Kennedy's opinion referenced a prisoner who was "held in such a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic." that California's prisons amounted by 2011 to a systematic Eighth Amendment violation.But he goes one step further: The California example proves, he argues, that imprisoning massive numbers of people fundamentally cannot comport with the Eighth Amendment.Beyond the logistical difficulties inherent in coordinating basic care for tens of thousands of prisoners, the logic of indiscriminate incapacitation that underlies mass incarceration militates against recognizing prisoners as individuals with ailments and frailties.
Feeding all these proximate causes, Simon argues, was a common factor: the fears of the 1970s, when day-to-day disorder blended in the public mind with sensationalized media coverage of prison riots and of outliers like the Manson family.
In the new conventional wisdom, criminals represented a distinct and internally homogeneous class of determined predators; the only way to contain their threat was to imprison them all for as long as possible.s significance rests in its potential to puncture that conventional wisdom by reframing the public image of the typical criminal.
Still, because the order set a limit on a prison population, it qualified as a "prisoner release order" under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which permits courts to issue such orders only as a last resort.
Over 10 days of hearings before the Doyle Wayne Scott, a former head of the Texas prison system, pronounced California's prisons "appalling," "inhumane" and "unacceptable," stating that he had "never seen anything like it" in his 35-year career.
It's not hard to imagine a politician or judge playing the "human dignity" of prisoners against the "human dignity" of taxpayers or crime victims.s more important string of characters.
That's the admittedly arbitrary figure the court affirmed as the maximum percentage of capacity to which California's prisons could be crowded.Between 19, the ratio of Americans in prison ballooned to unprecedented heights, from—according to sociologists Bruce Western and Becky Pettit—around 100 per 100,000 people to around 762 per 100,000.The mechanisms of prison growth varied by state, but they included, in different combinations, local prosecutors charging more aggressively, state lawmakers stiffening criminal codes, parole boards denying release in cases where it previously would have been routine, federal grants encouraging punitive policies and other factors.At oral argument, some of the justices expressed palpable frustration. The third picture shows two cages the size of telephone booths.California locked suicidal prisoners inside such cages when there were no available beds in mental health facilities.Yet in the 1990s and 2000s, California essentially meted out such punishments, knowingly shoveling unprecedented numbers of convicts into overcrowded, under-equipped prisons to serve long, hopeless sentences.