$600 Million More for Jails; $600 Million Less for Education and Health

For Immediate Release-November 17, 2011

Contact:  Isaac Ontiveros
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Office:510.444.0484

Oakland CA- On Wednesday, California’s Legislative Analyst Office released grim news about the State’s financial health.  The nonpartisan office projects a $13 billion deficit for 2012, and $3.7 billion revenue shortfall that could trigger at least $2 billion in service and program cuts.  Hit hardest will be education from kindergartens to colleges, as well as In-Home Support Services and library and Medi-Cal services. Wednesday’s dire forecast also predicts a continued drop in wages and an unemployment rate of over 10%.

The LAO report guarantees that “tier 1” trigger cuts of $608 million will be enacted as early as January, just weeks after 25 counties were invited to apply for over $600 million in funding to build more jail cells.  The LAO notes that the state’s planned prison expansion will add $800 million per year to CDCR’s operating costs and recommends that “Given the likely magnitude of these eventual costs, as well as the significant reduction in the state’s inmate population resulting from the federal court ruling to reduce prison overcrowding, the Legislature may want to hold off from moving forward with some of the projects authorized under AB 900.”

“It’s appalling that while the state is poised to cut another 600 million dollars from already suffering essential programs, including In Home Supportive Services, Medi-Cal, child care, and universities and community colleges, they are forcing forward 600 million dollars to build unneccessary jails” said Nancy Berlin, Executive Director of the California Partnership, a statewide coalition of community-based groups, organizing and advocating for programs and policies that reduce and end poverty. “In order to make California a place where everyone can thrive, we need to raise revenues and reduce prison spending immediately.”  In their Budget for Humanity, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), note that by putting a moratorium on prison and jail construction, embracing moderate sentencing reforms, and humanitarian prisoner-release policies, the State could save over $5 billion.  CURB has made further calls for addressing revenue shortfalls by reforming or repealing Prop 13, closing corporate tax loopholes, instating an oil severance tax, and applying a foreclosure tax to banks.

“Whether we’re talking about revenue or spending, it comes down to priorities.  If decision makers in California continue to prioritize imprisonment over education, over healthcare, over the things that make our communities healthy and sustainable, then social and economic crisis will continue to deepen and the forecasts are going to get much more bleak,” said Emily Harris, statewide coordinator for CURB.  The LAO makes mention of prison spending as well as housing crisis, and situates its report within the broader national economic climate.  “Unless you’ve been living in a bunker, it should be abundantly clear that people all over the State are fed up.  We see this everywhere, from Occupy movement to the day to day struggles of formerly imprisoned people and their families to make ends meet,” continued Harris.  “If we are talking about the 99% in California, then whether its the programs and services on the spending side, or the lack of jobs on the revenue side, the same communities-overwhelmingly poor and working communities of color-are hit hardest by the economy and by the prison system.  The first and most basic step toward getting the State’s head above water, is to stop all proposed prison and jail construction”

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