CURB’s Prison Closure Letter to CA Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 5

by Amber Rose Howard

Dear Sub 5 Committee Leaders, 

Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) writes in strong opposition to any additional funding to CDCR for infrastructure related projects. Over the past 5 years, there have been substantial increases to state spending on corrections. This year, Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed $13.1 billion dollars out of the general fund to Corrections, totaling $16.1 billion for 2021. Despite the trending decline in prison populations and the necessary reductions in order to protect public safety while Californians face the lethal COVID virus, CDCR continues to request funding to rebuild and expand CA prisons as an answer to failing infrastructure. The answer to failing infrastructure in CA prisons is not to waste more dollars repairing them, it is to release people by the masses and to close and shut down several state-owned prisons in the next 3 years. 

CDCR infrastructure costs are a bottomless pit of wasteful spending. It’s clear they have no plan for prison closure and fuzzy math for their capital projects. It’s time to deny any increases to the Corrections budget for infrastructure needs and focus instead on releasing people from prison, shutting down state prisons for good, and reinvesting funds in community-based programs that truly keep us safe. 

A serious plan for prison closure means that closed prisons stay closed; prison populations are reduced through releases, not transfers to other unsafe facilities; corrections budget are slashed; investments in reentry and other services are prioritized; voices of justice-impacted people are heard; and that labor solutions for displaced prison staff are front and center. When implementing mass releases and prison closures, safeguards must be in place to prevent the transfers of immigrant community members to ICE custody. Let’s not forget the enduring need for a reckoning on racial injustice. That means not only dramatically increasing prison releases, but changing ‘tough on crime’ laws and policies that drive the incarceration crisis, filling the state’s empty prison beds and reinforcing a toxic culture of perpetual punishment. 

Both CDCR and the Newsom Administration don’t seem to have a plan for prison closure, but our community of impacted leaders has been working on one for over a year. This committee needs to make space for the community to have a seat at the table when discussing these monumental decisions.  We encourage the committee to stop relying on CDCRs fuzzy math and the Newsom administration’s indecision and tap the community as a real partner to close prisons in CA, saving billions of dollars and countless lives. 

–CURB, 2/22/21 

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Amber Rose Howard

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