California in Denial
In a surprise to no one, federal judges blasted California officials for the state's half-hearted plan to relieve prison overcrowding. California's prisons are so bloated that prisoners are dying from medical neglect.
These are the same prisons facing a $1.2 billion cut from an astronomic budget of nearly $10 billion. When federal judges ordered the state to relieve the cruel and unusual prison conditions caused by overcrowding, it seemed a perfect opportunity to whack the notorious "Golden Gulag." The state, of course, immediately appealed to the Supreme Court. But even the conservative Supremes refused to let California get off without coming up with a plan.
By reducing the prison population by up to 55,000 over two years, per the judges' order, California could save money, improve prison conditions, and make some long-overdue policy changes to reduce the state's toxic addiction to prisons. However, Governor Schwarzenegger's office, along with California prison officials, submitted a plan to do even less than the bare minimum. The state's plan would cut the population by about 18,000 over two years. The judges? Not having it.
Oddly enough, the Gov. released a bigger plan earlier this year to cut prison spending and trim the population by as much as 37,000. Even the prison chiefs were on board. But they couldn't get it through a cowardly, fear-mongering Legislature. Now, with a federal lawsuit addressing violations of prisoners' constitutional rights, and an ongoing fiscal crisis, why are state leaders dragging their feet?
The state has until November 12 to come up with a satisfactory plan. If they fail, the judges will do it themselves. Californians have waited long enough through the legal maneuvering and political posturing. Our exploding, failing prisons need action now.