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."