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Our Formerly Incarcerated Quest for Democracy (Q4D) Day continues to grow and evolve. This year we had over 250 committed people. We had around 30 teams advocating on legislation relevant to formerly incarcerated people and our communities. Grassroots co-sponsors got a chance to educate community members about their bills. And Sen. Holly Mitchell as well as Assemblymembers Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Autumn Burke addressed participants.
California draft budget backslides into aggressive prison construction, punting durable population...
The May Revision to Governor Brown’s 2015-16 budget delays plans to close the notorious decaying prison in Norco, a move supported by Sen. Hancock and CURB members earlier this week. The corrections budget continues to account for a total of $12.676 billion with plans for “aggressive” prison construction at Donovan and Mule Creek over the next year.
On Nov. 4, California voters passed criminal justice reform measure Proposition 47. Proposition 47 changes the lowest level drug possession and petty theft crimes from felonies to simple misdemeanors for some people. Although re-sentencing is not guaranteed, up to 10,000 people in California’s prisons and jails will be eligible for resentencing, and newly sentenced individuals who meet the requirements will be under county jurisdiction.
When Dr. Samuel Cartwright coined the term “drapetomania” in 1864, he advanced a historical agenda to secure Black subjugation in America. The logic underlying the continuation and funding of the mass incarceration of the disproportionately Black mentally ill and Dr. Cartwright’s medical breakthroughs is the same: Black people’s mental health cannot be achieved, so society has to maintain extreme and inhumane restrictions on their freedom.
In mid-June, Gov. Brown signed the Budget Act of 2015, which shows no vision for the future of most Californians. In total, this budget underestimated the amount of resources available, overestimated the cost of vital programs, and chose spending on debt service, rainy day funds and prisons instead of the people of California and the vital services they need.
Anti-prison expansion activists across California have had a busy spring pushing back against controversial expansion plans. Members of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) acted swiftly last month to defeat two legislative bills which would have rammed forward over $4 billion in prison and jail construction money [AB 2356 (Gorell) and SB 1377 (Nielson)].
This week members of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), advocates and activists representing diverse communities are attending the Senate Public Safety and Assembly Budget Committee hearings in Sacramento to speak out against billions in funding for new prison and jail expansion. The Assembly Budget Committee hearing will begin on Wednesday, April 23, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol in Sacramento.
On Feb. 10, the federal court granted California and Gov. Jerry Brown a two-year extension to reduce the deadly overcrowding in our state’s prisons. We urge the Legislature to act immediately to implement parole and sentencing reforms, cancel all prison expansion plans, invest in community-run anti-poverty and recidivism programs, and build lasting and public accountability and oversight.
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.
Earlier today, Gov. Brown was ordered by the federal three-judge panel to immediately reduce the prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity – to a total population of no more than 110,000. After the Brown administration filed an incomplete plan to the court in May and an appeal, the court is forcing the state to comply with the order by December 2013.
Tomorrow the Senate Rules Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for acting California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeffery Beard. Advocates, experts and family members of prisoners plan to attend the hearing and raise their concerns about Beard’s track record on prison expansion and overcrowding in Pennsylvania.
Community members from around San Mateo County gathered outside of the new jail site and the County Center wearing hazardous materials suits and gas masks to illustrate the toxic nature of the new jail. They spoke about the ways a new jail will harm communities and the environment as well as draining the county’s budget of desperately needed resources.
Yesterday’s ultimatum by the three-judge panel puts Gov. Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on notice to present a plan for further reductions in the state’s unconstitutionally crowded prisons within the next three weeks. Advocates who have criticized the governor’s criminal justice realignment plan as inadequate were quick to praise the court decision.
Beginning with a rally held on the capitol steps, it was an emotional day for many, especially for family members of those suffering in the SHUs and prison survivors. The voices of those in the SHU were powerfully present, both in stories told by family members as well as statements they had sent for the occasion. The hearing provided an opportunity for legislators to hear representatives of CDCR present their new policies and weigh the truth of their claims. At the end there was a scant 20 minutes for public input.
The state of California filed another response to the federal court order to reduce dangerous overcrowding in California’s prisons, urging the court to end the 137.5 percent population cap. Gov. Brown’s 2013-14 budget echoes comments earlier this week that the administration has deserted plans to shrink California’s over-sized prison population, ignoring clear messages from voters.
Californians demand further reductions in prison spending to restore social services. 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.
Yesterday’s election results show Californians calling for additional cuts to the prison population and corrections budget while approving new taxes to save programs like education, welfare, childcare and healthcare. Voters resoundingly passed Proposition 36 by a 69 percent to 31 percent margin. Proposition 30 was passed by voters 54 percent to 46 percent.
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano decried Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto yesterday of legislation that would have returned openness to California’s prison system. Ammiano’s bill, AB 1270, would have restored, not expanded as noted in the veto message, media access to the level that existed in 1996 when the CDC clamped down on the press’ ability to interview specific prisoners.
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. “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.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 25, San Mateo’s Board of Supervisors voted to approve $44.2 million in the 2012-2013 budget, ramming through a plan to build a new jail over strong and growing concerns from community members. With the jail approved in the budget, residents committed to defeating the jail tax that will be on the November ballot.
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