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No new jails! Californians fight on a year after realignment

October 1, 2012

by Isaac Ontiveros, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Oct. 1 marks the first anniversary of the boldest and most controversial of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget balancing actions: criminal justice realignment. A year later, reactions to the plan remain strong.

Angelinos tell the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors not to spend $1.4 billion on a new jail at a meeting in January. – Photo: David Crane, Contra Costa Times
“The good news about realignment is that there were 30,000 fewer people who spent last night in a cell than there were when Gov. Brown was elected,” said Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Because the state is spending $800 million less on Corrections than we did two years ago, we avoided another $800 million in cuts to services for poor children and the elderly.”

The state’s prison population has dropped to 124,701 from a high of 173,479 in 2006, while the state’s jail population has increased by 2,849 over the last year. Crime rates continue to fall statewide.

“If we can have 30,000 fewer people locked up in a time of massive unemployment and widespread foreclosures without seeing an upturn in crime, then it is clear we didn’t need to have all those people locked up in the first place,” said Harris.

“The good news about realignment is that there were 30,000 fewer people who spent last night in a cell than there were when Gov. Brown was elected,” said Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Because the state is spending $800 million less on Corrections than we did two years ago, we avoided another $800 million in cuts to services for poor children and the elderly.”

Despite the well-documented absence of the crime wave predicted by the enablers of California’s 30-year addiction to imprisonment, many counties are moving ahead with plans to increase the capacity of their jails.

“Counties building expanded jails are on a fool’s quest,” said Harris. “Expanding the number of cages in the state system has bankrupted our educational system and slashed services to life-threatening levels. It is remarkable that so many counties haven’t learned that lesson.”

Of the state’s 58 counties, 32 are currently considering or have approved jail expansion plans. Contra Costa County residents recently defeated a jail expansion proposal and Shasta County also voted against more jail cells. In Los Angeles, the Board of Supervisors turned down a request from embattled Sheriff Lee Baca to borrow $1.4 billion to build jail cells, but plans for expansion are still a threat. San Mateo County residents will vote on a Jail Tax in November.

“One year in, results are mixed. The prison system is smaller than most people would have imagined. Balancing that achievement are two dangerous disappointments: Many counties are looking to expand their jails and the governor and Corrections are planning to grow the prison population,” Harris continued.

Despite the well-documented absence of the crime wave predicted by the enablers of California’s 30-year addiction to imprisonment, many counties are moving ahead with plans to increase the capacity of their jails.

The CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has announced plans to build new housing units at existing prisons and has petitioned the courts to raise the maximum number of people who can be held in state prisons.

“Despite all the doubters and all the panic-mongers, Gov. Brown began the process of trimming the supersized prison population and budget without significant political fallout. Why is he backtracking now?” asked Harris. “There are clear next steps that would safely result in fewer people in state prison and county jails, saving both state and counties hundreds of millions a year. It is past time for real bail reform, for real sentencing reforms and for a shift in funds from law enforcement and corrections to social services and education.”

Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working to abolish the prison industrial complex, also works with Californians United for a Responsible Budget. He can be reached at (510) 444-0484 or isaac@criticalresistance.org. 

 

4 thoughts on “No new jails! Californians fight on a year after realignment

  1. Claire Phillips

    Interesting that Emily finds realignment success in the fact that 30,000 more career criminals are on the streets amongst us. I'm assuming she lives in an upper scale gated community where crime is only something she reads about in the local paper. However, her claim that a "crime wave" has not ensued as a result is, like the legislation itself, very misleading. Not sure what constitutes a "crime wave", but cities throughout CA have reported significant increases in both property and violent crimes during the first 6 months of 2012 as compared to the prior year. Not even the proponents of realignment argue that fact. Instead, they argue it is to early or impossible to attribute the spike in crime to realignment. While I completely disagree, at least they accept factual data. Emily Harris, with her pro-criminal agenda, has zero credibility on this subject. Shameful.

    Reply
  2. Claire Phillips

    “Because the state is spending $800 million less on Corrections than we did two years ago, we avoided another $800 million in cuts to services for poor children and the elderly.”

    I agree with Emily. I too want to protect the services which benefit our children and the elderly. But this is not an "either -or" scenario. The priorities of our government should be on these issues, as well as public safety. There are many other non-essential services of government, and just plane government waste, to cut before releasing tens-of-thousands of criminals into our communities to victimize the rest of us. Remember, victims include the elderly and children. Maybe Emily should read the below story…
    http://www.cbs47.tv/news/local/story/Sex-Offender

    Reply
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