By Michael Apfel and Ramneet Singh
SACRAMENTO, CA – Chuckawalla State Prison and other California correctional facilities are set to shut down following a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announcement, marking a win for prison closure advocates and mass incarceration opponents.
The CDCR declared Tuesday state plans to shut down Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County by March 2025. A $32 million lease on the California City Correctional Facility is not scheduled to be renewed in 2024.
Other facilities scheduled for deactivation are the Folsom Women’s Facility by January 2023, the California Men’s Colony (West) by Winter 2023, the California Rehabilitation Center (A yard) by Spring 2023, the California Institution for Men (D yard) by Spring 2023, the Pelican Bay State Prison (C yard) by Winter 2023, and the California Correctional Institution (D yard) by Summer 2023
In response to these announcements, the CDCR has stated plans to introduce an economic resilience plan for local communities impacted by the closures.
Prison closure advocates around the state are celebrating the CDCR announcement.
Amber-Rose Howard, executive director of the prison closure advocacy group Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), commented on the positive implications of the closures.
“Our community applauds this move toward reversing California’s terrible history of prison expansion,” Howard said. “We hope yard deactivations are done safely, and that they are an indication of the future prison closures we all know are possible over the next several years.”
In their “Who We Are” page, CURB’s goal is “to reduce the number of incarcerated people in California; reduce the number of prison and jails in our state; and shift wasteful spending away from incarceration and toward health community investments.”
Their homepage includes various statistics concerning prisoner demographics, including how “at least 33 percent of people in California prisons have been diagnosed with serious mental health needs.”
The statement argues this fits in the “effort to reduce its sprawling prison population.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-23 budget requires the closure of Susanville’s California’s Correctional Center in June 2023.
The linked budget shows that “corrections and rehabilitation” makes up 6.1 percent of the $308 billion state budget, and more specifically, the 6.1 percent equates to $18,796,129, but there are additional funds that also go toward incarceration.
The budget also looks at potential closures by 2025.
The office’s 2020 report includes graphs showing a reduction in inmate, parolee and ward population. Looking at the timing of those savings, the report looks at the impact of “low population density” and also how “the state will likely bargain with unions who represent the employees at the facilities slated for closure on how to minimize the effects on the workforce and daytoday operations.”
The original CURB statement claims “at least $1.5 billion annually in savings if California committed to closing five prisons by 2025.”
CURB’s plan includes issues associated with prisons and discusses who needs to be released among other things, noting that “a serious plan for prison closure means that closed prisons stay closed; prison populations are reduced through releases…investments in reentry and other services are prioritized.”
The original statement claims there will be an annual reduction of $2.8 billion in CA spending with the shutting down of 10 prisons, and, said Howard, “centers community investment and is informed by the experiences of people most harmed by incarceration.”