Last month, Governor Brown signed the 2014-15 Budget Act. As I’m sure you have heard, the budget increases funds wasted in the “rat hole” of incarceration to nearly $12 billion. The budget includes no significant restorations to anti-poverty and social safety net programs that have suffered years of cuts and could lift low-income Californians out of both poverty and prison.
Despite the uninspiring budget decision, we did make some important gains, that might impact you or your loved ones. Groups that have been working to fighting poverty and prisons for years, have been strengthening our demand to end prison and jail expansion and reinvest funds in community-based programs. Our fierce organizing against the $500 million for new jail construction is a huge part of how these victories came about.
The legislature’s refusal to eliminate the new jail construction money from the budget shows many legislators are more afraid to disturb Governor Brown’s allegiance with the Sheriff’s Association than they are willing to protect California’s most vulnerable populations from a future where going to jail is a prerequisite for getting access to mental health, drug treatment and social programs.
To learn more about our organizing and a little bit of background on this year’s budget, check out my recent piece in the San Francisco Bay View ” The Story Behind the 2015 Budget Act“.
- $2 million for drivers licenses and ID’s for people exiting prison and jail.
- $10.5 million to be directed to community-based organziations supporting reentry in and outside of prisons.
- We finally repealed the ban on people with prior drug convictions from receiving CalFresh (food stamps) benefits and CalWORKS (basics needs support and job training). The new law will go into effect April 1, 2015. Read the We Did It – Coalition Statement 2014 for more information.
We hope that as the state continues to seek solution to costly prison overcrowding, policy makers will consider additional policy decisions that reduce criminalization of poverty and improve opportunites for people who have been imprisoned.
Review the California Partnership’s budget summary to learn more about how education, health and human services were impacted.
Parole and Sentencing Reform:
- Implementation of the county-level alternative custody program for primary caregivers of children.
- Counties encouraged to utilize split sentencing.
- Historic enactment of elder parole for people who are 60 years or older and have served 25 years.
- Expansion of medical parole for sick people in prison.
- Establishment of good-time credits for second strikers sentenced for non-violent crimes.
These are important steps that if expanded could have dramatic impacts on California’s prison population.
To find out how these new policies might impact you or your loved one the Prison Law Office has put together more information about California’s prison population reduction plan and on increased time credits for second strike sentences.
We will be sure to share with you more information as it becomes available on how these reforms are being implemented, along with information on how communities are organizing against the pending jail expansion resulting from the passage of the $500 million.