After years of deficits and painful budget cuts, California has finally begun pulling itself out of the abyss. For the first time in many years, the state’s reserve dollars are growing and now total about $1.5 billion. These are general fund dollars that could fund California’s health and human services system, which provides essential services to California’s most vulnerable people, such as low-income women and their families, during times of economic hardship. Yet because of severe budget cuts, these programs such as CalWORKs cash assistance for children and families, subsidized childcare that helps women to find and keep work, and mental health treatment have been slashed year after year.
Unfortunately, a plan is in the works to use these new reserves IMMEDIATELY to alleviate overcrowding in California’s state prisons. Rather than comply with the federal court order to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, Governor Brown has spent the past 18 months appealing that order despite constant rebuffs from the federal court.
The Supreme Court has weighed in (twice) requiring compliance with the court order, and finally the Governor is acting to reduce overcrowding to constitutional levels. What is his plan? To reopen select private prisons around the state, while also sending more prisoners to private prisons in other states across the country.
While he may be able to comply with the court order in the short run, this is extremely expensive and it is not a viable long-range solution. It is estimated that the cost of this so-called solution will take between $500 million and $1 billion from the reserve fund!
Prisoners’ rights and social services advocates are working together to devise a different plan—one that safely reduces the prisoner population while providing support to communities who welcome these prisoners home.
The Women’s Foundation of California supports a plan that will comply with the federal court order while restoring funds for the human services programs that have been slashed during our years of budget deficits.
You can add your voice by signing this petition to your legislator and to the Governor.