Sacramento – In a move celebrated by community advocates and anti-imprisonment activists, the California State Senate rejected $250 million for jail construction earlier today. The vote comes after months of community pressure and a series of mobilizations to Sacramento organized by Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition of over 70 grassroots organizations working to reduce California’s imprisonment system.
“We applaud the Senate for making this move and standing by what communities have been saying since this money was first proposed,” said Tash Nguyen, local advocate with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland. “Our message has always been that California must stop wasting funds on harmful jail construction, and use that money to invest in much needed resources that strengthen our communities, including mental health care, affordable housing, and education.”
The proposed jail funding is slated to be heard by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety next week. The full legislature must pass the full budget by June 15, to be signed by the Governor by July 1.
“This victory reflects the power and will of Californians who are standing against more jails in their counties, but the fight is not over,” said Kim Carter of the Time for Change Foundation in San Bernardino. “We won in the Senate, and we will continue to build on this momentum to ensure that decision makers in the Assembly are compelled to definitively reject any more money toward imprisonment.”
Opponents of the jail funding have provided many alternatives that should be funded instead, a demand that is reflected in the recommendation approved by the Senate. Among the recommended investments are mental health and substance use treatment, reducing homelessness, and reentry support for current and former prisoners.
Despite the gains, community advocates are strongly denouncing a move to put more money into law enforcement, also included in the Senate’s recommendation.
“The move away from jail construction is welcome, but must simultaneously be a move away from the institution that fills jails, and that is the police,” says Christina Tsao, an organizer with Critical Resistance Los Angeles.
CURB will be monitoring the vote by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety next week, as well as the Conference Committee and Governor’s final versions of the state budget that will be solidified by the end of June.