DING! Round… I can’t keep track anymore. The Federal District court is, again, discussing the prison lawsuits.

Judges Karlton, Henderson, and Reinhardt are trying to assess whether prison overcrowding (see left) is the reason for the faulty level of services. And, as the L.A. Times reports, they are not sympathetic to the State.

Although the trial is only halfway over, the judges are speaking and acting as if they have already decided to take action against the state. Now they seem only to be searching for answers on precisely what action to take and have openly contemplated an order to release prisoners and impose a cap on the state prison population.

“The question from our point of view is developing an effective set of orders that will protect society . . . and ensure there is a constitutionally sufficient level of care,” explained U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, who said later that the trial wouldn’t be needed “if the state were to wake up and start behaving in a rational way.”

If the court’s decision is to release prisoners, state officials guarantee an appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, where matters, and sympathies, may go differently.

There are many interesting things here, and several merit special attention:

  • In the article, several people, and among them Jeanne Woodford, are on record stating reincarceration for parole violations as a contributing factor to overcrowding.
  • One of the witnesses, a former Florida prison medical official who has studied California’s medical system, reports the situation has improved since Clark Kelso took charge of matters as a receiver.
  • James Austin, formerly of George Washington University, has questioned the link between release rates and a decline in public safety, and reports findings from various states where release has not impacted the trend of declining crime rates.

A decision is expected early next year: stay tuned.

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