Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Crisis over prisons draws closer

TomEliasW

By
From page A10 | July 19, 2013 |

Imagine a troop of U.S. marshals trying to move aside the cadre of California Highway Patrol officers assigned to protect Gov. Jerry Brown and carry him off to a federal lockup.

Picture those same marshals or companies of federalized National Guard troops confronting guards at the gates of state prisons from San Quentin to Chino, demanding the release of thousands of convicts.

Those are two of the more extreme potential scenarios that eventually could play out if the constitutional crisis that appears imminent over California’s crowded prisons isn’t defused sometime soon. Great theater, maybe, but destructive both to public safety and the public’s faith in American government.

The latest harsh salvo in the war of legal briefs between Brown and a three-man panel of federal judges demanding even more prisoner releases than the 24,000-plus the governor has OK’d over the past year and a half came from the jurists.

They employed words like “defiance,” “intransigence” and “deliberate failure” by Brown and his appointed officials at the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to comply with their prior orders. Yet, Brown already has done the judges’ bidding to a larger extent than some law enforcement leaders like via the controversial prison realignment program.

Not good enough, said the panel of three of the most liberal jurists in California — or anywhere in America, for that matter: District Judges Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento and Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Appellate Judge Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles.

“We are willing to defer to their choice for how to comply with our order, not whether or not to comply with it,” the judges said in their latest order. “Defendants (Brown and friends) have consistently sought to frustrate every attempt to achieve a resolution to the overcrowding problem.”

Don’t comply, the judges told Brown, and we’ll force you to release 9,600 inmates from a list of “low risk” offenders they previously ordered him to prepare. The judges even gave Brown permission to disregard all state laws that might prevent a mass release. His response: asking the judges to hold off their order a year while he appeals their ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fat chance.

Lawyers disagree over whether the judges are entitled to nix legitimate state laws without so much as a hearing.

Meanwhile, Brown has said realignment already has released about all the low-risk offenders available. His appeal might delay the constitutional crisis a bit.

Realignment now sees thousands of felons who previously would have gone to state prisons stay in county jails instead. The jails make room for many of them by outright releasing some prisoners deemed to be low risks for violent crime or placing other prisoners on parole much earlier than their sentences demand.

Some in law enforcement say many of them are not so low-risk at all, contending that those already released are causing crime rates to rise in many cities. Redlands in San Bernardino County, for one, has seen a 17 percent hike in violent crime since realignment began in the fall of 2011.

But the judges’ ultimate decision, if upheld by the highest court, eventually could see federal marshals or troops summon convicts to the gates of many California prisons and send them home on parole.

Brown did fashion a plan for reducing the prison population by almost the 9,600 inmates demanded shortly after the judicial panel ruled that realignment wasn’t enough. He would rent open cells in county jails not already filled to capacity, use fire camps and send more people to private prisons.

But even that plan fell more than 2,500 prisoners short of the releases demanded by the judges. The judicial panel would solve this by accelerating the time prisoners are credited for good behavior, thus sending more thousands home early. Never mind that this violates state laws; the judges essentially say they can negate those.

It adds up to the potential for a classic constitutional crisis pitting federal judges against an elected governor. It would be the first such confrontation since Alabama’s George Wallace stood in a University of Alabama doorway in an unsuccessful bid to block court-ordered integration almost 50 years ago.

Good theater, yes. But lousy public policy.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

Comments

comments

.

News

Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

 
Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Davis Community Meals needs cooks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Send kids to camp!

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Wise words

By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Awareness is key to this fight

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Where is this going?

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A6

We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

 
Options for protection come with flu season

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

 
Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Archer will get my vote

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Mike Keefe cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
Building something at schools’ HQ

By Our View | From Page: A10

Don’t sell city greenbelt

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Paso Fino project is flawed

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Maybe David can beat Goliath again

By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery

.

Sports

DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

 
Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

 
Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
.

Business

UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Styles on target for November debut

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

MBI hires VP of marketing

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

By Rob White | From Page: A9

Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Carol L. Walsh

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8