A special three-judge panel the Federal District Courts for Eastern and Northern California
The 9th Circuit has ordered California to prepare a plan to reduce its prison headcount from the current 158,000 (188% of rated capacity) to 114,000 (130%). Unfortunately, the “Three Strikes” law makes it impossible to start by letting out some of the geriatric cases who would pose the smallest public-safety risk if released.
It wouldn’t be hard to shrink prison populations drastically while reducing crime, by doing a better job of supervising prison releasees on parole using drug-testing and position monitoring with swift and certain, but mild, sanctions for each violation of the rules. But the current discussion is all about shortening parole and reducing the rate of revocations.
Eliminating parole revocations for technical violations (other than absconding) makes sense. But unless the threat of revocation is replaced by something else, parole conditions become meaningless. (The same is true of probation: one way to shrink the prison population would be to put more felons on probation, but for that to make sense probation has to mean something.)
Tight supervision can reduce the time parolees spend behind bars by preventing new crimes. That’s the big finding from Project HOPE in Hawaii.http://www.issues.org/24.4/kleiman.html So far, though, there’s no indication that the Governor or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are thinking along those lines. Instead they’ll fight the case all the way up to the Supreme Court, and then blame the judges when their failure to do their jobs leads to a crime increase.
Update Thanks to a reader for the correction; none of the newspapers specified the court, and when I see “three-judge panel” and read that the next step is the Supreme Court I assume the ruling is from on of the Circuit Courts of Appeal. But it turns out that the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a three-judge panel of the District Court, with a direct appeal to the Supremes. Here’s the opinion.