Press Release: State Lawmakers And Analysts Challenge CDCR’s Request For Billions In New Infrastructure Spending

March 22, 2022

State Lawmakers And Analysts Challenge CDCR’s Request For Billions In New Infrastructure Spending Community advocates call CDCR a “rogue” department, as legislators cite poor long-term planning and skyrocketing spending on incarceration

SACRAMENTO, CA––Proposals for billions of dollars in infrastructure prison spending from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) faced scrutiny yesterday at the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5 hearing, as did the department’s failure to produce a substantive long-term infrastructure plan that is responsive to the Legislature’s years-in waiting request.

“We’ve asked for information for quite some time, before I had gray hair,” Chair of the Public Safety Committee Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-59th District) admonished.

“Are there guiding principles that you don’t believe in, like reducing facilities?” Jones-Sawyer asked CDCR’s Director of Facility Planning, Dean Borg. “We are not wasting taxpayers’ money on deferred maintenance on buildings that we’re going to abolish or abandon or leave.”

Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting (D-19th District) said the criteria and selection process for CDCR infrastructure project proposals was “very random.” When CDCR failed to adequately respond to the Assemblymember’s questions on criteria and facility consolidation, he noted as a cautionary tale the $50 Million state dollars squandered on long-term repairs at DVI (Deuel Vocational Institution, Tracy) within just a few years of its closure in 2021.

“We see the prison population declining, but we see funding increasing. We don’t have faith that we’re spending dollars appropriately,” stated Assembly Sub 5 Chair Cristina Garcia (D-58th District). Garcia asked whether CDCR was “committed to there actually being a change” or “just trying to run the clock on us being here so you can continue with business as usual?” The committee indicated overall dissatisfaction with CDCR’s proposal, requesting their recommendations and input be reflected in CDCR’s plans moving forward.

Advocates pushing for prison closure also criticized CDCR’s spending proposal. “CDCR’s unchecked growth and the flagrant assumption that all of the prisons operating today will continue to operate 10 years from now is not only fiscally irresponsible but completely out of step with the will of the vast majority of California voters,” said Amber-Rose Howard, Executive Director of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) in reaction to the hearing. “It’s also downright embarrassing. What measures will the state take to hold this rogue department accountable?”

The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office produced a report in November of 2020 that outlined at least $1.5 Billion annually in savings if California committed to closing five prisons by 2025, and stated that California continues to be in a position to achieve this projection. Last year, CURB––advocates working to reduce wasteful incarceration spending––released a roadmap to close at least 10 prisons across the state.

Read quotes from advocates working to close California prisons:

“As of last week, our prison population was a bit over 92,000––levels that we haven’t seen since 1991, when our state operated 12 fewer prisons and spent $12 billion less annually on corrections than we do today. Changes in the prison population are a choice, made by California voters and the legislature. Let’s choose to continue down that path and commit to closing more prisons instead of wasting taxpayer dollars to ‘fix’ them.” ––Emily Harris, Policy Director, Ella Baker Center

“I am hard pressed to think of a single other state agency other than CDCR that has as much unused operating capacity as it does, yet is asking to undergo a construction frenzy in the ballpark of $4 Billion dollars. This is absurd. We must start spending money on the infrastructure of devastated communities, not prisons––and we all know those funds are locked up in CDCR’s bloated budget.”––Mohamed Shehk, National Campaign Director, Critical Resistance

“Prisons are toxic. Wasting billions of dollars on infrastructure repairs will never make prisons healthy, safe, or humane.” ––Woods Ervin, Communications Director, Critical Resistance

“I was shocked that the average cost of incarceration in our state is $145,000 per person per year. That’s quadruple the cost of an average California state college tuition. ‘Burgeoning budget’ is too kind of a phrase to describe CDCR’s outrageous, wasteful and irresponsible spending. What’s holding the Legislature back from denying additional infrastructure funding to CDCR and getting our state budget back on track?” ––Jennifer Tu, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

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