Supreme Court Ruling Could Impact Alameda Jails

Last week in a close, landmark decision, the Supreme Court ordered California to abide by aggressive plans to fix the major overcrowding problem in state prisons. Supreme Court Rules on Jail Overcrowding in CaliforniaIn the 5-4 decision, the court found that the problems the California correctional system were serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “For years, the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs.”

The ruling means that California may have to somehow lose more than 30,000 prisoners over the next three years. This could have a big impact on local Bay Area county jails like the Santa Rita Jail. In order to reduce the prison population the state may shift a number of inmates to county facilities which still have room. The jails in Dublin and Oakland are some of the larger facilities so more likely to receive an influx of inmates.

Other ways of handling the problem might be letting more inmates go free sooner who have been convicted of minor crimes. Some worry that more serious offender may also be set free early out of necessity. Although the sudden release of masses of prisoners may sound alarming, preliminary plans laid out by the governor make this scenario unlikely. The state seems to be targeting more long-term sentencing reforms as a way to keep inmate populations down. The solution is far from clear with both state and local governments reeling from budget crises and cutbacks.

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