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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ORWC TO PROTEST, SPEAK OUT AGAINST NEW JAIL
SATURDAY July 14, Redwood City, 1 PM - On Bastille Day, Occupy Redwood City (ORWC) will be rallying at the site of the county’s newly approved future jail to protest its construction in our community (location: Maple and Blomquist Streets).
We are proud to be joined by our friends at Occupy San Jose (OSJ) at this rally and to be standing in solidarity with other groups on the Peninsula who have already spoken out and led the way in organizing against the construction of a new county jail in favor of more cost-efficient and just alternatives that would provide greater long-term benefits for our county and for low-income communities and communities of color.
At a recent General Assembly ORWC passed a resolution strongly rejecting the new jail for the following reasons:
- Our county commissioned the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) to do a study on our inmate population. The CJCJ strongly recommended that the county at least explore cost-effective, evidence-based ways to reduce that population before resorting to building a new jail to combat overcrowding.
- For example, 72% of our inmates have yet to be convicted of a crime and are being held simply because they don’t have money for bail. Neighboring counties have adopted innovative programs that allow many of these people to be released until they have their day in court, and indeed, the CJCJ recommended alternatives to solve San Mateo County’s overcrowding problem such as pretrial release, expedited court processing and transfer, and expanded probation supervision. The Board of Supervisors rejected all these recommendations in favor of a new jail.
- Our county is already cutting jobs and services. The new jail will cost the county $160 million to build and will create a new, annual $44 million operating expense for the county. While state government will pay a large share of the construction cost, it will not pay for future operations. A new jail will require more staff, locking in a larger fraction of the county budget spent on Sheriff’s deputies guarding the jail instead of on those intervention workers who would go out into communities to provide health, counseling, safety and other services that would mitigate the problems that lead to most crime in the first place.
- Under the recent state “realignment” plans, more low-level offenders are being held by counties, rather than being sent to state prison. This is not a bad idea, but it will only lead to truly just outcomes for these low-level offenders if counties find them alternatives to incarceration. Unfortunately, as a response to the injustice of mass incarceration, San Mateo County is just building more jail space, and in doing so is missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do the right thing by creating a more fair and humane justice system.
- As in most other counties across the nation, it is young men from low-income communities and communities of color on the Peninsula who are disproportionately incarcerated in San Mateo County jails. We do not need to spend our public money and go into further debt building more jails to house people from these communities. The millions of dollars allotted for this new jail should be going to programs in these communities instead to provide critical, valuable services.
- Local building trades unions have fought for a new jail in San Mateo County because they were guaranteed these construction jobs, and as people who stand in solidarity with the labor movement as a whole we respect the right of labor to organize for their interests. However, we think a new jail represents a missed opportunity for our community. A jail that is projected to be as costly to our county as this one is will result in chronic budget shortfalls that will require our county to continue cutting services and to continue laying off good public sector union workers. We ask our labor sisters and brothers who are advocating for this jail to consider the harm it will do to other union jobs down the line, and to work with the county on other projects that will benefit the entire community, instead of on one construction project that will cause unnecessary long-term damage.
- ORWC rejects the argument that the new jail will be beneficial to the community because it will have a focus on rehabilitation, job training, and other programs to reintegrate inmates into society. We know that such services are the first thing to get cut during deficit years and lean budgets, and in light of the $44 million additional annual operating expense that the jail represents we are not optimistic that these programs will be permanent fixtures in the new jail. We also demand that if the county is so concerned about promoting such services, they can and should be funding them within the communities that need them before spending millions in public funds building jails to house these programs.
These are just some of the reasons ORWC will be demonstrating our opposition to this misguided project, for which the first $16 million has already been approved, and we hope to stop this senseless misallocation of our resources. The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 as part of a people’s uprising against the monarchy is now recognized as the spark that ignited the French Revolution. ORWC will be speaking out at the new jail site, connecting this past history to our current culture of incarceration and systematic mistreatment of low-income people and people of color.
Our prison system is both a moral blight on our society and an overwhelming economic burden, taking away much needed resources from schools, health care, and affordable housing. The prison system is corrupting our society and making us less safe, rather than protecting us as its proponents claim. It is a system built on fear, racism, and the exploitation of poverty, and it has no place in a society that aspires to liberty, justice, and equality for all.
We invite all like-minded people to join us on Saturday and show their opposition to the new jail!
ORWC is proud to join groups like the CJCJ, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), Silicon Valley De-Bug, ACLU Northern California, and many others in opposing a new jail in San Mateo County, and we appreciate the messages of support and promises of attendance that we have already received from some of these groups for our Bastille Day rally.
ORWC continues to rally every Friday at 5 PM at Courthouse Square in Redwood CIty, with General Assemblies commencing at City Hall at 6 PM.
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