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Plata Decision: Good for the Constitution, Communities and Taxpayer Wallets

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May 25, 2011

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state of California to reduce its prison population in order to alleviate extreme overcrowding that endangers the health and safety of the state’s prisoners and prison staff. The decision in Brown v. Plata affirms a lower court ruling in two long-running cases in which the medical and mental health care provided in California’s prisons was found to be so deficient that it endangers the lives of prisoners and violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case before the Supreme Court.

The ACLU of Northern California’s Allen Hopper explained in the San Francisco Chronicle that California locks up too many people who pose no threat to public safety. But, he said in the Fresno Bee, “this is not a sudden court order requiring the prison doors to fly open.”

As David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project (NPP), explained in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and many other outlets, reducing the number of people in prison would lead to safer communities, uphold the Constitution and save taxpayers’ money.

David also joined Washington Post editorial writer Eva Rodriguez and host Michel Martin to discuss the opinion on NPR’s Tell Me More and the New York Times‘ Adam Liptak on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. And Amy Fettig, senior staff attorney with the NPP, joined USA Today Supreme Court reporter Joan Biskupic and others to talk about it on the Diane Rehm Show.

Finally, check out this blog post by the ACLU’s Inimai Chettiar explaining how the opinion is both humane and cost-effective. The post was also included in a roundup of coverage over at SCOTUSblog.

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