For Immediate Release—September 28, 2012
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Oakland—Monday marks the first anniversary of the boldest and most controversial of Governor Jerry Brown’s budget balancing actions – criminal justice realignment. A year later, reactions to the plan remain strong.
“The good news about realignment is that there were 30,000 fewer people who spent last night in a cell than there were when Gov. Brown was elected,” said Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Because the state is spending $800 million less on Corrections than we did two years ago, we avoided another $800 million in cuts to services for poor children and the elderly.”
The state’s prison population has dropped to 124,701 from a high of 173,479 in 2006 while the state’s jail population has increased by 2,849 over the last year. Crime rates continue to fall statewide.
“If we can have 30,000 fewer people locked up in a time of massive unemployment and widespread foreclosures without seeing an upturn in crime, then it is clear we didn’t need to have all those people locked up in the first place,” said Harris.
Despite the well-documented absence of the crime wave predicted by the enablers of California’s 30 year addiction to imprisonment, many counties are moving ahead with plans to increase the capacity of their jails.
“Counties building expanded jails are on a fool’s quest,” said Harris. “Expanding the number of cages in the state system has bankrupted our educational system and slashed services to life-threatening levels. It is remarkable that so many counties haven’t learned that lesson.”
Of the state’s 58 counties, 32 are currently considering or have approved jail expansion plans. Contra Costa County residents recently defeated a jail expansion proposal and Shasta County also voted against more jail cells. In Los Angeles, the Board of Supervisors turned down a request from embattled Sheriff Lee Baca to borrow $1.4 billion to build jail cells, but plans for expansion are still a threat. San Mateo County residents will vote on a Jail Tax in November.
“One year in, results are mixed. The prison system is smaller than most people would have imagined. Balancing that achievement are two dangerous disappointments: many counties are looking to expand their jails and the Governor and Corrections are planning to grow the prison population,” Harris continued.
The CDCR has announced plans to build new housing units at existing prisons and has petitioned the courts to raise the maximum number of people who can be held in state prisons.
“Despite all the doubters and all the panic-mongers, Gov. Brown began the process of trimming the supersized prison population and budget without significant political fallout. Why is he backtracking now?” asked Harris. “There are clear next steps that would safely result in fewer people in state prison and county jails, saving both state and counties hundreds of millions a year. It is past time for real bail reform, for real sentencing reforms and for a shift in funds from law enforcement and corrections to social services and education.”