By Oliver Camarena
SACRAMENTO, CA – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) released a statement Tuesday responding to Governor Newsom’s recent revisions to the 2022-2023 state budget.
CURB is calling for Newsom to make a firm commitment to the closure of more state prisons as California sees its number of incarcerated individuals decreasing. CURB advocates wish to see the money saved from the closure of these prisons put towards community investments.
Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy was closed last year by Newsom’s administration, bringing the total number of state prisons to 34.
Following this, the governor has been attempting to shut down California Correctional Institution in Susanville, a matter which has become tied up in court.
Currently, Newsom’s administration only suggests the “possibility” of closing an additional three prisons by 2024-2025. Proponents of the Close California Prisons (CCP) coalition applaud this step forward but also criticize it as not being enough.
With the state’s own Legislative Analyst’s Office already calculating that the closure of five prisons would save $1.5 billion by 2025, prison closure groups are calling for more than the already established possibility of more closures.
Community leaders from across the state protested in front of the State Capitol Building May 11 detailing the specifics of the change they wish to see. These changes include:
- A smart, concrete plan for closing more prisons must appear in the enacted 2022-23 budget this summer, as well as an end to The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) infrastructure spending spree.
- Continued reductions to the state prison population, and an end to new “tough on crime” spending on police and prosecutors. This political posturing masquerading as public safety is threatening to reverse our progress.
- A shift in resources away from bloated prison budgets and toward positive investments in 1) community-based care and living wage jobs, centering the needs of marginalized people across the state and 2) towns where prisons will close.
Despite the decrease in prison populations, California’s proposed budget allocates $18.7 billion to carceral spending, an increase from the $13.5 billion five years ago.
Advocacy groups are quick to point out the discrepancy in spending more despite prison populations declining along with our diminishing use of incarceration as a tool to address social problems.
California’s prison population currently stands at around 96,000, down three percent from December with the Governor’s Office projecting that number going down even further to 95,600 by 2025.
Only three years ago, California’s prison population was more than 120,000 people.
These advocacy groups cited the state’s own penal code which affirms, “criminal justice policies that rely on building and operating more prisons to address community safety concerns are not sustainable, and will not result in improved public safety,” to make their argument about pursuing more holistic, community-based, investments rather than rely on incarceration, which they say fails to address the root causes of social problems in California.