by Karen Shain
In late April, five members of the state legislature and the governor struck a deal that will increase the number of beds available for state prisoners by 53,000! This deal, costing over $7.5 billion dollars over what we already pay to keep people in cages, was passed within 48 hours by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor a week later. With the exception of a very few republicans and even fewer democrats, the largest prison expansion bill in our state’s history was passed without any public hearings or any time to oppose it! What happened?
This unprecedented expansion comes after learning that the CDCR was secretly rebuilding the death chamber at San Quentin without any approval by the state legislature. It is clear that when it comes to expanding the prison system, those in power feel no responsibility to seek public approval or even public opinion! Just like the current immigration bill that was agreed to by federal legislators using backroom deals and secret negotiations, prison expansion is something that legislators and the CDCR believe must be carried through whether or not the public agrees. Furthermore, the lease revenue bonds that will pay for this new construction (becoming over $15 billion once all the interest is paid) are supposed to be used only for public works that bring in revenue, like public parking lots or sports stadiums. It is a mystery to us how the state legislature determined that building prisons will bring in revenue! But they had to use the lease revenue bonds or bring a prison construction to the state electorate, and polls show that Californians are sick and tired of building prisons and don’t want to pay for any more construction! Finally, the California constitution calls for public comment for legislative bills. AB900 (the bill authorizing all this construction) was passed by suspending the constitution so that no public comment would be heard. (The few senators who voted against AB900 are listed below).
In the wake of this flagrant disregard for public accountability, CURB (which CCWP is part of) held a protest on May 11 outside of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez’s office in L.A. and another one on May 23rd in front of Senate President pro tem, Don Perata’s Oakland Office. CURB is also circulating a petition expressing outrage at the passage of AB900. If you want to circulate the petition write to: CURB,1904 Franklin Street, Suite 504, Oakland, CA 94612
Senators opposed to AB900: Aanestad (R), Cogdill (R), Correa (R),Denham (R), Florez (R), Kuehl (D), McClintock (R), Migden (D), Oropeza (R), Romero (D)
by Karen Shain