Sacramento – Concerned Californians from across the region gathered at the State Capitol on Monday, March 21, to urge the California Legislature to protect critical social services – including education programs and drug treatment – by cutting the Corrections budget. One simple reform would free up $450 million dollars. That's the amount California taxpayers spend to lock up adults who were convicted of non-violent instances of possessing a small amount of drugs for personal use.
If these offenders were charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies, they could be housed at local facilities at a far lower cost – saving the state close to half a billion dollars.
"It's time for California to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars sending people to prison who pose no threat to public safety. Let's invest in education, not incarceration," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.
In addition to Hopper, speakers included Glenn Backes from Drug Policy Alliance, Aaliyah Muhammad from Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Evan LeVang, Independent Living Services of Northern CA.
During a time of declining crime rates, sentencing reform will help to preserve scarce dollars for education, health care and social services, and local police and firefighters.
Many states – New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Oklahoma among them – have recently made significant cuts to their prison systems by choosing not to incarcerate people convicted of low level drug offenses.
The rally was a joint effort of the American Civil Liberties Union's California Affiliates, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, California Partnership, Drug Policy Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Friends Committee on Legislation of California.