Recently, when Gov. Jerry Brown warned of impending deficits and the perils of committing to new spending in his revised budget proposal, he failed to mention the one area in which he has been consistently profligate: his aggressive expansion of the state’s already vast system of imprisonment.
The governor is proposing $250 million for county jail construction, on top of the $2.2 billion he has already poured into expanding county jails since 2008. More than 40 counties are already building new jails, adding 14,000 new beds.
Last Wednesday, the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety voted to reject this harmful and irresponsible expenditure of tax dollars, and to redirect the funds to prevention, diversion and re-entry. The Assembly subcommittee, which could vote as early as Monday, should follow suit.
California has a critical opportunity to significantly and sustainably shrink its jail system and reduce the number of people caged within. Model alternatives to incarceration are finding success across the state and nation, including pretrial release, diversion programs and highly effective community-based mental health and substance use treatment programs.
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