The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli (213) 291-4190 or Tommy McDonald (510) 229-5215

CA Prison System a Bipartisan Failure, as 5 Governors Show

Opposing Solutions to a Crisis They Created


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.

  • Gov. Schwarzenegger has failed to reform the prison system while the federal courts are on the verge of taking it over; he has expressly refused the advice in Gov. Deukmejian's report to him on how to reform prisons.
  • Gray Davis took $3 million in campaign contributions from the prison guards' union, a major reason he was recalled in 2003, and he shut down rehabilitation programs in prisons.
  • Like Gray Davis, Jerry Brown is already cozying up to the prison guards - he has been endorsed for governor (2010) by guards' union and is currently benefiting from $800,000 of CCPOA-donated TV time promoting himself.
  • Pete Wilson also took big-time campaign cash from the prison guards, then oversaw the greatest expansion of the prison system in history. Wilson promoted the "three strikes" law both to get himself re-elected and to fill those prisons up.

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

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