MEDIA ALERT-November 5, 2011
Realignment Used to Push Jail Expansion Across California
25 Counties to Apply for $603 million in Jail Construction Funding
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
SACRAMENTO – The Corrections Standards Authority (CSA) announced yesterday that it has invited 25 counties to submit applications for Phase II funding for construction or expansion of county jails. In response to deadly prison overcrowding, the US Supreme Court ordered California to reduce it’s prison population to 137.5% of design capacity this May.
“Since the Supreme Court ruling there has been a national focus on California. So many states are closing prison and jail beds, yet California is simply transferring overcrowding from state prisons to county jails,” notes Amanda Petteruti, Associate Director for the Justice Policy Institute in Washington DC. Petteruti continues “As the bellwether state of criminal justice policy, California is setting a scary precedent by building more cages to address overcrowding. Why not focus on safe and effective long-term strategies such as parole and sentencing reform?”
Advocates across California echoed Pettuti’s call that the state encourage counties to invest realignment funds in social services and alternatives to incarceration rather than waste it building more jail cells.
“Look at the hypocrisy here; realignment was sold to Californians as a way to do things differently in our state and move away from mass imprisonment. If money from the state is available only for jail expansion and not for community programming or alternatives to imprisonment, we are treading a worn and dangerous path” says Emily Harris the Statewide Coordinator for Californians United for A Responsible Budget (CURB). CURB is a statewide coalition of groups working to reduce the number of people in prison. Harris continues “We need to be looking at the collateral consequences to families and communities and the impact on our diminishing social safety net, and demand a moratorium on jail and prison expansion in California now.”
“What is California doing?” asks Susan Burton, Executive Director of A New Way of Life in Los Angeles. “Don’t we know by now it is bad for all Californians if we build more cages anywhere? This is a terrible investment of our resources, and we must stop it!”
Los Angeles County was ranked highest in priority to receive jail expansion money because it is the county that committed the largest percentage of prisoners to state custody in 2010. “With violent crime at an all time low, Los Angeles locks up more people then any place in the world, especially brown and Black youth, yet we have no money for jobs, youth centers, schools, libraries, and parks,” says Brandy Brown with the Youth Justice Coalition in Los Angeles.
CSA has already awarded $617 million to 11 counties under Phase I to add more than 5,000 county jail beds statewide. Projects under construction include Calaveras County’s 240-bed project; a 1,368 jail bed expansion in San Bernardino County; and 144 jail beds in Madera County. Projects in other counties are in the planning stages.
List of Counties Invited to Apply for Phase II Awards:
Corrections Standard Authority Phase I Conditional Awards: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/CSA/CFC/Docs/AB_900_Phase_I_Funding_111909.pdf
Californians United for a Responsible Budget’s Realignment Report Card can be found at: http://curbprisonspending.org/?p=790