A small group of education, prison and social advocates chanted “education not incarceration” on the steps of the State Capitol in opposition to a compromise plan to prevent the early release of prion inmates.
The plan between Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders would seek a delay in a federal court ordered December deadline to release up to 10,000 inmates after years of over crowding that lead to poor health care for inmates. The delay would allow the state to develop and fund programs that would keep people from going to prison.
If the court doesn’t agree to a delay, Governor Brown’s original plan to spend $715 million for more prison space would go into effect.
“If they don’t (agree to the delay) then we go straight to increasing beds and I think that would be disastrous,” said Karen Shain, the policy director for the Women’s Foundation of California who participated in the rally.
Shain believes the prison expansion money is better spent on education programs and social services that help keep people from committing crimes, which is a longer term solution to keeping the prison population down.
Danduvaul Hartwell agrees. He’s been in and out of prison as a result of crimes committed as a drug addict. He says there a many ex-cons like himself who need and want help to stay out of prison.
“If the money were directed correctly … a lot of us would be able to be re-established back into the workforce,” said Hartwell.
But the bi-partisan group of legislative leaders who agreed to the compromise say building more cells is the only sure way to prevent the release of prisoners in December.
“Our priority is public safety. If that means finding alternative ways to incarcerate people and not letting anymore out on the streets, that’s what we support,” said Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway.
There’s very little time to fine tune the compromise legislation because the legislative session ends in less than a week.