The Year in Prison Justice
As the year draws to a close, it’s once again time for reflection. What were the biggest stories on prisons and criminal justice this year? Here’s my unscientific list:
5. Prison overcrowding goes Supreme
Less than a month ago, California had to defend its bloated, harmful prison system to the U.S. Supreme Court. I wrote about the prison overcrowding case here, if you’re unfamiliar. The state could decide to cut its prison population now, in order to start closing our $25 billion budget hole. But regardless, we’ll be waiting for the Court to rule on how California should relieve its morbidly overcrowded prisons.
If you’re scratching your head about this, well, that’s the point. The Obama Administration still hasn’t managed to close Guantanamo and either charge or release its remaining prisoners. They’re about to come up with a new policy that gives the prisoners some rights, without having to deal with those pesky, full-blown due process rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
So about 50 prisoners continue to languish in prison, with no charge. And we’re supposed to be ok with this because some of them might become terrorists! Someone remind the White House that that’s not how we do things.
3. Smart on Crime wins in California
When California stemmed the red tide this past November, it was a story in itself. It took over three weeks, but Kamala Harris’s win in the Attorney General race wasn’t just about red vs. blue. Harris was clear where she stands: California can’t afford to keep locking everyone up. She wrote a book called Smart on Crime and made it the center of her campaign. I’m looking forward to some bold moves by Harris to kick our state’s addiction to prisons.
2. Graham v. Florida
Lock youth up and throw away the key? The Supreme Court said no! They’ve already ruled that executing youth is unconstitutional. In Graham, the justices ruled that it’s also cruel and unusual punishment to lock youth away with no chance for parole until they die. Although the ruling is limited to non-homicide cases, I’m excited that the justices recognized that youth deserve a chance at reform.
1. Georgia prisoners fight back!
I’m still amazed at this one. Prisoners across Georgia united across race, religion, and other divisions to peacefully protest brutality, slave wages, and human rights violations. Guards violently retaliated, and people across the country are rallying in support of the strikers. Georgia’s prison system was forced to meet with the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoner Rights, which plans to conduct more fact-finding visits. This is a struggle that deserves our attention and support next year.
So what do you think? There’s a lot of news out there. What did I miss?