13 States Closing Prisons While California Continues to Build

MEDIA ALERT—August 4, 2011

13 States Closing Prisons While California Continues to Build

Press Contact:    Isaac Ontiveros

Communications Director, Critical Resistance

Phone:  510-517-6612

Oakland – A recent report by The Sentencing Project documents for the first time the growing trend of nationwide prison closures. The report, On the Chopping Block: State Prison Closings, notes that, to date, 13 states across the country have closed or are considering closing their correctional facilities, reversing a 40-year trend of prison expansion.  Meanwhile, California is pushing forward billions of dollars of prison and jail construction projects.

In a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court recently order California to dramatically reduce the state’s prison population. The states highlighted in the Sentencing Project report began closing prisons and investing in alternative to imprisonment without prompting by the courts.

“With the recent Court ruling on prison overcrowding, we have an opportunity to follow national trends and do things differently in California,” says Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget.  Harris continues “instead of continuing to push forward these unnecessary and costly prison and jail expansion projects, California should immediately stop all prison and jail construction, and construction plans. We have to learn from these other states that have safely reduced their prison populations by implementing smart parole and sentencing reform.”

States initiating prison closures include New York, Texas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Fiscal crises have fueled the trend, but reforms in sentencing and parole policies have resulted in less demand for prison space. “The trend of prison closings results from smart criminal justice policy combined with fiscal realities,” says Nicole D. Porter, State Advocacy Coordinator of The Sentencing Project and author of the report. “Too many low-level offenders have been incarcerated for excessive prison terms at great cost.”

Despite an ongoing fiscal crisis in California, there are currently 11 costly prison and jail expansion projects moving forward with AB900 funds, and more anticipated to roll out under phase II of the AB 900 legislation.  AB 900 allocates $12 billion in construction funds and marks the largest prison construction scheme in human history.

The full report, On the Chopping Block: State Prison Closings, can be found at:

http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/On_the_chopping_block_-_state_prison_closings_%282%29.pdf

The July 2011 Status Report on California Prison & Jail Construction can be found at:

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/CSA/CFC/Docs/AB900_Project_Status.pdf

Californians United for a Responsible Budget’s Budget for Humanity can be found at:

http://curbprisonspending.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Budget-for-Humanity.pdf

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