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Can they stay with you?
A bitterly divided Supreme Court today upheld a lower court ruling that California must reduce its prison population by at least 30,000 to alleviate overcrowding.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the four liberal members of the court, acknowledged that the order is “unprecedented” in its “sweep and extent” but said that the crowded conditions amounted to violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights against cruel and unusual treatment and must be remedied.
Kennedy said that the state could ask for an extension of the original two-year deadline to five years, but that the state should begin to devise a system to select prisoners “least likely to jeopardize public safety.”
The four conservative justices issued two separate dissents. Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, read his dissent from the bench, saying the majority’s decision, “affirms what is perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.” The order “ignores bedrock limitations on the power” of judges and “takes federal courts wildly beyond their institutional capacity.”
Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “The Constitution does not give federal judges the authority to run state penal systems.” Alito said that the three-judge order would lead to the premature release of criminals, the number of which is “equivalent of three Army divisions.”
The GAO put the number of illegal aliens in California state prisons at about 27,000 in 2008, or about 10% of the inmate population. The Feds don’t want them deported to stand trial. Those 27,000 would satisfy 90% of the Supreme’s ruling.