Sara Mayeux: Cruel, Unusual, and Crowded

Will Brown v. Plata bring mass incarceration to an end?

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Prison
Dreamstime

Imagine a society where convicts were sentenced to death by untreated renal failure or denial of chemotherapy. Modern Americans would surely consider such a place barbaric and cruel. Yet in the 1990s and 2000s, Sara Mayeux writes, California essentially meted out such punishments, knowingly shoveling unprecedented numbers of convicts into overcrowded, underequipped prisons to serve long, hopeless sentences.

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