When we first saw this year’s proposed corrections budget included $500 million for new jail expansion, we had to double-check the document to see what year it was.
In December, at the campus of the University of Phoenix in Sacramento, an obscure new government body called the Board of State and Community Corrections sat in a room with members of 36 sheriff’s departments. Also present were a hundred people from across the state, all trying to prevent jails from being built in their communities.
The occasion that brought them together was last year’s offering of $500 million in lease-revenue bonds to fund county jail expansion – offered on top of $1.2 billion in jail expansion funds from the years prior.
If you were to imagine the people in that room with big perms, fades and mullets, or wearing more acid-washed pants, leggings and camouflage, it could have been any time in the last 30 years of prison expansion in California. These were communities that had been deeply harmed by having so many people locked up – mostly black, brown and/or poor. They were once again standing together to demand that the resources instead go to keeping people out of jail by funding education, mental health care, rehab programs and re-entry.