by Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Redwood City, Sept. 11, 2012 – At least 200 people from across San Mateo County packed the Board of Supervisors chambers this morning giving hours of testimony against $44 million in new jail spending slated for approval in the 2012-2013 budget. Through a range of personal stories, expert testimonies and impassioned pleas, residents described the trade-offs at stake should the county move ahead with funding for a controversial new jail.
San Mateo County is surrounded by counties that have made decisions not to expand their jail systems. Just last week, Contra Costa County reversed its plans to construct a new jail amidst community opposition.
“San Mateo County is clearly bulldozing the will of the people,” stated Dorsey Nunn, East Palo Alto resident and executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “When we are repeatedly told that there is less and less money for education, drug treatment, mental health services and homeless shelters, but the County can find resources to build more cages, they are sending a clear message that their priority is not in a healthy future for our communities.”
From lack of funding for full school days at Redwood City High School to a deficit for treatment and training programs, to environmental impacts on the construction site, residents from across the county described the dire consequences at play should funding for construction on the proposed jail remain in the budget.
Chanting, “No new jails!” as they left the supervisors’ chambers, opponents of the proposed jail sent a clear message that a new jail is not welcome in the county.
Residents also laid out dozens and dozens of alternative strategies for reducing the county’s jail population and demanded that the supervisors take these up in a formal hearing.
“It’s not too late to make a principled, courageous decision to halt this plan,” said Daly City resident Manuel LaFontaine. “The Board of Supervisors still has time to listen to their constituents and make smart choices for all San Mateo County residents.” As opposition to the jail builds, Supervisors are set to vote on budget allocations on Sept. 25. Residents vow they will be back to ensure their voices are heard.
Emily Harris, statewide coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), 1322 Webster St. #210, Oakland, CA 94612, can be reached at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/CURB_Prisons.