For Immediate Release – May 13, 2016
Lizzie Buchen, Co-Coordinator, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Sacramento – Governor Jerry Brown released a revised state budget today that divests $250 million from communities for jail construction, fortifies and expands the prison system, and fails to support urgently needed programs and services in the community. Despite Brown’s promised commitment to a durable solution to the state’s prison crisis, his budget lacks any reforms that would meaningfully reduce the prison population, instead bucking national trends in projecting a growth in the number of people imprisoned in California.
“This May Revision, like numerous budgets during the Brown administration, shovels billions of dollars down the black hole of incarceration while disguising it as reentry and rehabilitative support for people incarcerated,” said Diana Zuñiga, Co-Coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Time and time again funding that could go to support community needs is instead going towards expanding CDCR and Sheriff infrastructure, prioritizing the policing and imprisonment of communities of color.”
California has a critical opportunity to significantly and sustainably reduce the number of people imprisoned in county jails. Yet despite his refrains about fiscal responsibility, Brown is proposing to move the state in the opposite direction by expanding the county jail system, pouring another $250 million into jail construction to bring the total to nearly $2.5 billion in jail expansion since 2008.
“Every dollar spent on jail construction is a dollar diverted from community services and alternatives to incarceration,” says Christina Tsao, an organizer with Critical Resistance Los Angeles. “Adding beds to the jail system will discourage counties from making changes that have already been proven to reduce the population, and would remove any incentive to explore new alternatives. Instead the state stays the course of caging instead of caring for poor people of color.”
Despite Brown’s assurances of reducing the size of our enormous prison system, his revised budget continues moving in the opposite direction: Spending $6 million to “repair” the dilapidated prison in Norco, instead of closing it down as has been promised for several years; extending the contracts with private prisons in California and other states; and funding a $5.4 million evaluation to plan for the renovation and replacement of the state’s 12 oldest prisons, rather than sustainably reduce the prison population and close the most remote, inhumane, and dilapidated facilities.
“Today’s Revise takes a page right out of the jail expansion playbook, trying to change the image of CDCR by hiding prison expansion behind ‘additional investments to support inmate rehabilitation,’” says Deb Reyes, an organizer with the California Prison Moratorium Project. California doesn’t need renovated ‘social service prisons’, we need fewer prisons,” says Deb Reyes, an organizer with the California Prison Moratorium Project. “They have already tried the trick of adding the R back into CDCR. A “rehabilitative vision” requires true investments in communities most damaged by mass incarceration and decades of wasted funding in prison expansion is not that!”
Brown also proposes $5.8 million to increase staffing of the Investigative Services Unit, targeting alleged “gang” activity connected to the release of people from long-term solitary confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison due to the Ashker v. Brown settlement.
“This increase in ISU staffing is completely unwarranted,” says Marie Levin, an organizer with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition, whose brother was held in solitary confinement for 31 years until the settlement. “Many of the men who have been released from the SHU are peacemakers, and they are helping to bring about the decrease in violence in the General Population that the CDCR has been exploiting since the settlement.”
The budget still falls short of what is needed to truly address community needs, including community-based substance use treatment, child care slots, housing, expanding healthcare to undocumented adults, and strengthening community-led workforce training.
“The budget revenue surplus should go into investments for the nine million Californians living in poverty, instead of into the rainy day fund,” says Maribel Nunez, director of California Partnership. “Instead of $250 million going into more jail construction, we need to see the state properly fund SSI and SSP, invest in Health4All, and restore the cuts to MediCal reimbursements and child care.”