CURB Hails Senator Hancock’s Call to Immediately Close Aging Prison, Demands further Reductions in May Revise

 

For Immediate Release – May 13, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: Christina Tsao, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Christina@curbprisonspending.org, 213-864-8931.

Sacramento – In advance of Governor Brown’s May Budget Revise, Senator Loni Hancock takes a bold move this morning by releasing a statement and letter calling for the immediate closure of California Rehabilitation Center Norco. Norco, opened in 1980, is one of the oldest medium-security prisons in California and closure of this facility has been seriously discussed since at least 2003. Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) applauds this historic and overdue call to close Norco. CURB demands that Governor Brown and the entire legislature support the closure of Norco and re-direct funds from contract bed capacity towards a durable and sustainable prison population reduction plan.

“The plan to close Norco has been a battle that members of our coalition have been a part of since the birth of CURB in 2003. The lack of action to close this prison has resulted in numerous compromise deals that approved $810 million for in-fill bed construction, the opening of New Folsom for women, the Stockton Medical Facility, and over 12,000 people in in-state or out of state contract prisons. Now CDCR is still insisting they need over $20 million to continue increasing contract bed capacity,” said Diana Zuñiga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “It’s time to stop compromising and commit to closing Norco. Our elected officials need to focus on the long overdue release of people in prison by codifying elder parole, expanding credits for everyone, and fully implementing the Alternative Custody Program. Californians can’t afford more expansion or more foot dragging and we hope to see something different in the May Budget Revise.”

The CDCR 2012 report “The Future of California Corrections” showed Norco scheduled to close in June 2016. The plan in 2012 would cut spending by billions of dollars, cancel some construction projects, close one lockup and bring back 9,500 inmates housed in other states – all while meeting court orders to reduce crowding and improve medical care. Corrections reported that the California Rehabilitation Center had 1,050 authorized positions with a payroll of $76.8 million and houses 3,900 inmates. Closing it would save about $160 million a year in operating costs, authorities said. The old and dilapidated building has contributed to an infestation of rodents, leaky pipes, water temperature failing, and continued unsafe conditions for everyone inside of the facility.

“It is unacceptable that the State of California continues to operate this facility,” Hancock stated.  “It does not meet even the most minimal standards of acceptable conditions for human habitation.  If our goal is to rehabilitate inmates so they are able to return to society as productive citizens, housing them at Norco is not the way to go about it.”

In past discussions, local officials supported the closure. Norco Mayor Kevin Bash said leaders and developers were interested in the area and that very few prison employees lived in Norco which provided little revenue to the city. Norco is located in Riverside County, an area that already suffers from high levels of incarceration and poverty rates.

“Even CDCR Secretary Cate stated in 2012 that Norco was CDCR’s ‘least efficient, most expensive, least safe, oldest prison’. So why is it still operating?”, said Vonya Quarles of Riverside Alternatives to Jail Expansion Coalition and All of Us or None Riverside. “We know that a $160 million savings could be better used to create employment, housing, and treatment opportunities for people coming home to the Inland Empire and throughout California. We hope that this closure is the first of a legislative trend that calls for a serious of reforms and further prison closure.”

The budget crisis in California has deepened as the corrections budget continues to increase and funding for education, health and social services is still not being fully restored. California is scheduled to get out of the court order by Feb. 2016 and in that plan has to decide whether to close Norco or continue to keep an environmental, fiscal and health problem open.

CURB will be available for comment and will also be participating in a series of press conferences once the May Budget is released on May 14, 2015.

Press Conference locations:

Thursday, May 14, 2015:

Los Angeles: Aurora Garcia – 562-519-3106 – 12pm at the Ronald Reagan State Building, 300 South Spring St., LA
Sacramento: Pete Woiwode – 510-504-9552 – 11:00am at 1315 10th St., Sacramento

Friday, May 15th, 2015:

Riverside: Maribel Nunez – 562-569-4051 – 1:00pm at the California Towers Riverside, 3737 Main Street Riverside, CA 92501

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