NBC Skips Supreme Court Ruling Freeing Thousands of Criminals and Scalia's Warning of 'Terrible Things'
Published: 5/24/2011 11:59 AM ET
NBC's Nightly News on Monday and the Today show on Tuesday ignored a controversial, ideologically divided Supreme Court ruling that ordered California to release at least 38,000 prisoners. ABC, over two days, allowed a scant 11 seconds. Only CBS provided a full report.
In a blistering dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that "terrible things are sure to happen" if the action is implemented as a result of overcrowding. On the CBS Evening News, Jan Crawford provided the sole full report, observing the controversial nature of the 5-4 split.
She described, "Now, this case produced an extraordinarily heated debate between the conservatives and liberal justices." Crawford highlighted a separate dissent by Sam Alito. He worried that the majority was "gambling with the safety of the people of California." She repeated Alito's foreboding statement: "I fear that today's decision, like prior prisoner release orders, will lead to a grim roster of victims."
ABC ignored the story on World News. On Good Morning America, guest news anchor Bianna Golodryga dispensed with the subject in 11 seconds: "Well, the Supreme Court has ordered California to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates because of overcrowding. Justices ruled conditions inside the state's prisons amount to cruel and unusual punishment. "
Given such little coverage, it's unsurprising that the cause of the overcrowding also was ignored. An editorial in the Orange County Register on Tuesday pointed out that California spends $47,000 per inmate:
Partly, the problem stems from meeting pay and benefit demands of the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Consequently, the cost of keeping prisoners behind bars has soared. California spends $47,000 a year per inmate, compared with $18,000 per inmate in Texas, a direct result of paying California prison guards $71,000 a year, before overtime, compared with $31,000 for Texas guards. A prisoner in California is more costly to taxpayers than a student at California's public universities.
Partly, California's prison crunch results from thousands imprisoned for drug-related offenses, although Proposition 36 in 2000 mitigated that burden somewhat by providing alternative community treatment and supervision for first- and second-time defendants convicted of nonviolent drug possession.
Another contributing factor is the disproportionately large prison population of illegal immigrants, partly the result of ineffectual border control and the lure of the welfare state, where the "free" benefits of health care, education, welfare, food and housing assistance are available for the asking.
Considering the severity of the conservative justices' warnings, one would think that the networks would have some interest.
A transcript of the May 23 Evening News segment can be found below: