CA Prison System a Bipartisan Failure, as 5 Governors Show

Press Release October 29, 2008
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at (213) 291-4190 or Tommy McDonald at

The current and former governors of California today announced their opposition to Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, just days before the election and two weeks before a federal court trial that is expected to result in a federal takeover of the state prison system.

Prop. 5 supporters say the measure is the last real hope for a solution to the prison crisis before the state loses control of the prisons.

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy campaign manager for Yes on 5, said, “This is disgraceful. These governors, in league with the prison guards’ union, got California into this prison overcrowding crisis. Now here they come to stand in the way of good reform one more time.”

“We believe that the voters recognize that the prisons are a bipartisan failure, and they will support Proposition 5 to fix the problem these men created. Make no mistake,” Dooley-Sammuli said, “These governors are saying it is better for the federal courts to take over our prisons than to let voters solve the problem.”

The Yes on 5 campaign scored each of the governors for overseeing massive growth in the prison population and annual spending during their tenures, worsening California’s budget problems. The annual cost of prisons has grown from $4 billion in 2000 to $10 billion today.

Since the late 1980s, the prison population increased by 75% to over 170,000 – nearly three times faster than the general adult population. In the 1990s, California built 21 new prisons and just one university. The state now spends about the same amount annually on prisons and higher education. Prison spending is projected to reach $15 billion by 2011.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), Prop. 5 will cut prison construction costs by at least $2.5 billion. With $2.5 billion, the state could fund:

* 37,500 elementary schoolteacher salaries
* Healthcare for 2 million California children without health insurance
* Nursing home care for nearly 95,000 elderly persons on Medi-Cal
* Funding equal to 250% of all state firefighting efforts

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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