On May 23, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s 140,000 prison inmates. As Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority,
For years the medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners’ basic health needs. Needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result….
As a consequence of their own actions, prisoners may be deprived of rights that are fundamental to liberty. Yet the law and the Constitution demand recognition of certain other rights. Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons. Respect for that dignity animates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man….
The decision is significant, if overdue (the initial briefs were filed in 2006). Here are a few resources to understand the case and its meaning:
California’s Prison Law Office provides links to resources explaining the history and context of the ruling, as well as what to expect from the CA state government moving forward.
Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy offers up a plethora of commentary.
And The Onion chimes in as well, snarkily as always.