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Counties Receive $500M For New Jails

Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

File photo of protesters objecting to new funding for California jails, outside of the Board of State and Community Corrections meeting in December 2015.

Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

California counties will receive a half-billion dollars to build new jails. The Board of State and Community Corrections approved the funding Thursday in a room filled with anti-incarceration protesters.

Long-time prison inmate turned activist Jerry Elster urged the board to stop funding jails.

"When I got out, the cold reality hit me. There was no job, no home, and no resources out there for me," Elster said. "You guys are continuing to pass the same kind of stuff, giving the same funding that’s inaccessible to the communities that really needs it."

Boardmember Scott Budnick, a community activist himself, told the crowd he sympathized, but they were in the wrong room.

"This discussion needs to happen in the Legislature," Budnick said. "You can have it today, and it’s great, but they appropriate the money."

Lawmakers authorized the half-billion dollars in bonds last year. The 2011 prison realignment shifted lower-levle offenders from state prisons to county custody.

Boardmember and Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon says counties need new facilities to provide the health and education services protesters say they want.

"No matter what some people are going to go to jail," Growdon said. We need to do a lot better job of preparing them and giving them opportunities when they return to their community."

Board members called out their votes over whistles and chants from protesters.