Court Ruling Provides An Opportunity for Real Change, Advocates push for measures to reduce prison population
Sacramento: Yesterday’s ultimatum by the 3-Judge panel puts Gov. Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on notice to present a plan for further reductions in the state’s unconstitutionally crowded prisons within the next three weeks.
“The propaganda that Gov. Brown & Secretary Beard have been feeding Californians didn’t cut the mustard with the Court,” said Misty Rojo, Program Coordinator for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. “Conditions inside continue to be terrible, and in women’s prisons the situation is getting worse.”
Advocates who have criticized the Governor’s criminal justice realignment plan as inadequate were quick to praise the Court decision.
“Realignment itself, no matter how it was implemented, was never going to produce an adequate reduction in the prison population,” said Diana Zuñiga, Field Organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “It has been clear for years that a serious solution to the prison crisis would require serious sentencing reforms and changes to parole and compassionate release policies.”
The Court ordered the CDCR and Governor to “identify prisoners unlikely to re-offend” and reduce the population by 9,000 before the end of the year. The Court threatened the Governor and other state officials with contempt of court if they fail to comply. Groups led by those who are members of Californians United for a Responsible Budget have worked for years to convince Sacramento to institute common sense changes already in place successfully in other states, including:
* Use Compassionate Release for the terminally ill
* Create Parole eligibility for elderly prisoners
* Expand use of the Alternative Custody Program
* Parole eligible term-to-life prisoners
* Reform drug sentencing laws
* Restore conduct credits for those in SHU and expand credits for others.
“This is a historic opportunity for the Governor,” said Debbie Reyes of the California Prison Moratorium Project. “Governor Brown put California on the disastrous road to mass incarceration during his second term in the 1980s. During his second second term, he can begin the process of turning California away from a prison-first mindset. The sorts of real changes the Court demands will require changes to California’s dysfunctional sentencing laws. Those changes should, as the Court suggest, be applied both prospectively and retrospectively.”
“Will Gov Brown and Secretary Beard continue to dig in their heel to defend an indefensible prison system? Or will they demonstrate that they have the courage, vision and leadership we need to make meaningful changes to our super-sized prison system?” asked Zuñiga.