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Supreme Court vs. California Prison System…

The latest issue of the Prison legal News (July 2011) headlines a front-page article on the US Supreme Court’s recent 5-to-4 decision calling for relief of California’s “cruel and unusual” prison system.

San Fran's San Quentin Prison...

The Story & beyond:  The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), a network of 33 state prisons, is one of the largest and most overcrowded prison systems in the world with over 170,000 prisoners.

Since back in the 1990s, when the state’s education budget was gutted in favor of a mass prison-building program for the CDCR, prison guards’ salaries have risen to a starting salary of between $45-$65,000/yr + overtime. Most state teachers are lucky to get half that.

The Orange County Register reports that it costs $50,000/yr per inmate.  Most of that, of course, to prison construction and the guards union. ABC News reports that CA spends just $7,440 per student from K-to-12.   You do the math…

The USSC’s majority decision held that, “A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.”

Needless to say, Scalia and his Step ‘n Fetchit sidekick, Uncle Thomas, blew a fuse. With their usual ignorance and hyperbole they described the majority decision as “the most radical injunction issued by a court in our Nation’s history…” But they always bluster like that when they don’t get their way,  Fixated adolescents.

Despite that fact that the decision doesn’t require the release of a single prisoner (officials have numerous other remedies suggested by the Court), Scalia and Thomas characterized it as “requiring California to release…46,000 convicted criminals” resulting in “inevitable murders, robberies and rapes…” (Also described by Roberts and Alito as the “equivalent of three Army divisions.”)

CA's prison "gym"...

In language reminiscent of their antebellum sympathies, they further described them as “fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.” Their facts are as cogent as their opinions.

Clearly they had not read the cases before them—or understood what they were reading. Or cared…whatever. I can only wonder about their law clerks. I mean, where’d they come from? Oral Roberts Law School (from which Michele Bachmann graduated)?

Well, boys, you have no excuse. The files contained pictures of the prison conditions. Weight piles have long been eliminated and the gyms converted to housing.

Okay, let’s get real.  They’re pandering to their reactionary political and corporate sponsors.  It’s just theatre. They’ll all have a hearty good laugh at their next illicit convocation.

They’re also signaling the prison staff and responsible officials dealing with the overcrowding and lack of humane conditions: “Hey, fellas! Fuck all that bleeding heart bullshit. Carry on…”

…and the will.


Meanwhile, the California prison hunger strike that this site featured July 18th, is in its fourth week with some 500+ inmates participating. While Fox and the other corporate media is either ignoring the situation or deliberately broadcasting false propaganda that the strike is over, prisoners continue to deteriorate in protest for humane conditions.

I might remind the readership: Their sacrifice may very well be your future gain…

Dr. Publico

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2 Responses
  1. I am sure I speak for nearly all readers: Splendid journalism. Many thanks.

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