California Prison Experts Blast Governor’s Response to Court Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – MAY 3, 2013

Demand Stronger Population Reduction Strategies and No Prison Expansion

CONTACT:  Emily Harris, 510-435-1176 (Available Friday morning, May 3rd at 7:30am for comment)

Who: Californians United for a Responsible Budget. Speakers will include Misty Rojo of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Roger White of Critical Resistance, Vanessa Nelson or Life Support Alliance and Diana Zuñiga and Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget and additional experts will be available for comment on specific aspect of the plan.

What: Press Conference Call.  218-936-4141, code #5409430

When: Friday, May 3 2013. Immediately following CDCR’s press conference scheduled for 9:30am.  CURB’s press conference call will begin at 11:00am.

Sacramento: Governor Brown’s ongoing resistance to sentencing and parole reform, even as he submitted a court-ordered plan to reduce the state’s prison population near midnight, was met with outrage and disappointment by Californians across the state. His plan relies on increasing the number of cells available to hold prisoners and doesn’t include a single sentencing reform while making small changes to credits and parole practices.

“There is barely anything here to reduce the prison population. It’s a plan to return to the days of perpetual prison expansion,” says Isaac Lev Szmonko of Critical Resistance a member of CURB, a coalition of more than 50 organizations.  “His plan returns us to the nightmare of a constantly growing prison system – a proven failure – that has scarred two generations of California families and left a huge hole in the state budget.”

The Governor’s clear preference for expanding the prison system is made clear by the fifth page of the filing: Defendant’s “preference” is not to pursue implementation of any measures listed below, other than complete scheduled construction projects and expanding fire camp capacity.

The Governor’s plan includes the addition of 2,855 new prison beds, a 1,250 bed expansion of the fire camps and leasing 1,600 cells from county jails. The CDCR’s ongoing ‘infill’ bed expansion at existing prisons is not mentioned in the plan.

The Governor commits to requesting “that the Legislature expand medical parole and establish a parole process for certain elderly inmates determined to be at low-risk for recidivism” (p.37).

“Expanding parole for the seriously ill and for a small portion of elderly prisoners are only two of dozens of opportunities available,” says Diana Zuñiga of CURB, which has proposed changes to sentencing and parole practices that could meet the population reduction target even after returning prisoners from out of state. “We call on the legislature to step up and demonstrate the leadership the Governor has failed to bring.  Cancel all prison construction plans, make real reductions to the prison population, and end the practice of out-of-state transfers.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at UC Irvine, compared Governor Brown’s continued resistance to the Court Order to “the Southern governors of the 1950s declaring their defiance of federal court desegregation orders.”

The overwhelming passage of Prop. 36 is widely recognized as a mandate from voters to turn away from three decades of prison expansion. A poll conducted by Tulchin research for the ACLU found that 87% of Californians agreed “our prisons and jails are overcrowded and we should find other ways to hold people accountable for non-violent offenses.”

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