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Supreme Court orders California to release >30,000 prisoners; how much overcrowding due to illegal immigration? (ACLU)

The US Supreme Court has ordered the state of California to release at least 30,000 state prisoners in order to reduce overcrowding (link, excerpt at [1]). What you probably won't hear from many others is the role that massive immigration - especially of the illegal variety - has played in this matter.

According to a Public Policy Institute of California study, "[i]n 2005, there were 28,279 foreign born adults and 139,419 U.S.-born adults in California prisons". Not all of the former are illegal aliens; in fact, it appears that statistics on the numbers of illegal aliens in California prisons are kept under wraps (but if anyone has a valid cite, leave it in comments). However, most of those foreign born are likely to be low-skilled legal immigrants and a large number of them will be illegal aliens; few of that number are likely to be H1B engineers. And, all of that number could have been prevented from coming here in the first place. Note that Arnold Schwarzenegger put the number of illegal aliens in state prisons at 20,000 but it's not known where he got that number. The Government Accountability Office put the number of illegal aliens in California state prisons at about 27,000 in 2008 [3].

Reducing low-skilled immigration would have gone a long way towards reducing prison overcrowding, and without all that massive immigration we wouldn't have tens of thousands of prisoners set free to roam the streets of California.

UPDATE: Jerry Brown says he's trying to comply with the order without releasing anyone (link):

California now has two weeks to produce a plan that would reduce its prison population by more than 33,000 inmates within two years. [Matthew Cate, secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] said the state could ask a federal three-judge panel for more time to reach the lower inmate number. He said Brown’s proposal to shift thousands of state prisoners to county jails would reduce the state’s prison population by about 30,000 inmates over the next four years.

So, while the outcome isn't clear, I might be wrong about tens of thousands of prisoners being released to roam the streets. In any case, we wouldn't have the problem in the first place without massive, especially illegal, immigration.

Also, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief in the case and issues a triumphant press release at [4]. As discussed at the last link, the ACLU is a very strong supporter of illegal immigration; they helped the state get into the current mess.

UPDATE 2: It's worth noting that Sonia Sotomayor was on the wrong side, and the ruling was 5-4. See the link for who's to blame for her making it to the Supreme Court.

5/29/11 UPDATE: CA state senator Sharon Runner says (link):

"there are 20,000 illegal inmates [she means illegal aliens] that the federal government should be taking care of and they’re not. If they take over those 20 thousand illegal inmates, at least we’d be halfway to what the court has ordered."

And, from this:

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, this week sent a "2010 invoice" for $885,039,426 to President Barack Obama asking him to pay up or take custody of 17,000 illegal immigrants from state prisons.

...Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has also sought the reimbursement from the federal government through a reauthorization bill. It would provide $950 million for each of the fiscal years 2012 through 2015 to carry out the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (note: see SCAAP).

...In 2010, SCAAP doled out a roughly $400 million to 850 cities, counties and states, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan research organization.

..."The state has spent over $885 million to house these inmates, but last year we got reimbursed only $88 million," Donnelly said. "That's less than 10 cents for every dollar spent."

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation holds in custody 16,829 inmates who are under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.

An additional 3,844 are under "potential" ICE hold - deemed possible illegal entrants who have not come into contact with Department of Homeland Security and have no record in the federal database.

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[1] From the Los Angeles Times article:

[U.S. Supreme Court] Justices upheld an order from a three-judge panel in California that called for releasing 38,000 to 46,000 prisoners. Since then, the state has transferred about 9,000 state inmates to county jails. As a result, the total prison population is now about 32,000 more than the capacity limit set by the panel.

Justice (Anthony Kennedy), speaking for the majority, said California's prisons had "fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements" because of overcrowding. As many as 200 prisoners may live in gymnasium, he said, and as many as 54 prisoners share a single toilet.

Kennedy insisted that the state had no choice but to release more prisoners. The justices, however, agreed that California officials should be given more time to make the needed reductions.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called the ruling "staggering" and "absurd."

He said the high court had repeatedly overruled the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for ordering the release of individual prisoners. Now, he said, the majority were ordering the release of "46,000 happy-go-lucky felons." He added that "terrible things are sure to happen as a consequence of this outrageous order." Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with him.

In a separate dissent, Justice (Samuel Alito). and Chief Justice (John Roberts) said the ruling conflicted with a federal law intended to limit the power of federal judges to order a release of prisoners.

[2] ppic.org/content/pubs/cacounts/CC_208KBCC.pdf
Note that their total for the number of state prisoners as of 2005 is almost 168,000, while the LAT says there are currently 142,000. Some of that may be due to shifting prisoners to local facilities, or it could be a matter of apples and oranges. In any case, the percentages are likely to be similar. As I said, it's difficult to find statistics on these matters.

[3] (added later) Per the GAO (gao.gov/new.items/d11187.pdf):

[T]he total number of SCAAP illegal aliens incarcerated in California state prisons in fiscal year 2008 was about 27,000, which accounted for about 10 percent of all inmate days.

That might again be an apples and oranges number, but it's the closest I've found to a definitive cite.

[4] aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights/
aclu-lens-supreme-court-orders-
california-reduce-its-prison-population-allevi1

Mon, 05/23/2011 - 14:16 · Importance: 4