As a national criminal justice reform organization based in Oakland, California, we place a specific focus on our home state’s policy landscape.
The State of California currently incarcerates roughly 130,390 people in state prisons, but it was only a decade ago when people in California were being squeezed into California’s prison system. Prison overcrowding was finally recognized in 2006 when California had 165,000 people incarcerated in a system intended to house only 85,000 people. Fear mongering fueled the tough on crime mentality in California bringing forth a system that belittled and dehumanized those who came into contact with it. Although California continues to repair the damage from the tough on crime era, #cut50 has worked to ensure that reforms restore dignity and uplift a population of human beings once thought of as irreparable. We believe that the dignity of every person is inherent, and it is incumbent on the state and nation to protect the dignity of all its residents.
Planned for 2020
In addition to the unfair treatment of currently and formerly incarcerated populations, we must consider the inadvertent effects of restitution, family support, child support, and re-entry. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights published a report that found nearly 65% of families become unable to pay for their basic needs when a member of their household went to prison. In addition, 70% of those families were raising children. More than 2.7 million, or 1 in 28, children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent.
Formerly incarcerated people cannot effectively reintegrate into society unless their basic human needs are met. When they lack these fundamental necessities–a place to live, access to mental health care, pathways to a career, or even basic fundamental support–they are more likely to recidivate. Our punitive system has proven to be ineffective; we must move towards one that encourages prosocial behavior and rewards educational achievements. Reentry is hard enough, shouldering the shame and stigma associated with being formerly incarcerated. Instead of a system that continues to belittle and punish, #cut50 seeks to not only enact legislation that dignifies currently and formerly incarcerated people, but also to shift the narrative around incarceration into one of truth and respectability.