by Diana Zuniga
Last week, Gov. Brown released his May Budget Revise, which advocates who have been pushing for comprehensive prison population reduction reforms were anxious to see. We hoped that the minor reforms to good-time credits, medical parole and elder parole from the governor’s court-ordered population reduction plan would find their way into the revise.
However, last Tuesday’s revised budget shows, yet again, that Jerry Brown is not committed to any sustainable change in prison policy and has no real interest in even these modest measures.
California remains No. 1 in poverty and No. 1 in prison spending.
A quick summary of what is in the revise:
- Increase in corrections spending: This year’s plan shows a 1.9 percent increase in corrections spending, which is growing from $8.763 to $8.929 billion with an additional $2.272 billion in “special funds.”
- Reverse to realignment: The budget authorizes the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to house people who have long-term sentences if the county agrees to accept an equivalent average daily population of short-term people and after they have served three years in county jail. It does encourage the use of split sentencing at the county level.
- Increase in probation funding: An increase of $72.1 million from the general fund goes to county probation departments that demonstrate success in reducing the number of adult probationers going to prison or jail for committing new crimes or violating the terms of probation.
- Increase in fire camps: An increase of $15.4 million reflects the participation of 3,800 new state prisoners in fire camps.
- Construction funding: Over $2 billion of total expenditures and $260 million for health care facilities improvement are budgeted for eight separate prisons.
With the May Revise, California continues down the same road we’ve been traveling for the past 30 years: more money going to corrections and even more prison expansion. In his press conference, Brown admitted that his budget does NOT include compliance with the federal court order to reduce the prison population and that he will continue to appeal the court order. The only solution the governor seems genuinely interested in is building and leasing more cages.
What stands out the most is the blatant refusal to heed a generation of painful real-life evidence that expanding prisons only expands the problem while the social safety net budget continues to remain stagnant. It is no surprise that California remains No. 1 in poverty and No. 1 in prison spending.
It is clear that Gov. Brown’s “plan” requires intervention from the Legislature if we want to see the implementation of any true population reduction strategies.
What stands out the most is the blatant refusal to heed a generation of painful real-life evidence that expanding prisons only expands the problem while the social safety net budget continues to remain stagnant.
Please take a moment now and join CURB’s list! In the coming weeks we will be letting our legislators know that we need real reform in this year’s budget to get our state out of poverty, our loved ones out of prison and end the overcrowding crisis in our prisons.
Diana Zuñiga is statewide coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget.