San Mateo County Supervisors to Vote on Budget Residents Demand Supervisors Cut Jail Spending

For Immediate Release—September 24, 2012

Press Contact: Emily Harris

Californians United for a Responsible Budget, 510-435-1176

What:  Press Conference and Board of Supervisors Meeting

When:  Tuesday September 25th, 2012, 9:00am

Where:  400 County Center, Redwood City

Redwood City—This Tuesday, as the Board of Supervisors votes on the 2012-2013 budget, residents from across San Mateo County will pack the meeting, demanding the Board strike $44.2 million from the county’s 2012-2013 budget slated for a new jail, and hold a hearing on strategies to reduce the jail population.  At the Board’s last meeting, 200 community members turned out to stop the jail.

“The Board of Supervisors keep claiming they have no control over how many people are in San Mateo’s jail by absconding their most basic responsibility of enacting the values and priorities of the county through the budgeting process,” says Bernadette Rabuy resident of South San Francisco and member of CURB.  “By adding more than 500 beds to the County Jail system, the Supervisors will strongly discourage the Sheriff from reducing the population while draining resources from life-affirming programs and services that keep people from becoming involved in the criminal justice system to begin with.”

The County Health System’s recommendations to expand alternatives to imprisonment would take 3-6 months to get up and running, serve 2,100 residents and cost the county $8.38 million a year.  By comparison, the new jail would not open until 2015 and will cost $160 million to build and at least $30 million a year to operate.

“Prison and jail overcrowding is a choice. The Sheriff could safely reduce the jail population at any time,” says Isaac Lev Szmonko of Critical Resistance. “If the Board listens to the people who elected them by cancelling this jail, they will create an extremely strong incentive for the Sheriff to reduce the jail population so as to avoid the type of overcrowding lawsuit that happened at the state level.” Under current California law, sheriffs have the authority to release defendants up to 30 days early by terminating sentences in the event of overcrowding.

“The Board of Supervisors could pass a measure tomorrow that would substantially reduce the jail population by refusing to use local funds to respond to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests,” says Manuel La Fontaine, resident of Daly City and organizer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None. ICE “holds” or detainers are optional requests that ICE sends to local jails to ask them to detain community members for extra time so the individual can be picked up for deportation. Local jails bear the brunt of costs of responding to ICE holds, including he additional length of time individuals are held beyond the point they would be released if not for the immigration hold.  According to the Sheriff’s Nov. 2011 report to the “Criminal Justice Committee,” ICE holds constituted 12.7% of the average daily jail population (ADP).  In December 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a similar measure.

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