Commentary: Prison ruling scare tactics

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision ordering California to reduce prison crowding, the fearmongers are out in full force and full voice.

A statement made by U.S. Rep. and former California Attorney General Dan Lungren on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives stands out. "The United States Supreme Court," Lungren falsely claimed, "basically ordered that between 38,000 and 46,000 prisoners currently in the California prison system be released."

Mr. Lungren, that interpretation is dangerously misleading and you know it, or should know it.

In affirming a three-judge panel's order to reduce the state prison population to 137.5 percent of designed capacity, down from the current 143,000 inmates to 110,000, the majority went to great lengths to give California officials maximum discretion.

California doesn't have to release inmates, although it should and probably will release more elderly and infirm prisoners. It can build new prisons – admittedly, unlikely given the state's dire fiscal condition – or it can reduce the number of inmates flowing into the system. That's the sensible solution.

And that is what California proposes to do by implementing Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment proposal to divert more parole violators to local jails instead of back to prison for costly and disruptive three- and four-month stays.