Monday, May 23, 2011

When Common Sense Becomes Uncommon


The Supreme Court ordered California on Monday to release tens of thousands of its prisoners to relieve overcrowding, saying that "needless suffering and death" had resulted from putting too many inmates into facilities that cannot hold them in decent conditions.

It is one of the largest prison release orders in the nation's history, and it sharply split the high court.

Justices upheld an order from a three-judge panel in California that called for releasing 38,000 to 46,000 prisoners. Since then, the state has transferred about 9,000 state inmates to county jails. As a result, the total prison population is now about 32,000 more than the capacity limit set by the panel.

What was the argument in favor of releasing these felons?

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, speaking for the majority, said California's prisons had "fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements" because of overcrowding. As many as 200 prisoners may live in gymnasium, he said, and as many as 54 prisoners share a single toilet.

To what constitutional requirements is he referring?  I don't recall a section in the Constitution describing any requirements for prisons.  Can someone throw me a bone here, or is this just another example of a judge with an agenda citing a non-existent 'constitutional' clause?

Here's what the opposition said:

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called the ruling "staggering" and "absurd."

He said the high court had repeatedly overruled the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for ordering the release of individual prisoners. Now, he said, the majority were ordering the release of "46,000 happy-go-lucky felons." He added that "terrible things are sure to happen as a consequence of this outrageous order." Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with him.

In a separate dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the ruling conflicted with a federal law intended to limit the power of federal judges to order a release of prisoners.

Here's my favorite part:

The American Civil Liberties Union said the court had "done the right thing" by addressing the "egregious and extreme overcrowding in California's prisons."

David Fathi, director of the ACLU national prison project, said "reducing the number of people in prison not only would save the state taxpayers half a billion annually, it would lead to the implementation of truly rehabilitative programs that lower recidivism rates and create safer communities."

So, it would appear that the ACLU is more concerned with the comfort of convicted felons than with the law abiding citizens who will now have to potentially deal with the consequences of releasing tens of thousands of criminals.  I wonder how much cost will be incurred as the result of these felons committing new crimes, and the law enforcement and court systems having to re-capture, re-try, re-convict, and re-incarcerate these released felons?  I'll bet it's more than 'half a billion annually', and that's without even considering the lives of future victims and families that may be shattered and lost.

You can call me cold-hearted if you like, but I think that adding a degree of misery to living in prison is actually a good thing.  Don't get me wrong - I don't think prisons should be torture camps or anything of the sort, and I'll freely grant that someone has to make sure prisons aren't crossing the line into something illegal or inhumane.  But, if you have to share a toilet with 54 other people, and if you have to sleep on a gym floor, and if your living conditions are a little less than exemplary...well, I guess you should have thought of that before you went and committed a felony!  You've got a toilet and a roof, so you're doing better than much of the rest of the world.  Besides, you made your choice when you committed the crime, so now you have to deal with the consequences.  Prisons don't appear to be as much of a deterrent to crime anymore, and things like this certainly don't help.  Where is the common sense here?  Once again, we see liberals championing a cause where the law-abiding are penalized for the benefit of the law-breaking.  It's a consistent theme with them, and yet another reason they should never be allowed to run anything significant.

The real tragedy, however, is yet to come, when we start seeing lives and families torn apart by thieves, rapists, and murderers who were released by this terrible decision.  If you support this decision, just ask yourself: would you still support it if your spouse or child ends up being one of these future victims?

That's what I thought.

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