CURB's Letter in the New York Times: Crowded Prisons in California

JULY 29, 2014 in the New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Strong Steps on Sentencing Reform” (editorial, July 22):

The United States Sentencing Commission’s vote to give nearly a quarter of federal prisoners the chance to reduce their sentences is a tribute to the tireless work of former prisoners, family members and other advocates to end the peril of mass incarceration.

However, in California, we have not had the “remarkable success” in reducing our prison population that the editorial suggests. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has fought the court order to reduce the prison population with a tenacity some have likened to Gov. George Wallace’s resistance to desegregation.

His main strategy to reduce crowding has been “public safety realignment,” which shifted overcrowding from state prisons to county jails, resulting in extensive jail expansion.

Let’s be careful not to give California any pat on the back: Mr. Brown has repeatedly promised that he will do everything in his power to avoid “early releases.”

ISAAC LEV SZMONKO
EMILY HARRIS
Oakland, Calif., July 23, 2014

Ms. Harris is statewide coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, and Mr. Szmonko is a member of Critical Resistance Oakland. Both groups seek to reduce the number of prisons.