California – Beginning on Friday June 17th, the 40th anniversary of the “war on drugs,” hundreds will come together to hold “Communities Rising” actions and rallies in communities across California. Over 40 organizations working with the Californians United for a Responsible Budget, or “CURB,” alliance will send a strong message from different parts of the state to Governor Brown and the state legislature, calling for the State to take active steps to end its participation in the 40-year-old “war on drugs”, and to prioritize vital social services over prison spending.
“Spending on prisons has grown from five percent to ten percent of our General Fund spending, doubling in the past decade,” said Lisa Marie Alatorre of Critical Resistance, a CURB member organization. “Locking up too many people for too long does not contribute to public safety and is draining essential resources from education and health care – programs that make a real difference to Californians.” California remains billions of dollars in debt.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a lower court rulings in Brown v. Plata, California has been ordered to reduce its lethally crowded prison system in the next two years. The Governor’s plan is to shift tens of thousands of prisoners to county jails, building tens of thousands more jail cells and thousands more high-security prison cells. “It looks like Governor Brown wants to do nothing but repeat the mistakes of the last 30 years,” said Debbie Reyes of California Prison Moratorium Project, another CURB member organization. “We built 23 massive prisons and that didn’t solve overcrowding. Now he wants to extend that failed effort by expanding county jail systems. Like the Supreme Court said, you can’t build your way out of this problem.”
Organizations and residents across the state are frustrated by the impacts of the State’s economic and social priorities. “For years we’ve been cutting back on state programs that save lives and build decent futures for the next generation,” said Amanda Vela of Madera Citizens for Better Community and Schools, “Now Gov. Brown is asking voters to raise state revenues to pay for more jail cells? We have to stop the cuts and re-channel funds away from prisons and jails and back into programs that make a difference for us and our kids.”
The various rallies, marches, speak-outs, and other actions across the state fall on the forty year anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs”, a policy that many experts have shown to wreak havoc in low income communities and communities of color. “The Plata decision is a real opportunity for our state to reverse decades of racist ‘tough-on-crime’ policies,” says Rodrigo “Froggy” Vasquez of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “We are tired of being politically ignored. We need leadership in Sacramento with the guts to get smart, end the war on drugs, and decriminalize drug possession.”
Texas, New York, and Michigan, among other states have successfully reduced their prison budgets and populations while increasing public safety. CURB argues California could do the same by implementing parole and sentencing reforms such as amending or repealing three strikes laws.
Communities Rising Actions include:
* San Francisco: June 17th, 12:00pm press conference at San Francisco’s City Hall, followed by a march featuring music from the Brass Liberation Orchestra, large puppets and other art, as well as a community speak out
* Fresno: June 17th, 11:00am rally at the State Building
* Bakersfield: June 17th, 4:00pm rally at the Courthouse at Chester and Parkston
* Madera, June 17th, 5:00pm rally at 200 Ford St. across from Courthouse
* Visalia, June 18th, 2:00pm rally at Mooney and Caldwell
* Los Angeles: June 18th, 1pm at the Chuco’s Justice Center, featuring two panels of community leaders, a press conference at 4pm, live music and a candlelight vigil.
Sponsoring organizations across the State include: A New Path – LA, A New Way of Life, All of Us or None, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, American Friends Service Committee, Berkeley Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution, Blacksmith Records Inc., California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Partnership, California Prison Moratorium Project, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Center for Non-Violence, Community Justice Network for Youth, Cop Watch – LA, Critical Resistance, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Enlace, Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, Fresno Brown Berets, Harm Reduction Coalition, Hip Hop Not Bombs, Homies Unidos, Justice by Uniting Creative Energy, Justice Now, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Leadership through Empowerment Action and Dialogue, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Madera Citizens for Better Community and Schools, October 22nd Coalition – LA, Oasis Clinic, Pico Youth and Family Center, SF Drug Users Union, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, TGI-Justice Project, These Cuts Won’t Heal, United for Drug Policy Reform and Youth Justice Coalition.
More information about actions, prisons, the budget crisis and realignment can be found at: www.curbprisonspending.org