CURB Open Letter on May Budget Proposals

June 8, 2012

To:    The Hon. Jerry Brown, Governor

Senator Mark Leno                                         Assembly Member Robert Blumenfield

Chair, Senate Budget Committee                    Chair, Assembly Budget Committee

Re:      Corrections Spending (May Budget Revision),

Dear Governor Brown, Chairman Leno and Chairman Blumenfield,

The positive steps proposed in the recently released Futures of California Corrections report by the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation encourage us.  These changes reflect at least a decade of tireless work by California communities to take on the state’s prison crisis.  We support many of these proposals, but we also know that we could do far more to reduce prison spending by further reducing the number of people in prison and the number of prison beds in the state.  Moreover, we oppose requests to raise the overcrowding ceiling to 145%, and for an additional $810 million in lease revenue bond authority to build more prison beds.  These requests are in direct contradiction to measures that aim to shrink our bloated prison system.

On Monday April 23, CDCR released a plan in the wake of the Supreme Court overcrowding ruling, realignment, the budget crisis, and increased pressure from communities across the state fighting prison and jail expansion. The majority of the changes outlined in the report are also found in Governor Brown’s May Budget Revise.

The plan reflects some positive steps that CURB has been recommending for years, including cancelling $4.1 billion of AB900 funding, expanding programming for people inside and for people on parole, expanding the Alternative Custody Program, and remanding civil addicts to county supervision. However, these steps are very conservative given California’s ongoing budget crisis and they do not go far enough to address the needs of California communities.  In fact, CDCR is keeping step with 30 years of disastrous policy by calling for only these two minor sentencing reforms, proposing to raise the overcrowding ceiling to 145%, and requesting an additional $810 million in lease revenue bond authority to build more prison beds.

Given our $15.7 billion budget deficit, the huge rounds of harmful budget cuts made in recent years to the state’s safety net and to higher education, along with those yet to be made, it is inconceivable that the Legislature would approve new prison and jail beds. As you work to finalize the 2012-13 budget we urge you to adopt the following recommendations:

Cancel All Prison and Jail Expansion

  • Cancel 100% of remaining AB 900 prison and jail expansion funds, not just the proposed $4.1 billion. $1.9 billion of AB900 money, with added debt and future operating costs, is still a disastrous waste of resources that could go to education, job training, healthcare and beneficial construction projects.
  • Reject the Administration’s request to authorize an additional $500 million in lease revenue bond authority to expand county jail space. The purpose of the Realignment Act of 2011 was to encourage counties to make smart, effective decisions about incarceration, not punt the State’s overcrowding problem to fifty-eight separate counties.  Providing funding for more county jail space – at significant State expense – sends a message that even though CDCR could not build its way out of unconstitutional prisons, the counties can.  Instead, the Administration should be encouraging, even mandating, independent jail population studies, pre-trial services and release, and community based alternatives to reduce their jail populations.
  • Reject the request for $810 million to build more prison beds.  The justification for this expansion is that the aging prison population will require more medical care. CDCR could cancel plans to build more medical facilities and make significant steps to reducing the prison population by instituting extremely modest geriatric parole and expanding compassionate release programs.
  • Stop the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women to a men’s prison and close it permanently. The city of Chowchilla and the county of Madera have insisted that the prison not be converted to a men’s prison, and the CDCR itself said that 4,500 women prisoners do not need to be in prison.
  • Do not repurpose Folsom Transitional Treatment Facility to hold women. According to the CDCR itself, we can drastically reduce the number of women in prison now.
  • The Legislative Analyst’s Office and California Voters Agree. In The 2012-13 Budget: State Should Consider Less Costly Alternatives to CDCR Blueprint, the Legislative Analyst recommended closing prisons, and action on alternatives to CDCR’s plan to build more.[1] A Lake Research Partners poll released in May of 2011 shows that 72 percent of California voters favor allocating tax dollars to alternative custody programs for people convicted of “nonviolent” offenses rather than building more prisons. Furthermore, this May, a poll by Tulchin Research showed nearly unanimous sentiment that jails are overcrowded and we should find other ways to deal with people imprisoned for “non-violent offendes” (87 percent agree, 61 percent strongly agree).

