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For those seeking court reform, whether civil or criminal, the ongoing issue of releasing some 10,000 California inmates offers some potential lessons. For one thing, it suggests that the only real reason this issue is being addressed is that a federal court has ordered the release, prompting a shift in attitude. Exhibit I in this discussion has become a Los Angeles Times editorial that even blamed poor news coverage for part of the problem.

And the Times did not hesitate to say that the “… [court]‘s] population reduction order, and the courts’ hard line on enforcing it, has moved the state and counties, reluctantly, to set priorities for prison space and consider alternative community-based sentencing. There is little evidence to suggest that state officials will move faster or smarter if the order is softened.”

In effect, the newspaper is saying that the only reason the issues of addiction and repeat crimes are being addressed is that a court order eliminated a “headline-by-headline” political approach that ignored core challenges. That’s not only quite an indictment, but it suggests that any reform movement on the civil side of the courts equation will face a long road before obtaining improvements. It also suggests that only federal court pressure, say from problems with ADA compliance, will force the state to move.

Check out the Times take here.

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