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South Pas Vulnerable After Supreme Court Orders State to Release Inmates

Police Chief Joseph Payne opposes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared California's overcrowded prisons violate inmate's constitutional rights.

Police Chiefs around California are voicing opposition to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that will force California to release tens of thousands of prisoners in the coming years.

"Area police chiefs are unanimous in opposing the early release of state prisoners due to overcrowding in the prison system," said Chief Joseph Payne. "Not only will dangerous offenders be released for overcrowding reasons, the state is also proposing to send tens of thousands of inmates back to county jails in order to save money."

In a 5-4 ruling issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that California's overcrowded prisons violate inmate's constitutional rights and constitute cruel and unusual punishment by endangering prisoners' health and safety. The court's ruling upheld a California District Court decision made by a three judge panel that orders the state to release between 38,000 and 46,000 prisoners in the next two years.

Payne said Tuesday that while these inmates are being characterized as minor offenders, he sees it as more serious.

"Any criminal who has amassed an arrest and conviction record worthy of state prison is a danger to the community," said Payne. "As it is, our penal system bends over backwards to avoid sending many criminals to state prison—instead sentencing them to county jail where the serve only about 20 percent of their pronounced sentence—also because of overcrowding."

David Fathi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, applauded the court's decision to address "the egregious and extreme overcrowding in California’s prisons" in a statement issued Monday.

"Today’s decision crystallizes the urgent need for California to invest in meaningful parole and sentencing reforms and alternatives to incarceration, especially for low-level, non-violent offenders," Fathi wrote.

The state currently has about 142,000 inmates in its prisons, according to the Los Angeles Times. Since Los Angeles County is by far the most populous in the state, many of the prisoners released are expected to return to the county.

So what does this mean for South Pasadena? Because most crimes committed are property crimes, Payne fears this release of prisoners will leave the community vulnerable. 

“There is a fine line between crimes against property and crimes against persons," said Payne. "A burglar or car thief who is caught in the act by an unsuspecting home owner is now very dangerous because that person fears going back to prison.” 

Since 70 percent of criminals released from county jail or prison go on to commit more crimes, Payne says the only way to protect society is to lock them up for the entire sentence. 

"Prison does not rehabilitate criminals; it locks them up so they can’t commit more crimes," he said. "The sooner they get out, the sooner they will be able to again prey on their victims."

