Prison Agency Announces Youth Prison Closure, As Proposed by Community Groups

Press Release August 27, 2009
Media Contact

Abel Habtegeorgis at 510.428.3939 ext. 23

SACRAMENTO–The People’s Budget Fix coalition today welcomed the announcement that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) would close one of six youth prisons. The coalition has called for diverting all young offenders to county level supervision and closing all six youth prisons as part of the People’s Budget Fix, a proposal to achieve long-term improvements in public safety and actual savings in prison costs of more than $12 billion in five years. The CDCR announcement comes as the Assembly continues to fail to act on needed criminal justice reforms.

“We are gratified that the CDCR is heeding our call for smart criminal justice reforms that increase public safety and reduce wasteful prison spending,” said Zachary Norris, Director of the Books Not Bars program at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “This is a positive first step. We must move further, phasing out the other five youth prisons and phasing into a locally-based therapeutic juvenile justice system. Then, we must implement all of the proposals in the People’s Budget Fix.”

The CDCR’s actions come after lawmakers cut an unallocated $1.2 billion from the FY 2009-10 budget for Corrections. The People’s Budget Fix coalition had criticized the proposals previously put forth by the CDCR as insufficient to add up to $1.2 billion in needed savings. The CDCR’s decision to close one youth facility was not included in the original proposal and will provide additional savings that could total $30 million when fully implemented, according to the CDCR.

“Yesterday’s announcement is a good start, but the governor can and must do much more to reduce prison spending. If that $1.2 billion doesn’t come out of the prisons, it’s going to have to come from somewhere. We can’t allow more cuts to education, health care, drug treatment or other vital services that have already been cut too much,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Deputy State Director of Drug Policy Alliance.

The key recommendations of the People’s Budget Fix proposal are to reserve prison for serious offenses and focus resources on recidivism-reduction. One of the core recommendations of the coalition is to phase out all youth prisons in three years, diverting half of the current budget for these facilities to counties to serve youth offenders and to a state oversight and enforcement office to ensure best practices. The coalition estimates that, if fully implemented, this proposal would result in savings of $200 million annually.

Other strategies recommended by the coalition include:

(The full alternative budget proposal is available online at )

Other solutions from the People’s Budget Fix include replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment without the possibility of parole (five year savings of $1 billion), and reforming the Three Strikes Law to apply only to violent offenses (five year savings of $5 billion.) The People’s Budget Fix also emphasizes the need to maintain effective recidivism-reduction programs to enhance community safety.

“We can’t wait any longer. Every day we delay we waste millions more on a broken criminal justice system that fails the people of California,” said Annette Summers of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes.

“We call on the Assembly to act now to keep petty offenders out of costly prison cells,” said Natasha Minsker, of the ACLU of Northern California. “We call on the Governor to save the state real money and protect funding for education and health care by implementing all of our recommendations.”

The People’s Budget Fix coalition includes the ACLU of Northern California, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, and Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes.

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.