Californians United for a Responsible Budget takes to social media
to urge Gov. Newsom to shutter 10 additional facilities by 2025
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) has launched a media campaign to convince Gov. Gavin Newsom to close ten prisons by the year 2025, according to the Davis Vanguard.
The organization’s executive director, Amber Rose-Howard, took to social media and held a statewide rally with other prison reform advocates and hundreds of citizens in response to California’s proposed 2023-2024 budget.
“A serious roadmap for more prison closures means closed prisons must be torn down and repurposed for positive non-carceral use,” Rose-Howard told hundreds of online attendees.
Isa Borgeson is the Inside/ Outside Senior Organizer for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, “Today our state spends $18.6 billion on corrections every year,” she said. “And in the Governor’s proposed budget released just earlier this week, corrections spending increased by another half a billion dollars, despite further projected population drops of 6.6%.”
CDCR recently announced the closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County, the third such announcement in two years. The other closures were the California Correctional Center in Susanville and Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy. This has increased the number of empty prisons in California.
“Rather than keeping closed prisons in warm shutdown mode, costing taxpayers millions, closed prisons should be torn down or repurposed for positive non-carceral use,” Yoel Haile told the Davis Vanguard. Haile is the director of the Criminal Justice Program at the ACLU in Northern California.
“Prisons that they close should be torn down,” said Gary Green, a 61-year old resident of San Quentin. “I am sure many incarcerated laborers would love to help with that project.” But Green doesn’t think prisons can be repurposed for other uses without the state being tempted to reopen them.
“We are in a state with 34 prisons. That don’t make no sense; crime is not a business. Keeping people locked in cages for the rest of their lives is ridiculous,” he said.
The People’s Plan for Prison Closures is a comprehensive blueprint put together by the CURB organization to point out all the reasons why more California prisons should be closed. In it the organization argues that prisons are a public health emergency. They are racist institutions that disproportionately impact black, brown, native, indigenous and other people of color. They are environmentally hazardous and unaffordable. CURB also points out that more Californians now desire de-carceration.
Several recommendations have been made by the organization to end extreme sentencing, expand elderly parole eligibility, increase commutations, and invest in community-based support services.
The People’s Plan points out that there are approximately 35,000 people in California prisons over the age of 50. This is an age in which many experts agree that people have typically aged out of crime. The average age at which a person is sentenced to Life Without Parole in California is 19. But the age at which it is commonly accepted that a person’s brain is fully matured is 25.
Another point made in CURB’s report is that at least 33% of people in California prisons have been diagnosed with a serious mental health need. The organization argues that many people who are incarcerated need treatment as opposed to long-term incarceration.
The organization also found that 92% of incarcerated women reported being abused in their lifetime. This is information that is typically mitigating at sentencing, but women are facing longer periods of incarceration.
But the biggest problem CURB sees is the systemic racism that exists in our criminal justice system, which even Gov. Newsom has recognized with the passage of California’s historic Racial Justice Act and the creation of a Reparations Task Force.
Black people represent 6.5% of California’s total population, but 28% of the prison population, according to the organization. Blacks are typically overcharged, over-sentenced, and in many cases receive the death penalty at a disproportionate rate.
The organization is calling on the governor to stop systemic racism by closing at least 10 prisons in the next 5 years.
However, incarcerated people like Mr. Green see another problem with this process.
“Looks like they are just shifting people from one prison to another like musical chairs”, he said. This place is full of people who just came from all these closed prisons and it wasn’t built for this many people to be on the mainline.”
San Quentin’s population has grown to almost 3,900 and counting. The only logical solution to relieve this overcrowding will be to release more prisoners. The People’s Plan has provided a roadmap for doing that.