Inland Empire: Incarceration + Deportations = Expansion

#nomorejails #nomoreprisons

Dear Supporter,

A few weeks ago, CURB participated in an event hosted by Riverside All of Us or None at the Unitarian Universalist Church, discussing the impact of the state budget passing $500 million dollars for county jail construction and what it means for our communities in Riverside and San Bernardino. 

At the presentation we realized that residents are eager to know more about what is happening in our part of the state, so here is a quick round up of the expansion plans facing the Inland Empire.

The city of Adelanto is facing a crisis. Currently the Adelanto Detention Center, plagued with a multitude of problems such as inadequate health care, preventable death, and lack of nutritious food, has the capacity to house 1,300 immigrant detainees, but has recently announced plans to add an additional 650 cages.

If we don’t stop them, these plans will make this prison THE largest immigrant detention center in the country. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, Adelanto is also looking to build a 3,280-bed jail to contract with Los Angeles County to ease the overcrowding of its county jails. This project has an estimated $332 million price tag, for a city that is about to go bankrupt.

Farther east, the East County Detention Center in Indio is attempting to expand their county jail. The Board of Supervisors approved a bond sale of up to $325 million earlier this month. Currently housing 325 prisoners, the new jail would hold up to 1,626 prisoners and is tentatively slated for completion in November 2016. Among other changes, the new jail would have video conferencing instead of in person visits. 

We are always looking to grow the movement against expansion and grow our Inland Empire voice! 

Do you know others who may want to get involved? Perhaps your family, neighbors, co-workers or faith-based community? 

Help us reach our goal of getting 200 people from the Inland Empire to sign this petition against all expansion in California!

Vonya QuarlesAll of Us or None
A member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget
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Los Angeles: We Need Mental Health Diversion, Not Jail Expansion

Thank you for taking action!

Can you help us take one more step to ensure that Los Angeles County does the right thing?

Tweet at the LA Board of Supervisors – #NoMoreJails

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Los Angeles Residents Advocate for Mental Health Diversion, Not Jail Expansion

MEDIA ADVISORY – July 14th, 2014

Contact: Diana Zuniga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget at  213-864-8931 or diana@curbprisonspending.org

What: LA County Board of Supervisors, S-2 report by District Attorney on assessment of mental health diversion programs.

When: Tuesday, July 15th.  Meeting begins at 9:30am, report by DA at 11:30am

Where: Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple St. LA

Los Angeles: Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting will focus on the 60-day progress report submitted by District Attorney Jackie Lacy, outlining steps that have been taken to assess mental health diversion programs in Los Angeles County. Community members, and services providers will be in attendance at the meeting to support efforts to divert people with mental illness away from the County jail. According to District Attorney there are approximately 3,000 people in LA jails with mental illness “essentially turning the jail into a psychiatric ward”.

Advocates from Californians United for a Responsible Budget and the LA No More Jails coalition will be in attendance to push Supervisors to take further action to support a Comprehensive Diversion Plan for Los Angeles County by investing a minimum of 30-50% of the counties realignment budget into community programs. Los Angeles County has received over $1 billion in realignment (AB109) funding since October 2011 and over 80% has been allocated to the Sheriff’s Department.

The GAINS Center—(G)athering information; (A)ssessing what works: Interpreting the facts; (N)etworking; (S)timulation change—has been employed to act as a consultant and work with county stakeholders to implement mental health diversion as quickly as possible. Further evaluation and recommendations for next steps were to be developed at smaller local meetings with stakeholders that took place on July 8 & 9. This plan to implement a mental health diversion program is one step towards Mark Ridley Thomas’ proposal to develop a Comprehensive Diversion Plan for Los Angeles County that would include treatment, promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism.

See full DA report here.

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How the 2014-15 Budget impacts you!

Last month, Governor Brown signed the 2014-15 Budget Act. As I’m sure you have heard, the budget increases funds wasted in the “rat hole” of incarceration to nearly $12 billion. The budget includes no significant restorations to anti-poverty and social safety net programs that have suffered years of cuts and could lift low-income Californians out of both poverty and prison.

Despite the uninspiring budget decision, we did make some important gains, that might impact you or your loved ones. Groups that have been working to fighting poverty and prisons for years, have been strengthening our demand to end prison and jail expansion and reinvest funds in community-based programs. Our fierce organizing against the $500 million for new jail construction is a huge part of how these victories came about.

