Out of Control Policy Blog

ICYMI: Brown v. Plata Ruling Highlights Need for Reform (Not Tax Increases)

In case you missed it, yesterday my colleague Adam Summers and I co-authored a Reason.org commentary (available online here) explaining that in light of the Supreme Court’s recent Brown v. Plata ruling, a multi-faceted approach is necessary to finally reform California’s correctional system. The Court ruled that California must reduce overcrowding at its prisons in order to improve conditions currently so poor as to be unconstitutional.

Notes from the Brown v. Plata ruling reveal just how bad conditions are in California’s prisons, for example:

  • In one state-run prison, 200 inmates are living in a gymnasium sometimes monitored by only two or three guards;
  • In another, 54 inmates share one toilet;
  • Suicidal inmates have been held for prolonged periods in telephone booth sized cages without toilets; and
  • In one case, an inmate was held in a cage (similar to the one described above) for 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic.

To bring California’s correctional system closer to adequate—and constitutional—conditions, the state should adopt the following reforms:

  • Pursue criminal sentencing reform;
  • Make recidivism reduction a priority; and
  • Expand use of privately operated facilities.

As we conclude in the piece, kicking the can down the road is no longer an option, and officials in Sacramento can’t simply tax their way out of this crisis. Read the full commentary (available online here). For more, see Reason Foundation’s latest corrections research: Public-Private Partnerships for Corrections in California: Bridging the Gap Between Crisis and Reform and Corrections 2.0.

Harris Kenny is Policy Analyst


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