For Immediate Release—December 9, 2011
Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
ph. 510 444 0484
California – On Monday December 12, people from communities across California will be paying lawmakers a visit to demand a moratorium on prison and jail expansion. California’s massive prison system has become internationally notorious for its Supreme Court-condemned overcrowding crisis, deadly health conditions, and tens of billions of dollars of costs. As California plans further cuts to education, healthcare, and jobs–and with responsibility for low-level prisoners being shifted from state to county–many fear a new round of jail expansion and the growth of county sheriffs’ budgets at the expense of other county programs. Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), an alliance of organizations and communities from across the state, are leading Monday’s trip to Sacramento and hope to work with politicians to solve California’s prison crisis.
“When we think of visiting politicians and suggesting plans that will help solve the intimately connected budget crisis and prison crisis, we hope that the depth of the ongoing crises opens the Legislature to think about something different,” says Emily Harris, statewide coordinator for CURB. “We’re in a horribly deep hole caused by 30 years of building prisons. It is past time to stop digging and to change course. We are going to have working people from across the state taking time off their jobs to talk with our lawmakers about solutions and to show them that without a prison and jail moratorium reforms are doomed. Without stopping jail and prison expansion, programs vital to the well being of all Californians are doomed for further cuts.” CURB will be pushing state legislators to take up a moratorium that will prevent California from expanding jail and prison facilities, while also cancelling the controversial Assembly Bill AB900 which allocates $7.7 billion in prison spending. Much of that money is now being offered to counties as an incentive to expand their jails.
“For low income California communities, economic and social crisis didn’t start in 2008—we have seen more jails, and more prisons, and that has meant more of our families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers locked up. It has meant more families separated. At the same time we have seen schools close, jobs disappear, and health plummet,” says Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition in Inglewood, “But crises are also opportunities. A moratorium on building more cages allows us to put other options on the table, whether we’re talking about addressing harm, getting people out the system, or investing in the wider community.”
During its legislative visits, CURB will be linking a moratorium on jail and prison expansion with the opportunities to enact basic sentencing reforms and parole guidelines while outlining a variety of humanitarian release scenarios that could get thousands of people out of prisons and jails while saving the state over $5 billion. CURB’s budget and prison organizing work comes just weeks before California is likely to see hundreds of millions of dollars in education and health cuts, during an economic meltdown with a steady double digit unemployment rate. Figures have also recently been released showing the state’s middle class shrinking to below 50% and 1 in 4 children living in poverty.