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How Will California Spend $500 Million for Criminal Justice Facilities?

Recently, California’s criminal justice system has undergone significant reform given the passage of Proposition 47, increasingly broad support for education, mental health, and drug treatment as meaningful alternatives to incarceration, and ongoing drops in crime rates. This movement builds on the work of advocates, law enforcement, policymakers, and, most importantly, those communities most impacted by our costly and punitive justice system. Yet the state is moving quickly to allocate $500 million for construction of county justice facilities, through Senate Bill (SB) 863, and many are concerned this funding will simply prioritize building more jail capacity over programming and treatment space.

California’s Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) oversees millions of dollars in facility and program grants to counties, including the forthcoming $500 million in construction funding for facilities under a sheriff’s jurisdiction.

On June 10, the BSCC’s Board will meet to finalize the request for proposals (RFP) for SB 863 funds; counties must complete their applications by August 28. The design of this RFP signals what types of facilities California prioritizes as necessary to improve public safety, and will influence the proposals that counties will submit. 

CJCJ, the ACLU, and other justice stakeholders, have serious concerns with how the SB 863 RFP has been developed. The process has lacked transparency, offering very limited opportunities for public review of draft documents. For the agency to best serve California’s public safety, it must be inclusive and allow for meaningful public comment. 

There are several concerns with the draft RFP. First, it fails to recognize the intent of SB 863 to prioritize facilities with programming and treatment space. As noted in SB 863, “Improved county adult criminal justice housing with an emphasis on expanding program and treatment space will enhance public safety throughout the state by providing increased access to appropriate programs or treatment.”

Moreover, the SB 863 application must require counties to submit cost projections for ongoing staffing and operations of these facilities. These figures are necessary to adequately document the significant long-term operating costs for these facilities, including the viability of future programs and treatment.

Should California allocate $500 million for local criminal justice facilities, the BSCC must recognize the importance of prioritizing projects that emphasize sustainable program and treatment space. CJCJ encourages those interested to attend the BSCC Board meeting on June 10th to advocate for a grant application that is reflective of California’s future, rather than its failed policies of over incarceration. To learn more about the June 10 BSCC Board meeting, contact CJCJ’s Director of Policy and Development Brian Goldstein.

Keywords: BSCC, California, state policy

Posted in Blog, Correctional Institutions

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