In a win for Governor Newsom and advocates, Susanville prison is ordered to shutdown

SACRAMENTO, CA––Visiting Lassen County Judge Robert F. Moody ruled against the town of Susanville today in a lawsuit which aimed to stop California Correctional Center (CCC) from closing. Judge Moody’s ruling lifts the preliminary injunction and allows the state to move forward with plans for closure effectively immediately.

On September 2nd, the state requested an expedited ruling to dissolve the lawsuit, arguing that the court’s stalling tactics were a “disregard of clear law” which amounted to “an abuse of the court’s discretion.” The ruling marks the end of the town’s year-long fight to keep CCC––a six-decade-old facility requiring $503 million in repairs––open indefinitely. Governor Newsom’s 2022-2023 Enacted Budget mandates that CCC must close by June 30, 2023.

The case has been drawn out, contentious and has attracted national media attention. In May, people incarcerated in CCC filed an amicus brief demanding the process be expedited, which was rejected by the judge. “Throughout this entire litigation, the prisoners inside CCC have been treated either as revenue or as irrelevant,” said Shakeer Rahman, an attorney who filed the amicus brief. Incarcerated organizers released a public statement on Tuesday, August 23rd which decried the process and asked the court to do “the right thing,” stating it was time to “move on” from this case and shut the prison down. Advocates see the decision in this case as a decisive victory.

Governor Newsom helped ensure CCC’s closure with a June budget bill that affirmed the state’s right to select which prisons to close. The bill also reduced local government’s ability to challenge state prison closure decisions in the future, increasing the longstanding possibility that California could see more prisons closed in the next few years.

“Newsom has shown a lot of leadership, but now more than ever the state needs a concrete plan to close prisons included in the January 2023-24 proposed budget,” said Brian Kaneda, Deputy Director of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB). “California officials are laying the groundwork for more closures. Prisons that could close in tandem with CCC are actively being discussed in the public sphere.”

Closing CCC will save Californians at least $122 million per year. 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.

“In order to best achieve these goals, decisions about which prisons to close next need to happen soon,” Mr. Kaneda says. Last year, CURB released a roadmap to close at least 10 prisons across the state.