by Emily Harris
Via the SF Bay View
June 18th 2011
Oakland – In response to the May 23 Supreme Court ruling on California prison overcrowding, a statewide alliance of over 40 organizations known as Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) is pushing the state to take up a number of strategies that would make substantial reductions in the prison population while potentially freeing up billions of dollars for programs and services devastated by California’s budget crisis.
CURB, which works to both shrink California’s prison population and end costly prison and jail construction, released “The Budget for Humanity” in March of this year. “The Budget for Humanity” outlines a series of smart and safe strategies that California could push forward to reduce the prison population in compliance with the Supreme Court decision. These strategies include:
– Reforming drug sentencing laws by making possession of small amounts of drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
– Eliminating return-to-custody as a sanction for administrative and technical parole violations.
– Making low-level, non-violent property offenses misdemeanors instead of “wobblers” which can be charged as a felony.
– Repealing or amending the three strikes law so that the second and third strike must also be classified as “serious or violent.”
– Providing education and/or job training to every person in prison.
– Expanding “good time” credits.
– Providing independent community-based drug, mental health treatment and reentry services to people coming home from prison.
– Releasing or discharging all people who are terminally ill and permanently medically incapacitated by expanding medical parole and utilizing compassionate release.
– Releasing elderly prisoners.
– Paroling term-to-life prisoners who are parole eligible.
– Amending or repealing juvenile life without parole convictions
– Releasing people who are “mentally ill” to community-based mental health treatment programs.
CURB points out that most of these strategies have been safely and sustainably implemented in other states across the U.S. Additionally, CURB’s Budget for Humanity argues vehemently against jail and prison bed expansion to address overcrowding. CURB calls prison and jail construction a “false solution” to the Supreme Court ruling and continues to criticize the billions of dollars of prison construction spending authorized by California’s controversial AB 900 lease revenue bond.
To view CURB’s 50 ways to reduce the number of people in prison in California visit http://curbprisonspending.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/50waysCurb.pdf.
Emily Harris is statewide coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB). She can be reached at (510) 435-1176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.