Assembly Budget Committee Approved Controversial Jail Construction Funding

For Immediate Release – May 23, 2014

Contact: Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget – 510-435-1176

Sacramento – Yesterday, the Assembly Budget subcommittee on corrections voted unanimously to pass the Governor’s budget proposal to grant an additional $500 million in lease revenue bond financing to counties to expand their jails, with placeholder language that would give priority to “proposals with a significant focus on program space, classrooms, mental health, and medical space.”

“It’s a shame that the Assembly Budget Committee didn’t take stronger steps to ensure that counties have resources they need to build comprehensive alternatives to jails that are proven to be much more effective in reducing recidivism.” said Endria Richardson of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, who was in attendance yesterday as the Sub Committee passed the entire 17 page agenda with one vote. 

The proposal to offer counties $500 million for jail construction would be the third year such funds have been given and would increase the total given to counties for jail construction to $2.3 billion.

This vote falls on the heels of a unanimous vote by the Senate Budget Committee to oppose the $500 in bond financing to go entirely to new jail expansion. Instead the Senate committee passed a provision to allow additional bond financing to build county reentry projects “designed to provide rehabilitative services and housing for individuals convicted of crimes.” These projects can include, but are not limited to, transitional housing, day reporting centers, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities and jails.Several additional proposals from the Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment that could have a significant impact on jail overcrowding were also passed by the Assembly Committee during yesterday’s hearing, but with total funding of just over $20 million for the programs combined:

  • Establishing a clearinghouse that will hire people with felony conviction;
  • Investing in Community Based organizations doing work in the community and in prison and jails aimed at reducing recidivism;
  • Expanding the Alternative Custody Program to people in women’s jails;
  • Expanding credit earning at the local level for people in work furlough programs;
  • Presumption of spilt sentencing for realigned prisoners.
“This vote demonstrates a clear contradiction, I think the Assembly is stuck between their desire to the right thing and their fear of the wrath of Governor and the Sheriff’s Association” said Diana Zuñiga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Clearly, overcrowding in our county jails would be significantly reduced if we implemented all these population reduction proposals first.”

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