bring in the bullshit happening in Mexico these days and you got yourself yellow journalism in the finest TRADITION!
posted by symbioid at 1:22 PM on May 23, 2011


Also, weightlifting is effectively banned in California prisons.

True, there are no more bench press bars and plates (or at the very least, they are exceedingly rare).

But prisons encourage exercise and no-space required prisoner workouts. It keeps the inmates sane.

That said, Scalia is a knucklehead that watches too much TV.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:22 PM on May 23, 2011


I've no friends who were miss treated by the justice system, aside from acquaintances that did time over drug possession that should've been legal anyways. I don't know any drug dealers myself either. But everyone I know who did time for possession were just ordinary people, maybe kinda stupid on average, but basically harmless.

There is actually one serious flaw with my argument that you completely missed in your bigoted sounding retort, namely that 16% figure was admissions, maybe CA already pardons all those guys after 1 year, greatly reducing their numbers in the overall prison population. Irregardless, admissions are only 1/4th violent offenders, making the remaining 3/4ths good candidates for early release programs.

You'l also notice that I said "pardon" all the simply drug possession cases, i.e. no probation officers necessary. And you could pardon drug possession cases that're currently on parole, which likely do consume a full 16% of the parole officer time.

posted by jeffburdges at 1:30 PM on May 23, 2011


Some of my best friends were justly treated by the unjustice system.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:33 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Believe what you want ... and this goes for everyone on the thread ... We can talk all day about appropriate jurisprudence ... but just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you. Don't be that guy that lies and says "some of my best friends were unjustly treated by the justice system."

Rather them than you.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:34 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you

Well since I'm pretty sure that's exactly who lives across the street, I don't see your point. At least, they don't have electricity and the women make money through prostitution. Oh, and at least one of them moved in after another property down the road exploded. So, yeah. Besides being trashy, the worst thing they've ever done was have sex with my husband's eighty-something year old grandfather for money. Which is just hilarious.

One of the things that hasn't been mentioned yet is what I have seen as the biggest problem leading to re-offending: the fact that no one will hire a felon! I worked with parolees pretty frequently, and almost all of them were very sincere in wanting to get their life together and not go back to prison. But it's so impossible to find a decent job if you have a record, more so now than ever in this economy. So people often end up back inside either because they return to crime to support themselves or because they can't get a job or can't pay back restitution and so violate their parole.

I'll never forget my client who had been out of prison for years, worked part-time cleaning houses, and was facing re-incarceration because he couldn't afford to pay damages as court-ordered. He was schizophrenic and had damaged some property while completely mentally incapacitated. Did his time, came out, took his meds, was the sweetest guy ever. Training as a woodworker. But he was so terrified of having to go back. He got very lucky with his parole officer and psychiatrist on his side, and got a sympathetic judge and last I heard, got a reprieve.

But the system is rigged. Once you mess up, it's very difficult to end up anywhere else but back in prison.
posted by threeturtles at 1:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [29 favorites]


Kennedy's retirement, and the subsequent hunt to find his replacement, is going to be a circus.

Kennedy won't retire until he dies (or becomes unable to work ... or one of the other conservatives dies and gets replaced). He loves the attention of being "the swing vote." Watch for a loong period of "will he or won't he" retirement speculation after Obama is re-elected ... which he will joyfully stretch out until he is incapacitated.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:37 PM on May 23, 2011


Which is just hilarious sad.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:39 PM on May 23, 2011


Why do I think freeing 30,000 prisoners isn't enough.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:40 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


but just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you.

Depends on the person but even if I hated them I'm not sure I think that they should be in prison. Certainly I don't mind the guy I work with who was in federal prison for five years for "conspiracy".
posted by josher71 at 1:41 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looking at how this decision went down, I can see my little black box is working perfectly. Scalia, true to form, lines up exactly as expected, on the side of repression. The black box is proof yet again, that it's a complete and total waste of time to read the "legal reasoning" behind whatever the position Scalia takes, because - per the black box - it is 100% irrelevant.
posted by VikingSword at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


But prisons encourage exercise and no-space required prisoner workouts. It keeps the inmates sane.

What does this have to do with Scalia's sexual fantasy of lubed-up minority prisoners pumping iron, just waiting for the day they get released by us sissy libruls so they can show up at Scalia's house?

(I also haven't seen any convincing evidence that the so-called "Prison Workout" is anything other than a marketing gimmick - yes, some people in prison do push-ups. People outside of prison do push-ups, too.)
posted by muddgirl at 1:43 PM on May 23, 2011


Metafilter: fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:44 PM on May 23, 2011


I'd like to nth threeturtles statement that "Once you mess up, it's very difficult to end up anywhere else but back in prison."

According to the state Division of Juvenile Justice, 70 percent of youth paroled from its institutions are rearrested within two years, many for serious crimes. DJJ also documents extremely high rates of mental health disorders (approximately 70%) and substance abuse histories (exceeding 80%) for its release populations.

When youth exit the system, most return to the environments where they first got in trouble,” said Dan Macallair, executive director of CJCJ. “Aftercare has been an afterthought and without proper pre-release planning and services, youth leaving the system are at very, very high risk of re-offending.”

Especially when your friends and family are gang members and a provision of your release is not to congregate with gang members or other felons. Some kids in California are set up for failure and then they become adults who are so culturally inured to being in the prison system that there are few other options.

The system is a failure and investing in new prisons is not the answer.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:46 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


This Forbes coverage includes more specifics on the deplorable conditions and a few of the images the Supreme Court viewed before making the ruling. The holding pens for those with mental illness are just chilling--made me feel sick to my stomach to imagine already suicidal people treated like animals in that way, no matter what they might have done.

I don't think Scalia sounds homophobic or racist, just really delusional. He seems to feel, despite the images and examples given, that every prisoner is like the guy in Cape Fear.
posted by misha at 1:54 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


but just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you.

You know what, CPB? You're a pretty smart guy but you're better than this. You should know better than to talk like this. I'm calling you out on this.

You're implicitly creating an underclass of untouchables in your mind. "Three time felons and meth addicts? Not in my neighborhood!" You imply that having such people around is inherently dangerous, as if they were rabid dogs or zombies or something.

Your attitude is the one that keeps America from having genuine, meaningful prison reform. Your attitude is the one that says "We have to keep the prison system going because we've fucked over so many people that if we let them out, they'll kill us all!" That's a very pragmatic statement but it's also wholly monstrous.

I have two close friends (scratch that, one close friend and one ex who is still a friend) who are former meth heads. They did all kinds of crazy fucked-up shit when they were on tina, but that doesn't make them less human or more untouchable.

I actually think it's pretty offensive that you would lock your doors and hide your kids if you saw my ex walking down the street. Actually, you wouldn't, since he looks like anybody else that you would meet on your day-to-day business. He's actually pretty polite and quite intelligent. He's probably committed enough felonies in his life to be put away forever, but if you knew him, you'd love him (just like I still do, ironically).

But you, CPB, you think that people like my ex need to be thrown away like trash. You think that they aren't worth having in polite society. That they aren't worth knowing, worth talking to or even worthy to walk the streets.

Life isn't that simple, CPB. There are bad people in prison, but there are bad people on the outside too. Some of them have "Sen." and "Rep." and "Gov." in front of their names, some of them own businesses. Life is too complex to say "Well, this person is a felon and used to smoke crystal meth so obviously they have the Scarlet Letter now. Begone!"

