Last year, the Supreme Court made waves when it ordered California to release tens of thousands of inmates from its overcrowded prisons on the grounds that the cash-strapped state was keeping them locked up under inhumane conditions. The Supreme Court order has forced California to repurpose county jails—which are intended for short stays, often by people awaiting trial—into makeshift prisons for those with long-term sentences. Now many of these jails are facing severe overcrowding.
Once again, California’s dysfunctional governance has utterly failed the state’s residents. California can’t afford to enforce its own laws: an absurd and even insane position for a state to be in. California needs laxer laws that lock fewer people up, or it needs a bigger prison budget but there are no sane grounds on which the status quo can be defended. Forced by the US Supreme Court to do something, the state has acted with its characteristic fecklessness and passed the buck: handing the problem off to local governments, which, we should add, are facing serious fiscal problems of their own and are ill-equipped to deal with new prisoners.