-For Immediate Release-
Despite historically low prison populations, Governor Newsom
and the legislature have yet to create a concrete path to close more prisons
SACRAMENTO, CA––Today, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) released the following statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-23 Enacted Budget for Corrections, signed June 30th.
Despite significant progress on criminal legal reform over the past decade, corrections spending continues to increase. California is still prioritizing punishment driven systems as an answer to public safety with an overall Corrections budget of $18 billion, making a shift in priorities as urgent as ever.
Thousands of California residents made their voices heard during this budget cycle by demanding prison closures across the state. Failing to include a concrete plan to do so in the 2022-23 enacted budget means that at a time when the cost of living for working people is skyrocketing, the Newsom administration and state legislature would rather spend money on cages than increased care and community investment.
With the support of coalitions, organizations, advocates and voters across the state, California has passed many reforms to the criminal legal system, resulting in a continued, significant decline in the state prison population over the last 10 years. Modest changes to the penal code led to the closure of Deuel Vocational Center (DVI) in 2021. Newsom has also pushed to close California Correctional Center (CCC) in Susanville, now delayed to June 2023 because of a legal battle with the town. The Governor’s office demonstrated some affirmation of the demands of prison advocates with the addition of new language in the revised Corrections budget, stating that:
“Based on current projections that exhibit ongoing declines in the incarcerated population, and understanding that future policy changes may significantly affect long-range population projections, it may be possible to close three additional state prisons by 2024-25.”
A statement in the budget that acknowledges the possibility of closing more prisons is important, but it does not go far enough. Failing to include a plan for additional prison closures in the enacted budget is a missed opportunity to save millions of dollars in the general fund. These funds could be invested in struggling communities ruled by roots in anti-Black racism and systemic inequality. Without both a concrete commitment and a plan for state-owned prison closure, we project that the prison population decline will not be met with necessary action.
The state’s own nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office produced a report in November of 2020 that outlined at least $1.5 Billion annually in savings if California committed to closing five prisons by 2025, and has stated that California continues to be in a position to achieve this projection. Last year, CURB released a roadmap to close at least 10 prisons across the state.
Amber-Rose Howard, Executive Director of CURB, shares: “Governor Newsom’s vision to create a California for all must reflect the will of the vast majority of Californians who continue to vote down draconian sentencing and reliance on prisons, and advocate for investments in a care-first centered approach to public safety. We’ve got to close more prisons in order to see real reductions in wasteful spending on Corrections, and we need the governor to make that common sense commitment in his next budget plan.”
––CURB, and The #CloseCAPrisons Campaign
Founded in 2003, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is a statewide coalition of over 80 grassroots organizations working to: reduce the number of people imprisoned; reduce the number of prisons and jails; and shift state and local spending from corrections and policing to human services, bridging movements for environmental, racial, and economic justice.