The legislature’s refusal to eliminate the new jail construction money from the budget shows many legislators are more afraid to disturb Governor Brown’s allegiance with the Sheriff’s Association than they are willing to protect California’s most vulnerable populations from a future where going to jail is a prerequisite for getting access to mental health, drug treatment and social programs.

To learn more about our organizing and a little bit of background on this year’s budget, check out my recent piece in the San Francisco Bay View ” The Story Behind the 2015 Budget Act“.

Re-entry Support: 

  • $2 million for drivers licenses and ID’s for people exiting prison and jail.
  • $10.5 million to be directed to community-based organziations supporting reentry in and outside of prisons.
  • We finally repealed the ban on people with prior drug convictions from receiving CalFresh (food stamps) benefits and CalWORKS (basics needs support and job training). The new law will go into effect April 1, 2015. Read the We Did It – Coalition Statement 2014 for more information.

We hope that as the state continues to seek solution to costly prison overcrowding, policy makers will consider additional policy decisions that reduce criminalization of poverty and improve opportunites for people who have been imprisoned.

Review the California Partnership’s budget summary to learn more about how education, health and human services were impacted.

Parole and Sentencing Reform:

  • Implementation of the county-level alternative custody program for primary caregivers of children.
  • Counties encouraged to utilize split sentencing.
  • Historic enactment of elder parole for people who are 60 years or older and have served 25 years.
  • Expansion of medical parole for sick people in prison.
  • Establishment of good-time credits for second strikers sentenced for non-violent crimes.

These are important steps that if expanded could have dramatic impacts on California’s prison population.

To find out how these new policies might impact you or your loved one the Prison Law Office has put together more information about California’s prison population reduction plan and on increased time credits for second strike sentences. 

We will be sure to share with you more information as it becomes available on how these reforms are being implemented, along with information on how communities are organizing against the pending jail expansion resulting from the passage of the $500 million.

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We did it! The lifetime ban is repealed!

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 1.23.45 PMResponding to our collective voices, personal testimonies and overwhelming evidence that providing basic needs assistance (like food and rent), employment training and work supports decrease the likelihood of recidivism, California’s legislative leaders and Governor Brown repealed the optional ban for people with prior drug-related convictions from receiving CalFresh (food stamps) benefits and CalWORKs (basic needs support and job training).

The Budget Act of 2015, passed by the legislature on last Sunday and signed by Governor Brown on Friday, repeals the lifetime ban for people as long as they are complying with the conditions of their probation or parole. The new law will be enacted April 1, 2015.

This decision follows over a decade of organizing that culminated in this year’s broad coalition of over 140 community-based organizations, including those led by Californians impacted by the law, who made this issue a priority not only because it would reduce recidivism and crime, but also because of how harmful it was to families and single adults who were trying to start over. Repeal of the ban also had editorial support from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

The lifetime ban repeal had been championed in recent years by Senators Mark Leno and Senator Loni Hancock who were joined this year by important Assembly allies, Budget Chairperson Nancy Skinner and Assembly Justice Reinvestment Select Committee Co-chairs, Assembly Members Ammiano and Jones Sawyer. In the end, the budget bill that contained the repeal was voted off of the floor with strong support in both houses.

While we were disappointed to see $500 million in new jail spending allocated in the budget—resources that could have been allocated towards early childhood education, poverty reduction or the development of human capital—we are hopeful that, as the state continues to seek solutions to costly prison overcrowding, decision-makers will consider policies that, like the repeal of the CalFresh and CalWORKS ban, reduce criminalization of poverty, make communities safer and improve opportunities for former prisoners to rehabilitate.

We Did It – Coalition Statement 2014

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Riverside, What Does Your Budget Value?

Learn More

#nomorejails #nomoreprisons

Dear Supporter,

Tomorrow, Riverside All of Us or None has invited us to give a presentation and participate in a discussion on the local and state corrections budgets!

Budgets can make or break a country, state, county, or community. What does the California State Budget and the Riverside County Budget value?

With the state budget passing the proposed $500 million dollars for county jail construction, this event provides us an opportunity to look closely at what the implications of this costly jail construction fund are and what it means for our communities in Riverside. It also gives us the chance to discuss what is happening with the Riverside County budget.

