Pictured Above: Required reading.
My gut reaction to this story was FUCK YES. That's only because I'm biased to support a society in which more people are free, and less people are imprisoned; so the release of imprisoned people(by any means) is a wobbly step in the right direction. I've sit and let it stew and I still love this supreme court decision. First, because-
"A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society," - Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority decision.
Shit. I wish I had adequate medical care, but nevertheless, this statement is a beautiful thing to hear coming from any member of the government. Stepping through the waterboarding-stress-positions-sleep-deprivation-Abu-Ghraib-Guantanamo-Bay minefield, I'm shocked any un-maimed American stood and said 'Hey, let's stop treating people like animals.' Even if it was only 5 out of 4 of them and we were only talking about Americans and illegal Mexican immigrants.
There are those who will always be scaredy-cats. All of the discourse in the media I've seen on this story deals mostly with the the 'threat to public safety.' When the prisoners(whoever they are, and whenever this actually happens) are released, crime will rise. Right? It could, but if releasing prisoners scares you, then why release them ever?
Some people don't want to. These are the 'tough on crime' assholes. Whenever any apologetic opinion or decision on behalf of prisoners is presented on a call-in radio show, you can count on about 5 men with Baltimorese accents to call in, and say something exactly like-
"Rights? People in prison have no rights, because they violated other people's rights. They've shown they're unfit to live in society."
Okay then, if you really think all of that, why not just shoot every person found guilty in the head? They have no rights, and they're unfit to live in society, right? How about every person who violated the rules of the road has their license revoked and is never allowed on public roads again?
Most people find that approach to be too extreme, because most people can imagine being wrongfully or rightfully imprisoned, or rolling through a stop-sign. So of course, the most intuitively just justice system is soft on soft crime, and hard on hard crime.
Unfortunately, people who think prison is a deterrent or a just punishment have helped institute countless zero tolerance laws. That's why there's people serving time for shoplifting 3 times, and people serving a mandatory minimum amount of time for posessing a small amount of crack, in California prisons; contributing to their obscene overcrowding.
Which is why this supreme court decision is so great. It only tells California 'this won't fly.' It's humanitarianism from the bench, and nothing more; the rest is left up to our imagination. I imagine the war on drugs had a lot to do with this, how about you?