May 10, 2024

Press Contacts:
Joshua Stickney, Ella Baker Center, 405-315-4151
Ashley Chambers, Ella Baker Center, 510-417-6071

Ella Baker Center Urges Prison Closures, Smart Solutions in Response to 24-25 Budget May Revision

The California budget must prioritize community-based solutions for safe and secure communities

SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom released today the 2024-25 Budget May Revision with proposals to address a staggering $68 billion budget deficit, including $80.6 million in estimated savings by deactivating 46 housing units in state prisons. The May Revise also included cuts to critical reentry resources ($54.1 million), visitation at level IV facilities ($4.1 million), reentry and parole data ($6 million), and others. Despite calls from advocates, the Legislature, LAO, and others to close California prisons, Governor Newsom said that, among others, a factor for not closing more facilities included “proposals to roll back some of our criminal justice reforms that could have a significant impact on census and populations.”

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights released the following statement from Co-Director of Programs Emily Harris

“Governor Newsom’s announcement of prison housing closures is good news — but it doesn’t go far enough in significantly reducing the budget deficit or our state’s investment in a punitive and racist carceral system. The Governor has often said that California is in the business of homecoming, yet his cuts to core lifelines for families and those reentering society say otherwise. Our lawmakers now have an important opportunity to prioritize vulnerable communities over incarceration, and we urge investments that directly support victim services, reentry, restorative justice, and education and job development for our young people.

“We are deeply concerned with the Governor’s comments that more prison closures are not being planned due to proposed policies and initiatives that will fill California prisons. This is an alarming signal that the Governor and our lawmakers are preparing to send California backward to an era of mass incarceration. Now more than ever, we urge California to learn from past mistakes and seek smart solutions to public safety that do not involve putting Black, Brown, and low-income Californians behind bars.”

Housing unit deactivations are a commendable first step towards reducing the bloated budget of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) — which has a hefty $14.5 billion budget. The population of people held in California prisons has dropped by a full 25% since 2020, but the budget has actually increased by 5%. However, cost savings from housing closures alone will still cost the state tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs and operational costs.

Prison closures and reducing the prison population with safe releases of those incarcerated are shown to be important steps to improve our communities, prioritize those families and communities most harmed by mass incarceration, and address the budget deficit. “Closing state prisons with roughly 15,000 empty beds would reduce unnecessary expenditures by as much as $1 billion per year,” the California Budget & Policy Center explains. In addition to the closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison which is in progress to close by November 2024, the Ella Baker Center supports closing at least 5 additional prisons by 2025 and reinvesting those saved resources into low-income communities and communities of color.

The Ella Baker Center now calls on the California Legislature to pass a budget that prioritizes the communities most impacted by mass incarceration, including supplementing federal Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, drastically reducing the prison budget, and investing in smart solutions to keep our communities safe.


For over twenty-seven years, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has advanced people-powered campaigns for racial and economic justice – and we are winning. Named after civil rights hero Ella Baker, we shift resources away from prisons and punishment towards opportunities that make our communities safe, healthy, and strong.