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California should close its budget deficit by closing prisons

facing a national budget deficit at least $38 billionGovernor Gavin Newsom should reconsider his costly approach to the state's traditional mass incarceration system. While claiming to create more kind, more kind Governor approves California prison branding $1 billion pay raise for correctional officers and billions more prison building Despite the fact that the incarcerated population has steadily declined and costs have risen.

Prison expansion has not only contributed significantly to our nation's budget deficit for three decades. too caused intergenerational harm For the Black community and other marginalized Californians. unprecedented public awareness Resolving systemic problems and wasteful spending specific to state prisons.

It's not that California voters, activists, and lawmakers aren't taking steps to address this issue. state prison in 2011 Readjustment was a turning point in reducing the incarceration population, but the savings were in many cases. management error Diverted to less effective law enforcement agencies Community efforts. This was supported by Voter duties, law amendment and Cultural change finally met with stricter sentencing practices. Thousands more people were released from overcrowded prisons at the height of the pandemic, bringing the state's prison population below 100,000 for the first time in 30 years.

Still, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation continues to address fundamental issues such as: Providing mental health careimpose millions of dollars in fines on taxpayers and stop sexual violence. Meanwhile, prison officer salaries continue to rise. Inflation rate triplesannual costs exceed $130,000 per prisoner.

Newsom's experiment with Scandinavian-style incarceration, dubbed 'T'He is a California model not addressing the issue properly It's plaguing California's prisons. It could also become a Trojan horse to encourage irresponsible prison spending..

While The exaggerated retail crime wave has been used to justify massive law enforcement spending in Newsom's 2024-25 budget proposal. Crime rate remains near the lowest level in 30 years. Reinstating “tough-on-crime policies” and pumping billions more into prisons should be a rudimentary move in supposedly progressive states — especially in states that are supposed to be progressive. Evidence-based solutions There remains a significant lack of funding to actually improve public safety.

California's nonpartisan Legislative Analysis Bureau 20,000 surplus state prison beds Close 10 state prisons by 2027 Could save billions of dollars To address fiscal challenges and fund more effective public safety measures.

Newsom has touted the potential savings from closing the three prisons he is overseeing, but has been silent on plans for more. ignore fellow Democrats in Congress And budget analysts called for five more closures.New York Governor Kathy Hochul's decision Close up to five more state prisons — 11 in total — are in bold. Newsom should be leading on this, not trying to catch up.

But closing prisons alone is not enough to address out-of-control corrections spending. The state must also work with special interest groups like the California Correctional Service. wield extraordinary power In Sacramento, this is to ensure staffing and pay levels don't cancel out future savings.

Given the budget deficit, supplementary budgets should prioritize the needs of people in prison and aim for their successful reintegration into society. The governor is proposing a $360 million new building for San Quentin, but that cost has already been deferred. criticized by own advisory board, corresponding to misallocation of funds. True rehabilitation is difficult on prison grounds and cannot be achieved through expensive infrastructure projects.

Responsible budgeting should not abandon those on society's margins. It is unacceptable to use jails and prisons as a substitute for supportive housing and mental health facilities to house people who have nowhere else to go. The solution to homelessness is first housing, and the solution to mental health crises is accessible care. That means spending on social services and infrastructure projects such as treatment facilities, affordable housing, and community-based reentry programs.

California has an opportunity to shift its focus before the budget is amended in May and approved by Congress in June. Closing prisons and expanding public services reflects our nation's needs and values, while also contributing to fiscal health.

This is a financial issue as well as a moral one. California has too many prisons and jails, and despite our progress, too many people are locked up there.

Brian Kaneda is deputy director of Californians United for Responsible Budgets.

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