Nicely said:

It was disheartening to read Justice Scalia, in his dissent, describe the case as one “whose proper outcome is so clearly indicated by tradition and common sense, that the decision ought to be shaped by the law, rather than vice versa.”

Justice Scalia’s respect for the requirements of the law apparently stops when convicted felons are the litigants. While he calls for common sense, he ignores the expert testimony, which led to the finding that prisoner release was necessary. He implies that 46,000 prisoners will be released en masse, and indiscriminately. At the time the opinion was issued, the prison population had already undergone a reduction of 9,000 inmates.

The reality is that the releases will not be en masse and the figure will be much lower. Relatively few prisoners serve their entire sentences due to the availability of good-time credits, which provide for reduction in the time served. The state has great discretion to select those inmates whose early release presents a minimal risk to public safety. Many of those prisoners who are serving time for technical parole violations will be diverted to community-based programs.

Justice Scalia also claims, without proof, that “Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness; and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”

Justice Scalia ignores the reality that gyms have been used to house prisoners for many years, which is part of the problem brought on by overcrowding. Overcrowding and lockdowns compromise the immune systems of prisoners due to a lack of fresh air and exercise. The lack of sanitary conditions in these gyms exacerbates the spread of disease. Weights have not been available in California prisons for more than a decade.

While Justice Scalia’s criticism of the majority decision is trenchant and beautifully written, it is based on a false notion of the conditions in prison and blindness to the consequences of subjecting men to inhumane treatment for more than a decade. Justice Scalia ignores the sad reality that many of those who suffer from mental or physical disabilities lack the ability or means to bring complaints to federal court, especially given the difficult obstacles placed by Congress and the Court to prisoner lawsuits in recent years.

via zunguzungu

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