For Immediate Release – Wednesday, February 24, 2015
Lizzie Buchen – Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Yesterday, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office released its assessment of the Governor’s budget proposal for corrections spending in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, reaffirming community appeals not to divert another $250 million to jail expansion. The report also recommended the legislature close the deteriorating prison in Norco and reject the enhanced searches for visitors and prisoners.
Pointing to years of community budget analysis at the state and county level, Manuel La Fontaine, an organizer with All of Us or None, commented “formerly imprisoned people and community organizations have demanded since Realignment that budget resources be put into sustainable alternatives to imprisonment, not increasing jail bed capacity or building new population-specific jails for women or people with mental health or substance use needs.”
While the recent LAO analysis follows years of community-based demands not to spend money on jails, the recommendations are based more in fiscal pragmatism than community need. Rachel Graham, a member of Critical Resistance Los Angeles, agrees with the LAO’s recommendation that the state should work to quickly close prisons such as the notoriously dilapidated prison in Norco, near LA County, but notes that “while prison closures can save California money, we must look beyond a simple monetary cost/benefit analysis. The true cost of prison expansion is the destruction of working class communities of color, communities that could benefit from infrastructural investments into their neighborhoods”. Graham went on to criticize the LAO’s report “which encourages maintaining contracts for 9000 prison beds rather than urging the immediate reduction of prison and jail populations.”
The Governor’s proposal and subsequent LAO analysis come in the wake of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ rejection of state funding for building a new jail, with Supervisors pointing to the need to instead invest resources into community-based mental health programs instead. “San Francisco has laid the groundwork for what could be done across California, making a bold statement to reject new jail construction and prioritize real solutions to address community need. If other Counties made similar considerations we could radically change the landscape of California,” said Jamie Gerber with Project What.
“If LA County considered a $2.3 Billion educational plan rather than its current jail plan of that size, that would mean an investment of approximately $1 million in funding to every LA County public school,” said Dayvon Williams of Youth Justice Coalition in Los Angeles.
CURB member organizations will be mobilizing to future budget hearings to oppose the proposed jail construction funding, along with various prison expansion measures, throughout March and April.