US Supreme Court Decision Presents New Opportunities for California

Advocates Urge California to Focus on Resolving Over-crowding Crisis, Including Ending Prison as Response to Drug Use

9,000 in Prison for Drug Possession at Cost of $450 Million a Year

For Immediate Release: 5/23, 2011
Contact: Abel Habtegeorgis
Media Relations Manager
(510) 428-3939 x232

OAKLAND, CA – The United States Supreme Court ruled today in Brown, et al. v. Plata, that the unconstitutional conditions of California prisons were caused primarily by overcrowding. The Court ordered California to reduce its prison population from over 200% of design capacity to 137.5% of capacity within two years.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and allies recently released a statewide poll finding that nearly three-quarters (72%) of California voters support reducing the penalty for possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use from a felony to a misdemeanor. This reform would be a critical first step in reducing the overcrowding of California prisons. The March, 2011 survey of 800 California general election voters was conducted by Lake Research Partners. Poll results and analysis are available online. 

The Ella Baker Center sees that California’s prison spending is bankrupting the state. This ruling proves that the real, constitutional cost of imprisoning 150,000 people is even higher.

“California can't afford to waste billions of dollars needlessly locking up tens of thousands of low-level offenders in state prison, especially now that we must comply with the Supreme Court Decision,” said Kris Lev-Twombly of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

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About the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

The Ella Baker Center is named for an unsung hero of the civil rights movement who inspired and guided emerging leaders. We build on her legacy by giving people opportunities and skills to work together to strengthen our communities so that all of us can thrive.