The US Supreme Court [official website] on Friday refused to stay an injunction [order, PDF] that will allow for the early release of nearly 10,000 California inmates by the end of the year. The six-justice majority offered no explanation for their ruling. Three justices dissented, calling the injunction a "terrible injunction." State officials, however, have argued that releasing the prisoners poses a risk to public safety. The state plans to appeal the the decision on the merits of the case.
The Supreme Court's decision is the end of a legal battle that began when the US District Court for the Eastern District of California first ruled [text, PDF] in the 1995 that mental health and medical care for inmates was so bad that the state's prisons violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. In 2006 the state's governor proclaimed a prison overcrowding state of emergency [text]. In May 2011 the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Plata [opinion, PDF], which upheld [JURIST report] the federal three-judge panel's order that California reduce its state prison population. The court concluded that the extreme overcrowding of the California prison system violated the Eighth Amendment [text] because it prevented the system from providing adequate medical and mental health care to inmates. In January Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation [text, PDF], which will effectively terminate the 2006 state of emergency. In this proclamation, the governor indicated that the circumstances giving rise to the prison overcrowding state of emergency no longer exist within California prisons.