May 24th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

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


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
December 16th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Good idea to move Gitmo detainees to Illinois prison?


The Thomson Correctional Facility in Thompson, Illinois. President Obama has announced that the prison will be home to roughly 100 prisoners currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Haynes/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Obama administration is coming under fire for its decision to move some Guantanamo detainees to an Illinois maximum-security prison.

The plan is for the federal government to buy the Thomson Correctional Center - 150 miles west of Chicago. The Defense Department would then run the part of the prison housing what's expected to be fewer than 100 Gitmo detainees. There are about 215 prisoners currently being held at the controversial facility in Cuba.

Administration officials say the detainees going to Illinois would be those facing trial in U.S. courts or by military commission.

Illinois' governor says this move could bring 2,000 jobs and $1 billion to the local community - a big help to a state with an 11-percent unemployment rate.

But critics say it could wind up being another place where detainees are held indefinitely without trial. Republicans suggest this shows the White House has forgotten about the 9/11 terror attacks; and that they're bringing terrorists into the country under the guise of a "jobs program."

The ACLU is blasting the move as well, calling the Illinois prison "Gitmo North." They say closing Guantanamo is only a symbolic gesture if "we continue its lawless policies onshore."

Here’s my question to you: Is it a good idea to move Guantanamo detainees to an Illinois prison?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm 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: Guantanamo Bay • prisons
November 10th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Should Congressman William Jefferson get 33 years in prison?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

When the feds found $90,000 in Congressman William Jefferson's freezer - you had to figure something wasn't kosher. And sure enough... this slime ball had turned bribery, fraud and money laundering into a fine art.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/10/art.wm.jefferson.jpg caption="Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA)"]
The former Democratic congressman from Louisiana was convicted in August on 11 federal corruption counts - including bribing a Nigerian vice president on a telecom contract.

Federal prosecutors now want Jefferson locked up for as long as 33 years - which would be the harshest prison sentence ever for a member of Congress.

The Justice Department insists that his "stunning betrayal of public trust" is deserving of what could be a life sentence for this 62-year-old. And they want him to start serving his sentence immediately after Friday's hearing. He's now free on bond.

Of course, Jefferson's lawyers argue he should get a prison term of less than 10 years. After all, what's eleven federal convictions among dirty congressmen?

They say the government's recommendation is out-of-line with previous sentences for congressional corruption; and that it doesn't take into account the positive side of Jefferson's life and career. Wonder what that is.

Former Congressman Duke Cunningham, Republican of California, was given an eightyear sentence in 2006 for taking more than $2 million in bribes - along with tax evasion and fraud.

Maybe if the system began to come down harder on jerks like Jefferson who violate the trust placed in them by the people, future would-be scoundrels would think twice about filling their freezers with ill-gotten lettuce.

Here’s my question to you: Should 62-year-old convicted Congressman William Jefferson get 33 years in prison?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress • Law Enforcement • prisons
July 9th, 2009
05:53 PM ET

Releasing prisoners early a good way to save states money?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

No doubt, tough economic times call for tough decisions and some thinking outside the box.

So in an effort to relieve budget woes, the Governor of Illinois is proposing the early release of up to 10,000 prisoners. The move would reportedly save taxpayers $125 million a year and result in layoffs for 1,000 corrections employees.

It would also put thousands of convicts on the streets. But have no fear, officials say it would only be those deemed by the state as non-threatening, who have less than a year left to serve.

Critics say it's just a scheme by the Governor to scare people into supporting an increase in income tax. But Illinois isn't the only state to consider such a move. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a similar proposal in California to save that state $180 million by releasing undocumented inmates, among others.

In the past, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Kentucky have considered such plans too, and Mississippi is actually doing it.

Critics argue that public safety isn't the place to slash the budget. Then there is also the issue of whether or not a Governor has the authority to release thousands of inmates whose sentences were imposed by a judge after they were convicted in a court of law.

Here’s my question to you: Is releasing prisoners early a good way for states to save money?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Economy • prisons
May 22nd, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Is housing Gitmo detainees in U.S. prisons a problem for you?


File photo of the super maximum security federal prison in Colorado. The fortress-like super-prison is dubbed “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and houses several terror convicts. “Supermax” is tightly controlled, technologically advanced, and designed to be impossible to escape. (PHOTO CREDIT: BOB DAEMMRICH/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama says some terror suspects from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility will be sent to U.S. prisons.

Despite opposition from Congress, the president is moving forward with his plan to close Gitmo by next January. He insists that he won't authorize freeing any detainees who would endanger the American people, but says some of these suspects will be tried in U.S. courts and held in super-maximum security U.S. prisons. The president says other detainees could be tried by military commissions and sent to other countries.

Congress has dealt President Obama a big blow by blocking funds to close Gitmo until he comes up with a detailed plan on what to do with the 240 detainees held there. Majority Whip Senator Dick Durbin is one of the few who voted against blocking the 80 million dollars. He says the U.S. can safely house these terror suspects just like we are already housing 348 convicted terrorists in U.S. prisons.

Durbin says Guantanamo has become a symbol and an organizing tool for terrorists; and it's not helping us win friends in the war on terror. He points out that we can't exactly ask our allies to take in these detainees when we're not willing to do the same.

Nonetheless Republicans continue to argue that the president's plan could endanger Americans. Former Vice President Dick Cheney says that President Obama's reversal of Bush-era detainee policies is "recklessness cloaked in righteousness" that will make the U.S. less safe.

Here’s my question to you: Do you have a problem with housing Gitmo detainees in U.S. prisons?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Guantanamo Bay • prisons