Join us:

What: “Local and State Jail and Prisons Budgets” Presentation and Open Discussion

Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, 3657 Lemon Street, Riverside CA 

When: Friday, July 11th at 6:30pm – 8:00pm

I am so excited and hope you will join us! Please spread the word and invite your friends, family and community to join me for this discussion!

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Bay Area: Letter To The Editor Writing Workshop

CURB’s media team has developed a Letter to the Editor Training, to help facilitate the creation of our Letter to the Editor Response Team. The first training will be in the Bay Area! 

Letters to the editor are a quick and easy way to influence reporters, editorial boards and public opinion and a great way to practice our arguments and talking points.

Justice Now is graciously hosting the first training at their office in downtown Oakland as part of their summer brown bag series.  All CURB members are invited and welcome to participate. Please join us on Friday, July 18 from 1pm-2:30pm.  We’ll send a reminder, materials and the agenda prior to the training to all folks who RSVP.

If you are interested in setting up a Letter to the Editor training with your organization or in your area please contact Oliver (oliver@curbprisonspending.org) and he’ll work with the media team to set something up.

For those interested in attending, please bring in an interesting or relavent article you would like to respond to at the training.

RSVP HERE!

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Solutions for California’s overcrowded prisons?

Congrats to CURB Intern, Claire for placing her first LTE in the Los Angeles Daily News !

Dear Editor,

Re “Early inmate releases a hazard for Gov. Brown” (Thomas Elias, June 30):

Let’s stick to the facts, Thomas Elias. Reducing your reporting to fear-mongering is bad form. As you said, “fear of long prison terms has never been proven to reduce overall crime,” and despite your anecdotal speculation implying otherwise, the facts outweigh your fictions.

If you want to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment, look at his failure to meaningfully invest in alternatives to incarceration, something that is proven to reduce crime and which the vast majority of people support.

In the state budget, $800 million is going towards jail construction and expanding prisons, a stark contrast to the $10.5 million going towards community-based organizations to support re-entry.

Brown needs a solution to prison overcrowding, but it needs to be something other than investing in a failing system instead of proven solutions.

— Claire Hirschberg, Los Angeles

http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20140703/solutions-for-californias-overcrowded-prisons-letters

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The story behind the 2015 California Budget Act

June 25, 2014, Printed in the SF BayView

by Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)

​In mid-June, Gov. Brown signed the Budget Act of 2015, which shows no vision for the future of most Californians. Despite ample opportunity, this budget does not show a path to repair the tattered safety net, to reduce or eliminate what is now the highest poverty rate in the nation, or to restore a California in which all can thrive.

Members of Project WHAT! mobilize to Sacramento to oppose more jail funding. Project WHAT! is led by youth who have had a parent incarcerated and sponsored by Oakland-based Community Works West.

The budget deal increases funds wasted in the “rat hole” of incarceration to nearly $12 billion, while including no significant restorations to anti-poverty and social safety net programs that have suffered years of cuts and could lift low-income Californians out of both poverty and prison.

In the face of community and court pressure for sweeping criminal justice reform, Gov. Brown and the Legislature have made only small changes to their troubling addiction to mass incarceration. For years we have seen our elected representatives balk at opportunities presented by realignment and the court’s prison crowding order to abandon failed policies that have imprisoned more and more Californians over the last several decades. We thought this year was going to be different. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

A little bit of background on the fight leading up to this year’s budget:

In the fall of 2013, in an effort to meet a looming court deadline to reduce prison overcrowding, Gov. Brown, with Speaker Pérez by his side, proposed a shocking piece of last minute legislation: SB 105. The proposal included a billion dollars to expand prison capacity by sending more prisoners out of state.

The response was immediate and powerful.

​Groups that had been working on poverty and on prison issues for years came together, organized by​ two statewide networks​, the California Partnership (http://www.california-partnership.org) and CURB(http://curbprisonspending.org), to demand an end to prison expansion and a reinvestment of state funds in anti-poverty programs eviscerated by years of cuts. Environmental justice groups, labor, domestic violence shelters and many others joined the new “Stop the Corrections Budget Grab” coalition in actions across the state and in efforts to sway legislators.

This loud opposition created enough political coverage for Darrell Steinberg and Senate Democrats to stand up and cut a deal that prevented 6,500 additional California prisoners from being sent out of state. Additionally, Speaker Pérez launched the Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment to collect and recommend state investments in alternatives to incarceration.

