By The Vanguard Staff
SACRAMENTO, CA – Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) and other prison reform advocates, in an online rally late last week, demanded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and state legislature adopt a “community-informed roadmap to close at least seven more prisons by 2025 as part of this year’s budget process.”
The prison reform advocates said more than 250 people attended the Close California Prisons campaign online rally and press conference in “response” to the governor’s 2023-24 Proposed Budget Summary.
“According to the proposed budget, California will save $417 million from closing prisons, yet CDCR will still receive a budget increase this year of $468 million. How does that make sense?” said Brian Kaneda, Deputy Director, CURB.
Kaneda noted, “California is facing a $24 billion deficit and CDCR is a money pit—instead of wasting resources on a state department with out-of-control spending, these dollars should be invested back into the communities that need it most.”
CURB’s Roadmap Overview released last week suggests how California can “prepare for and carry out closures, support communities impacted by incarceration, and invest in towns where prisons will be closed.” CURB said it will release the full report in February.
Yoel Haile, Director of the Criminal Justice Program, ACLU NorCal, said, “The recently announced closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County, the third such announcement in two years, has increased the inventory of empty prisons in California. Rather than keeping closed prisons in ‘warm shutdown’ mode, costing taxpayers millions, closed prisons should be torn down or repurposed for positive non-carceral use.”
Haile said example of that are included in a “national study by the Sentencing Project. California must close its prisons and repurpose those closed prisons into spaces that serve our communities economically and socially.”
“Closing prisons will help us fund what we really need to create a safe California for us all: thorough and supportive reentry infrastructure to help folks secure employment, healthcare and housing, services that support survivors like trauma care, health services, and financial support, and comprehensive mental health treatment without police or prisons,” said Genevieve Romero, Care First CA Coalition Coordinator, Dignity and Power Now.
And, Woods Ervin, National Media & Communications Director, Critical Resistance, noted, “California should end all forms of extended sentencing in the interest of public health, fiscal responsibility, and to facilitate the number of releases necessary for prison closure.”
Woods added, “We need to end the draconian sentencing policies that were put into law over the past 30 years. This includes 3 strikes, life without parole [LWOP] sentencing, gang and gun enhancements––all of which have condemned thousands upon thousands of our people to unending imprisonment.”
CURB said during a two-hour online program, more than “500 supporters sent letters to the Assembly and Senate Sub 5 Public Safety Committees and Gov. Newsom demanding action on prison closure, and a reduction to the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) bloated $14.5 billion budget.”
Isa Borgeson, Inside/Outside Senior Organizer, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said,
“The state’s commitments to economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice must include a concrete plan for closing prisons. In the past 12 years, despite a decrease in our prison population, we’ve seen CDCR’s budget grow by more than $5 billion.”
Borgeson explained, “Today, our state spends $18.6 billion on corrections every year. And in the Governor’s proposed budget released just earlier this week, corrections spending increased by another half a billion dollars, despite further projected population drops of 6.6 percent.”
Amber-Rose Howard, Executive Director, CURB, said, “Now is the time for the state to address prison closure in the coming budget cycle and beyond. It’s vital we adopt a concrete roadmap for a decarceral just transition.”
Howard added, “According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office analysis, the significant downward trend in the state prison population suggests that even after terminating the CAC [California City Correctional Facility] contract and closing DVI [Deuel Vocational Institution], CCC [California Correctional Center], CVSP [Chuckawalla Valley State Prison], and three additional prisons by 2025, California prisons may still have 10,000 empty prison beds.”