Human beings are not rabid dogs, CPB. Even the nasty untouchable that I shared a bed with for two years isn't a rabid dog. They're people, like you and I. Please remember that next time you feel the urge to say that well-worn American threat "Well, you wouldn't want those people living next to you, would you?"
posted by Avenger at 1:57 PM on May 23, 2011 [48 favorites]


just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you

See, here's the inherent problem with the system as it stands. We don't have any kind of cultural meme or anything which says that prison actually reforms people and helps them become productive members of society once they're released. Instead, we just get THIS kind of attitude all the time.

It's like the Scarlet Letter -- once you're branded, you're forever tainted and never again to be trusted. Never mind that the most effective forms of prison are rehabilitative not punitive, and that our society should be striving to find ways to take those who have made poor choices and help them learn how to make better choices in the future.

No, it's all about whether you've ever been inside, and if you have, then fuck you, you're done. You don't get any real job opportunities ever again, you get to watch society improve around you while you work at your graveyard shift janitor job, and if you have any resentment about how things have turned out, it's your own damn fault and don't you DARE think of doing anything to improve your situation. Any steps you take will either be slapped down or illegal, and if you try too hard, you'll just end up on the inside again anyway.

Which, according to THIS attitude (above) is exactly where you belong until you die.
posted by hippybear at 2:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


The problem with the "Eighth Amendment should only apply to prisoners individually harmed" argument is that it seems to ignore that every prisoner is, under the terms set by the Prison Commission and the three-judge panel, being harmed. If the Prison Commission or the panel says over 137.5% of built capacity constitutes unreasonable overcrowding, and the state keeps prisons at 200% capacity for over a decade, then every prisoner by definition lives in an overcrowded prison.

When we talk about the Eighth amendment, we focus on the "cruel" part a lot, but we don't often focus on the "unusual." Usual-ness is a prison which has about the appropriate number of prisoners for its size. Unusual-ness is a prison with far too many. While the prisoners who got locked in cages, had mental health services denied or got put in "cells" that didn't have bathrooms certainly fit the "cruel" definition, everyone in the prison fits the "unusual" criteria. Ergo, the state's responsible for remedying the problem, by any means available to it that don't otherwise violate prisoners' rights.
posted by Apropos of Something at 2:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Irregardless, we're only talking like 22% of by far the largest prison population in the world, plus whatever rolling reductions we require to keep admitting all the violent offenders. That's clearly a reasonable reduction by any sane standards. As dunkadunc indicated, we actually need much larger reductions for moral reasons, more effective rehabilitation, etc. I simply rattled off that 16% of admissions are obviously simply pardonable, given that their crime doesn't even exist in several western jurisdictions.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:04 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why not just knock 30% or so off the sentences of every non-life sentence? It's not like the durations of prison sentences are scientifically calculated to be just the right amount of time or something.
posted by The World Famous at 2:07 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, I'm going to step out on a limb here and suggest the following sweeping reform:

From now on, only violent crimes against a person's body will be punishable by prison sentences. All non-violent offenses will be punished with fines, house arrest, community service and civil damages awarded to the victims.
posted by Avenger at 2:08 PM on May 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


From now on, only violent crimes against a person's body will be punishable by prison sentences. All non-violent offenses will be punished with fines, house arrest, community service and civil damages awarded to the victims.

Every investment banker in America will, I'm sure, support your proposal. Quick, get Bernie Madoff on the phone and give him the good news that he can go home and just pay a fine and spend weekends picking up garbage in the park.
posted by The World Famous at 2:11 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every investment banker in America will, I'm sure, support your proposal. Quick, get Bernie Madoff on the phone and give him the good news that he can go home and just pay a fine and spend weekends picking up garbage in the park.
posted by The World Famous at 2:11 PM on May 23 [+] [!]


I know this is supposed to be a ha-ha funny "OMG Your idea FAILS your own desires, stoopid liburl!" but I'm not taking the bait.

I'm willing to allow Bernie Madoff to get off with probation if it means ending America's relentless prison-industrial machine. And I hate Bernie Madoff.
posted by Avenger at 2:14 PM on May 23, 2011 [14 favorites]



@kavasa

"WTF - um, no, they're not actually? this is just flagrant scare tactics?"

No, that's relatively accurate. A brigade is between 2-2,500 Soldiers, and a Division will have 4-6 brigades.


I wasn't clear in my original comment, but I didn't mean numbers.
3 Army divisions may have 30,000 people in them, but this is *not* the equivalent of 30,000 former prisoners. The justice's phrasing implies that the 30,000 former prisoners are as dangerous as 3 Army divisions, but that's illogical (but potentially a powerful irrational rhetorical slogan)
posted by Bwithh at 2:18 PM on May 23, 2011


Looking at how this decision went down, I can see my little black box is working perfectly. Scalia, true to form, lines up exactly as expected, on the side of repression. The black box is proof yet again, that it's a complete and total waste of time to read the "legal reasoning" behind whatever the position Scalia takes, because - per the black box - it is 100% irrelevant.

Technically, your little black box should be possible with the data already out there. I was thinking of doing a similar experiment a few years ago, but it got lost in the Project Pile.

For anyone interested, WUSTL has a database of Supreme Court decisions. This database includes a variable indicating whether the decision was conservative or liberal, along with information on the individual voting of the justices.

For somebody proficient in R or similar, it should be easy to implement.

And personally, I think you're correct. Legal reasoning has very little to do with many of these decisions. The legal theorists can state case law and legal philosophies all they want, but when you have a statement like the one above about bending every efffort to read the law, along with statements of physical prison specimens in the official dissent. Well, yeah, that screams constructing legal justifications for moral leanings.
posted by formless at 2:19 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


46,000 criminals — the equivalent of three Army divisions

Or, how about:

46,000 criminals — the equivalent of all high school graduates in Tennessee during the 2003-2004 school year*

46,000 criminals — the equivalent of the number of people who eat at McDonald's worldwide every minute of every day*

46,000 criminals — the equivalent of the number of automobile deaths in the US during the year 1986*
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:19 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know this is supposed to be a ha-ha funny "OMG Your idea FAILS your own desires, stoopid liburl!" but I'm not taking the bait.

No, it's supposed to be ha-ha funny "OMG your idea FAILS." You can take out the "your own desires, stoopid librul" part, since I have no idea what your political views are or what your desires are. That said, if your plan does, in fact, accomplish your desires, then I think your desires suck.
posted by The World Famous at 2:21 PM on May 23, 2011


just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you

I wouldn't be PERFECTLY happy, but I'd be a hell of a lot happier than having to live around people like you. And I mean it with all sincerety.
posted by c13 at 2:22 PM on May 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Actually, it looks like anigbrowl recommended analyzing the WUSTL Supreme Court Database right under your comment, which is probably how I originally got the idea. Credit to the original inspiration.
posted by formless at 2:31 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, Madoff sitting in his house with extremely limited telephone and internet availability (if any at all) and being restricted to only over-the-air television and not allowed to pass through the doors of his house even to go into his own yard... I'd accept that as punishment if it were for the rest of his life.

Sorry about your family having to also live under those conditions, but they can always leave if they don't like it. Bernie can't. I'd be okay with that, too.
posted by hippybear at 2:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would prefer we took Madoff's house, and anything else he owns of value, and used that money to either pay off some of our debt or fund libraries or healthcare or something. Him being in jail is only costing me money, and it's not actually making anything any better.
posted by threeturtles at 2:50 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


if any of the released Inmates commit a crime in the next year, the Court should be held responsible for their crimes.
posted by taxpayer at 2:53 PM on May 23, 2011


I would prefer we took Madoff's house, and anything else he owns of value, and used that money to either pay off some of our debt or fund libraries or healthcare or something. Him being in jail is only costing me money, and it's not actually making anything any better.