Several of the proposals that communities have been demanding for decades became recommendations of the Select Committee and were adopted in this year’s budget, along with some steps towards reducing the prison population.

The good: re-entry support and some sentencing reform

The budget finally repealed the ban on people with prior drug convictions from receiving CalFresh (food stamps) benefits and CalWORKs (basic needs support and job training). That such a common sense change took over a decade of organizing to achieve shows how out of touch most legislators are with the harms resulting from these prohibitions and the effect they have on families and single adults trying to start over after release and how such supports decrease the likelihood of subsequent arrest.

Additional proposals of the Select Committee that were adopted in the budget include $10.5 million to be directed to community-based organizations supporting reentry in and outside of prisons or jails and an essential $2 million for drivers licenses and IDs for people exiting prisons and jails.

We are hopeful that as the state continues to seek solutions to costly prison overcrowding, policy makers will consider additional policy decisions that reduce criminalization of poverty and improve opportunities for people who have been imprisoned.

In terms of sentencing reform, the legislature watered down Brown’s proposal that would have made the use of split-sentencing in counties mandatory. Similarly, the implementation of the county level alternative custody program for primary caregivers ignores the failure of the state program to release 92 percent of those deemed eligible for release (3,700 out of 4,000). Sustained pressure in each county will be required to enact these changes.

The budget expedited the historic enactment of an elder parole process that makes people who are 60 years or older and have served 25 years eligible for release, with exceptions for people serving death sentences or life without the possibility of parole. An expansion of medical parole and the establishment of good-time credits for second strikers serving sentences for non-violent crimes are steps that if expanded could have dramatic impacts on California’s prison population.

The bad: More wasteful spending on prison and jail expansion

Zachary Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights speaks at an August 2013 press conference in response to SB 105, which would have spent a billion dollars to expand prison capacity by sending more prisoners out of state.

While the legislature was frugal in spending only $10 million to prevent people from returning to prison and jail, it continued the extravagant giveaways of jail expansion funds to counties with the approval of $500 million to add to the $1.9 billion it has spent since 2011 to build more county jails.

Many legislators are more afraid to disturb Gov. Brown’s allegiance with the Sheriff’s Association and California Association of Counties (CSAC) than they are willing to protect California’s most vulnerable populations from a future where going to jail is a prerequisite for access to mental health, drug treatment and social programs.

The response from law enforcement to groups like Stop the Corrections Budget Grab – and to ongoing scandals of violence by sheriffs and corrections officers – has been to co-opt the language of reform in what James Kilgore, in “The Rise of Carceral Humanism and Non-Alternative Alternatives: Repackaging Mass Incarceration,” calls the new “carceral humanism” that “recasts jailers as caring social service providers.”

California law enforcement has jumped on the bandwagon, re-packaging themselves as concerned therapists by trying to get even more funding to prisons and jails by “institutionalizing the funding of mental health and other services behind the walls, further diverting money from the already bare bones social services in communities.”

A local cheerleader for that trend is former Corrections Secretary Matt Cate, now running the CSAC, who said, “The additional $500 million in facility investment will help build the right kind of beds that facilitate reentry and recidivism reduction efforts – giving us the best chance of turning lives around and improving public safety.”

Gov. Brown’s budget, unfortunately, favors spending on jails over spending on community services by $500 million to $10 million.

The ugly: LA County

When we read between the lines, it is clear that we can continue to expect the Legislature, the governor, counties and sheriffs to waste money on a future of further prison and jail expansion.

Los Angeles County is on the brink of approving a $2.3 billion jail expansion, of which the $500 million appropriated this year for all 58 counties will pay for no more than $100 million. Deep in the budget is an agreement that the state and LA County will work together to “identify how the state can support the county in addressing the infrastructure needs of the jail system.”

We have seen a nearly 1,500 percent increase in state spending on corrections – from $604.2 million in 1980-81 to $9.6 billion in 2010-11. In that time California built 21 prisons, nearly tripling the number of adult prisons from 12-33. Last year Gov. Brown said, “We can’t pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration.” – Cartoon: Noah Miska, Sin Barras

Let’s not be fooled; LA spent the year lobbying for this $500 million in hopes to deflect any opposition by other counties when it comes back to the Legislature for an appropriation that will cover a bulk of their $2.3 billion jail project.

