Brown v. Plata, No. 09-1233, the Photographs
5,600 inmates and is 97.5 percent over capacity.
Salinas Valley State Prison, July 2008. Writing for the majority in
Brown v. Plata, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy stated,
"Because of a shortage of treatment beds, suicidal inmates may be
held for prolonged periods in telephone-booth sized cages without
toilets…A psychiatric expert reported observing an inmate who had
been held in such a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his
own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic. Prison officials
explained they had 'no place to put him.'"
Creek State Prison, August 2008. The words on the left
wall read, "No Warning Shot Is Required."
The photographs are credited to the California State Department of Corrections. You can find more, as well as a short background essay, here at Mother Jones.
Rights - like those appended to the U.S. Constitution - presume agreement on what sorts of entities can bear them. In other words, we must agree on who is a human if we want to talk about human rights. Richard Rorty insisted that we define that category - who counts as human and therefore as "we" - based on detailed descriptions contained in works of fiction. It seems that for some, at least, of our justices, photographs provide just such descriptions.