That would only create an incentive for people like him to hide their assets better and then flee the country when caught.
posted by The World Famous at 2:54 PM on May 23, 2011


if any of the released Inmates commit a crime in the next year, the Court should be held responsible for their crimes.

Yes, great idea. And if any of them do not commit a crime, the Court should be rewarded 100 cookies.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:57 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Interesting database formless, thanks! I'd imagine what you really want from that database is evidence that specific justices vote only according to specific ideologies more than other judges.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:02 PM on May 23, 2011


California, where parks are more expensive to close than leave open, at least, as rationalized by those who have lived here too long. This is why this state is fucked. I think it's the water.
posted by Ardiril at 3:02 PM on May 23, 2011


I consider anyone in jail for marijuana possession as a political prisoner and I would let those folks out first. I bet that would solve the problem in a day.
posted by Renoroc at 3:08 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hot off the presses, here's a California Court of Appeal case filed and partially published this month where, under the three strikes law, the defendant got 14 years in prison for repeatedly suing in small claims court and settling with shaving equipment companies using the same set of pictures alleging that he cut himself shaving.

14 years in prison.
posted by The World Famous at 3:12 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


California has a shitload of empty military bases just waiting to be converted into prison-type facilities. I'm sure Obama won't have a problem renting them out for $1 each.
posted by Ardiril at 3:15 PM on May 23, 2011


“Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness,” Justice Scalia wrote, “and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”
It's particularly fashionable among the NPR/NYT crowd to hate on Scalia, and he often trades compassion for a quip, but he's not just making this stuff up for a WordPress account he's starting. He's considering-- yes, through his own biases-- the entire course of American's history.

Where do you think all of these released prisoners will go? Home? To work?

They are being offloaded to psychiatry. To rehabs, to "involuntary outpatient," to probation and their weekly/monthly drug tests and verification of medication compliance; to SSI.

I will grant you that it is much better than prison for those individuals. But this process institutionalizes government control of individuals in the public realm. It becomes that much easier to justify X or Y in the service of monitoring. Psychiatry becomes a willing (happy) tool of the government, because it pays.

If we want to talk about the things that can be done about prison overcrowding, or about changing the reasons for such high incarceration rates, we can do that. But to offload the entire mess to the psychiatrists is the kind of madness that will destroy everything that America was supposed to have been standing for.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 3:19 PM on May 23, 2011


This case right here? Yeah, any time we get those pseudo-intellectual types spouting a pox-on-both-your-houses nonsense about there being no difference between electing Democrats or Republicans this is the link we should send them. Because the President appoints justices to the Supreme Court, and those decisions have real and widespread effects on the lives of both ordinary and not-so-ordinary citizens of this country.
posted by Justinian at 3:21 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will grant you that it is much better than prison for those individuals.

None of what you object to has anything to do with the case at hand. The court had one issue before it; did the conditions common in California prisons rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment? The effects of releasing prisoners on society doesn't seem like it is part of that equation.

Also, I get the feeling you have a bee in your bonnet about psychiatry. I read your comment in the voice of Andrew Ryan.
posted by Justinian at 3:24 PM on May 23, 2011


California, where parks are more expensive to close than leave open, at least, as rationalized by those who have lived here too long. This is why this state is fucked. I think it's the water.

I don't follow. Parks are expensive to close, and no one is entirely sure how expensive. Let's say they close the 70 parks in question (from your link). That's supposed to save $22 million/year, presumably based on the annual budgets for the parks in question. But what do you do then? To actually get that savings, you have to lay off all the rangers who worked at those parks, which means no one will patrol the parks at all. As the article you linked notes, you probably can't legally close a state beach in California, so at least the coastal parts would have to stay open, and there are potential liability risks for the state if they have unmaintained beaches. Then there's all the maintenance costs that would be deferred while the parks are closed; to open the parks again, someone has to go out and recut the trails, cleanup the campsites, unclog the toilets, remove the wild animals from the nature center, etc... It's a lot more expensive to do that in one go than to keep up ongoing maintenance. Plus, laying off the rangers and staff means paying them unemployment (comes from a different account and gets more federal funding, but still) and then incurring expenses to recruit, hire, and train new rangers (or the same ones again) when you reopen the parks.

So why is it so insane to think that closing a bunch of parks might not save very much money at all?
posted by zachlipton at 3:26 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


They are being offloaded to psychiatry. To rehabs, to "involuntary outpatient," to probation and their weekly/monthly drug tests and verification of medication compliance; to SSI.

What kind of world are you living in where we're actually giving free rehab and mental health treatment to anywhere near the number of people who need it? I fully acknowledge there are very real issues about individual liberty and the rights to refuse medical treatment, but when I walk down the street, I don't see a population of folks forced into rehab and medication, I see people like this man passed out in his own vomit on the sidewalk.

We're way too disorganized and care way too little about the homeless and mentally ill to come anywhere close to having the sort of Orwellian mind control state you seem to be describing.
posted by zachlipton at 3:32 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


California is too broke to consider reopening the parks in the foreseeable future, so reopening costs are irrelevant. "No one will patrol the parks at all." - Not true. Local and county police can be given jurisdiction. Also, closing beaches (and other public spaces) but leaving the gates open are the option that will most likely be taken in many instances. That whole trespassing thing is a straw man. No one need be arrested for trespassing on a beach.
posted by Ardiril at 3:33 PM on May 23, 2011


just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you

I wouldn't be PERFECTLY happy, but I'd be a hell of a lot happier than having to live around people like you. And I mean it with all sincerety.


I can't really articulate exactly what it is about this comment that pisses me off so much, but it really does. That's just a shitty thing to say to someone, regardless of your political disagreements. But I guess that's what you were going for, so kudos?
posted by Errant at 3:38 PM on May 23, 2011


No one need be arrested for trespassing on a beach. - Unless the judge is Scalia. ;-P
posted by Ardiril at 3:42 PM on May 23, 2011


That's just a shitty thing to say to someone,

To be fair, it's shitty to say that my formerly meth-addicted relatives (or heck, my currently-meth-addicted) don't belong on the same block as us "regular folks." Of course two wrongs don't make a right, but I understand the impulse to strike back.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Justinian : nonsense about there being no difference between electing Democrats or Republicans this is the link we should send them.

Umm, in this case, the USSC made the correct call, despite its heavily conservative Bush-stacking. California has numerous BS laws that turn assorted nonviolent offenses into unbelievably long sentences (not least of which, their "three strikes" law, which just about every humanitarian group in the world denounces as both cruel and counterproductive).


Because the President appoints justices to the Supreme Court, and those decisions have real and widespread effects on the lives of both ordinary and not-so-ordinary citizens of this country.

One side wants my privacy because they object to fun on religious grounds, the other wants it so they can punish me if I have bad thoughts about minorities or the infirm. One wants my money to give to the poor, one side wants to give it to the rich. One side want to take my guns, the other side wants to take my weed. One side wants the ten commandments in schools, the other doesn't want it in public libraries.

"Equally bad" doesn't mean "no difference".
posted by pla at 3:45 PM on May 23, 2011


Now that I think about it, just coming up with the money to reassign the status of this many prisoners may not be possible without closing a university satellite campus.
posted by Ardiril at 3:52 PM on May 23, 2011


I will grant you that it is much better than prison for those individuals. But this process institutionalizes government control of individuals in the public realm. It becomes that much easier to justify X or Y in the service of monitoring. Psychiatry becomes a willing (happy) tool of the government, because it pays.

