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May 24th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Should Calif. be forced to release tens of thousands of prisoners?

ALT TEXT

Inmates at Chino State Prison, which houses 5500 inmates, crowd around double and triple bunk beds in a gymnasium modified to house surplus prisoners. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As if the cash-strapped state of California doesn't have enough problems to deal with, it now has to figure out what to do with tens of thousands of convicts who need to be moved out of the state prison system to comply with a new Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on Monday that overcrowding is such a problem in California's prisons that the prisoners' eighth amendment rights - the ones that protect against cruel and unusual punishment - are being violated.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court ordered the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.

The state will have two years to comply with the high court's order. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted in favor of reducing the overcrowding along with the court's 4 consistently liberal justices, stressed that the state had options other than just releasing the inmates onto the streets - like constructing of new facilities or transferring of prisoners out of state or to country facilities.

But that all costs money... and California is flat broke.

The secretary of California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said today it hopes to comply with the court's ruling without releasing any prisoners.

That would be nice.

The state is looking into plans to shift low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities.

We're not talking about finding spots for 50 inmates throughout the state. We're talking about tens of thousands.

Here’s my question to you: The Supreme Court has ordered California to release tens of thousands of prison inmates. Is that a good idea?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.


Filed under: prisons • Supreme Court
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. jc

    Of course not!

    May 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  2. David in Tampa

    Can we open up the half-way house next door to the where the supreme court justices live?

    May 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  3. Barbara Leavitt

    Prisoners in for non violent crimes and due to be released soon...I'd say yes. But knowing our prison system's history, I can see them letting all of the violent illegals out. Our prison system is just as screwed up as our government is. The term common sense isn't in either vocabulary.

    Henderson Nevada

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  4. Kevin in CA

    Sure it's a good idea – as long as we drop them off at Sheriff Joe's place over the state line in AZ.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  5. MNResident

    It's a good idea ONLY on one condition: That the prisoners are released to live in areas near where the judges who ordered the releases live. Until the judges and their families have to live with the consequences of their rulings, this judicial insanity will continue....

    May 24, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  6. Rick, Medina, OH

    Jack,

    Most, (but probably not all) the folks in the California prison system were sentenced there for good reason. Through the commission of their crimes, they gave up most of their 'inalienable' rights ... except the right to humane treatment. If the good citizens of California want these folks 'off' the streets, they need to 'step up' and ensure compliance with the Eighth Amendment. What makes me most uncomfortable, is that four members of the Supreme Court disagree.

    Rick,
    Medina, OH

    May 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  7. Eric - Houston

    Not that there won't be consequences, but insisting that the constitution be followed is always a good idea in the long term. California has had ample opportunity and warnings to fix this problem, perhaps now they finally will. A state has obligations to protect society from wrong doers and nearly unique powers to do so. They also have the obligation to treat those they incarcerate within certain rules. The Supreme Court has just firmly pointed this fact out to them. Frankly, California's politicians are probably grateful for the provided political cover or at least they should be.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  8. david

    Never, most are getting out because politicians give budget money in from of subsidies to special interests that pay them off.. when they are willing to risk public safety cuz the private run jail is making millions encracerating at inflationary profit margins, the responsibility of democrats and republicans derails our local innocents....We should demand Prohibition of Malt Liqour and Fortified WIne to offset the false courage criminals imbibe on that undermines our communities when they try and think of some criminal enterprise under the influence of 3rd world beverages that are less expensive than bottled water.....

