The New York Times has a story today on compassionate release for inmates who are physically or cognitively unable to present a threat to society. This paragraph stands out:
"In California, where federal judges ordered the state to cut the prison population by 40,000, three people were granted compassionate release last year. In Alabama, where prisons are at double their capacity, four sick inmates were let out on compassionate release in the 2009 fiscal year; 35 other prisoners in Alabama died while their applications were being reviewed. Since New York adopted medical parole in 1992, at the height of the AIDS crisis, 364 people have been released."
The situation may be egregious in New York, and proportionately worst in Alabama, but by sheer quantity California's prison crisis is most dire. What values are we pursuing, what metrics are we optimizing, by paying for incapacitated inmates to die in prison rather than at home?