By Esha Kher and Julia Asby
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) released a statement expressing its concerns Friday over the increase in funding for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to $13.6 billion in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May revisions of the 2021-22 budget.
CURB is a statewide coalition of organizations working to reduce the number of people imprisoned in California and the number of prisons and jails in the state.
In response to Newsom’s increase in the final budget for Corrections by $6 billion dollars, the CURB directors stated that this increase in prison spending is counterintuitive to California’s decline in prison populations and increase in prison closures in recent years.
“Since 2013, the state prison system has gone from 150 percent of design capacity to just below the court-ordered cap of 137.5 percent. Spring projections now estimate an incarcerated adult average daily population of 106,259 which is the lowest in decades,” said the statement.
“As of May 2021, California prisons are still at 105.4 percent capacity during a global pandemic that infected at least 49,240 incarcerated people and killed at least 222. And yet, spending for overall corrections continues to rise. The corrections budget has grown steadily every year, from $8.9 billion (2012-2013) to this coming year’s proposed $13.6 billion in general funding,” reported the CURB directors.
The May revision also includes investment and funding to expand and maintain prisons and to make them safer and more welcoming.
“The May Revision includes an additional investment of $100 million in CDCR deferred maintenance projects […] infrastructure repairs and expansion projects,” CURB said.
“The May Revision includes spending such as approximately $14 million for ‘facility improvements’ at Valley State Prison (VSP)––a prison known to have toxic water––to create a ‘welcoming and community-like atmosphere’ for incarcerated people.”
However, instead of investing in making prisons a “nicer” place, CURB proposes that we need to release people from dilapidated, poisonous prisons and jails and prioritize community based care instead.
“Divestment from ineffective, punitive responses to harm––like prisons––is necessary in order to reallocate resources towards community-based answers to public safety and provide a sustainable fiscal future for all Californians,” CURB said.
Though CURB disapproves of the increase in prison spending, it applauds the Newsom administration for a number of things including major equity-centered investments in health and human services. CURB also applauds the Newsom administration for its commitment to prison closures which saves a lot of money for the state.
“CDCR plans to close Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy by September 2021, achieving savings of $119 million General Fund in 2021-22, and $150.3 million General Fund annually beginning in 2022-23. The Department also plans to close the California Correctional Center in Susanville, by June 30, 2022. The closure of this facility is estimated to save the state $122 million General Fund in 2022-23 and ongoing,” CURB said.
The statement concludes by pointing out that budgets reflect our values and that California needs to redefine its priorities and “completely reexamine its relationship with justice and safety to prioritize community based care.”
Esha Kher is an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Political Science and Computer Science hoping to pursue a career in corporate law. She is passionate about legal journalism and political advocacy that provokes new perspectives and sparks conversation among the public.
Julia Asby is a third year student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociocultural Anthropology. She is originally from Sacramento.
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