    May 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Rich McKinney, Texas

    If California can not provide a reasonable level of safety and security for those inmates then yes, it is a good idea. When people are arrested and sentenced to prison the state has a responsibility to insure they are held in a safe manner and treated fairly. If the state can not do what the law requires of them then the prisoners should be moved or released. We treat animals in a zoo better then the inmates in California are treated.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  10. CRAIG R. MCNEES

    tampa, fl HELL NO! they are broke, so they have to borrow every month to continue to give money to illegal aliens, but, can't protect us law abiding citizens from the few criminals that they did finally have behind bars. parole and early release under the guise of cost effectiveness is cruel and unusual punishment for the victims who apparently have not rights. why not export our scum like they did our good paying jobs to 3rd world countries instead?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  11. Paul Austin, Texas

    The answer would depend on the crime. If it was some sort of minor crime and a nonviolent crime done without a gun or other weapon then maybe. Letting inmates out by a wholesale release is wrong put them out in the old chain gang work details fixing roads clearing brush and so on like Louisianna does. In a state the size of California that could save the state a large sum of money spent on such projects.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  12. john omaha

    yes obama needs the votes

    May 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  13. bob z fr ,pa.

    we can give muslim countries billions of $ but we can't have money for new prisons some thing wrong here

    May 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Tony from Torrington

    Sure it is Jack. California is already loaded with people who SHOULD be in jail. The prisoners will feel right at home.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Bizz, Quarryville Pennsylvania

    I think it is a bad idea, but the Supreme Court has no other choice according to the law. California only has a couple of choices. They could raise taxes on the few people they still have left paying taxes, or they could weed out the prisoners that are at a low risk of committing a violent crime. They also could get more people and communities involved in breaking up the gangs that control many of the neighborhoods. They need to find good programs that work to lure the young kids from joining gangs. Because this is where a majority of the California prison population come from.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  16. Kevin in CA

    It's a great idea as long as the Fed's will put them in their jails. Besides, each year it'll save CA 10,000 x $47,102 = $471 million per year.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  17. Alton Bledsoe

    Your question distorts the truth and the opinion written by Stevens. The SC DID NOT say release prisoners. They said to treat them within the guidelines of the US Constitution. They could re-disperse the prisoners, outsource prisoners to other penal institutions interstate, or build more prisons. Never in the case did the SC say release prisoners. Where do you get your facts? Now, CA has had a few decades to anticipate this ruling. What has the CA Govt. been doing besides hiding love babies?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Gordon

    The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. California need not reduce their prison population only change the conditions.

    The Supreme Court ruling applies to the present situation. If California wants off the hook they can build more prisons...

    or... perish the thought... reconsider prison sentencing guidelines... maybe legalize some controlled substances.

    I wonder what the fiscal conservatives are thinking right now?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  19. Peg in NY

    All of a sudden I am thrilled to pay New York State taxes!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  20. JG Beall

    I live in CA, scares the crap out of me! And, why does CA need to spend so much more than other states on medical care for prisoners? Who is it that decides this?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  21. Larry from Georgetown, Tx

    NO, No and no. This is just another example of how poor our Supreme Court is in being concerned with the law. These people are there because they did something wrong and we need to stop allowing them to put the rest of us in Harm's Way by letting criminals have rights.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  22. David from Herndon, VA

    can we take the money we'll eventually spend bailing out california and just build a wall around it?

    May 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  23. Susan Frost

    California – and the rest of this country – is going to have to either (1) differentiate between the really dangerous dirtbags who need to be locked up and non-violent offenders who mostly don't, (2) pay enough taxes to support our current penal system which is largely a failure, (3) invest in education and jobs which prevent crime, or (4) buy their law-abiding citizens some really big guns and watch the body count rise.

    Susan
    Tuscaloosa AL

    May 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  24. Pete from Georgia

    The Supreme Court should be dismantled and re-designed from the ground up.
    If you examine what decisions they have rendered over the past 35 years, what you'd see is a slow but deliberate destruction of a decent and semi-moral American culture, all camouflaged under a ridiculous banner of "intelligent progressiveism".
    About the only thing "progressive" about them is the rate of their destruction of America.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  25. B. J. , Quincy,Ill

    Why not? The screwed up the voting system, California isn't in enough trouble give it some more.Seriously,If they are in on marijuana charges, I'd say yes, anything else, not at all.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  26. pat, Idaho

    Not at all–As long as they are made to stay in California.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  27. diridi

    yes, and send them to Pakistan...o.k.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  28. Mr. D

    That's all we need at this time-more unemployed people on the street. Another thing will also rise-crime. Oh well, at least it will keep the lawyers and welfare check writers employed.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  29. Curt, Avon, Indiana

    No it is not a good thing to release prisoners early. I worked in the Indiana prison system for 22 years and people who are incarcerated in any of America's prisons are there for good reasons. But it does show that the court system is really out of touch with reality.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  30. Sylvia from California

    Only release non violent drug offenders. I bet this will clear out most of the prisons in California...

