Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Double-Jeopardy Exception

double jeopardy exception

By Christopher Zoukis On December 6, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Gamble v. United States, raising the issue of whether sometimes defendants can face separate trials, and possibly conviction and sentencing, for the same violation in both state and federal courts, despite the Constitution’s provision against double jeopardy.…

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Federal Court Grants Six-Month Extension to Reduce CDCR Prison Population

By Prison Legal News

The three-judge federal court over a long-standing prison healthcare class-action suit against California took a slight turn on January 29, 2013, when the court gave the state a six-month extension to achieve the prison population reduction it had ordered previously.

The court had required the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to reduce its population to 137.5% of design capacity by June 27, 2013, so that overcrowding would no longer render prison medical and mental health care unconstitutionally deficient. In raw numbers, this means a population cap of 110,000 prisoners (down from 172,000 at the peak of overcrowding just two years ago). The population of California’s prison system is currently about 120,000 – so the remaining battle is over further cuts of 10,000.

The saga of unconstitutional healthcare in California state prisons has been ongoing for over two decades in the federal courts. The Coleman case on mental health treatment, and the Plata case on medical care, have been merged under a three-judge panel convened pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. PLN has reported regularly on developments in this litigation – including the district court’s initial finding that California prison healthcare was so bad that it required the appointment of a federal receiver. [See: PLN, March 2006, p.1].

Even with the receiver, preventable prisoner suicides and deaths due to inadequate medical care remained all too frequent. [See: PLN, Sept. 2008, p.18; March 2007, p.39]. As a result, a three-judge court was convened. [See: PLN, March 2008, p.38]. The court eventually recognized that the principal driver of the healthcare problems was overcrowding, and ordered California to reduce its prison population or increase capacity. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.40].

Six months later, the three-judge court set a timetable for the population reduction. [See: PLN, Sept. 2009, p.36]. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Prison Law Office director Donald Specter, wrote the cover story for the September 2010 issue of PLN, explaining how overcrowding was indeed the main culprit behind deficient medical and mental health care within the CDCR. The state appealed the three-judge court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the prison population reduction order. [See: PLN, July 2011, p.1].

With the unconstitutionality issue decided, the state was left with the problem of how to implement the reduction. One major driver of prison population growth was the prison guards’ union – the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) – which, through its parole agents, made sure that sufficient parole violations kept prison beds full.

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