Counties Prioritizing Jail Construction to Answer Realignment Challenges

​FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 26, 2013​

MEDIA CONTACT: Diana Zuñiga, Californians United for a Responsible Budget 213-864-8931

County experts available upon request for Fresno, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and others.

​California – ​Activists and analysts who have monitored California’s criminal justice realignment since it’s debut in 2011 released an updated Realignment Report Card today that shows the state moving away from realignment’s early promises.

“The opportunity to reverse the policies of mass incarceration that have been masquerading as public policy is slipping away,” says Emily Harris, who has been organizing against jail expansion in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties with Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB). “Instead, Sacramento is encouraging more counties to expand jails.”

CURB’s previous report cards (2011 & 2012) ranked counties with “Pass”, “Fail” or “Incomplete,” with a passing grade offered to counties planning to use realignment funds as an opportunity to keep their residents out of prison and jail while shifting public funds toward programs that connect people to housing, health care, education, job training, and reentry services that reduce recidivism. The 2013 report card adds the category “Double Fail” for counties like Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside​, San Mateo​ and Kern that are planning to construct multiple new jail facilities.

“There is plenty of blame to go around,” said Debbie Reyes of the California Prison Moratorium Project who is organizing against jail expansion in the Central Valley. “The Legislature, Governor Brown, Secretary Beard and the usual law-and-order suspects in Sacramento are offering jail construction money to counties and most Boards of Supervisors are acting like kids at Halloween: they can’t stop themselves from taking more.

“Realignment was and still might be a chance to shift our policies away from arrest and incarcerate towards one of invest and improve,” said Tash Nguyen of Sin Barras, organizing against Santa Cruz County jail construction. “But as more jails are built and more sheriffs hired to staff them, there will be less money to fund programs that will sustain and grow our neighborhoods.”

Despite the lack of leadership in Sacramento, residents across the state are demanding that their counties shift direction and realign away from constructing more jail cells towards alternatives to incarceration and reentry services that keep people out of jail and in their communities. Vocal protests and community forums about plans for new jail construction have happened recently in San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Mateo and several other counties. On December 4th advocates from numerous counties will come together at the Board of State and Community Corrections ​in​ Sacramento at 12pm to demand community solutions and no more jail construction.

“Building more cells to solve overcrowding is the wrong direction to go,” said Mary Sutton of Critical Resistance organizing against jail expansion in Los Angeles County. “Multiple studies show that investing in social programs rather than jails will create safer communities. Ignoring proven strategies that will reduce jail populations will continue to devastate and disenfranchise poor communities and communities of color across our state in the coming years.”

CURB’s Realignment Report Card #3 is available online at:
www.curbprisonspending.org​