Probation is already a massive system of institutionalized government control of individuals in the public realm, and it already pays; I'm afraid the horse can't even see the barn from here. I don't think 30,000 more people will make much difference.

IMHO, ending the drug war would go a long way toward solving this... but so would ending probation. If everyone who was arrested actually had to be released or sent to a jury trial with the possibility of prison for their crimes, a lot of our more chickenshit laws would have to vanish (or become citations). It is more than possible to have a justice system which only processes those people who, if guilty, truly need to be locked up; it just takes making locking-up troublesome for the guys with the keys.
posted by vorfeed at 4:14 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, it's shitty to say that my formerly meth-addicted relatives (or heck, my currently-meth-addicted) don't belong on the same block as us "regular folks."

Sure, I don't agree with CPB either and I don't think the comment was especially well-considered. But I think there's a difference between "I don't think you would want a hypothetical stereotype to live next to you", which I think Avenger called out quite nicely, and "I would never want to live next to you, yes you, you right there, person I don't actually know." Then again, I always think targeted shittiness is worse than generalized shittiness, so, whatever. I'm done with it.
posted by Errant at 4:20 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have the time to chase down the links at the moment, but I read a university economic analysis of closing state parks, and the conclusion was that it's self-defeating overall, because direct income and indirect economic activity from visitors is greater than the savings that would accrue to CA from closing. Of course, it's always tough to argue overall economics, but just going on anecdotal evidence - I'm an avid camper and trail hound and go on several trips a year both in CA and elsewhere - I can report that the state park ranger services in CA state parks are stretched to the absolute limit... there is not only no fat to cut, but barely any muscle left; one small example: Anza Borrego State Park is the largest state park in CA, and at over 600,000 acres it is the second largest in the continental US. Well, it's got like two rangers to cover the whole park. It's insane. I've camped there numerous times over the years, and have not yet encountered a ranger in the wild - the park is also fairly unique in that it has open camping, basically meaning you can camp wild anywhere, and I have done that. Here's what's interesting: there is a special area there called the Carrizo Impact Area. It is closed to the public on account of unexploded ordinance - it was used during WWII for as a bombing range and munitions training area. Nobody patrols it. Nobody. Officially, human beings have not been inside for decades - which resulted in amazing vegetation and animal life free from human impact. Recently, a photographer gained access, and came back with some great footage. But that's officially - unofficially, there were likely daredevils (or fools) who did explore it (my lips are sealed), anyhow, I feel like if with rangers, right now, there is no money to monitor a park like this, imagine what would happen if you closed state parks around CA... Wild West all over again. All in all, I think it would be a really, really stupid idea to close down state parks in CA. But I'm likely biased.
posted by VikingSword at 4:30 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's just a shitty thing to say to someone,

What, why? Was that just a figure of speech that CPB used? I really wouldn't want to live next to people that openly advocate ostrasizing minor screw ups for the rest of their lives. Especially the ones that've paid their dues. For one thing, I was sort of under impression we don't have that whole double jeopardy thing in US.
As far as targeting, it was CPB that said this, and I don't want to generalize it to everyone here. I mean, HOPEFULLY, I'm correct in assuming that it's not a generalnfeeling around here, right?
posted by c13 at 4:32 PM on May 23, 2011


Seriously, would you want to live around people you know will enjoy making the rest of your life a living hell if you ge busted for so much as smoking a joint, for example?

Despite how nice they are to you at the moment?
posted by c13 at 4:36 PM on May 23, 2011


I don't think 30,000 more people will make much difference.

The goal for 2010 was to reduce parolees to 60,000. I don't know if that was reached. Parole officers are already furloughed 3 Fridays each month. 30,000 is a huge difference. BTW, the Orange County sheriff claims he already has county beds for all 1800 OC prisoners in the state system. He just can't afford to feed them without federal assistance.

I've lived near meth addicts, and the smell of cooking meth. No, I don't want them living anywhere near me.

Closing parks may be a stupid idea but rangers are already furloughed 3 days each month (if not Fridays). Parks may not be closed so much as left virtually abandoned (by state interests anyway).
posted by Ardiril at 4:44 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


One side wants my privacy because they object to fun on religious grounds, the other wants it so they can punish me if I have bad thoughts about minorities or the infirm. One wants my money to give to the poor, one side wants to give it to the rich. One side want to take my guns, the other side wants to take my weed. One side wants the ten commandments in schools, the other doesn't want it in public libraries.

pla: Sentences 1, 3, and 5 refer to recognizable events or policy. But you've stumped me on 2 and 4, specifically the bolded text. Please explain, here or in email.
posted by dogrose at 4:48 PM on May 23, 2011


I can't speak in particular to the straw man of "a three-time felon and meth addict" moving in next to me, but I just sent out mail proposing a hike that involves trusting my fellow hikers to a pretty high level, on that list are at least two people who've spent some time away at state expense. And I'm trying to find a good afternoon to spend one of them to help him and one of his kids build a boat

The "OMG people in prisons are scary!" thing is rather silly. Yes, I've got a few anecdotal suggestions, from people who've served time, that prison can actually do some good, but generally I'veevidence that prison is not a terribly effective way of bringing about that positive personal change, and that there are other ways to make a positive difference earlier, and that the truly scary people in prison are mostly failures of the mental health system.

And, yes, I'd rather have either of those aforementioned people in my neighborhood than, as c13 points out, someone who wants to make the rest of my life a living hell if I get busted for straying from the straight and narrow.

In fact, I live in a decent neighborhood, and I'm not a hundred percent sure, but there was a neighbor a few houses removed who, among other things, worked as a stunt man, whose house went empty around the time this whole thing went down. He was great with his kids, and a general asset to the neighborhood.

If we can get the non-violent offenders into the society in a way that they can see that they're making a positive difference in people's lives (and get the meth labs and grow operations out of the residential areas into industrial areas where the infrastructure to support the power consumption and necessary chemicals handling is available), I've got a feeling we Californians can do way way better than continuing to over-fund the far too politically powerful police prison guard's unions. And, yes, I'm actively participating in ways that I hope can help do that, and I welcome this further push in that direction.
posted by straw at 4:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather have them living in my neighborhood than robbing in it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:54 PM on May 23, 2011


The two usually go together, george.
posted by Ardiril at 5:00 PM on May 23, 2011


dogrose : pla: Sentences 1, 3, and 5 refer to recognizable events or policy. But you've stumped me on 2 and 4, specifically the bolded text. Please explain, here or in email.

I took the GP's scope as extending beyond just USSC decisions. I'll accept a technical foul if you think I mistook him on that. :)

Anyway...

Google for "suspended for racist joke", and you'll find thousands of hits for people stupid enough to believe they had the right to do what they want in their personal life as long as they keep their professional conduct clean (though I don't mean to overstate my case, so make no mistake, you'll find even more morons that couldn't keep inappropriate behavior out out of their professional lives, never mind personal).

For your second bolded example, you need look no further than MA and NY for shining examples of liberal states that make it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.
posted by pla at 5:04 PM on May 23, 2011


The two usually go together, george.

Sure, when you don't let them have jobs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:07 PM on May 23, 2011


Meth addicts holding jobs? Heh.
posted by Ardiril at 5:09 PM on May 23, 2011


Surely this means changes will be made to stop jailing people who engage in victimless crimes?
eas98: What, are you crazy? Clearly, we must drastically increase public funding for the private prison system!
posted by scrod at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So they need to release 46,000 prisoners? How is this problematic in the least? There are thousands and thousands of prisoners imprisoned for non-violent crimes, namely drug possession. And with California's horrible, disastrous Three Strikes law, something as simple as smoking a joint puts otherwise harmless people in prison forever.

