Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this month that he wants to close at least one state prison in California – where there is a disproportionate number of African Americans serving sentences in the state penitentiary system. The Department of Correction and Rehabilitation costs taxpayers more than $15 billion a year.
Although African Americans only make up about 5.6% of California’s population, Black prisoners account for more than 28% of all inmates in state prison.
The governor has neither decided which prison he wants to close nor spelled out how he would go about doing it – taking into account jobs, other local concerns, sentence reductions, etc., – but he says the issue is “personal” to him.
“I would like to see, in my lifetime and hopefully my tenure, that we shut down a state prison,” he said. “But you can’t do that flippantly. And you can’t do that without the support of the unions, support of these communities, the staff, and that requires an alternative that can meet everyone’s needs and desires.”
Moving California away from over-focusing on punishment to strengthening prevention programs, as well as providing rehabilitation and re-integration assistance for formerly incarcerated people, is his priority, said Newsom.
The state is investing $20 million in the 2019-20 budget to help formerly incarcerated people successfully re-integrate into their communities through the California Community Reinvestment Grant program.