Building One Prison While Closing Another?
State Plows Ahead With New Prison While Cutting Education and Drug Treatment
Below is a news announcement from the Justice Policy Institute.
The California Department of Corrections (CDC) says that budget cuts may require that they close one prison, even while they are pressing ahead to build a new 5,000 bed facility in Delano. The CDC is also considering cuts to inmate education and drug treatment programs as they prepare to build the statešs 24th new prison in 20 years. As crime rates decline and prison admissions level off, the move has re-ignited questions about whether California really needs another prison.
"Since 1989, new felony arrests in California have been steadily dropping, and last year, for the first time in two decades, California's prison population growth rate is 0%," says Deborah Vargas, with the Justice Policy Institute. "Given that the CDC's most recent prisoner population projections forecast 18,000 fewer inmates than they estimated six months earlier, it is hard to see the need to build another new prison, especially when the state is closing one."
CDC Assistant Secretary for the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, Stephen Green, told the Los Angeles Times Friday that he would not be surprised by a move to close all or part of one prison. Greenšs statement was made in response to Governor Gray Davis' order to the CDC and other state agencies to prepare for a 15% cut in spending. The cuts come as a result of the continuing weakness of the California economy, the state's energy debts and financial fallout form the September 11 attacks. Stephen Green also said Friday that the CDC would "cut back on things like education, vocational training in the prisons, and perhaps some drug rehabilitation programs."
"The state was just starting to reintroduce treatment programs to help ex-prisoners return to society," says Naneen Karraker, Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Consortium.
Earlier in the year, CDC Spokesperson Russ Heimerich, told The San Francisco Chronicle, "In future years, we expect a drop" in the prison population.
"With crime and prison populations leveling off, building another prison now is like building a dam in the desert," says Rose Braz, Director of Critical Resistance. "While the state is contemplating cuts to colleges and universities to save money, we really can't afford to build a new prison."
The proposed Delano prison has met with opposition since it was first proposed in 2000. This past June, a Kern County Superior Court Judge barred the state from proceeding with plans to build the $335 million prison without additional environmental review. The decision came in a lawsuit pursued by a statewide coalition of anti-prison activists, environmentalists and residents of Delano who have unceasingly questioned the need for the proposed prison.
The Justice Policy Institute is a research and public policy organization, part of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Critical Resistance is a national organization challenging prison expansion.
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