CitizenLobby your representatives!
Petition: Stop prison expansion in CA
Write congress: Support Mental Health in America
Write congress: Reduce numbers of non-violent offenders in prison
Our inept state legislature in California this week finally passed the state budget, two months overdue. Lawmakers were squabbling over things like public transportation and health care. It basically came down to republicans wanting to cut programs and democrats saying 'no' so nothing was accomplished until democrats eventually caved to the minority -- which has Governor Schwarzenegger's veto power -- and made the cuts.
In the end it was mental health ($55 million), state parks ($30 million), and funds for senior citizens ($17 million) that got the ax. Ultimately it's prisons which get the boost. California spent more than $500 million on overtime alone to correctional officers in 2006. Since the state will spend less money taking care of mental health patients it will instead spend more incarcerating many of those patients in the states overcrowded jails.
People with mental illness are not expendable. Winston Churchill lead the British through WWII with bipolar disorder.
California currently houses more inmates than any other state, including Texas. Since California has more inmates than any other state in a nation that leads the world with it's prison population that would make my home state "The Prison Capital of the World."
So why is California spending an additional $7.9 billion on construction of 53,000 new beds? One of Sacramento's most vocal and powerful lobbies is the prison guards union. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) has big money and they use it. According to the SF Chronicle, they cut a check to former-governor Pete Wilson's campaign for $425,000 in 1994. Recalled former-governor Gray Davis received $2 million from the union and used his first veto to kill a bill that could have saved the state $600 million by creating an alternate punishment program for some non-violent offenders.