Coalition stops jail construction plan in its tracks

by Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Sacramento – Members of a statewide anti-prison coalition acted swiftly this week to defeat Senate Bill 445 (Hill) Revenue Bond Financing of Prison Construction. Today the bill authored by Sen. Hill died in the Assembly Public Safety Committee when none of the committee members made a motion to bring the bill to a vote.

“This is just the latest desperate attempt by San Mateo County to finance a jail they can’t afford. We learned about the bill on Monday, and an outpouring of opposition quickly followed. Hundreds of our coalition members contacted the Assembly Public Safety Committee to express their concern,” said Annie Morgan Banks of CURB.

Hunger-Strike-Rally-Corcoran-Dorsey-Nunn-LSPC-All-of-Us-or-None-071313-by-Malaika, Coalition stops jail construction plan in its tracks, Local News & Views “Despite the overwhelming opinion of California residents being against jail construction, attempts to fund construction projects are still being whipped up and rushed through the approval process. And as we’ve seen for the past 30 years, it’s community members in California who bear the brunt of the devastating social and economic cost of these terrible schemes.”

State Sen. Jerry Hill submitted the bill Monday after using a “gut and amend” tactic. The bill was originally a pharmaceutical advertising bill, and the new bill gave San Mateo County preference for state funding to help it finance a $165 million jail in Redwood City. San Mateo has failed to receive any portion of three rounds of jail construction funding from the state thus far.

Present to testify in opposition to the bill was long time San Mateo resident and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children Executive Director Dorsey Nunn. “This jail is being pushed over the objections of San Mateo County residents,” he declared. “The only people I’ve seen in support of the notion of building a new jail were local politicians, jailers and people in the jail building business.” Speaking in support of SB 455 were San Mateo County Sheriff Munks and the Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

Additional opposition to the bill included the Friends Committee on Legislation California, the ACLU of Northern California, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Critical Resistance, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice Now, TGI-Justice Project, Life Support Alliance, the Women’s Foundation of California, California Prison Focus, Prison Activist Resource Center, American Friends Service Committee, Youth Justice Coalition, Redwood City Candidate James Lee Han and the Merced County sheriff.

Emily Harris, statewide coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), can be reached at