Response to State Budget: Group Charges California Governor’s ‘Oversight’ of Not Closing Prisons Will Cost Billions

By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $291 billion budget plan announced Wednesday will cost taxpayers billions of dollars because of a “glaring oversight” and “reluctance to fully embrace” the closing of at least five state prisons, said Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB).

CURB noted, in a statement, “Given the disparity between the Governor’s estimates and the state’s own Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) – which projected a more severe $68 billion deficit – CURB underscored the urgent need to align state spending with long-term fiscal sustainability and racial justice.”

Amber-Rose Howard, executive director of CURB, went further, charging, “The absence of a decisive move towards further prison closures in the budget, despite their demonstrated cost-savings, is a glaring oversight. Governor Newsom’s reluctance to fully embrace this strategy will cost California billions over the long term.”

“Governor Newsom’s proposal overlooks major opportunities for ‘belt-tightening’ within the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) itself, missing key chances to defer or cancel infrastructure spending in the prison system,” added Howard.

CURB heavily criticized “Newsom’s hesitant approach to adding more prison closures, a strategy supported by the LAO’s data and also by many California democrats in the legislature.”

The coalition also criticized the marked increases in law enforcement investments given  the exaggerated narratives of a retail ‘crime wave.’

Brian Kaneda, CURB’s deputy director, said, “The Governor’s failure to acknowledge the advisory council’s recommendation to cut spending for the $360 million San Quentin building is striking. In the face of criticism, he’s sidestepping the gritty details for broader strokes. This approach muddies the waters around the ‘California Model,’ especially given that the projects named in the budget are mostly older initiatives. 

“While we recognize the necessity for cultural change within the CDCR, highlighted by groups like The People In Blue at San Quentin, the Governor’s budget blatantly minimizes the inadequacies in CDCR’s capacity report, which seems to signal an intention to maintain existing prison budgets and avoid necessary closures.”

CURB is urging Newsom to “demonstrate his commitment to public safety and fiscal responsibility by committing to close at least five more state prisons by May, and add further closures in next year’s budget.

“Governor Newsom is at a crossroads where his decisions can profoundly impact California’s fiscal stability and justice system. Announcing more prison closures and stronger decarceration efforts is essential to shrink California’s carceral footprint and free up funds to reinvest in our communities,” added Kaneda.

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