    May 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  31. Jayne

    All prisons everywhere should have to let out the small time drug offenders. It's foolish to keep a person locked up for a small amount of marijuana and a giant waste of taxpayer dollars.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  32. Brad, Portland, OR

    Well, California had the option of building enough prisons to house all of the inmates, but the Republicans in the state legislature refused to raise taxes. Now instead of matching the number of prisons to the number of inmates, they'll have to match the number of inmates to the number of prisons.

    This is what happens when you have gridlock in your legislature because Republicans refuse to raise taxes for any reason, even to keep criminals off the street.

    And the Republicans in Sacramento will have to take responsibility if any of the released inmates commits another crime.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  33. Tom in Desoto, Tx

    Have those to be released, be housed by the Supreme Court justices. Don't tread on me!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  34. MYSTERIOUS

    I've always thought that the "three strikes law" is outrageous. So, you commit two crimes, trying to turn your life around, and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, something real simple happens, and you get thrown in the slammer for 25 – life.

    The person could have been provoked, defending him or herself, crooked cop, etc. There they go. 25 to life. It reminds me of zero tolerance in some schools, where a child may have a Tylenol from their parent(s) (teenage girls for cramps, for example) and they get suspended for zero tolerance drug stance.

    Every case should be done by case to case bases, not one side fits all.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  35. Martin

    Only if the prisoners are incarcerated due to non violent victimless crimes. Releasing violent criminals or criminals that pose threat to person or property is reckless but the justice system will jail people for many other things that are not within this criteria and I see no harm in releasing them back to the public as they most likely should not have been jailed in the first place.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  36. gregandrob

    You bet that is a great idea! There are litlerally thousands of non-violent offenders including those arrested for drugs that shouldn't be in prison in the first place. Keep the violent offenders in jail to protect society. Change the drug laws to end the prohibition of marijuana. Enforce the 10th Amendment!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  37. Ed from California

    Who is being released or transferred to the county jails are non-violent offenders. They are not releasing felons! The CDOC has been "outsourcing" prisoners to other states and deporting some illegal aliens back to their respective countries for awhile now. It's expensive, but that what has done to control the inmates behavior. Most are in for drug crimes. No one in DC is willing to address the problem of the importation of illegal contraband. DC just kicks the can down the road, while at the same time, allows the exportation of good paying jobs to foreign markets.

    Our prison system is a reflection of our broken education system, family units, and Congress!! Why Congress? Because they have allowed our jobs to be outsourced to foreign lands. No jobs. And we still have to eat. We need a place to live and sleep. So, desperate people do desperate things!! Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs!!

    May 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  38. Michael Bindner, Alexandria, VA

    Yes, starting with the non-violent drug offenders.

    May 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  39. Jeff from Florida

    They could be moved to Washington DC to be with their peers.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  40. andyz Lynn, MA

    The solution here is simple. Any state that doesn't have enough cells for convicted criminals loses a percentage of their federal funding. Watch how quickly states build additional capacity.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  41. Loren, Chicago

    The question is whether the conditions are cruel and unusual punishment? If you've ever been in a military barracks, then you'd have to say our soldiers are being treated like prisoners. There are at least five members of the Court who has no concept of the real world.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  42. Karen, Idaho

    It is a good idea for the prisoners–I don't think it makes the rest of us feel too secure.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  43. David Scott Doherty

    Yeah Jack it's a great idea, if you're one of the prisoners, if you happen to be a law abiding California citizen, ah not so much. How many prisoners are sitting on death row? And of this number how many are without a shadow of a doubt guilty? And even though there's not a snowballs chance in hell that there conviction will be overturned, they will be fed and housed for the next 10 or 20 years at a cost that will know doubt be in the hundreds of millions. Why do we punish ourselves putting off the inevitable. Start making room, the courts are not slowing down.
    Dave from Peterborough, NH

