Overcrowding California

Overcrowding California - Everything Revolves Around...

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Federal Sentencing reporter • Vol. 22, no. 3 • February 2010 194 Federal Sentencing Reporter, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 194–199, ISSN 1053-9867 electronic ISSN 1533-8363. ©2010 Vera Institute of Justice. All rights reserved. Please direct requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website, http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/fsr.2010.22.3.194. Everything Revolves Around Overcrowding: The State of California’s Prisons DONALD SPECTER dIRECTOR, pRIsON lAw offICE, bERkELEY, cALIfORNIA I. Introduction California has the nation’s largest and the world’s third- largest prison system. 1 In two separate class action lawsuits, filed a decade apart, California prisoners sued the governor and corrections officials for violating their rights under the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause because they were being deprived of adequate health care. In the first case, Coleman v. Wilson , the federal court in 1995 held after a three-month trial “that thousands of inmates suffering from mental illness are either undetected, untreated, or both.” 2 In the second case, Plata v. Davis , the state of California in 2002 implic- itly acknowledged that it had been deliberately indifferent to the medical care needs of prisoners and stipulated to an injunction designed to improve medical care throughout the state’s thirty-three prisons. 3 The common thread in both cases is that prisoners’ basic health care needs were not being met, resulting in injury or death from neglect, suicide, or malpractice at an alarming rate. Three years after stipulating to the injunction in Plata , the court put California’s prison medical system into receiv- ership because it remained “broken beyond repair” and the state had proved utterly incapable of fixing the system. 4 At that time, the court noted that [t]he harm already done in this case to California’s prison inmate population could not be more grave, and the threat of future injury and death is virtually guaranteed in the absence of drastic action. . . . Indeed, it is an uncontested fact that, on average, an inmate in one of California’s prisons needlessly dies every six to seven days due to constitutional deficien- cies in the CDCR’s medical delivery system. This statistic, awful as it is, barely provides a window into the waste of human life occurring behind California’s prison walls due to the gross failures of the medical delivery system. Plata , 2005 WL 2932253, at *1. Nearly five years after the Plata court placed Califor- nia’s prisons in partial receivership and after the Coleman court issued more than seventy additional orders to improve mental health care, 5 California’s prisoners remain at serious risk of injury or death because medical and mental health care remain abysmal. There is one primary reason why neither the state nor the receiver has
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This note was uploaded on 04/05/2011 for the course CJ 495 taught by Professor Johnson during the Winter '11 term at Grand Valley State University.

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Overcrowding California - Everything Revolves Around...

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