Release the non-violent criminals. There are way over 46,000 of them.
posted by zardoz at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


CPB's comment does bring up the prominent idea in American discussion of the penal system, though; that it is a place for punishment first and foremost, with reform - while desirable - not really at the center of the purpose. Only people who are bad are punished, therefore you wouldn't want anyone who's been to prison living next door to you. But as has been pointed out several times already, there are thousands of non-violent offenders in prison; many of whom I'd imagine could have had their social problems better addressed with social solutions than penal ones. But we've grown so used to seeing a certain strata of crimes as prison-worthy that the very idea of allowing greater flexibility in the penal system makes conservatives very skittish and shrill. These prisoners are to be punished, which makes them worse criminals, therefore we shouldn't release them - it's mind-boggling.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:13 PM on May 23, 2011


For your second bolded example, you need look no further than MA and NY for shining examples of liberal states that make it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

Well, NY isn't THAT liberal a state.

Smoking is illegal in most places which aren't one's domicile in NY now.

Gay marriage has failed in the state legislature more than once.

You can't buy wine in grocery stores.

And on and on into the past. Don't forget, ACT-UP was formed to get NYC to acknowledge the health crisis which was happening in the nation's largest city.

It's not nearly as liberal as it would like to project.
posted by hippybear at 5:13 PM on May 23, 2011


California's prisons release prisoners all the time. All they have to do is start releasing them at a greater rate than they admit them. Just knock 30% off of every non-life-sentence for anyone currently doing time and knock 30-40% off of every mandatory minimum statute. It's not that complicated.
posted by The World Famous at 5:14 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


A few years back, when I was living in Knoxville, there was a whole hubbab about a guy getting busted for growing pot. The guy was very instrumental in rejuvenating the downtown, and turning it into a place one may actually want to be at. He was one of the first people to risk it and buy a hole in a wall at market square and turning it into a bar, that attracted a whole bunch of people and was instrumental in inducing people to actually move downtown. It is still a great bar and Knoxville, aside from Chicago's Lakeshore, is just about the only place in America I like visiting. If I was to stay here permanently, I'd probably move there. And I would love to have him as a neighbor.
The bar is Preservation Pub, you can google the story..
posted by c13 at 5:23 PM on May 23, 2011


Meth addicts holding jobs? Heh.

There are millions of functional addicts to many different substances who hold down jobs every day.

Perhaps you only see the ones who reach the crash-n-burn stage of addiction. Which many addicts never do.

But don't generalize people into categories which imply they're waste products of society because of the substances they feel compelled to put into their bodies.

In other words, how is that daily coffee habit, before which you're impossible to deal with?
posted by hippybear at 5:24 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Guys, I'm with you all that this is a good decision. I think it is. But it does no one any good to say that this release isn't going to have negative consequences. One of the great tragedies of the American prison system is that it takes non-violent offenders and turns them into violent offenders. Recidivism is a huge problem, and Alito is almost certainly right when he says some of these releases are going to hurt people.

Again, this is a good decision. But we must make our decisions with open eyes and acknowledge the potential costs.
posted by kavasa at 5:28 PM on May 23, 2011


Oh Bwithh - fair enough, and agreed. It's a contemptible rhetorical flourish and is in no way a sound basis for a judicial opinion, either dissenting or confirming.
posted by kavasa at 5:29 PM on May 23, 2011


There are way over 46,000 of them.

Are you sure of that? Jerry Brown was Attorney General from 2006 to 2010. His platform was to reduce both prison and parole rolls, and by his third year, California's prison population showed its first gross population decrease. This is not something that only begins now with today's SCOTUS ruling.

You may want to update your parroted sound bites. Things have changed a bit since 2002.

hippybear, I don't give fuck one about those who turn around "on different substances". (Nice weasel attempt, though.) The ones stuck on meth and who don't turn around are a big enough problem in the neighborhoods that someone on disability (like me) can afford. Man, all I want to do is smoke my wax in peace, without worrying if the new batch of assholes next door are going to blow up the place.
posted by Ardiril at 5:30 PM on May 23, 2011


Recidivism is a huge problem, and Alito is almost certainly right when he says some of these releases are going to hurt people.

Is there any reason whatsoever to believe that the rate of releasees hurting people would be any lower if they were released according to their sentences rather than a little bit earlier? As I said above, it's not like sentencing is done according to some scientifically-calculated schedule designed to minimize recidivism. What reason is there to believe that releasing non-lifers a little earlier than their sentence will make a statistically-significant difference?
posted by The World Famous at 5:33 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um, because you are talking about a statistically-significant number of criminals.
posted by Ardiril at 5:36 PM on May 23, 2011


I have two close friends (scratch that, one close friend and one ex who is still a friend) who are former meth heads. They did all kinds of crazy fucked-up shit when they were on tina, but that doesn't make them less human or more untouchable.

I actually think it's pretty offensive that you would lock your doors and hide your kids if you saw my ex walking down the street. Actually, you wouldn't, since he looks like anybody else that you would meet on your day-to-day business. He's actually pretty polite and quite intelligent. He's probably committed enough felonies in his life to be put away forever, but if you knew him, you'd love him (just like I still do, ironically).

But you, CPB, you think that people like my ex need to be thrown away like trash. You think that they aren't worth having in polite society. That they aren't worth knowing, worth talking to or even worthy to walk the streets.


What kind of crazy fucked-up shit and felonies? I know some wonderful rapists, and I'm not joking. I wonder if I could get dozens of favourites for berating people for not wanting to be around them, just because I happen to like them.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:38 PM on May 23, 2011


Ardiril: there's a HUGE difference between someone using meth and someone cooking meth.

FWIW I had a pretty hard-core meth habit for close to three years, and held down a job I went to every day and never robbed anyone.

I'm familiar with the paradigm, probably more than you are.
posted by hippybear at 5:40 PM on May 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Um, because you are talking about a statistically-significant number of criminals.

So what? What reason, if any, do you have to believe that they are more likely to be recidivist than if they were kept in prison a little longer?
posted by The World Famous at 5:43 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
posted by flabdablet at 5:47 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


a statistically-significant difference? - "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." heheh

Of course, cooking meth and using meth are different actions. Often, performed by the same person, just not at the same time. Although I will admit that since China Inc. got into the game, it may now be cheaper to just buy it on the street. It's been a few years since I lived in Vegas.

"probably more than you are" - How many years have you lived in lease-free, month-to-month accomodations--as the free weeklies say--just up the street from the projects?

TFW, so you are saying that they are going to recidivist at the same rate, no matter what?
posted by Ardiril at 5:49 PM on May 23, 2011


TFW, so you are saying that they are going to recidivist at the same rate, no matter what?

No. I'm asking whether there is any reason to believe otherwise or if, as I suspect, everyone here is talking out of their ass.
posted by The World Famous at 5:53 PM on May 23, 2011


"everyone here is talking out of their ass" - Well, duh, this is Mefi.
posted by Ardiril at 6:00 PM on May 23, 2011


the defendant got 14 years in prison for repeatedly suing in small claims court and settling with shaving equipment companies using the same set of pictures alleging that he cut himself shaving.

