CURB Pushes Brown for Humane Realignment Plan

ruthie gilmoreOn April 11th, the Ninth Circuit Court’s issued its most forceful order yet, requiring Governor Jerry Brown to finally bring the state into compliance with basic constitutional protections by reducing the state prison population to 137.5% of design capacity by the end of 2013.

The Governor’s reluctance to fully follow the court order in its entirety highlights the grim reality that plagues California’s prison system – and the growing need for a smart, strategic plan that looks at real solutions that will not just shift people from state to county lock-up or include building new prison beds.

California’s prison overcrowding crisis — in violation of the 8th Amendment — has pushed the state to the brink of reform. California’s prions are still at 150% capacity, where they may stay if Governor Brown cannot or does not create a comprehensive reduction plan. Advocates such as those involved in the grassroots network of organizations who are part of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) have for decades pushed for reforms that would safely reduce the population maintained in California’s troubled and costly state prison system under both Republican and Democratic governors.

A special federal court three-judge panel overseeing California prison reform first ordered a reduction in California’s prison population to 110,000 prisoners, which was later upheld in a 2011 Supreme Court ruling. Brown’s response was a realignment plan that pushed low-level offenders down to county jails, along with some parole reform that reduced the population to within California to 124,167, but that continued to house nearly 11,000 people in out-of-state private prisons.

On May 2nd, Governor Brown must submit a plan to the court, one that prison reform advocates hope will be an ambitious, courageous rethinking that reduces the number of people in prison by at least 9,000 and does not rely on costly prison construction that has repeatedly pushed California into debt.

As Ruthie Gilmore wrote shortly after the recent Court order, “California has 50,000 fewer people locked in prisons and jails than it did five years ago. We have the opportunity in the coming months to make further reductions in a system that destroys lives, inside prison and out, and to shift public priorities and public spending away from cages and cops and into programs that build a stronger and safer California.”

Plain and simple, the Governor has to show that he is interested in solving California’s prison crisis through further reductions that will cut spending and shift priorities to population reduction alternatives that will work.

The list of possible alternatives is endless and the proposals that CURB members are pushing include

  • creating parole eligibility for elders and parole-eligible lifers,
  • expanding medical parole,
  • utilizing compassionate release,
  • implementing and expanding the Alternative Custody Program,
  • decriminalizing drug possession,
  • reclassifying low-level felonies to misdemeanors,
  • expanding good time credits,
  • reducing the number of youth who are sentenced as adults,
  • expediting the release of Prop 36-eligible third strikers and further amending the Three Strikes laws, and
  • reforming sentencing laws.

diana zunigaThe time is now for Governor Brown to create a plan for strategic solutions to overcrowding that will not include building additional prisons or jails, shifting prisoners from state to county facilities, or sending more inmates to out-of-state or in-state private facilities, but that will focus on bringing people home to supportive, humane, and safe communities and services.

I urge you to join CURB and advocates across California in pushing Governor Brown and our legislators for a comprehensive reduction plan NOW.

Diana Zuñiga
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Statewide Organizer

About Diana Zuniga

Diana Zuñiga is a statewide coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

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