Governor Brown's Costly Prison Plan Does Not Provide Real Solutions to Prison Overcrowding - Women's Foundation California
Karen Shain
Karen Shain

Last week, Governor Brown made a proposal to reduce prison overcrowding by finding 10,000 new prison beds. He would do this by leasing a private prison in the Mojave Desert, delaying the closing the Norco ) a prison in Southern California that is in notoriously bad shape), and increasing the number of people transferred to prisons in other states.

As this Los Angeles Times Editorial points out, California has a habit of prioritizing prisons over education. Over the past 30 years, California has built over 25 new prisons and one state university. The state has never been able to close a prison and it has continued to stuff more and more people in the ones they have. As of August 21, 2013, Central California Women’s Facility is over 175% of capacity (see CDCR website here).

I couldn’t agree more with the UT San Diego news: not one of these ideas is new, and all of them are bad.

The Governor’s plan (backed by Assembly Speaker Perez) is also extraordinarily expensive! He is asking the legislature to approve a bill that would provide $715 million the first year, over $800 million the second, and untold millions the following three years. And there is no end in sight. Once these prisons are opened and filled, there will be little incentive to reduce the number of people in them and California will continue to lead the country in prisoners while falling further and further behind in education, health care and human services.

When prisoners are sent out of state, they are unable to visit regularly with their family members. This is an extremely expensive and poorly-thought-out policy that will result in people being released from prison with no recent communication or support from family members.

At the same time, Senate Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg has a better plan. Described here in the LA Times and here in the Sacramento Bee, his plan has the state providing incentive funding to counties that reduce the number of people they send to state prison. It also proposes financial support for mental health and drug programs and the creation of an advisory to develop proposals to end long-term prison overcrowding.

The Women’s Foundation of California is firmly opposed to the Governor’s plan! We stand with health and human services, environmental and prisoners’ rights organization across the state who demand real solutions to the prisoner overcrowding situation while supporting child care, education, health care, CalWORKS, and other support services that will give California’s families a chance to a successful and healthy future.

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