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."

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.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »