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May 24, 2011

President Zack Statement Re: Brown v. Plata Supreme Court Decision

_ president Stephen N. Zack

ABA president Stephen N. Zack

The _ commends the Supreme Court for holding in Brown v. Plata that California prison overcrowding is the primary cause of Eighth Amendment violations of prisoners’ rights to adequate medical and mental health care.  In upholding a three-judge court’s order requiring reduction in the California prison population to relieve overcrowding, subject to the right of the state to seek modification of the order in appropriate circumstances, the Court agreed that evidence supported a conclusion that no other relief would remedy the violations.  The ABA filed an amicus brief in the case that relied upon its ABA Treatment of Prisoners Standards.

The decision also gives California broad latitude in determining how to reduce its prison population, and cites several examples that can be accomplished without adverse effect on public safety.  The ABA urges California and other states with overcrowded prisons to consider the recommendations of the ABA Project to Save States Money, Keep the Public Safe and Reform Criminal Justice.  Those recommendations, which have been implemented successfully in several jurisdictions, include increased reliance on alternatives to incarceration for lower-risk offenders, effective community re-entry assistance to reduce the major problem of recidivism, and expanded substance abuse treatment, education and job training programs.

May 24, 2011