The Supreme Court was so grossed out by the barbaric conditions of California prisons, it illustrated its decision with photographs, such as this one of cages where suicidal inmates are kept for up to 24 hours before receiving “treatment.”
In Brown v. Plata, decided earlier this week, the Court put its collective foot down, noting that no amount of consent decrees or injunctions over the last 12 years had done anything to relieve the overcrowding in California prisons, which are filled to 200% capacity. The Court gave California two years to reduce the crowding to a roomy 137.5% by releasing prisoners unless it can find a better way, such as maybe not throwing parolees back in prison for missing an appointment with their p.o.
The decision describes in revolting detail how sick inmates die painful, lingering deaths for lack of treatment from doctors who never get around to seeing them, forget to disinfect their exam tables, and whose qualifications may consist of “a license, a pulse and a pair of shoes.”
The very idea of the Court’s interfering with the way prison officials do their job caused Justice Scalia to burst out in prose worthy of Butt Magazine that this would lead to the release of prisoners of whom “many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”
Had Scalia spent less time indulging in beefcake fantasies and read the majority opinion, or even looked at the photos, he might have noticed that nobody’s pumping iron in prison because the gyms are packed to overflowing with double-bunked inmates. In one such accommodation, the guards didn’t notice an injured prisoner until after he’d been dead for several hours.
But the Court Jester’s rage is harmless compared to the say-what? reasoning of the Alito/Roberts dissent, decrying the “premature release of approximately 46,000 criminals – the equivalent of three Army divisions” (italics in original).
Musket in hand, we continued reading and learned that the California prison population is larger than the total population of Syracuse, NY; Bridgeport, Connecticut; or Savannah, Georgia. From this, Alito reasons that, since there are probably people in Syracuse, Bridgeport or Savannah who also get lousy medical care, it follows that. . . it follows that. . . well, he never quite finishes the thought.
Alito purports to agree with Scalia that courts shouldn’t interfere with official state barbarism, but lacking Scalia’s implacable consistency, next thing you know he’s handing out advice, such as why don’t they just disinfect the exam tables and hire more doctors with higher qualifications, such as having two pairs of shoes.
He ends by predicting “a grim roster of victims,” coyly adding that he hopes he’s wrong. Of course he’s wrong. The grim roster will continue to be the prisoners.