    May 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  44. David Hamilton in Dayton, OH

    Yes. If California really thinks it is so important to lock people up, then they should be prepared to build more jails. It seems simple enough. Let the law-and-order legislature put its money where its mouth is. By the way, Jack, California isn't the only state with the lock-em-up-throw-away-the-key mentality. Plenty of mid-west states do the same thing, with the same catastrophic budget impact.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  45. Ed from MD

    Yes, The founding fathers didn't see Arnold coming. There should be a footnote in the constitution; You can't lock them all up. Only half or less if possible.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  46. Paulette in Dallas,PA

    OK for petty crimes or marijuana possession but let's keep Charles Manson and types likes him behind bars.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  47. Michael in Albuquerque, NM

    Since many of the laws were created to support the private prisons and the prison industrial complex in the first place...YES, it would be a good idea to deliver justice to people that were convicted for the benefit of corporate greed. We have way too many laws on the books. The incarceration of those using recreational drugs costs billions, ruins lives, and serves no good purpose. Release them!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  48. Alex in Bremerton, WA

    Keeping people in prison costs, on average, about $40,000 a year. (That is what is reported here in Washington State when we compare it to the $100,000 we spend to keep sex offenders in confined "treatment" after their sentence is over.) This isn't the first time a state has moved around prisoners to save money and in this case they are being returned to local jails instead of being released from prison.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  49. Joe CE

    The Court decision is reasonable, unlike many recent decisions. The Federal government should make some closed military bas temporialy available to CA for less dangerous prisoners.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  50. Sandstone.

    "Yes if you can't afford to keep housing them in this type of confinment!
    But! But! You still have to find some way to reproduce their live's in a productive social environment. Blah, blah, blah! Of course they need to be released, most are just held on bad-debt or so many other trivial cases caused by Credit Card company's!

    May 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  51. DON IN WESTPORT, MASS.

    It depends where they release them.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  52. Jim in Alabama

    The Supreme court has done more than any one single entity to destroy this country, our rights, and take away states rights. My answer is Hell no! Like everything else, the state must pass tax increases to handle this problem and the politicians obviously don't have the guts to do so. They must be Republicans.

    May 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  53. Bill in New Mexico

    I had an answer with attitude until my wife read in our newspaper about the Supreme Court's decision. My wife is always interested in the questions. I'm ashamed at those conditions and at my earlier answer. She attempts to keep me out of trouble.

    However, counter to the release:

    –Over 70% of prisoners released go back to their old crime.

    In the seventies, Texas sentenced a Tim McDuffy (I think that was his name) to death for torturing and murdering a pair of teenagers in lovers' lane. The Supreme Court declared the death sentence illegal. McDuffy's sentence was changed to life. Later, the Supreme Court declared Texas prisons overcrowded. McDuffy was released. McDuffy killed again. Texas proved that McDuffy had killed at least 3 more young women. Texas sentenced McDuffy to death and carried out the sentence.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  54. Independent Joe

    Jack,

    California should hire a bunch of illegals to build a new prison. It will at least reduce the cost.

    Joe M (Mn)

    May 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  55. Kevin SD, CA

    Sure let them out, and send them back to the public schools that socially promoted them through each grade, without teaching them the first thing about confronting life rather than affronting life!

    While we’re at it, let’s suspend all government salaries starting with the judges and lawyers that promote their job security by farming criminality and mental disease having to do with how this system became such a mess over the past 50 years!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  56. Ron

    That is just plain stupid. It is no worse than our sailors living
    quarters on naval ships.They are in Prinson for punishment.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  57. Kevin SD, CA

    California needs to call in Sheriff Joe Arpaio to build a few tent cities for the inmates, and the Justice system Judges, and supporting staff that has been using our tax dollars to build this rat’s nest!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  58. Gigi Oregon

    The question that should be addressed is why does the United States the land of the free and brave have the highest prison rate in the world. That is the question I would like to hear addressed. If the supreme court has ruled, should we question their decision?...Why do we put drug offenders in prison and not alcohol offenders. Why isn't corporate America criminals that have robbed the poor and middle class in prison... instead they are awarded bailouts. What a crazy country we live in. If American companies send their work overseas to be done for the higher almighty dollar why are they not taxed higher for not supporting the United States. If the Supreme court says it is inhuman maybe we had better listen, rather than argue..

