By Lisbeth Martinez
SACRAMENTO, CA –– The California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) received heavy backlash this week in the Assembly Subcommittee 5 hearing after requesting billions of dollars in prison spending.
The extensive examination of CDCR has to do with the agency’s neglecting to follow Gov. Newsom’s executive order to close some prisons and youth lockups.
Gov. Newsom’s order, signed on March 24 of last year, required many California prisons and juvenile facilities to no longer accept new intakes, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The governor currently wants to close more jail facilities since he did so at the beginning of the virus outbreak.
At the hearing, assembly members scolded CDCR’s failure to follow government policies.
For example, Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer highlighted that CDCR has not submitted any analysis, accusing the agency of just not wanting to do it or because the agency is “incompetent.” Jones-Sawyer believes that the Assembly should no longer wait on the CDCR since it is obvious to him that CDCR is moving slowly because it does not want to do what is required.
Assemblymember Phil Ting shared how the shutdown process with the CDCR of prison in Tracy, California, was very “arbitrary and confusing.” This assemblymember said that the CDCR took a long time to respond over the scheduling of the shutdown.
The absence of an appropriate response was a “silent acknowledgment of the truth” to Ting. He added that it makes no sense for CDCR to be requesting billions of dollars to remodel a prison facility if Governor Newsom will have it close in a few years.
Assemblymember Tom Lackey agreed by pointing out that taxpayers had “just spent $53 million on a prison” that they are about to shut down. Therefore, he believes the CDCR should not be requesting the billions of dollars.
The prison facility in Tracy, which employs 1,080 workers and holds approximately 1,500 inmates, will close its doors on Sept 30, 2021, according to a statement from CDCR under an order from Gov. Newsom’s administration.
Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a nonpartisan government agency, has given its opinion on the matters by stating that the CDCR should become more focused and close more than two prisons over the next few years, adding maybe it should be five prisons.
LAO also added to keep in mind the prison system that existed back then “may no longer be in line with the state’s view on penal systems and public safety.”
Public leaders also responded to Gov. Newsom’s proposed corrections budget.
Brian Kaneda, L.A. Coordinator, California United for Responsible Budget, said, “We applaud Governor Newsom’s historic decision to make closing a California prison within the next five years a key budget priority, but that doesn’t go far enough.”
He added that the people do not need to allocate billions of dollars to fix failed prisons. Kaneda believes they should be closed down, noting, “California can’t afford to continue prison and jail expansion at the expense of vital community needs.”
Additionally, activists present said that legislative officials neglected to address the fact that they received more than 400 letters demanding a fair “People’s Plan for Prison Closure” that could be led by the community.
Kaneda said it is amusing to see that CDCR does not know what it’s doing. He believes that CDCR’s lack of knowledge is wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars and putting prisoner’s lives at risk.
“The legislature seems to see what’s going on in the department,” he said, noting he hopes lawmakers can act soon to stop CDCR’s continued push for billions of dollars when prisons are closing.
Lisbeth Martinez is a third year at UC Davis, double majoring in Communication and Political Science. She currently lives in Shafter, California.
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