For Immediate Release – Friday, June 26, 2015
Communities Statewide Mobilize to Sacramento, Oppose Funding for Local Jails
Sacramento – Today, community members and advocates from across California are pushing back against $500 million of state funds going to counties for jail construction and expansion at a “Bidders’ Conference,” held by the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). The Bidders Conference lures Sheriffs’ departments from across the state to scramble for competitive funding for their counties’ jails, a move opposed by community members as a harmful and wasteful use of state resources.
In order to receive funds, counties are graded on a set of criteria, then ranked across the state. Jail opponents argue, however, that many counties are ineligible for funds for a variety of reasons, including a lack of need for jails, the high level of opposition to jail expansion among their local elected officials, and the abundance of alternatives. For instance, Los Angeles County voted earlier this month to suspend its jail construction plans in lieu of assessing possible alternatives to imprisonment; and last week in San Francisco, two more county supervisors voiced public opposition to a proposed jail project.
“The jail population across the state is falling due to the passing of Prop 47, and we have yet to see the full effects of its implementation,” says Diana Zuniga of CURB. “California doesn’t need any more jails. Building more will not only be a slap in the face to Californians, but will be completely wasteful.” Advocates argue that more time is needed to assess the impact of Prop 47, and that counties receiving money for jails will only reverse the progress that has been made.
“Over 60% of those imprisoned in California jails are pretrial, meaning they have not been convicted, and are locked up simply for not being able to afford bail,” says Tash Nguyen of Sin Barras. “While officials want to waste $500 million on new jails, simple bail reform would cost virtually nothing and make more jails completely unnecessary across the state.”
The BSCC was established in 2012 through Realignment (AB109), which was meant to reduce California’s prison population following a federal court order. However, advocates point out that by incentivizing jail construction, the BSCC is merely shifting the burden from the state level to counties. “For too long, our communities have endured California’s imprisonment crisis, and more jails is not going to solve it,” says Debbie Reyes of California Prison Moratorium Project. “Real solutions are in plain sight. It’s time for elected officials to act on them.”
Spokespeople will be available to speak with the press at the mobilization.