published Monday, May 30th, 2011

Turning criminals loose

In a frightening ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the release of potentially tens of thousands of inmates from California prisons.

The five liberal justices on the high court declared that by 2013, California has to reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates! The court said the prisons are too crowded to be safe for the prisoners.

But what the narrow Supreme Court majority failed to take into account was the safety of the people of California when possibly tens of thousands of prisoners are turned loose on them.

In a sharp dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia expressed horror over the “staggering number” of inmates who will be set free. He labeled the ruling “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.”

In another dissent, Justice Samuel Alito said a possible mass release of prisoners “will lead to a grim roster of victims. I hope that I am wrong. In a few years, we will see.”

Equally troubling is the ruling’s infringement on the rights of states to set their own prison policies without the activist meddling of the federal judiciary.

The ruling is “a historic attack on the constitutional rights of states and the liberty of all Californians,” former California Sen. George Runner told The Associated Press. He said the decision will result in “flooding our neighborhoods with criminals.”

Technically, the state might not release the full 33,000 prisoners. It has the option to send them to county jails to ease crowding. But with California essentially bankrupt from decades of reckless spending, it is hard to see how it will come up with the money to transfer the felons to jails and pay the counties for their keep. In fact, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to reduce the prison population by transferring jurisdiction for some offenders to counties — but the law is in limbo because there’s no money to pay for it. Observers believe that ultimately a significant number of convicts will be freed early — and some of them will commit additional crimes.

In both their personal safety and their tax bills, Californians are likely to pay a high price for the Supreme Court’s dangerous interference in state prison affairs.

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