Efforts to Fix a Broken System: Brown v. Plata and the Prison Overcrowding Epidemic

48 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2013  

Lauren Salins

Loyola University Chicago, School of Law, Students

Shepard Simpson

Loyola University Chicago, School of Law, Students

Date Written: May 15, 2013

Abstract

Excessive incarceration is a national problem. Across the country, prisons face dangerous levels of overcrowding, which has led to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and the inability of states to effectively rehabilitate their inmates. Ardent public support of “tough on crime” policies inhibits state legislatures from enacting successful reforms. In turn, states spend large percentages of their budget to sustain failing and ineffective corrections systems. By some estimates, states could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually if they reduced prison populations through proactive reforms, such as early release programs and diversionary tactics. In light of these factors, a consideration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Plata to uphold an unprecedented prisoner release order is both timely and necessary as the case approaches its two-year benchmark.

This Note argues that the Court’s holding in Brown did not overstep the judicial boundaries imposed by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), but rather was a step in the right direction toward acknowledging and remedying constitutional violations occurring in California’s severely overcrowded prison system. Moreover, the Court’s analysis of PLRA will help courts navigate the statute’s procedural requirements.

While California has made progress toward complying with Brown’s prisoner release order, this seminal case sheds light on the need for proactive reform in prison systems nationwide to prevent unconstitutionally high levels of overcrowding in the first place. As states are confronted with this new “release or reform” reality, this Note will facilitate the much-needed discussion surrounding long-term solutions to the overcrowding epidemic in U.S. prisons.

Keywords: overcrowding, prison reform, jail, Brown v. Plata, PLRA, California, realignment, Eighth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Salins, Lauren and Simpson, Shepard, Efforts to Fix a Broken System: Brown v. Plata and the Prison Overcrowding Epidemic (May 15, 2013). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 44, No. 4, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2276956

Lauren Salins

Loyola University Chicago, School of Law, Students ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Room 1041
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Shepard Simpson (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago, School of Law, Students ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Room 1041
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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