    May 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  59. imalibertarian

    – Houston

    The sovereign state of California shouldn't need (and need not heed) the SC to realize that locking up people convicted of unconstitutional federal drug laws have harmed no one and should be released regardless.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  60. Jeff In Minnesota

    This just points to how poorly managed and lead our governments can be. California's government has known about the problem for years and should have fixed it by either expanding its facilities, building new facilities or shipping prisoners to other states. However, they apparently chose to ignore the problem rather than deal with it. Like criminals like to say, "If you are not willing to do the time, don't do the crime," governments need to remember their axiom, "If you are going to pass laws that lock people up, you better make sure that you have the space available." Not that I think people in jail need everything they get, but they should be treated like human beings and not like cords of wood.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  61. Jerry Jacksonville, Fl.

    Hell yes, take them to a federal prison and handcuff them to the fence and let the federal government and the idiots on the supreme court figure out what to do with them.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  62. Fred In LA

    Yep, just another great idea thanks to our great Supreme Court. They may as well order our borders opened up. Oh yeah, they already are.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  63. Linda in Charleston, SC

    Seems like everything is broke these days, the prisons, the government, the courts, California, maybe we should be taxing some of the corporations so that we can fix somethings in this country. Maybe getting out of some wars would help. Maybe Congress not getting automatic raises could help, and that surely would help American morale as have your heard how many people are unemployed. Guess those inmates won't have jobs either. It's all broken and needs fixed.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  64. Ralph Nelson

    Eastern Washington and Montana have cells and beds available and need the money from housing prisoners. Release the prisoners who are low risk, move the others to other states with room for them and economic need..

    May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  65. Jeremy D from MI

    I think the type of criminals they are letting out early is fine. It's not like they are letting out convicted rapists or murderers. A significant amount of those in prison these days are there because of drug crimes. Those type of crimes, especially ones for substance abuse, are not a risk to society.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  66. Mike C.

    It is not a good idea to release the prisoners unless they want more crimes to happen and then those people will be in jail again...But, during the time between the two jail visits, the prisoners will commit a crime again...CA should cut funds to road construction, but give more money to jails, courts, and schools !!!!!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  67. Kirk (Apple Valley, MN)

    A good idea? Yeah right! Maybe the SCOTUS judges who voted for that should be in California when they open the gates and let the animals out.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  68. Allan - Chicago

    Oh let them out maybe the public will start caring about the debt.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  69. Donald in New Mexico

    For non-violent offenders, a home detention or intensive parole rules would be better way. Changing to an education system for offenders would pay off the most. The cost of incarceration / warehousing can be better used to educate.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  70. Dave, Orlando, FL

    I think it’s a great idea – if you’re a habitual criminal. Hey that gives me an idea. I can make a lot more money robbing banks than what my lousy, cheapo boss pays me. And if they have to release prisoners to keep prison populations down, they can’t very well replace them with new prisoners. That’s a win – win for the crooks.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  71. Lori - PA

    Jack,

    Aren't there some states that have empty jails? If so, couldn't some of the CA convicts be transferred to those prisons until their sentence is finished? It would help ease the overcrowding, plus, since guards would have to be hired, it would provide jobs for people currently unemployed. People could also help out by staying out of trouble.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  72. Jim

    Jack,

    The Supreme Court's decision was correct, despite the massive burden it places on California. This problem didn't just crop up overnight. The state has known for years that its overcrowding problem in prisons needed to be dealt with. Releasing thousands of hardened felons on the streets to prey upon law-abiding citizens would be unthinkable. Fortunately, it seems there are alternatives. It will be interesting to see how the state officials finally deal with this. I can't imagine that California is the only state facing prison overcrowding problems. Other states will be watching carefully. Once again, California is a trend setter.

