Governor reneges on promise for sustainable prison population reduction, funds new jail construction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 7, 2016

Governor reneges on promise for sustainable prison population reduction, funds new jail construction

Press contact: Lizzie Buchen – 510-435-1176, lizzie@curbprisonspending.org

Sacramento – Despite years of promises to find a long-term solution to California’s prison crisis, Gov. Brown’s 2016-17 budget projects future prison population growth, extends the use of in-state and out-of-state contract beds, spends $250 million on new jail expansion, refurbishes the Norco prison that has been slated for closure for years, and lacks any reforms that would meaningfully reduce the prison population. Rather than investing in vital community-based programs, the budget focuses on in-custody services.

“This budget is a joke. For decades advocates have pushed for long-term solutions to prison overcrowding and the closure of Norco. The Governor is showing his commitment to slowly refurbishing a facility known for it’s horrendous living conditions by giving $6 million towards repairing Norco,” says Diana Zuñiga of CURB. “After years of making positive strides towards meeting the court order to reduce the prison population, it is infuriating that this budget says nothing about bringing our loved ones home through sustainable sentencing and parole reform.”

Despite significant community opposition across the state, the budget allocates more funding for jail construction to counties for the fourth time in 8 years, bringing the total during this period to $2.45 billion and over 9,000 jail beds. Acknowledging the controversy of the ongoing expenditure, the budget states, “Given the state’s significant investment in this area, future consideration for additional funding for this purpose would require significant justification and a demonstrable need.”  The 2016-2017 budget designates $250 million of General Fund spending to counties that have received a partial jail construction award or have never received an award from past funding sources.

“Across the country people are discussing strategies to reduce imprisonment, yet this budget prioritizes locking more people into cages by wasting $250 million on further jail construction, showing the Governor and the State’s blatant disregard for the wellbeing of California’s residents,” says Lily Fahsi-Haskell of Critical Resistance. “It is past time our State budget prioritize social services, education, health and housing, not imprisonment.”

Today’s Budget shows that the state prison population has been reduced by 4,700 due to Proposition 47, yet estimates savings of only $29.3 million — substantially lower than had been predicted and advocates had hoped, as 65% of the savings are slated for mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment and diversion programs. A February 2015 report from the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that the state savings from Proposition 47 would range from $100 million to $200 million.
“The extremely low level of savings predicted by the governor is a disgrace to communities who critically need reinvestment in education and mental health services,” said John Jones, Local Organizer at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “Proposition 47 resulted in thousands more people being released from prison than initially anticipated, which means that savings should actually be higher than predicted.”

CURB will join the California Partnership and other anti-prison and anti-poverty groups at four rallies and press conferences across the state on Friday, Jan 8, to discuss Gov. Brown’s proposed 2016-17 state budget.

Press Conference locations:

Riverside: 11am – 3737 Main St. (Contact: Maribel Nunez, 562-569-4051, mnunez@communitychange.org)
Bakersfield: 11am – Liberty Bell, 1415 Truxtun Ave. (Contact: Josth Stenner, 661-858-3577, josthstenner.cap@gmail.com)
San Francisco: 12:45pm – California State Building, 355 McAllister St. (Contact: Pete Woiwode, 510-504-9552,pete@communitychange.org)
Los Angeles: 1pm – State Building, 300 S. Spring St. (Contact: Aurora Garcia, 562-519-3106, agarcia@communitychange.org)

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