Californians demand further reductions in prison spending to restore social services
by Isaac Ontiveros, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
In yesterday’s five-year forecast, “The 2013-14 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook,” California’s Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) predicted the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will fail to meet the projected population reduction and budget savings outlined in its “Future of California Corrections” blueprint released in April 2012.
CDCR’s blueprint predicted the prison population would drop below 118,000 and its budget would dip below $7.8 billion. In contrast, the LAO’s report projects a prison population of 129,400 and an ongoing budget of $8.3 billion, even after integrating reductions from recently passed Proposition 36, which modestly reformed California’s Three Strikes law.
“Even the savings that CDCR projected are extremely modest compared to the drastic cuts that have eliminated thousands of jobs, cut working people off from desperately needed healthcare, blocked access to higher education, increased class sizes, and kicked low-income Californians off of CalWorks, jeopardizing many thousands of people’s abilities to eat and pay rent,” said Pete Woiwode of California Partnership, a statewide coalition of anti-poverty organizations.
The LAO report projects the General Fund ending 2012-13 with a $943 million deficit and a $936 million operating deficit under current policies in 2013-14, leaving a $1.9 billion budget deficit that will need to be addressed to pass a balanced budget by June 2013. Residents across the state called for deeper corrections cuts to go beyond a balanced budget and increase funding for social services and education.
“At this point everyone should be used to the CDCR making empty promises. It’s clear that realignment is not enough to create or sustain the types of sweeping change that California voters are demanding,” said Emily Harris, statewide coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. A post-election poll by Californians for Safety and Justice determined that 62 percent of voters believe too much state funding goes to California’s prison system, and 86 percent agree that more resources should be dedicated to preventing crime rather than funding prisons and jails.
“We call on the legislature and the CDCR to listen to the people of California and immediately cancel its prison expansion projects and further reduce the prison and jail populations,” continued Harris. The LAO report predicted that Corrections savings would be offset by an additional $155 million annually to operate a new prison complex in Stockton. It did not calculate the additional costs of three prison infill projects the CDCR is planning.
Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance is a spokesperson for Californians United for a Responsible Budget. He can be reached at (510) 444-0484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.