California Prison Overcrowding
December 16th, 2013
Prison Overcrowding in California
Alarming issues that causes society to stir up continue to expand every day. Some of these issuesinclude the educational system, existing healthcare laws, unemployment and economic matters,and the water crisis… all of which are major problems in California. One major problem, however, is often ignored. Over the past two to three decades, California’s prison population has grown by 750 percent (“California’s Continuing Prison Crisis”). As this percentage continues to increase, inmates are suffering in prison cells, officials are negotiating over the issue, and the public is protesting to make their opinions count. The prison crisis has continued to expand over the years, causing a great uproar among all of California’s thirty-two state prisons. Prison overcrowding has been an increasingly vital issue since the mid-1970s. Due to many different factors that directly relate to imprisonment such as increased punishment for crimes, carefully monitored drug laws, new criminal offenses, and a high recidivism rate, a large amount of inmates have been deprived of proper treatment while other ill mannered behavior has broken out within the prisons. A few main causes of overcrowding include an increase in returning customers and the effects of the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law. These two factors play the greatest role in overcrowding as the numbers of inmates continue to double and then triple over the years. Overcrowding prison systems in California has affected its inmates to an unimaginable extent. Some targeted issues that have occurred due to overcrowding include health and safety risks within the prisons, an increase of violence and transmission of infectious illnesses, riots breaking out in some local cities, hunger strikes involving tens of thousands of inmates, and a decrease in opportunities for self-improvement and rehabilitative programs. Prison overcrowding in California is an urgent and imperative issue that must be taken care of immediately before it grows out of the people’s reach.
After years of controversy and a timeline of events over the decades-long saga, people are able to understand how much the growth of imprisonment has increased over the years. In September 1995, California’s mental health programs were placed under special control after a federal judge criticized state officials of improper psychiatric healthcare for inmates. Seven years later, in January 2002, another class-action law suit regarding inadequate medical care in prisons is addressed and settled. During this time, California agreed to overhaul its healthcare programs by 2008. In July 2005, a federal judge declared control of the state prison healthcare system. By August 2009, a three-judge panel ordered for prisons to be at a 137.5% capacity. In order to follow constitutional standards, 43,000 inmates must be released within the next two years. In May 2011, an additional 33,000 inmates must be released from the prisons. Officials began sending nonviolent offenders to county jails rather than state prisons in order to reduce overcrowding. This realignment process did not reduce the prison population enough by January 2013, and overcrowding was still a vital issue. In this time period, Governor Jerry Brown declared that the prison crisis is over and called for a return to state controls. By June 2013, federal judges were still not satisfied with Brown’s perspective on the prison issue, and ordered for an additional 9,600 inmates to be removed by the end of 2013. Two months later, in August 2013, Brown appealed the order to the U.S. Supreme Court and announced a plan to house inmates in private prisons and other facilities (Megerian).
Prison overcrowding in California has become an increasingly alarming issue because the numbers continue to grow over the years. In a graph reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice...
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