Target: Jerry Brown, Governor of California
Goal: Condemn California’s costly and detrimental prison expansion program.
A federal court recently ordered the state of California to reduce its overcrowded prison population. Rather than reducing the prison population by granting early release to inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses and good behavioral records, Governor Brown has decided to expand California’s prison system to the tune of three hundred and fifteen million dollars. Over a thousand inmates will be shuffled from overcrowded state facilities into private prisons and country jails. These private prisons will be staffed by state employees to avoid involving the Union of Correction Officers in labor negotiations. As well as being pro-incarceration and anti-union, this plan is also extremely costly and will drain state funds from education and social welfare programs. Critics claim that it is only a matter of time until “new prison cells overflow and the [federal] court demands mass release again.”
California is not the only state in America facing a prison population crisis. Many other states are choosing to close overcrowded prisons, to lessen sentences for nonviolent crimes, and to grant early release to deserving prisoners. Governor Brown has decided that he’d rather steal public funds from education, healthcare, and public assistance programs in California and devote them towards the prison system. He favors imprisonment over improvement. Tell Governor Jerry Brown that he cannot weasel his way out of a federal court mandate by locking more prisoners up for less. Prison expansion is not the answer to prison overpopulation.
Dear Governor Brown,
Your “compliance” with federal orders to reduce California’s prison population seems a sick joke. Rather than decreasing arrests by lessening penalties for non-violent offenses and granting early release to non-violent offenders, you propose to simply expand California’s existing prison system. Your solution to California’s growing prison crisis is simply to build more prison cells. But what will happen when California’s draconian law enforcement system results in the inevitable overcrowding of private prisons and county jails? You’ve also suggested shipping California inmates off to prisons in other states across America, in what amounts to your administration’s version of shipping convicts off to Siberia.
It is a sad state of affairs indeed when a state pumps more money into its prison system than its education system or its healthcare system. It is a fact that impoverished members of society are more likely to end up in prison, but it is also a fact that strong education systems can help low-income communities avoid this. Conditions in California’s prisons are already so deplorable that many inmates have been on a hunger strike for two months. Governor, you must focus on improving your current prison system before you begin expanding it.
Furthermore, by funneling money into a grotesquely expensive prison expansion program, you are funneling it away from California’s struggling public school system. As social service and education programs are being gutted left and right, you’d better hope your newly expanded prison system has room for all of the new prisoners your policies will help create. Don’t pursue this woefully inadequate prison expansion program. Invest in improving the lives of the most vulnerable members of society rather than banking on their eventual imprisonment.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Casey Konstantin via Flickr