“With $2 billion, LA could construct 2,152 single-parent family apartments, 1,792 transitional apartments for the homeless, 280 youth centers, 60 vocational centers or 240 assisted living facilities for the mentally ill,” outlined Los Angeles based advocates Patrisse Cullors-Brignac of The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in LA Jails and Diana Zuñiga of LA No More Jails in their recent guest commentary, “A mental health jail is an oxymoron; diversion is what’s needed,” in thePasadena Star News.

What we are up against

The California Partnership description of this budget depicts our future fight: “Piecemeal restorations to services like the ones we see in this budget aren’t a way forward. They are a band-aid on a bullet hole, something to cover up the discomfort of seeing the surface wound, but they do nothing to address the fatal injuries deep inside.”

The corrections budget is similar. The damage done by mass incarceration in jails and prisons is acknowledged, but the band-aid is to expand and renovate the prisons and jails that have produced the problems, rather than to channel people out of those systems and to channel resources away from cages and into restorative and nourishing services.

This budget underestimated the amount of resources available, overestimated the cost of vital programs, and chose spending on debt service, rainy day funds and prisons instead of the people of California and the vital services they need.

Emily Harris, statewide coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), can be reached atemily@curbprisonspending.org or 1322 Webster St. #210, Oakland, CA 94612, 510-435-1176.

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A mental health jail is an oxymoron; diversion is what’s needed

Jails create and exacerbate mental health problems.

It does not take a genius to conclude, and yet, countless studies have been proven it: if you remove someone from their daily life, their support system, their work, their sense of meaning and community, and put them into an extremely controlled and violent environment that is meant to punish them and take away their dignity, they will suffer physically, emotionally and mentally. This is even truer for the large number of people who enter jail already suffering from mental illness.

And yet, last month the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors endorsed a plan to expand the most notorious jail system and the largest de facto mental health facility in the world by building a “mental health jail” and a women’s jail. They will cost the county $2.3 billion to construct and $456 million a year to operate, with debt service payments guaranteed to at least double the cost.

At the same meeting, Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas’s proposal to offer diversion from jail for certain people suffering from mental illness passed unanimously. But if the supervisors plan to take this proposal seriously, why would they build a costly mental health jail?

In response, the Vera Institute made it clear that to save money and lives, the county must prioritize keeping “people who come into contact with law enforcement because of mental illness, intoxication, or homelessness from becoming unnecessarily enmeshed in the criminal justice system.”

In Los Angeles the numbers of people with acute mental health conditions continue to increase. Last month Dr. Marvin Southard, the director of the Department of Mental Health, stated that the traumas of arrest and incarceration were among the leading causes of rising mental illness. He voiced a concern about the lack of community programs that leaves jail as the default option for those to whom treatment is unavailable. District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated, “the use of jails as a surrogate mental health ward has resulted in extremely high costs. The current system is, simply put, unjust.”

Lacey talked about Miami-Dade County pre-booking and post-booking diversion programs for people with mental illness that could reduce the number of people in L.A. jails by 2,000 if applied here.

James Austin recommended implementing a pretrial release program and expanded use of split sentencing at 35 percent (not our current 5 percent), which would reduce the jail population by 3,000. These policy options and others have been proven effective and could reduce the entire “need” for new jail cells.

Let’s not kid ourselves; the sheriff is not and cannot be a provider of primary mental health care and treatment. While the Sheriff’s Department must vastly improve the ways it deals with the mentally ill in jails, no new facility and no new management is going to make them therapists.

With $2 billion, L.A. could construct 2,152 single-parent family apartments, 1,792 transitional apartments for the homeless, 280 youth centers, 60 vocational centers, or 240 assisted living facilities for the mentally ill.

Given all the lobbying L.A. County has been doing in Sacramento for more jail money, we suspect they won’t take these alternatives seriously. They are certainly not encouraged by a state Legislature that just approved $500 million in new jail construction money.

We don’t need more jail cells. We need representatives willing to protect California’s most vulnerable populations from a future where going to jail is a prerequisite for getting access to mental health, drug treatment and social programs. The way out of this shameful situation is not new jails with “therapeutic” mission statements. It is true diversion of the mentally ill from jail.

Patrisse Cullors-Brignac is the executive director and founder of Dignity and Power Now and Coalition to End Sheriff Violence. Diana Zuñiga is the statewide organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

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