For repeated, intentional fraud and barratry? Yes, that is a fair sentence. He was clogging up already clogged courts and undermining people's trust in the system of justice.
posted by orthogonality at 6:06 PM on May 23, 2011


The 14 years was for it being the third strike, not for the fraud and barratry.
posted by The World Famous at 6:11 PM on May 23, 2011


Chinese meth? Dudes, the Mexican cartels make it in factories.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:11 PM on May 23, 2011


Not me, I'm talking out of my blowhole.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:12 PM on May 23, 2011


I'm surprised no one Godwined the thread yet, I guess I have to be the guy this time, but you know who else wanted to separate out all the "degenerates"?
posted by c13 at 6:32 PM on May 23, 2011


Batman?
posted by The World Famous at 6:45 PM on May 23, 2011


I always thought prison overcrowding constituted cruel and unusual punishment, glad the justices were willing to invoke the 8th amendment because I was beginning to believe that nothing systemic in this country would be ruled as such.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:46 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are being offloaded to psychiatry. To rehabs, to "involuntary outpatient," to probation and their weekly/monthly drug tests and verification of medication compliance; to SSI.

And I'm sure California is just funding the shit out of their state-run mental health program.

A guy I know, more a friend of friends, was a nice kid (27 yrs old), but when he got high he liked to fight cops. I'm pretty sure he had some mental health issues and was unsuccessfully trying to deal with his substance abuse problem.

He had a piss test come back dirty. Rather than go back to prison, he killed himself.
posted by marxchivist at 7:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised no one Godwined the thread yet, I guess I have to be the guy this time, but you know who else wanted to separate out all the "degenerates"?

Mao? his drug policy, though draconian, was rather effective statistically. The Germans invented methadone so.....
posted by clavdivs at 8:08 PM on May 23, 2011


What does this have to do with Scalia's sexual fantasy of lubed-up minority prisoners pumping iron

Can we not do this?

Scalia's actual opinion is sufficiently vile. Is this sophomoric, homophobic insult supposed to make him seem more vile? "Ha Ha Scalia's secretly burning with homosexual lust! He's GAY!" Because that, if true, would make him a worse person?
posted by straight at 8:25 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


was rather effective statistically

Yep, нет человека -- нет проблемы....
posted by c13 at 8:26 PM on May 23, 2011


Ha Ha Scalia's secretly burning with homosexual lust! He's GAY!"

I didn't see any humor in that at all.
posted by muddgirl at 8:34 PM on May 23, 2011


Is this sophomoric, homophobic insult supposed to make him seem more vile?

I think it's supposed to make him seem more pathetic and struggling to gain his own respect in the face of his own lies he tells himself. There are no bullies as bully-ish as the bullies who fear being bullied themselves. Likewise, Scalia's theoretical, probably imagined homosexual self which he is lying about and hiding would explain a lot of the outwardly directed hate with which he seems to seethe on a regular basis, as evidenced through his utterances. Whether as official opinions, or dissents, or his ethically-questionable extracurricular activities, the man pretty much acts like he has a side of himself he is utterly incapable of accepting and works toward punishing others as a method of purging himself, or at least disguising to the outer world that his inner self may possible be deserving (in his mind) of punishment.

It's not supposed to make him look like a worse person. It's actually an attempt to humanize someone who acts monstrous on a regular basis.
posted by hippybear at 8:36 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


One point which seems to get missed in the rush to demonize people who use meth, is that all of these people will be returning to the community anyway. These are not people on life without parole. They're just coming back to the community earlier than they would otherwise. None of the people that the state will be releasing to comply with this plan are people on death row. The only way you can believe that this really has an impact on public safety is if you think that, say, serving six years in prison is somehow that much more likely to prevent recidivism than serving five years.

The state has had years to come up with a plan for how to reduce the prison population to end what all these judges have declared unconstitutional and unhealthy conditions, but the state has chosen instead to fight the judges, going all the way to the Supreme court with it. They could have been putting all of that time and energy into revamping California's absurd parole system instead. There's been some parole reform in the last couple of years, but not nearly enough. Roughly two-thirds of the people currently in a cage in California are there for parole violations, NOT an original criminal offense. We keep people under surveillance far beyond what other states do, and then are somehow surprised when they end up back in prison.

California should reserve prison for serious offenses. Even small sentencing reforms could make significant changes. By reducing the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, for example, the state would save $450 million a year and reduce the prison population by over 9,000.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:44 PM on May 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


. . .but just don't lie to everyone here and say you'd be perfectly happy to have a three-time felon and meth addict move in next to you.

How silly and myopic. No doubt that's been been my living situation many times. Probably yours too. You might be interacting internet-ly with felons and addicts right now! Arguing with them as if they were regular people!
posted by goofyfoot at 11:06 PM on May 23, 2011


By reducing the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor

How many misdemeanors does one get before it becomes a felony, or should possession of a gram of meth be a misdeneanor for how ever many times you are caught. Why not legalize it and just limit what one can do like drive trucks and work with machinery.

oh, my....well
posted by clavdivs at 12:16 AM on May 24, 2011


mattbucher writes "Those pictures on pages 57-58 of the opinion are depressing as hell."

Are those bunks triple stacked?

ferdydurke writes "'Inmate weight lifting programs and equipment shall not be permitted at departmental institution/facilities. Exception shall be permitted as specifically authorized by the director, in compliance with Penal Code Section 5010.' "

What is the theory behind this ban? Because on its face it seems asinine.

The World Famous writes "Every investment banker in America will, I'm sure, support your proposal. Quick, get Bernie Madoff on the phone and give him the good news that he can go home and just pay a fine and spend weekends picking up garbage in the park."

You missed the part about the fine. Have it scale with net worth (like some countries in Europe already do). I'm pretty sure he'd feel a 99% reduction in net wealth and ongoing fines reducing his income to 3X poverty line levels. And/Or make house arrest have a maximum square footage restriction. 1000 square feet sounds about right.

Ardiril writes "California has a shitload of empty military bases just waiting to be converted into prison-type facilities. I'm sure Obama won't have a problem renting them out for $1 each."

Amoritized capital costs are probably a small part of the expense with operating expenses like labour, food and medical costs being the majority.

kavasa writes "Recidivism is a huge problem, and Alito is almost certainly right when he says some of these releases are going to hurt people."

What's the other option? Nothing but life sentences?
posted by Mitheral at 12:33 AM on May 24, 2011


Metafilter: "we let them out, they'll kill us all!"
posted by Mitheral at 12:33 AM on May 24, 2011


Can we find us some Wastelands to call New Australia, and just exile people?

Then those fine physical specimens show off their intimidating muscles under armour they cobbled out of football pads, waving crude weapons while racing tricked-out dune-buggies built out of stripped-out car wrecks, joining together to form enclaves in the wilderness, and then sell the movie rights to Hollywood.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:51 AM on May 24, 2011


For your second bolded example, you need look no further than MA and NY for shining examples of liberal states that make it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

On tangent, that's an urban vs rural argument rather than a liberal/conservative one (although the two are correlated). Some jackass points a gun horizontally and pulls the trigger. What happens?

(a) You live in a small hamlet and the bullet is going to go into a hillside.
(b) You live in a skyscraper and the bullet is going to go through several walls until it runs out of momentum - with no more than two rooms per person.

Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people. Especially idiots with guns. And there are a lot more idiots and a lot more accidental targets in cities.
posted by Francis at 3:54 AM on May 24, 2011


Mitheral: "Metafilter: "we let them out, they'll kill us all!""

