Special Session Prison Expansion Defeated

4,500 women?s beds, out-of-state transfers go ahead anyway
Governor Schwarzenegger?s proposals for prison expansion got nowhere in the special session he called specifically to push through his disastrous solutions for a prison system in crisis. Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) (CCWP is a member organization of CURB) played an important role in making legislators aware of the fundamental problems with the Governor?s proposals. CURB?s arguments influenced the positions of editorials and op-eds in major newspapers around the state. The petition with 1,000 signatures from women prisoners from CCWF and VSPW, collected by Justice Now, was displayed during the special session, demonstrating women?s strong opposition to the 4,500 bed proposal which masquerades as reform but is really another version of prison expansion.
Yet lo and behold, the CDCR is proceeding to solicit proposals from private companies to construct and run the new 4,500 bed facilities as if the proposal had passed in the special session.
Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and has begun to transfer prisoners to out-of-state private prisons in Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arizona. (So far the CDCR has said that women will not be among those transferred at this point.) The transfers are another terrible ?solution? to the overcrowding. Transfers distance prisoners from their families and community and effectively prevent any public oversight of the conditions which they face.
Both the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the Service Employees International Union have filed suit against the transfers because they oppose using private companies for jobs usually performed by state employees. However, a state judge decided to let California send 2,260 prisoners to other states although she said she recognized that the transfers may be illegal.
Prisoners have other ideas as to how to solve the overcrowding. In a suit filed by the Prison Law Office, they asked to limit new admissions of prisoners until there is a significant decline in the population. Their proposal centers on redirecting minor parole violators to home detention, electric monitoring programs or residential treatment centers instead of sending them back to prison.
Clearly what is needed is a drastic reduction in the prison population through fundamental changes in sentencing structure and the parole system for starters. To get CURB?s list of 50 Ways to Reduce the Number of People in Prison in California, go to www.curbprisonspending.org or write CURB, 1904 Franklin St., Ste. 504, Oakland, CA 94612.