06 June 2011

Is it time for the 28th Amendment?

Here it is: the 8th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

From this article, we get this quote: Monday, overcrowding-related hazards were deemed so egregious that the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that these prisons violate the Eight Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment, and ordered California cut 30,000 inmates over the next two years. "Overcrowding has overtaken the limited resources of prison staff; imposed demands well beyond the capacity of medical and mental health facilities; and created unsanitary and unsafe conditions that make progress in the provision of care difficult or impossible to achieve," wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for the majority.    emphasis mine

From this article, we get this quote: In a decision closely watched by other states, the court concluded by 5-4 that the prison overcrowding violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Pointedly, the court rejected California's bid for more time and leeway. "The violations have persisted for years," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "They remain uncorrected." The court agreed that a prisoner-release plan devised by a three-judge panel is necessary to alleviate the overcrowding. The court also upheld the two-year deadline imposed by the panel. "For years, the medical and mental health care provided by California's prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners' basic health needs," Kennedy wrote.    emphasis mine

From this article, we get this quote from Justice Anthony Kennedy: "To incarcerate, society takes from prisoners the means to provide for their own needs. Prisoners are dependent on the State for food, clothing, and necessary medical care. A prison's failure to provide sustenance for inmates 'may actually produce physical 'torture or a lingering death'.'. . . Just as a prisoner may starve if not fed, he or she may suffer or die if not provided adequate medical care. A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society. . . [i]f the government fails to fulfill this obligation, the courts have a responsibility to remedy the resulting Eighth Amendment violation."    emphasis mine

This article, from the Cornell University, explains the Supreme Court's reasoning for its decision.

Here is the reaction from the ACLU, which is as expected.

Here is California Govenor Jerry Brown's reaction, which is also as expected. Here is more information about AB 109, referred in Brown's reaction.

Here are some reactions to the Supreme Court's ruling from elected and/or appointed Californians, as well as some citizens:


And here are some articles about the consequences of the Supreme Court's ruling:


And this article proposes an alternative to prison.

So now we have the ruling, Kennedy's (and the 5-4 majority) rationale for the ruling, reactions, and consequences.

The ruling is fait accompli.

The reactions and consequences are opinions, and they abound.

Let's look at Kennedy's rationale. In his majority opinion, he wrote: "Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons."   (emphasis mine) &bsp; While that statement may be (arguably) true, it completely ignores the human dignity of the crime victim(s). Do crime victims have rights? Cannot they also invoke the 8th Amendment? Anbd since when do criminals have any human dignity? Do criminals give up human dignity when they commit a crime?

Upon re-reading our U.S. Constitution I can find nothing specifically guaranteeing crime victim rights. That is why I propose a 28th Amendment, one that both spells out victim rights and limits/forfeits rights of people convicted of a crime.

But what about victimless or non-violent crime, such as drug possession? There is no such thing a victimless crime. Let's take drug possession, for example. There are only two reasons for the possession of drugs - sale or ingestion. In either case the ultimate user (the ingestor) is no longer a responsible, contributing member of society. If he/she kills or injures someone because he/she is intoxicated, he/she is a criminal. What about alcohol? you ask. Society has enough problems with alcohol. Why cause more problems? And the ultimate user of drugs often requires assets that can better be spent on others who need them.

Besides, he/she knew what he/she was doing was against the law. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime!

Why, you ask, do I propose a 28th Amendment? Right now (31 May 11) our constitution has 27 amendments.

UPDATE! I just read about Houston police officer Kevin Will at Flopping Aces. So now this proposal is even MORE timely.

UPDATE! The ACLU sues South Carolina, wants porn in jail.

But that's just my opinion.