Folsom Prison Blues, California and the NYT

The New York Times editorial board gets something partially correct today!

This editorial lauds the Supreme Court for upholding a Ninth Circuit decision requiring California to remedy intolerable (“cruel and unusual”) prison conditions.*

Based on the decision, the conditions inside the California penal system appear horrendous, and these horrendous conditions seem to be the rule, not the exception. ‘Puter can see how a majority of the Court could reasonably find these widespread conditions to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, thereby violating prisoners’ constitutional rights.

‘Puter believes that prisoners deserve to be treated with basic human dignity while incarcerated. This includes adequate space, ventilation, medical care and nutrition. It also includes preventing and harshly punishing all inmate violence, including most pointedly prison rape. Prison rape is not a joke. It is a horrendous crime and should be treated as such. Failure of the penal system to protect inmates is a violation of basic legal rights, and diminishes us.

Tangentially, ‘Puter has a full riff ready to go on “this is what happens when you focus on the public union worker and not the customer (e.g., prisoners, students, taxpayers),” but that’s not his intent for this post.

Where the NYT errs is in its reflexive berating of Justices Scalia and Thomas’ dissent. The NYT attempts to paint Scalia and Thomas as extreme, yet in so doing underline the mainstream nature of the Justices’ position.

Scalia and Thomas stated that it is not the duty of the Court, indeed it is beyond the authority of federal courts, to substitute their judgment for that of the Legislature. That is, judges are not to make policy, they are to determine law and leave any required policy adjustments to legislators. ‘Puter agrees with the Justices that the slow usurpation by unelected lifetime appointees into policymaking is beyond any reasonable reading of the Constitution.

A prime example of this overreach is Roe v. Wade. The Court could have held there exists a right to privacy, and that abortion falls within such right to privacy (leaving aside the myriad reasons this holding is wrong on its face and constitutes impermissible judicial policymaking in itself), so therefore an absolute ban on abortion is impermissible. Such a decision would have left the policy decisions to the elected representatives of the people, where such decisions properly reside.

Similarly in this instance, even had the majority disagreed with Justices Scalia and Thomas as to whether procedurally and substantively California’s prison conditions constitute cruel and unusual punishment, it could have simply held the specific conditions unconstitutional and ordered California’s lawmakers to remedy the situation. Instead, we have a federal court setting itself up to run California’s legal system for the next 50 or so years. And that’s the real problem here, greater than violation of individual prisoners’ rights, because legislating courts are an attack on our entire form of government.

Maybe the NYT should change its motto to “The Ends Justify The Means” and be done with it.

*For those of you interested in reading the entire 91 page opinion, here’s a link to Brown v. Plata from the Supreme Court’s website.

About 'Puter

Always right, unless he isn’t, the infallible Ghettoputer F. X. Gormogons claims to be an in-law of the Volgi, although no one really believes this. ’Puter carefully follows economic and financial trends, legal affairs, and serves as the Gormogons’ financial and legal advisor. He successfully defended us against a lawsuit from a liquor distributor worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid deliveries of bootleg shandies. The Geep has an IQ so high it is untestable and attempts to measure it have resulted in dangerously unstable results as well as injuries to researchers. Coincidentally, he publishes intelligence tests as a side gig. His sarcasm is so highly developed it borders on the psychic, and he is often able to insult a person even before meeting them. ’Puter enjoys hunting small game with 000 slugs and punt guns, correcting homilies in real time at Mass, and undermining unions. ’Puter likes to wear a hockey mask and carry an axe into public campgrounds, where he bursts into people’s tents and screams. As you might expect, he has been shot several times but remains completely undeterred. He assures us that his obsessive fawning over news stories involving women teachers sleeping with young students is not Freudian in any way, although he admits something similar once happened to him. Uniquely, ’Puter is unable to speak, read, or write Russian, but he is able to sing it fluently. Geep joined the order in the mid-1980s. He arrived at the Castle door with dozens of steamer trunks and an inarticulate hissing creature of astonishingly low intelligence he calls “Sleestak.” Ghettoputer appears to make his wishes known to Sleestak, although no one is sure whether this is the result of complex sign language, expert body posture reading, or simply beating Sleestak with a rubber mallet. 'Puter suggests the Czar suck it.