Deena Willis May 26, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Public safety is more important than overcrowded jails. It also sends a wrong message to the criminals on the street already. It is hard enough for law enforcement to catch the criminals then for our government to procecute them. What is the purpose of any of it if you let them go anyway?
Kris Calvin May 26, 2011 at 02:09 PM
I appreciate Police Chief Payne's concern about the pending release of CA inmates. However, the conditions in CA prisons were so shocking that the Court felt compelled to take this unprecedented action. Evidence showed there was one preventable medical death a week in CA prisons due to inadequate resources to screen inmates., and some mentally ill were kept in cages due to lack of living quarters. Hard to believe, I know, but someday you or I may have a son, brother or nephew who makes a mistake and is incarcerated for property crime. It has been said that " compassion makes us stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves." (Cooley) I hope we can find that compassion for all around us, and recognize that if we think its OK to violate the basic rights of any among us, including those who have committed a crime, we will be hard pressed to protect those rights for ourselves and our loved ones.
Gary Coyne May 26, 2011 at 03:03 PM
I've lived in California my whole life (60 years) and at no time did I ever see a ballot proposition that said something to the effect: "we need more laws to put more people in jail and to do that we need more tax moneys to build and maintain the jails." Currently we are spending more money on jails than schools so that we can continue to jail people for things that shouldn't be a criminal offense. The drug wars were lost long ago yet we continue to enforce (poorly) the losing battle. We tried to enforce laws against alcohol and that only made the mafia stronger. Who wants to visit Mexico now with the drug cartels running the country? Police Chief Payne is part of the problem as he barks out that it's more important to keep all the criminals in jail as opposed to making conscience decisions as to who really needs to be in jail as opposed to those who do not. We do NOT need more jails and more criminals in jail but rather we need to intelligently place the people who do need to be in jail and not put people who are not a threat to society or the neighborhoods in jail. Sadly, living in a black and white world is much easier than living in a gray world where intelligent decisions need to be made. We need more thinking, not more jails.
George Y May 26, 2011 at 03:44 PM
It's criminal for the voters of California to continuously increase the prison population without regard to supplying the funds required to house and care for them. It's now time to decide do we asses additional taxes to the populace or do we reform the prison system by incarcerating only those that have a high likelihood of endangering society.
Just My Opinion May 26, 2011 at 04:59 PM
I DO NOT care how appalling jail conditions are for inmates. I DO NOT care if they feel their rights are being violated. If you don't like jail conditions, don't break the law and go there! CHIEF PAYNE IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in his statements! Public safety comes first!
Mindy B May 26, 2011 at 05:27 PM
I think the convalescent home on Mission will be pleased as punch. Its been run as a board and care facility and has been taking a lot of excons and parolees for several years now, hence all the the increased crime around there. Its packed full right now so maybe they'll have to add a second story.
Rob Figel May 26, 2011 at 06:55 PM
It seems like pretty straight forward situation - The nation's highest court has decided that California's prisons are not suitable for housing the state's prisoners. Regardless of how or why the inmates became inmates, most people feel better with them incarcerated rather than released and unemployed. Some of the options are: 1) Spend more [taxpayers'] money on the prison systems by either raising taxes or cutting from education, health, and/or welfare. (These areas comprise 70% of the state budget. The corrections/rehabilitation budget is currently ~7% of the state budget.) 2) Reduce the prison population by releasing inmates, moving them to other (cheaper) facilities, or foisting them on the counties. OR maybe transfer them to Federal prisons. 3) Ignore the Supreme Court, or change the US Constitution to allow cruel and/or unusual punishment. The choices are all bad. Which of these simplified choices would you make if you had to be the 'decider'?
Tom Leonard May 26, 2011 at 07:09 PM
I DO NOT care how appalling jail conditions are for inmates. I DO NOT care if they feel their rights are being violated. If you don't like jail conditions, don't break the law and go there! CHIEF PAYNE IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in his statements! Public safety comes first!
unison May 26, 2011 at 07:29 PM
What planet are you people from who believe that breaking the law doesn't come with consequences.How many times are there repeat offenders? Many criminals commit the same crimes over and over. While it is unfortunate the conditions are not that of a five star hotel, why should they be? I have heard stories of people committing crimes because of the "three hots and a cot"; not to mention the state provides insurance and food stamps for the criminals family! Wake up!!!
K. Montsha Bailey May 26, 2011 at 07:30 PM
First of all if Chief Payne knows the prison system doesn't rehabilitate then the rest of the law enforcement and prison system knows. So why aren't they doing something about that? So that when people get out there has been a change of mind and maybe a change of heart. And then when they get back into the community don't continue to hold their mistake against them. Give them a job if they are qualified. Give them back their kids if they are able. Give them back their life so they don't feel like they don't have anything to live for and seek to take yours [life]. Give them a job so they don't have to go back to selling drugs or robbing people to feed their kids or pay their rent. And for all of you who don't care, wait until someone you loves makes a mistake and ends up in prison. And when you find out they died because of staff infection or something else treatable under better conditions, then tell me if you still don't care. I bet half of you didn't know that for each body in the prison system, both state and federal, they get no less than $2500 a month for that person. Where does that money go? The prison system was designed to detain and re-train. Do that and then lets talk.
Richard West May 26, 2011 at 09:16 PM
That explains why I've had some incidents near our store. There are some nutty ones coming and going from there, but, you know, most conflict has been easily defused by a level head and not taking their comments and outbreaks personally.
Ron Rosen May 27, 2011 at 12:21 AM
A District Court decision is not made by a 3-judge panel. The 3-judge panel is from the US Court of Appeals, which likely upheld the original District Court decision. The District Court is not referred to as a "California District Court," but rather as a "US District Court for the (Central, Northern, Eastern, or Southern) District of California."
Harry Jernigan May 27, 2011 at 12:58 AM
"The authority to order release of prisoners as aremedy to cure a systemic violation of the Eighth Amendment is a power reserved to a three-judge district court, not a single-judge district court. 18 U. S. C. §3626(a). In accordance with that rule, the Coleman and Plata District Judges independently requested that a three-judge court be convened. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit convened a three-judge court composed of the Coleman and Plata District Judges and a third,Ninth Circuit Judge."
Sally Glass May 27, 2011 at 04:16 AM
The conditions are horrendous inside Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla. It takes weeks to get medical appointments and then they are given an advil. Elderly prisoners with alzheimers are locked in a cement cell all day in the infirmary like a caged animal. Sure, commit a crime and do the time. That isn't the issue here.
David Lasell May 27, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Seems to me, generalizing rather a bit, that those who are particularly big on "law and order" tend to be the same ones opposed to any new or increased tax. There's a disconnect here. California's recently stepped up focus on putting more people in prison for longer terms cannot be accomplished without more money for prisons. We've brought this on ourselves with policies that don't add up. By the way, for those who insist, "They're criminals, I don't care how bad conditions are," I point out that we now have a pretty conservative supreme court, with a majority of republican appointees, hardly "bleeding hearts." If this court deems prison conditions to be cruel and unusual, they must be pretty bad.
Ron Rosen May 28, 2011 at 12:31 AM
David: Back in the 80s, I knew a guy who was a staunch Reagan Republican, but he didn't like the idea of paying taxes. I asked him one day, if he didn't pay his taxes, where did he think Reagan would get the money to buy missiles? It was as if a light went on in his head. He had never considered that!
Corinna Jameson June 01, 2011 at 09:34 PM
Corinna Jameson A lot of people have comments without really having any idea what it feels like to have someone you love in a prison. Not everyone in prison is a threat to society. I have a sister that is newly incarcerated never ever had been in any kind of trouble with the law before nothing more then a speeding ticket. Had always been a hard working woman. Her crime hurt no one expect her self and of course her family. People like her should be allowed to have some kind of program available to them. Do I think everyone should be paroled early NO, but there are those people like my sister that I think meet a certain criteria that should have something like this available to them.

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