Yeah, MeFi has been pretty disappointing as of late.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:58 AM on May 24, 2011


pla writes: Google for "suspended for racist joke",

Sir, reporting for duty, sir! The first page of results has a bunch of duplicates of the same story being reported by different agencies, but there are three distinct stories: Looks to me like two of these three are from in the UK, a place with explicit hate speech laws. The odd man out was a one-week suspension (with pay!) by a private corporation, most likely a token gesture to keep anti-hate-speech groups from boycotting the network.

and you'll find thousands of hits for people stupid enough to believe they had the right to do what they want in their personal life as long as they keep their professional conduct clean

You'll actually find 37 hits, most of them outraged repostings on body-building forums and RedState, and none of them referencing people whose conduct in their personal lives was cause for disruption in their professional lives. But maybe you bounded your search a little less tightly than I did. Or maybe you're just making shit up out of whole cloth in a vain attempt to equate liberal and conservative policies in order to nurse your grudge against the American left.

You may indeed live in a liberal statist hell, pla, but it is one of your own design.
posted by Mayor West at 4:55 AM on May 24, 2011


Just to throw my personal anecdote into the ring...

My brother has Two Strikes against him for the same incident (he was drunk/high, tried to steal a bike, and ran away when the cops told him to stop.) He lives in another state now. I wonder how many other felons with two strikes against their name have done the same-- a pretty effective way to offload your undesirables.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:12 AM on May 24, 2011


Well, since no one wants to live next to a previously incarcerated person, and these folks seem to be inherently bad, so I'm sure we can all agree the best way to deal with people we put in to prison is to work them to death or just systematically liquidates them. I know a bunch of people agree because that is what we are saying when we say "I don't want them to live next to me" because what that really means, and what it scales up to when lots of people have that attitude is "I don't want them to live anywhere".
posted by fuq at 5:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meth addicts holding jobs? Heh.

Like the x million people downing ritalin every morning before going to work or school?
posted by empath at 5:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meth addicts holding jobs? Heh.

You do live in Fresno so I'm giving you some leeway with this. The central valley is notorious for its terrible meth problem.
posted by josher71 at 6:04 AM on May 24, 2011


Mayor West : The first page of results has a bunch of duplicates of the same story being reported by different agencies, but there are three distinct stories

Not sure what you meant to link to, but if you perform the search I suggested, you get 92 thousand results. Yes, with a lot of duplication on the first page (because Google favors current events), but you can filter those out one at a time, as such to still get tens of thousands of hits.


Francis : On tangent, that's an urban vs rural argument rather than a liberal/conservative one (although the two are correlated). Some jackass points a gun horizontally and pulls the trigger. What happens?

Potentially a fair objection, but it doesn't entirely stand up to the actual geography of those two states. NYC only takes up one tiny corner of NY state, the rest consisting of vast tracts of wilderness with a few college towns scattered here and there. MA has a bit higher mean population density, but once you go West of 495, welcome to Farmville.
posted by pla at 6:17 AM on May 24, 2011


Mayor West quotes "ESPN suspended Bob Griese for a week for remarking that NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya was 'out having a taco.'"

That doesn't even make any sense, Montoya is Colombian not Mexican. So the guy is a double dumbass.
posted by Mitheral at 7:41 AM on May 24, 2011


Like the x million people downing ritalin every morning before going to work or school?

There are people who will swear up and down without a shred of doubt that there is no similarity whatsoever between, say, adderall and methamphetamine. So I doubt you'll get anywhere with this.
posted by Justinian at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2011


There are people who will swear up and down without a shred of doubt that there is no similarity whatsoever between, say, adderall and methamphetamine. So I doubt you'll get anywhere with this.

I bet most of them wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a 'blind taste test'.
posted by empath at 10:08 AM on May 24, 2011


Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people.

That's exactly right. People with guns kill people by stabbing them. Correlation does not equal causation, folks.

You missed the part about the fine. Have it scale with net worth

You missed the part where I said that such a scheme would only create a greater incentive to hide wealth and jump bail. If the only punishment for theft, fraud, or any other economic crime is that I have to give the money back, there is no significant deterrent effect of the law.
posted by The World Famous at 10:09 AM on May 24, 2011


For your second bolded example, you need look no further than MA and NY for shining examples of liberal states that make it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.
Yes, and it works really well for us in NYC - a huge, diverse city with a lot of poor people which manages to keep a relatively low crime rate.

Since America turned off half of the Bill of Rights with the PATRIOT [spits] Act immediately there was the slightest risk to them, I don't understand why you quote the Second Amendment as though it had some special value that the other, suspended clauses don't have.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:16 AM on May 24, 2011


> I bet most of them wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.

I've had adderall a few times. It's a nice stimulant, certainly one whole jump over a cup of coffee. If you took a lot, I imagine you could get pretty revved... but one or two on a couple of New Year's Eves were a lot of fun with no apparently negative effects.

I've had cocaine a bunch of times (over decades of being a musician). I never liked it much. It's definitely more wiggy than adderall.

But meth is... extreme. I have not had it but the physiological responses are dramatically different - it lasts three or four times longer, there's the whole priapism thing... I've never even met a meth head but I'm sure that if you tried to fob them off with ritalin or adderall they'd know it in a half an hour.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:22 AM on May 24, 2011


Meth works on lower doses, and lasts about twice as long, but the effects are really similar, imho. It's been a long time since I've tried either, so I might be misremembering, though.
posted by empath at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2011


Fines could work on rich people. You'd just have to make sure that they're scaled to their income so they end up having to pay much more than they own. Trust me, most rich people dread poverty even more than death.

The reason they don't work is because the fines are so small that they simply become part of the cost of doing business, so they paradoxically legalize the behavior if you are trying to prohibit, I'm looking at you, Goldman Sachs....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:26 AM on May 24, 2011


empath: if you've actually tried both then you are much more of an authority than I!

Lasting twice as long is a pretty serious difference, though. I also imagine you didn't keep binging on either of them... I've heard it's quite easy to be up for a week on meth.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:29 AM on May 24, 2011


Fines could work on rich people. You'd just have to make sure that they're scaled to their income so they end up having to pay much more than they own. Trust me, most rich people dread poverty even more than death.

Wealth can be hidden; assets protected. You haven't addressed the issue of incentivizing hiding and diversifying wealth and skipping bail.
posted by The World Famous at 10:31 AM on May 24, 2011


I've heard it's quite easy to be up for a week on meth.

It's no hard to do it with adderol, either.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or Viagra. Tell your doctor if you're up for a week.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2011


Until somebody sets up a Pepsi Challenge, I think we're going to be stuck speculating, friends.
posted by The World Famous at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2011


I defer to your expertise. I was never a stim guy, really, except for lovely, lovely Modafinil...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:05 AM on May 24, 2011


I think it's supposed to make him seem more pathetic and struggling to gain his own respect in the face of his own lies he tells himself. There are no bullies as bully-ish as the bullies who fear being bullied themselves. Likewise, Scalia's theoretical, probably imagined homosexual self which he is lying about and hiding would explain a lot of the outwardly directed hate with which he seems to seethe on a regular basis, as evidenced through his utterances.

I suppose it's possible this could be true, but the quote of Scalia's that people are making jokes about seems way too little evidence to think so.

But my instinct is that, in the struggle to convince our fellow citizens that Scalia's opinion here is vile, stupid, and disconnected from reality, attributing to him these kinds of fanciful psycho-analytic motives is counterprodutive and possibly homophobic in it's effects.

It comes across as if you think his opinion would be somehow less valid if he were secretly gay. That they are secretly gay is not a good reason for rejecting someone's arguments.
posted by straight at 11:20 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, you certainly do leap to conclusions, don't you.

