California Counties Going Wrong Direction with Realignment
Updated Report Card Shows More Counties Plan Jail Expansion
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros | Californians United for a Responsible Budget| 510 517 6612
California—As the Corrections Standards Authority announce grants for jail construction for Phase II of AB900, advocates across the state denounced the awards.
“Borrowing over $600 million to build jails we don’t need and can’t afford to operate is a huge step in the wrong direction,” said Debbie Reyes of the Fresno-based California Prison Moratorium Project, a member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB). “Gov. Brown’s realignment plan is an opportunity to stop putting people in cages who don’t need to be there. Instead of Sacramento funding jail expansion, we should be spending more money on community-based services.”
Today the Corrections Standards Authority authorized grants to build expand jails totaling $602,881,000 to 11 counties — Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Stanislaus, Tulare, Santa Barbara, Kings, Shasta, Sutter, Madera and Imperial.
CURB updated its Realignment Report Card, first issued in October 2011. It shows that only 4 counties — San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Alameda — are using realignment to move away from the disastrous policies of mass incarceration, and a number of counties who had not decided to expand their jail systems are now lined up for AB900 jail expansion funds.
“If hindsight were 20/20, we wouldn’t expect dozens of California counties to see realignment as an opportunity to repeat the obvious failures of the state’s 30-plus years of building cages as a non-solution to crowding in the system,” said Geri Silva of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, a Los Angeles-based CURB member. “Given the cuts in county services across the state, how can counties line up for money that pays part of the cost of jail construction, but by statute pays nothing towards ‘lease or rent of land; personnel or operational costs; supplies; bonus payments; and debt service or interest payments on indebtedness required to finance the county’s share of project costs’? This is a scandal of bad government.”
“Realignment is an opportunity to move California away from decades of criminal justice policies that contribute nothing to public safety, bankrupt the state and diminish the lives of millions of lower-income Californians, especially people of color,” said Emily Harris, statewide coordinator of CURB. “Unfortunately Sacramento is encouraging counties to expand jail capacity, a policy that has already set many counties on the path of building cells in which people are held under unconstitutional conditions.”
While CURB and other groups across the state work to reduce the waste of mass incarceration, some legislators are pushing to expand the number of people locked away. Hemet Republican Bill Emerson introduced a bill that would reverse much of Gov. Brown’s realignment plan and require more of those convicted of non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual felonies to do their time in state prison, despite the fact that Riverside County is planning a 9,000 bed new jail and is among those counties approved for AB900 Phase II funding. Supervisors in counties that received AB 900 funds can still decide not to move forward with construction.
“It is clear that some counties’ decisions to build more jails have more to do with taking the money than a perceived need for jail beds,” said Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Golden Gulag. “With so many options for proven methods to reduce county jail populations, there is no reason for counties to build jails except that they are lined up at the pork barrel.” Last year CURB distributed its Budget for Humanity which outlined a dozen prison population reduction solutions, many of which have already been taken up by states across the US.
CURB’s revised Report Card is available at: http://curbprisonspending.org/?p=1391