Most of us have heard that a federal court mandate is just around the corner requiring California to release as many as 43,000 of its about 160,000 inmates. What is the reason for the mandate? Because most of the prisons are housing almost double the number of people they were designed and built for, and there eventually comes a constitutional limit to the overcrowded conditions that we can or should force people to live in. Imagine almost 200 prisoners with ethnic and racial rivalries triple-bunked in hot weather in barracks designed for 100. That does not serve anyone’s legitimate interests.
California’s governor is right when he says that the state’s prison system is “collapsing under its own weight.” But because neither the governor nor the legislature has done anything to rectify this problem, it has been left to the courts. Many politicians, in trying to appear “tough on crime,” are spreading fear that this could cause imminent threats to our safety if this number of people were to be released. But the facts show that is all it is: fear-mongering.