I never said that I believe any of this about Scalia. I also never said that his opinion would be less valid if he is secretly gay. I also never said that I reject his arguments.

I find his arguments reprehensible, but I have no power to reject them, and while I think they are less valid than actual thinking person's arguments, that has nothing to do with whether or not he's a closeted homosexual and everything to do with hating the kind of worldview that they promote.

Anyway, you seemed not to grok the idea behind people saying that about Scalia, and I attempted to explain that to you. That you then went and put all those other words in my mouth, I will not take that from your hand.
posted by hippybear at 11:27 AM on May 24, 2011


Technically, your little black box should be possible with the data already out there. I was thinking of doing a similar experiment a few years ago, but it got lost in the Project Pile.

I accidentally dumped a comment in the earlier thread about VikingSword's black box in the earlier thread, but:

What you're describing sound an awful lot like Quinn-Martin ideal points.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2011


But meth is... extreme. I have not had it but the physiological responses are dramatically different - it lasts three or four times longer, there's the whole priapism thing...

But... you say right here you've never had it. How are you so certain? For example, the priapism thing is a myth. In fact, for a lot of people methamphetamine has the opposite effect; the term "crystal dick" means temporary impotence brought on by taking the drug, much like drinking too much alcohol can make you unable to get it up.

Methamphetamine does not last three to four times as long. The half-life of methamphetamine is, if anything, a bit shorter than amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. But people who are abusing meth take a large amount of it. If you take four times the dose of something with a similar half-life you'll feel the effects for much longer. That doesn't mean that it lasts longer, it just means you took more of it. Someone who takes a tiny bit of desoxyn (methamphetamine) is going to feel the effects for much less time than someone who takes a big pile of adderall (racemic amphetamine and dextroamphetamine).

In other words, how long the effects last is a function of the dosage and the route of administration.

Until somebody sets up a Pepsi Challenge, I think we're going to be stuck speculating, friends.

*puts on thinking cap*. That'd be tough because you'd have to figure out the dose equivalance PLUS they'd have to use the same route of administration. And I don't think I've ever met anybody prescribed desoxyn (pharmaceutical methamphetamine) so you'd be stuck with street meth. Which screws with the dose equivalence since you don't know the purity plus how do you get the adderall into a form which can't be distinguished, since adderall is so recognizable because of the little orange pellets?

Wait, what do you mean you weren't serious?
posted by Justinian at 11:52 AM on May 24, 2011


Wow, you certainly do leap to conclusions, don't you.

Hippybear, if I've put words in your mouth that you didn't mean, I apologize. It's clear you phrased all of that psychoanalytic stuff about Scalia hypothetically, so I guess I should have aimed my comments more directly at the people saying stuff like:

"Glistening, rippling muscles," Scalia added, mopping his brow.

and

Scalia's sexual fantasy of lubed-up minority prisoners pumping iron


Which I maintain comes across as purile and homophobic. It may not be intended as, "Nudge, nudge. He's secretly a fag! Haw haw! How embarrassing!" but it certainly comes across that way to me. It's very similar to a lot of other insults and jokes you hear that are definitely homophobic in intent.
posted by straight at 12:13 PM on May 24, 2011


Fines wouldn't work on rich defendants. Fines will then be seen as mere charges that can be avoided if you're careful. Remember how in Freakonomics the fines for late pickup backfired at the day care center - people began to see the fines as what the charge was for a late pickup.

Also imagine the secondary market on fines - fine insurance would be a horrifying idea, completely insulating the rich from criminal culpability.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2011


I see where you are coming from, straight, and I did not intend any homophobia. What I find disturbing is that Scalia wants to adjudicate not based on reality, but on what he watches in porn movies.

I would be just as disturbed if such a fantastic situation was described by a female judge as the reason why she thinks that prisoners should be kept in inhumane conditions.
posted by muddgirl at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2011


What I find disturbing is that Scalia wants to adjudicate not based on reality, but on what he watches in porn movies.

See, why would you phrase it that way? Why?
posted by The World Famous at 12:37 PM on May 24, 2011


Why did Scalia phrase his dissent in that way?
posted by muddgirl at 12:41 PM on May 24, 2011


Why did Scalia phrase his dissent in that way?

Because he was hoping you'd accuse him of secretly watching gay prison porn?
posted by The World Famous at 12:42 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't the one who accused him of being secretly gay (although I absolutely see how my first comment was unclear). I think it's more likely that he's been watching some kind of "black sexual aggressor" cucolding-style stuff and he's afraid for the purity of his white women.
posted by muddgirl at 12:46 PM on May 24, 2011


TWF: What do you think of Scalia's level of legal scholarship in general? Not necessarily on this case but overall. You'd certainly be a better judge than I am. Does he really hew closely to a strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution or is that mostly a conservative smokescreen?
posted by Justinian at 12:53 PM on May 24, 2011


Or is that one of those questions better asked at a meetup where there is no paper trail.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on May 24, 2011


TWF: What do you think of Scalia's level of legal scholarship in general? Not necessarily on this case but overall. You'd certainly be a better judge than I am. Does he really hew closely to a strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution or is that mostly a conservative smokescreen?

My impression is that he's a brilliant guy who definitely hews closely to his own personal views on things, but that those views are not fairly characterized as a strict originalist interpretation of the Constitution or as a conservative smokescreen. I think Scalia uses originalism and conservatism as tools when they suit him, but I think he's result-oriented and, a lot of the time, simply contrarian. I rarely find myself agreeing with the outcomes that he favors, but he writes well and often makes very compelling points in support of even those outcomes I find deplorable.
posted by The World Famous at 12:57 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on muddgirl. Are you really claiming that porn is the only place someone could pick up the stereotype that prisoners spend all their time working out and building up their muscles so that they're big and scary? Or even that there's something necessarily sexual about that image?

Given the enormity of what Scalia actually said and intended to say in his dissent, insulting him for also allegedly having secret sexual thoughts seems like such a ridiculous derail.
posted by straight at 1:41 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it really isn't only porn. Scalia may have seen episodes of any number of television shows or movies which have giant men working out in a prison yard. I'm not sure what that fixation is with the porn, but I think it's kind of an odd thing to keep pushing.
posted by hippybear at 2:05 PM on May 24, 2011


I think Scalia uses originalism and conservatism as tools when they suit him, but I think he's result-oriented

What an intriguing point of view about how the law ends up working in the US.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:13 PM on May 24, 2011


What an intriguing point of view about how the law ends up working in the US.

If there's a jurisdiction where the law doesn't work that way, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by The World Famous at 2:33 PM on May 24, 2011


mitheral - we have built ourselves into a really shitty, awful problem with no easy, fast solutions.

Stated in simple terms, the punitive/penal institution needs to cease to exist. We need to actually rehabilitate felons. Education, therapy, economic assistance, jobs. Everything.

Any movement to actually try to do this always gets a lot of pushback because, of course, we want revenge. If someone murdered my boyfriend, I'd want that person burned alive, you know? But that doesn't do society any good. It just compounds bad with more bad.

So basically we need only transform our culture into a perfect utopia of saints, I guess?
posted by kavasa at 8:59 PM on May 24, 2011


No. You need to transform your culture into one where drug use attracts no penalty, drug abuse is handled as a medical problem rather than a crime, and commerce in drugs is licensed and regulated rather than prohibited.

Prohibition 2.0 is having exactly the same kind of effects as Prohibition 1.0 did, and on a much larger scale. It doesn't achieve its stated aims. It makes the US a worse place to live. Get rid of it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


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