In light of state prison plans, local forum to focus on Santa Cruz County Jail

May 8, 2013

Late last week, the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections filed a court-ordered list of prison-reduction measures, but it wasn’t done without protest.

“We respect the court’s authority to order the list of measures, but we submitted it under protest,” said CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard. “The court ordered the population reduced so as to allow for medical and mental health care that complies with the Constitution. We are already providing that level of care and so further population reduction is not needed.”

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Golden State had to reduce its prison population drastically. The justices ordered the state to reduce its prisoner population to a maximum of 110,000 inmates. That meant at least 33,000 inmates would need to be eliminated through the system within two years.

“The court-ordered list complies with an April 11, 2013 federal court order requiring the state to explain how it will reduce the adult prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity. Meeting this order requires the state to reduce its prison population by another 9,300 inmates. The order stems from cases filed by inmates dating back to 1991 that claim the state’s prison medical and mental health care is inadequate and unconstitutional.”

The measures include slowing the rate of returning out-of-state inmates to California, leasing beds from county jails and other facilities where there is sufficient capacity and increasing good conduct credit for non-violent inmates, among other proposals.

Much has been written about realignment, the state’s big plan to overhaul the prison system. Many of those changes have been left up to individual jurisdictions. Some counties have selected to build more jails to hold those inmates who previously would have been sentenced to state prison but who now receive local sentences under realignment. Santa Cruz County officials, however, have been lauded by many for choosing to pursue so-called alternatives to incarceration as opposed to simply increasing jail capacity. Those alternatives have included electronic monitoring, more drug treatment programs and work furlough, amongst others. However, there is still a severe lack of drug and alcohol treatment programs to meet the need and the changes have also corresponded with a change in medical care at the Santa Cruz County Jail. Health care services were outsourced to California Forensic Medical Group, a move many local activists have protested.

On Friday, May 10,  the organization Sin Barras (Without Bars) will hold a community forum about jails and police in Santa Cruz County.

“No More Jails: Community Forum to Build Coalitions” will focus on developing grassroots community power and sharing stories. Child care and Spanish translation services will be available. The event takes place from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz.

For more information, visit www.sinbarras.wordpress.com

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