Reduce Population

  • Ensure that CDCR is held responsible for reaching the 137.5% population reduction benchmark set by the court, instead of seeking to raise the overcrowding ceiling to 145% of design capacity. In fact 137.5% of design capacity is too high and we encourage CDCR to continue reductions well below 137.5%.
  • Ensure every person in prison has access to programming and that everyone on parole gets services to help with their transition.  Programming and services are proven to dramatically reduce recidivism.  Order CDCR to develop a plan to guarantee access to programs for 100% of prisoners and parolees.
  • Implement Geriatric Parole to address the rapidly aging prison population and reduce the need for high cost medical beds.
  • Expand Compassionate Release and Medical Parole to eliminate the need for high cost medical beds.
  • Expand Alternative Custody for Women eligibility to include women who have a prior conviction classified as “serious” or “violent”.
  • California Voters Agree. 75 percent of voters are less likely to favor putting women convicted of non-violent crimes in state prison when they hear it costs approximately $50,000 per year to keep one woman in prison.
  • Remove barriers to the Alternative Custody program and expand the program to include eligibility for people in men’s prisons and the elderly.

Other

  • We support the plan to stop out-of-state transfers, and urge that the timeline be moved up.
  • We support downgrading prisoners’ classification levels, but also call for sweeping reform of California notorious Security Housing and Administrative Segregation Units.

CURB looks forward to working with decision makers to reprioritize jobs, housing, healthcare, education, and other institutions, programs, and services that make our communities safe and strong.

Respectfully,

Ron Ahnen, California Prison Focus.

Vanessa Aramayo, California Partnership

Pat Aties, Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Fanya Baruti, All of Us or None – Southern California

Morgan Bassichis, Community United Against Violence

Gail Brown, Life Support Alliance

Susan Burton, A New Way of Life Reentry Project

Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement

Katina Castillo, Community Justice Network for Youth

Manuel Criollo, Labor/Community Strategy Center

Kim Carter, Time for Change Foundation

Cynthia Chandler, Justice Now

Orlando Chavez, United for Drug Policy Reform

Craig Courtney, Conservatives for Social Change

Charli Eaton, Grandmothers of the Light

Tommy Escarcega, Projecto Common Touch

Linda Evans, All of Us or None

Frank Fontes III, California Prison Moratorium Project – Fresno

Amanda Garces, Enlace

George Galvis, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the Graduate Center, CUNY

Stephen Gutwillig, Drug Policy Alliance

LeaJay Harper, Center for Young Women’s Development

Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Kenneth Hartman, The Other Death Penalty Project

Dolores Huerta, The Dolores Huerta Foundation

Gloria Killian, Action Committee on Women in Prison

Jim Lindburg, Friends Committee on Legislation California

Liz Lozano, Juvenile Offenders Committee (JOC) – California Central Women’s Facility

Laura Magnani, America Friends Service Committee

Miss Major, Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project

Marc Mauer, The Sentencing Project

Kim McGill, Youth Justice Coalition

Jacqueline Miller, Women for Change Foundation

Marilyn Montenegro, CA Chapter NASW Women’s Council

Julia Negron, A New PATH LA – Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing

Vanessa Nelson, Life Support Alliance

Dorsey Nunn, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

Savannah O’Neill, Berkeley Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution

Mary Ratcliff, San Francisco Bay View newspaper

Debbie Reyes, California Prison Moratorium Project

Renee Saucedo, La Raza Centro Legal

Leah Sakala, Prison Policy Initiative

Penny Schoner, Prison Activist Resource Center

Geri Silva, Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes

Isaac Lev Szmonko, Critical Resistance – Oakland

Elizabeth Stewart, Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes – San Diego

Jesse Stout, Drug Policy Committee of the National Lawyers Guild

Mary Sutton, Critical Resistance – Los Angeles

Raphael Sperry, Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility

Diana Sylvestre, OASIS Clinic

Jimmie Thompson, Fair Chance Project

Nichola Torbett, Seminary of the Street

Sumayyah Waheed, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Mailee Wang, Community Works West – Project WHAT!

Deirdre Wilson, California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Clarissa Woo, American Civil Liberties Union of California

Chuco’s Justice Center

Development Services

Dignity In Schools: Golden Gate School of Law Chapter

El Cerrito Democratic Club

Free LA Highschool

Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal

Interfaith Communities United for Peace and Justice

Iraq Veterans Against the War – San Francisco

Justice Policy Institute

Occupy for Prisoners

Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles

Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains

Quaker Friends – Santa Cruz

RUACH

San Gabriel Valley Progressives

Sisters of St. Joseph – Los Angeles

Southern California Library

Students for Sensible Drug Policy – National Board of Directors

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Santa Cruz

Youth Communist League of California

cc: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Pérez, Senate Sub 5 Chair and Senate Public Safety Committee Chair Loni Hancock, Assembly Sub 5 Chair Gil Cedillo, Senate Sub 3 Chair Mark DeSaulnier, Assembly Sub 1 Chair Holly Mitchell, Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Ammiano.



[1] http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis/2012/crim_justice/cdcr-blueprint-051512.pdf