The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents the government from inflicting "cruel and unusual punishment” on those accused or convicted of a crime. Yet California’s prisons have been overcrowded, rife with violence, and lacking basic healthcare provisions for decades. In the era of COVID-19, this context translates to an infection and death rate well above that of the general population. Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced the early release of thousands of prisoners from custody to mitigate this pandemic, and yet this decision is rife with hurdles of its own.
How did we get here? Professor Sharon Dolovich, Director of the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project and the UCLA Law Prison Law & Policy Program, joins Maia Ferdman in conversation about the history of California’s carceral system, its human and economic toll, and the role of the law in its development over time.