SHOULD WE RISK MAKING CALIFORNIA’S PRISONS BIG BIZ?
(Short answer: No.)
In his State of the State speech on Wednesday (Schwarzenegger’s last) the governor was impassioned about wishing to spend more on higher education that we do on prisons, which is very laudable.
However, there is one surefire way to cut the corrections budget in order to free up money for our CSUs and UCs: When we send people to prison, we need to do what is necessary to insure that, when they get out, they don’t come back again. We’ve got a 70 plus percent recidivism rate in the state. Imagine if we could cut that by a third; what a fiscal difference that would make!
We also need sentencing reform. (Just yesterday, one of my lawyer friends told me about the case she’d witnessed earlier in the week in which two women who were sentenced to 32 months in prison for stealing what was, at the most, $25 worth of pillowcases from Walmart. Lock them up, sure. But for more than 2 years? Not smart. )
But is the governor proposing any such reforms? Nope.
He’s got another way to reverse the corrections v. college budget problem. He wants to privatize the California prison system.
This is…how to put it?… a truly hideous idea. Think a profit-driven Blackwater running the state’s lock ups. (Do we really want to actively incentivize NOT rehabilitating prisoners?)
State Assemblyman Ted Lieu has it right:
Religious institutions across the board condemn private prisons as both inhumane and ineffective. The Presbyterian Church USA stated that “Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison system . . . for-profit private prisons should be abolished.” Catholic Bishops in a resolution stated that “We bishops question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behavior, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for reintegration into the community.
Private prisons are also dangerous, both to prisoners and to the public. In 2003 a report by Grassroots Leadership detailed a range of failures by CCA, [Corrections Corp of America] a for-profit private prison company, including: failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners; failure to control violence in its prisons; and escapes.
Legislators are, thankfully, skeptical. (And the union—the CCPOA—is aghast. For once I agree with them)
HOW FAR DO HABEAS RIGHTS EXTEND?
Last year three detainees being held in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base 40 miles north of Kabul, Afghanistan, challenged whether the Habeas rights accorded prisoners in Guantanamo should extend to other prisons where the U.S. is holding captives. In response, Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the detainees whose circumstances, he said, justified access to U.S. courts to challenge their ongoing detention. The Justice Department appealed the ruling, and the appellate case came to court this week.
Thus on Thursday, three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struggled to parse out what was really meant by the Boumediene decision, which in 2008 granted Habeas rights to those held Guantanamo.
SCOTUSBlog has one good analysis of the parsing that is taking place.
Then the story in Friday’s WaPo describes the decided uneasiness with which the three judges are grappling with the lower court’s decision.
And if you still want more, the Blog of the Legal Times has a nicely pithy take on Thursday’s arguments.
TWO MORE JUVENILE LIFERS
On Wednesday, two young men, Steven Menendez, 17, and Jose Garcia, 19, were given sentences of 50 to life for the 2007 murder of 16-year-old Danny Saavedra, who was playing basketball when he was shot. Menendez and Garcia were 14 and 16 years old when they got into a car with a 26-year-old gang member who did the shooting. Menendez and Garcia have always contended they had no idea that the gangster was up to until the firing began, that he told them the group would “go look for girls.”
The Youth Justice Coalition and some other juvenile advocacy groups have been following Menendez and Garcia’s case very closely, and were very disheartened by the sentencing.
The mother of the murdered boy feels justice was served.
The LA Times Molly Hennessy-Fisk has written a short but well-balanced story that points beyond itself to the question of whether we are really better off for handing out such long sentences to juveniles offenders such as Menendez and Garcia.
“HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU”
And in what is far and away my favorite legal decision of the week, on Thursday a panel for the 2nd Circuit opined about what constitutes a “significant romantic relationship.” The case had to do with a condition of parole for a middle-aged guy with no previous record of domestic violence, sexual offenses, or anything related, who had been labeled a sex offender when in the course of an unrelated arrest for some financial shenanigans, cops found among the guy’s porn collection, three DVDs of child porn. (Okay, so, yeah, that does certainly legally qualify him as a sex offender.)
The problem came when, as a condition of his parole, the guy, whose name is Lamont Reeves, was required if he entered into a “significant romantic relationship,” to notify the object of his affections about the nature of his offense.
Mr. Reeves appealed that portion of his parole conditions. The 2nd Circuit judges sided with Reeves, and mentioned both Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park and the film, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” among other works to make their collective point. To wit:
We easily conclude that people of common intelligence (or, for that matter, of high intelligence) would find it impossible to agree on the proper application of a release condition triggered by entry into a “significant romantic relationship.” What makes a relationship “romantic,” let alone “significant” in its romantic depth, can be the subject of endless debate that varies across generations, regions, and genders. For some, it would involve the exchange of gifts such as flowers or chocolates; for others, it would depend on acts of physical intimacy; and for still others, all of these elements could be present yet the relationship, without a promise of exclusivity, would not be “significant.” The history of romance is replete with precisely these blurred lines and misunderstandings. See, e.g., Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro (1786); Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (Thomas Egerton, 1814); When Harry Met Sally (Columbia Pictures 1989); He’s Just Not That Into You (Flower Films 2009).
Well said, 2nd Circuit! (The full opinion may be found here.)
(Thanks to the always wonderful Howard Bashman at How Appealing for the legal and literary discovery.)