By Robert J Hansen
Sacramento, CA – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) held a statewide online rally calling on Governor Gavin Newsom and the state to adopt a comprehensive plan for future prison closures and to halt CDCR spending increases.
CURB is calling on California to close at least 10 prisons in the next 5 years.
CURB Executive Director, Amber-Rose Howard said the legislature and Newsom need a serious roadmap for prison closures.
“A serious roadmap for more prison closures means closed prisons must be torn down and repurposed for positive non-carceral use,” Howard said to over 200 attendees.
Howard said that deactivated facilities historically are still used for carceral purposes by the federal government or immigration prisons.
The rally came two days after Gov. Newsom released his 2023-24 budget proposal funding$14.5 billion for CDCR, $500 million more than this fiscal year.
Howard said that as more prisons are shut down and the prison population continues to decline, so should the amount of funding.
“Going up another half a billion dollars ain’t it,” Howard said.
Of this amount, the $3.8 billion General Fund is for health care programs, which provide incarcerated individuals with access to mental health, medical, and dental care services.
The adult incarcerated population for 2022-23 is projected to be about 96,000 and a decrease of 6.6 percent since the last projections, according to the Governor’s Office.
Fall projections indicate the adult incarcerated population will trend downward, decreasing by 2,761 individuals between 2022-23 and 2023-24, from 96,157 to 93,396, respectively.
Woods Ervin, Critical Resistance, said the CCC closure is an example of what to avoid in future closures, like transferring inmates instead of releasing them.
“Throughout the CCC closure, incarcerated people faced retaliation from staff and inhuman conditions,” Ervin said.
Critical Resistance is a national grassroots organization that seeks to build an international movement to end the prison industrial complex.
The Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) in Blythe, is also scheduled to close in March 2025.
CURB said the money should not be saved in the general fund or repurposed for other issues, but to be invested in reentry and other services to be prioritized.
“We don’t want to save the money when we see the budget decreasing for prisons or to store in a rainy day fund,” Howard said. “People who are most directly impacted by the system of incarceration need that money.”
Yoel Haile represented the ACLU of Northern California and expressed its commitment to support the cause to close California’s prisons.
Haile said California has a historic opportunity to reform its carceral landscape by repurposing closed prisons.
“If California wants to become a national leader on prison closure, there’s a lot to learn from other states about prison repurposing,” Haile said.
A recent report from The Sentencing Project found that 21 states have partially or fully closed at least one prison since 2020 making those sites prime candidates for community and commercial use, according to Haile.
“Communities that we think of as safe are not those with the most police and the most people going to prison,” Haile said. “Rather they are those with enough resources to provide support to residents and their families.”
CURB is a Black-led statewide coalition of more than 80 grassroots organizations focused on issues like sentencing reform, justice reinvestment and prison closure.