On January 10 I sat in a dining room in Victorville, a place where most voted to make America great again, I looked over Governor Brown’s proposed corrections budget hoping he’d propose to continue to support the progressive strategies. That he would focus on spending less on prisons and jails as part of his plan to cut spending under a Trump administration, instead he increased it by more than $500 million from last year to $13.8 billion.
I was deeply disappointed to see the continued fiscally wasteful attempts to build our way out of our reliance on cages. As a survivor of the prison industrial complex, what strikes most poignantly is that while little has been done to change the culture of violence among corrections staff, we continue to fund the growth of an organization that is not equipped to address systemic issues that drive recidivism, leading ultimately back to financial security and growth for both state and local corrections.
While there are disappointing pieces there are some points that are steps in the right direction. Some positive and challenging pieces to highlight in Brown’s proposal are:
- Implementation of Prop 57, including broad expansion of Milestone credits.
- Anticipated population reduction resulting from Prop 57 will close one of two remaining out of state facilities returning some closer to home.
- Funding the construction of a “Leadership Academy”, a revamped version of the failed “college campus” design prison for young men.
- Department of Finance estimates a net savings of $42.9 million from Prop. 47 and $22.4 million from Prop. 57.
These highlights are a mixed bag, but we know California can and must do better. We need continued investment in affordable housing including reducing barriers to those with criminal convictions to affordable housing, more investment in community reentry programs that are decoupled from the state and culturally competent, and better mental health care and access in communities. These are only a few of the many ways we can better use funds to provide for and protect our most at risk communities.
We will continue to keep creating better solutions by ensuring community voices are heard. You can stay informed by monitoring the #CABudget work that CURB is doing to push solutions. Now is a critical time in our history! It is even more imperative to stay involved and stay outspoken to uplift and protect our communities and loved ones — impacting the budget process is a strong way to do just that.
In love and solidarity,
A member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget