It is now the beginning of the new fiscal year in California, as Governor Brown signed the state’s 2016-17 budget on Monday. This year, thanks to your incredible action and passionate advocacy, the idea of moving resources away from law enforcement and imprisonment gained serious traction.
But law enforcement continues to gain power as well, and unfortunately, they managed to pry even more money for policing and imprisonment in the state budget.
For the first time ever, we got a major win as we persuaded the budget subcommittees of both houses to reject the Governor’s proposal for jail construction money and redirect the funds to prevention and treatment. But he managed to strong-arm the legislature into inserting it back into the budget, in the form of lease-revenue bonds.
We successfully pressured them to reduce spending on intensive and invasive searches of people visiting their loved ones in prison, and halved the number of prison guards the Governor wanted to add to the gang-investigation squad.
Imagine how bad it would have been if you and our action network hadn’t been putting up a fight. The heat you helped create spurred more discussions on alternatives to incarceration than ever before, and heightened critique of the role of policing in our communities.
Thanks to your calls to address root causes of incarceration, there were modest repairs to the social safety net, including a repeal of the cruel and punitive maximum family grant policy for CalWORKs, and some increases to grants for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as funding to address homelessness.
But with another $270 million for jail construction, $280 million to extend contracts with private prisons, and milliions of dollars of repairs to dilapidated facilities that should be shut down, the Governor has made it clear that the state will continue prioritizing imprisonment as an intervention for poor people and people of color.
We’ve made incredible gains, but it’s not enough. We need to continue building power. Thank you for all your support in changing the conversation in Sacramento.
Lizzie Buchen and Diana Zuniga
Co-Coordinators, Californians United for a Responsible Budget