The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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

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

Advocates Urge More Prison Cuts & Reforms to Protect Education, Health Care, and Other Vital Services


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

"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."

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

(212) 613-8020