CURB’s statement on #DefundPolice

by Amber Rose Howard

Connecting the dots between Police and Prisons: Corrections officers are cops too! 

Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is a coalition of grassroots organizations working to reduce the number of people incarcerated in our state. We’re fighting to stop new cages from being built and shut down existing jails, prisons and immigration detention centers. Divestment is central to CURB’s statewide budget advocacy. That means we demand that resources be redirected away from policing and incarceration and toward a new vision of public safety that prioritizes equity, healthcare, housing, jobs and education.

During this powerful moment when people across the country are calling for much needed reductions in police budgets, it is imperative that we connect the dots between ALL forms of state violence. The brutality of policing doesn’t end in the free world. We are here to remind everyone that the Corrections Officers in prisons are police too. 

Police officers are a person’s first contact with law enforcement. If a Black, Brown, Indigenous Native or person of color is not killed during a police encounter, they are likely mistreated and often charged with a crime. Police are the agents responsible for handing vulnerable lives over to their big brothers at the department of corrections, to be forgotten, erased, tortured and sometimes sentenced to die in cages. 

Prisons are essentially racist police states run by the Depart of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).  Police who work behind bars –– known as Corrections or Correctional Officers (COs) –– are able to conceal bad behavior in ways cops in the free world can’t. This degree of impunity facilitates the rampant abuse of incarcerated people, who are seldom believed. For people in women’s prisons, sexual and gender-based violence are often used by COs as a means of control. Incarcerated people report that inside and outside of prison, folks with a badge have always acted as though rules do not apply to them. 

CURB is calling for all people who support #DefundPolice to include ALL types of policing in their demands. Out-of-control cops are on the streets, in the jails, in the prisons and detention centers, causing the same level of harm. Fewer prisons means fewer police incentivized to fill them. CURB will fight to compel California to divest from state prisons and CDCR and invest in healthy communities.  

California’s state prison system is notoriously overcrowded. Since 2013, California prisons have reduced their population from 150% of design capacity to just below the court-ordered cap of 137.5%. This is a positive–– albeit glacial––move in the right direction. And yet, the overall corrections budget has grown steadily every year, from $8.9 billion (2012-2013) to a proposed $13.4 billion in 2020-21, up​ ​from $12.8 billion last year (2019-20). If we account for  all costs allotted to state corrections,  the budget is closer to $16.5 billion–– almost TWICE  the amount allocated to corrections just in 2012-2013. This wasteful increase in the 2020-21 general fund includes a steady $1.5 billion for local community corrections and nearly $800 million to expand and enhance law enforcement activities. Does this sound like a responsible budget for California?

By demanding state owned prison closures, we are demanding the following:

-acknowledgement that racism is a public health crisis and that prisons are systemically racist

-divestment from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/state police, local police and sheriff agencies; 

-investment of all funds from those agencies into community-based resources 

-a revision of the penal code that defines crime and punishment; changes in sentencing structures to end extremely long sentences; 

-mass  releases of people from California cages.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the prison closures could result in divestment  of $100 million in 2021-22; upwards of $300 million in 2022-23; $400 million in the following year, and would continue to increase divestment exponentially as prison populations decline. Defunding prisons means dollars for the communities that need them most. Closing prisons and defunding incarceration –– police; jails; prisons; detention centers;  invasive and militaristic surveillance practices –– will Defend Black Lives and allow California to invest billions of dollars into services and infrastructure for the most vulnerable communities. We demand care, not cages. 

For further information on CURB’s vision for closing state owned prisons, check out our Prison Closure Memo and share it with your local legislator, Governor Newsom and your community. Write to amberrose@curbprisonspending.org if you’d like to get involved in the work to close prisons across California!



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Amber Rose Howard


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