California ordered to release 33,000 prisoners, many mentally iIl

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2011-06-10 14:59

In a controversial decision last week, the Supreme Court has ordered California to release 33,000 prisoners from its prison system. The decision ruled that many of the prisoners’ civil rights were being violated through “cruel and unusual” punishment. The ruling cited overcrowding as the principal reason behind the fact that prisoners do not receive adequate physical and mental health services, resulting in abysmal conditions; some prisoners, for example, being forced to stand upright in their own urine and feces in cages no bigger than telephone booths for hours on end while waiting for a mental-health-crisis bed.

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Throughout history, whenever prison systems reached critical mass, reform followed. Slowly, each prison reform brought with it new ideas for how to make the system a little more humane, which, in turn, brought about progressively more desirable results in parolee behavior than had previous systems.. The current American prison system is a strange mix of the first 2 historical systems, seeming to not want to let go completely of torture as punishment beyond the sentence, or the money-making potential underlying the system. The 3rd system, and the one historically proven to get the best results, was the one which implemented indeterminate sentences and let the prisoners take responsibility for their actions inside. This means that all those who acted responsibly were released early (w/supervision) based on a merit system, and those who didn't act responsibly, did their entire allotted time - no matter what the offense. But that's not all. The 3rd system enacted treatment of prisoners that showed respect for life, which included giving them the same opportunity to be educated as those on the outside. Education, Respect of human life, Responsibility for implementing the opportunity to change the quality of life... This is something that is supposed to be happening inside prisons already, according to CA penal code section 5054, but is not. Why isn't it being upheld? Good question. The past 20 years in CA's prison system have taken us backward rather than forward in prison and criminal justice reformation. The Supreme Court Order is proof that critical mass has again been reached in prison history. It's time for Reform. I hope the public realizes that this is what is best for everyone, not only for prisoners.

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