Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Second Chance: Charting a New Course for Re-Entry and Criminal Justice Reform

The title of this post comes from this report by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Introduction of which begins:

In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Plata, which found that the overcrowded conditions of the California penal system violated prisoners’ Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The case represented the culmination of many challenges to California state prison conditions of confinement regarding medical, mental health, and dental services.


The Court ordered California to reduce its prison population by about one-third, or 33,000 people, by May 2013. Faced with this order, along with legislative mandates and budgetary constraints, California made a momentous decision: it would no longer take into state facilities or under state custody most people convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses; instead, counties would deal with these individuals at the local level. In turn, many of the solutions adopted by California’s 58 counties would involve diverting parole violators and low-level felony offenders away from prison and into county court systems.


In October 2011, California’s realignment plan went into effect, offering an opportunity to help achieve both a significant decrease in California’s prison population and shape the lives of incarcerated individuals through an increased focus on education, job training and reentry, among other measures.


Instead, nearly two years later many questions remain unanswered, even as the state continues to request that federal judicial oversight over state prisons be terminated.

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In my view this Plata case has not been given due consideration and approval by the law community. We must examine Eighth Amendment jurisprudence and discuss where we might go in other states with the use of this decision. Some of you may recall the events in the late 90s when Missouri sent 2800 prison inmates to Texas to be housed in a variety of county jails. The astute jail guard down there in Harlingen took videos of inmates being firehosed as they got off the bus from Missouri and the video captured the
Welcome To Texas shouts from the guards. The Texas Litigation ensued and resulted in a very interesting class action settlement. You can find this set of pleadings and the Order Approving Settlement if you google: Michigan Law Review- Texas Litigation. Some of us involved at the time were looking for a bigger role for the 8th Amendment. The Judge from the W.D. of MO who pushed that settlement was excellent. Judge Nanette Laughery. I hope I spelled it right. This Plata case needs to be discussed in law schools and all law forums.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 5, 2014 7:43:53 PM

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