For Immediate Release – January 17th
Despite Mounting Pressure to Reduce the Prison Population, CDCR Opens New Women’s Prison
Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Adrienne Roberts, California Coalition for Women Prisoners
(415) 255-7036 x 314 or (415) 519-0378 (cell)
SACRAMENTO CA-Despite a declining crime rate and a drop in the number of people in prison, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation opened a new prison facility yesterday – the 403-bed Folsom Women’s Facility.
“Opening 400 beds in Folsom and converting Valley State to a prison for men doesn’t solve the state’s crowding crisis,” said Debbie Reyes of the California Prison Moratorium Project. “CDCR has reverted to their old line that they can build their way out of any problem. Pretending to solve crowding through prison expansion is a proven failure as public policy. Experts know that. California voters know it. It is time for the Governor & CDCR to stop living in the past. More cages wasn’t the answer 30 years ago. It isn’t the answer now.”
The CDCR began moving men into the former Valley State Prison for Women (Chowchilla) in October 2012. A year ago, there were 2,664 people incarcerated at VSPW. The conversion of Valley State to a prison for men has created massive crowding at the state’s two remaining prisons for women. The population at California Institution for Women has increased from 1,633 in October 2012 to 1,983, while Central California Women’s Facility has seen an increase from 2,938 to 3,752.“I am baffled by the decision to open a new women’s prison,” said Samantha Rogers of California Coalition for Women Prisoners, who served time in both VSPW & CCWF. “California needs to be opening halfway houses not more prisons. It is no surprise we feel like cattle being moved around all over the state.”
In September 2011, prior to realignment, CDCR estimated there were around 4,500 people in women’s prisons eligible for release under the Alternative Custody Program (ACP); signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.To date less then 200 hundred people have been released under this program.
The prison system expansion comes on the heels of attempts by the state to lift the Federal Court order to reduce deadly overcrowding in state prisons. Zuñiga continues, “Why aren’t we looking to proven parole and sentencing reform measures that have worked in others states, that could safely reduce overcrowding and allow California to shut down prisons like Valley State Prison and New Folsom.”
Advocates have proposed a series of parole and sentencing reform measures to reduce incarceration rates and corrections costs, examples include releasing prop 36 eligible strikers, releasing terminally ill and permanently medically incapacitated prisoners, implementing an older prisoner release program, expanding good time credits, and reforming drug sentencing laws.
Hundreds of former prisoners, family members, and advocates will rally at Valley State Prison on Saturday, January26th to demand that overcrowding be addressed by further reductions to California’s prison population.
For reports on conditions in the state’s prisons for women, contact the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (415) 255-7036 x 314 and Justice Now (510) 839-7654.