    Jim
    Reno, Nevada

    May 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  73. thom richer

    Why not just legalize crime? Just think of the money we could save then. No crimes...no prisoners. No prisoners...no prisons. No prisons...no problems. Just more money to spend on wars and Wall Street. While we are at it, we can also save a bunch by disbanding the Supreme Court. With this kind of lawyering, who needs them? Maybe without them we can focus on the rights of honest law abiding citizens who have been victims of cruel and unusual punishment by law breakers being freed. Who are these (Supreme Court) people?

    Thom Richer
    Negaunee, MI

    May 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  74. Mark from Voorhees, NJ

    It is a good idea if they release those who were convicted of non-violent crimes, especially those which were as a result of convictions in the foolish and costly (like we can afford it) war on drugs. It is even more relevant to ask why we have the highest prison population of any civilized country. Of course, like everything else we are "privatizing" if it helps to make corporations money, then of course we should spend $75,000 a year to keep people incarcerated, at public expense.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  75. Charles from Lawrence N.J.

    Bad idea, great opportunity, our exit strategy. California needs a 90day stay from the fed. A.G. while they “weed out” the crowd, decriminalize marijuana retroactively, ”Sorry Dudes, our bad” and deport the illegals. California is just the first, as usual.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  76. dave in nashville

    Novel idea Jack. How about the massive corporate farms hire them as crop pickers until their sentence is served? They could save up some cash, stay out of trouble and actually have a future.
    Of course this would mean sending illegals back home, see a problem with that?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  77. Democrat stuck in Indiana

    This has been a decades long problem. Its either build more prisons, and that costs a ton of money, or let the inmates go. California is broke. Thanks in part to a lot of things.

    Anybody who lives in California could have seen this coming. Maybe they can let the old farts out first.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  78. Ernie

    There are probably more prisoners than that sitting in prison for silly drug charges that fill our prisons and waste the taxpayer's money. Of course they should clean house a little!

    May 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  79. Conor in Chicago

    Maybe we should be asking ourselves why "the greatest country in the world" has such and extreme prison population? Gee, maybe it's lack of education, lack of jobs, and the War on Drugs?

    May 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  80. Tom Bulger, Canandaigua

    Good or bad idea has nothing to do with legality. The last entity to break the law should be government. Some of the prisoners became prisoners going for a, "good idea," instead of a legal one.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  81. Chris Taylor

    Yes. I agree that California should release the prisioners. As close to the tens of thousands as possible.
    ...and promptly relocate them in the same neighborhoods the California Supreme Court members live.
    It would be a You Tube moment to get their reactions too! (smile).
    Seriously though, Im against it. Let California start spreading their prisoners of such numbers this time, what happens next time?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  82. Nancy, Tennessee

    Now California needs disaster relief from decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. Maybe FEMA can assist with some funds to help sort out who stays in maximum security, who goes to county lockup, and who goes back into society. If you don't think this qualifies for FEMA, think about the rules. FEMA comes in when a disaster happens, they don't look at why it happened, they just get assistance to the victims hurt by the disaster.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  83. Karl in Flint

    It’s not a good or bad idea, it’s the law. Remember, we are a nation of laws? Opinion doesn’t count. After moving back to the Midwest after 33 years in California, I can tell you they love to put people in prison but hate to build facilities to hold everyone properly. Correctional Officers say the more overcrowded the prison, the more dangerous their job is. Those who are going to be released shouldn’t have been there in the first place. There is money to be made in human warehousing, called prisons, and California has the patent. Jan Brewer in AZ could take lessons.

