Californians Call Brown’s Budget a Mixed Bag, Demand Further Reduction in Prison Spending to Save Social Services

For Immediate Release—January 5, 2012

Contact:   
Isaac Ontiveros
Californians United for a  Responsible Budget
Office: 510-444-0484
Cell: 510.435.1176

Oakland CA— Governor Brown’s surprise budget unveiling today has Californians calling for additional cuts to the corrections budget to prevent even further slashing of welfare, childcare, healthcare, education, and job opportunities. The 2012-2013 proposal, which includes $8.887 billion in General Fund spending for Corrections, comes the same week as severe trigger cuts from last year’s budget and just days before 25 Counties are due to submit funding requests to build $600 million worth of jails across the state.

Until this year, when many of the state’s corrections needs were outsourced to the county level with Brown’s Public Safety Realignment, General Fund spending for prisons had climbed steadily from from $604.2 million in 1980-81 to $9.6 billion in 2010-11, or from 2.9 percent to 10.5 percent of the state’s General Fund.  Realignment is saving the state money by passing on some funding to counties, who have lower per diem expenditures. According to Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition of more than 40 organizations, most counties are failing realignment’s original intentions by attempting to build new jails instead of increasing the use of community-based alternatives to imprisonment, threatening to recreate overcrowding at the county level.

At the state level, the significant reduction in prisoners now confined in county jails has resulted in the “rethinking of the Prison Facilities Plans.” Brown’s budget outlines the cancellation of both the Estrella infill project and the planned conversion of the DeWitt youth facility to an adult facility. It is anticipated that the state will avoid approximately $250 million in annual debt service costs as a result of the revised construction plan. The Budget also assumes savings of $125 million related to infrastructure projects authorized by AB 900 that are not needed as a result of realignment.

“Canceling these two costly AB 900 prison construction projects is an important first step in reducing prison spending,” says Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator of CURB. “We need the Legislature to review and cancel all the remaining AB 900 projects immediately and to create real incentives for the types of cost-saving alternatives to incarceration, sentencing and parole reforms that dozen of states have already implemented.”

While the budget pledges to achieve prison population reductions, it fails to provide a viable plan to achieve them. For example, it provides for the expansion of Alternative Custody Program for Women and potentially rendering the majority of people in women’s prisons eligible for early release, and relies on counties to provide reentry services, but does not clearly articulate where the funding will come from. “We commend the Governor for wanting to significantly reduce the number of people in women’s prisons, now we need to make sure they actually get sent home with support, and are not just transferred to county jails or other lock up programs. Rather than build more local jails, we need to make common sense sentencing reforms, and build a strong social safety net that includes re-entry support” points out Cynthia Chandler Executive Director of Justice Now a member of CURB.

The budget projects $1.4 billion in cuts to welfare and childcare. Coincidentally, this is the same amount of money that is being proposed to spend on a new jail in LA County. “California continues to cut services on the backs of low-income families, which are also deeply impacted by building more prisons. It’s time that we reverse both of these trends.” says LeaJay Harper, Young Mother’s United Coordinator for the Center for Young Women’s Development and member of CURB.

 

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