Alito on the Social Costs of a Court Order Releasing 40,000 Prisoners

November 30th, 2010

During oral arguments in Schwarzenneger v. Plata, Justice Alito had this to say about the social costs of a prison release order whereby 40,000 prisoners would be released.

JUSTICE ALITO: That is a very indirect way of addressing the problem and it has collateral consequences. If — if I were a citizen of California, I would be concerned about the release of 40,000 prisoners. And I don’t care what you term it, a prison release order or whatever the terminology you used was. If 40,000 prisoners are going to be released, you really believe that if you were to come back here 2 years after that, you would be able to say, they haven’t — they haven’t contributed to an increase in crime in the State of California? In the — in the amicus brief that was submitted by a number of States, there is an extended discussion of the effect of one prisoner release order with which I am familiar, and that was in Philadelphia; and after a period of time they tallied up what the cost of that was, the number of murders, the number of rapes, the number of armed robberies, the number of assaults -you don’t — that’s not going to happen in California?

Now  these social costs are not of a constitutional dimension (unlike the social costs involved with the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments), as the relief is premised on the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and not the Federal Constitution.