    On the other hand, I now live in Flint Michigan where we can’t afford to even run our city jail and voted down a tax measure to reopen it a couple of weeks ago. Commit any misdemeanor here and you get a worthless ticket and sent on your way. Genesee County Jail only accepts felony detainees because that’s all they have room for. Like the law says?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  84. Paul, New Port Richey, Fl

    Stand back. The crime rate is about to explode. Time to shoot first and ask questions later.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  85. Dennis north carolina

    we may need to gas the ones who commit crimes or sent them to the high court for storage because there is only nine of them in that big building.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  86. John Ll Alexander

    The Court should have started by mandating release of marijuana offenders – regardless of the amount involved. It is time pot was treated the same as alcohol and tobacco – legalize it and tax it.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  87. Susan from Idaho

    What are they going to do when let out? Doesn't it make sense to keep them then to pay to retry them for something new. Time was conditions were a lot worse and the sentiment was tough tacos. Let them eat cake!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  88. Andrew, Japan

    Maybe if we started fixing the societal root causes, that led to the behavior that ultimately created the overcrowding, we wouldn't have the problem in the first place. No one starts out life looking towards ending up in prison. Poverty, lack of education and lack of opportunity are all root causes that can lead to a life of crime and imprisonment.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  89. Karl in Flint

    Assuming they use the point system they use to classify prisoners for level of custody (prison security level) that gets adjusted downward, generally, every year, those to be released will be near the end of their sentence or in for such lowly crimes that they are almost out anyway.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  90. Don in Nevada

    Send them to the Army and then to Iraq and Afghanistan. They would still be slaves, at least we can squeeze some productivity out of them.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  91. Sean

    California has a problem: drugs. We need to rehab our people, not jail them.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  92. Dee in New Paris Ohio

    I'm assuming that CA has already released the prisoners who would be the lest dangerous, that is those who are in prison for non-violent crimes. So that would mean the only ones left incarcerated are the thugs. Do they need to be released?

    NO!

    What CA needs to do is get off the NIMBY stuff and build more prisons! Or, ship some of the extras to othe states where crowdingis nt a problem. OR, open up Alcatraz again!

    And besides, WHO CARES if thugs are crowded? It's not a hotel, it's a PRISON!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  93. Lucas from Eugene, Oregon

    Should they be forced? No. Should they just do it? Yes. The state is in a budget crises and it could stand to cut costs. I would suggest releasing low level offenders. Like those who have been jailed for smoking marijuana. Which costs states millions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere, like education.

    Better yet, lets focus on properly rehabilitating people. Educate them, get them jobs, etc. Sure, not everyone will be a success story, but some will, and if we can help people turn around their lives, and become a productive part of society – and live a productive live for themselves and their families – our country would be better served. What's the alternative? Locking them up? Driving up the cost of government?

    May 24, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  94. becky - Las Vegas

    Of course it isn't a good idea. What would be a good idea is to do like they do in Maricopa County, AZ. Erect Army tents on location and stack them in (sans TV & air conditioning) like soldiers. As far as the rest of the prison system... strip the facilities down so that they meet the MINIMUM requirements by law and minimum requirements for nutrition. I bet they'd save millions; at least enough to afford some tents. If that fails, bus the "minor" offenders and drop them off in front of the 5 whole voted in favor of reducing the number housed.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  95. Ralph Spyer

    Send them to afghanistan , they can steal all the drug they need,but if they get caught they loose a arm,finger ,or even their head. If they are Mexican citizens send them back to Mexico. We as a country can not afford these dead beat off any more,its time they grow up or lobectomies and sterilize.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  96. Gary H. Boyd

    Jack, an NFL football player was recently asked what would happen if the League and players cancel the season. His answer was, "Based upon the intelligence level of players, can you imagine the crime sprees that will erupt? Using that as a base, whadaya thinks gonna happen when California turns 46,000 convicted felons lose. Draw you own conclusions.

    Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona

    May 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  97. Andrew

    Build a prison outside the mainland where our laws and rules don't apply, and then we won't have to worry about their rights. Or maybe we just ignore these "supposed" rights as we do their right to vote and others. No biggie there.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  98. Raj

    Yes release the no violent offenders. We lock up too many of our young men and women. Its disgusting.

    May 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm |