In February 2017, in Oakland, California, we sat across from one another in a room full of people, each wearing passion and pain on our faces, eagerly awaiting the start of a strategy session to stop prison and jail expansion. The facilitator introduced us as the new CURB staff members who would be leading the coalition in a fight against the largest prison expansion plan in California’s history: the replacement or refurbishment of the state’s 12 oldest prisons. As we looked at all of the organizers, representing California communities from San Diego to the Bay, we greeted each other with a warm embrace, confident that we had joined a powerful coalition.
CURB and its members are the reason that we feel empowered to own our leadership and help move California to a state that does not rely on incarceration.
CURB’s annual gathering is only one example of the powerful cohesion generated between CURB members. Over the past 14 years, now with over 70 grassroots member organizations, CURB has successfully expanded parole and sentencing reforms including: medical and elder parole, good-time credits, and the Alternative Custody Programs. Since 2004 we have stopped over $9 billion in prison and jail construction funding through the budget and legislative processes. Our members have stopped jail expansion in San Francisco and defeated two contracts with private jails in Los Angeles, while delaying a $3.7 billion jail plan.
Growing up in southern California, we witnessed Black and Latino people in our neighborhoods plagued by poverty and incarceration. With little resources and a lack of gainful opportunities, people in our communities are criminalized for struggling to survive and systematically prevented from achieving their full potential. These experiences are not exclusive to our communities. Continued state investment in corrections and incarceration means less resources for the care and development of every family in California and an increase in hopelessness.
The work of the CURB coalition amplifies our collective story and makes room to imagine new transformative approaches to harm, work towards equitable access to employment and services for those most impacted by the system, and shares that knowledge with communities across the state.
As formerly incarcerated, formerly undocumented, queer, women of color who currently have loved ones incarcerated, we can’t imagine fighting incarceration without CURB. We have witnessed the impact that people power has on decision makers throughout the state and we will continue to grow in that power.
The lives of those trapped in human cages across our state, as well as their families on the outside, are depending on people like us to restore hope and community. We appreciate you for being a part of the small gains and the large victories. We know that we will continue to move mountains. We are the leaders that we have been waiting for!
Ivette Alé & Amber Rose Howard
Californians United for a Responsible Budget