State Assembly Overcomes Republican Fear-Mongering, Slimly Approves Modest Prison Bill

Press Release August 31, 2009
Media Contact

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

SACRAMENTO — After two weeks of delay and contentious negotiations, the California State Assembly approved by a slim margin today a bill to cut state prison spending by $300 million. Advocates warned that this leaves a shortfall of at least $900 million in unallocated prison cuts that were approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in July, and called on Governor Schwarzenegger to use his authority to control runaway prison spending in order to protect other already-devastated parts of the state budget.

“The good news is that fear-mongering Republicans failed to stop smart prison reform today. The bad news is that the Assembly bill doesn’t go nearly far enough,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in Southern California. “There’s not a moment — or a penny — to waste. Governor Schwarzenegger must immediately do what he can to reduce costs and protect public safety, including by expanding alternative sanctions for technical parole violations.”

Criminal justice reform advocates also called on the Legislature to keep pushing for reforms that the Assembly removed from the Senate-approved prison bill: keeping more low-level offenders in county jails, giving the corrections agency the authority to put some inmates on alternative custody, and creating a state sentencing commission. However, their calls focused on the governor, who promised in July to make his own cuts to prison spending but has not yet implemented those cuts.

“The governor can and must use his authority to cut another $900 million from prisons. He can start by slowing the influx of parolees back to prison for nothing more than missing an appointment or a phone call. This is sensible reform, and he doesn’t need the overly timid legislature to make it happen,” Dooley-Sammuli said. “Californians won’t stand for more being cut from schools, and mental health and drug treatment, and medical care for kids.”

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

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