SF And LA Legislators Targeted By Prison Reform Advocates

A coalition of advocacy groups today delivered letters to state legislators calling on them to act quickly reduce prison overcrowding and drop any plans for prison expansion.

Today’s action, which targeted state legislators in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento, came in response to a Feb. 10 ruling that gave the state a two-year extension on a deadline to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.

The letter delivered today by Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a coalition representing dozens of organizations in areas including housing, health care, youth, women’s issues and criminal justice, calls on legislators to expand parole and sentencing reform measures, invest in anti-recidivism and anti-poverty programs and cancel all prison expansion plans and plans to send additional prisoners to out-of-state prisons.

“California cannot solve the overcrowding crisis by simply moving people around,” the letter read. “We must reduce the population.”

In San Francisco, representatives of CURB delivered letters and a petition with more than 500 signatures to the offices of Assemblyman Phil Ting, state Sen. Leland Yee, state Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. Group members were greeted cordially and said all four legislators are supporters of prison reform.

“I think the public is tired of throwing good money after bad,” said Karen Shain, representing the Women’s Foundation of California.

Federal judges have previously ruled in two long-running civil rights lawsuits that the only way to correct inadequate medical care in the prison system was to reduce the number of inmates.

A federal three-judge panel agreed to the deadline extension this month after the state proposed a plan for a long-term solution to overcrowding.

The state now has until Feb. 28, 2016, to reduce the population of its 34 adult prisons to 137.5 percent of their capacity, a reduction of 5,470 inmates from the current population of 117,634, according to state corrections officials. Inmate numbers were previously reduced by about 25,000 through a realignment policy that shifted low-level offenders to county jails.

The extension comes with conditions, including an agreement by the state to not seek further appeals or extensions.

The state also agreed to increase good-time credits for non-violent second-strike offenders, expand parole for the elderly and medically infirm and consider establishing a commission to recommend sentencing law reforms.

The court will appoint a compliance officer, and if benchmarks are not met that officer will have the power to order the immediate release of prisoners.

Gov. Jerry Brown said at the time of the court ruling that the deadline extension would give the state “the time and resources necessary to help inmates become productive members of society and make our communities safer.”

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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