In Crime-Ridden California, Progressive Dems Push Newsom to Defund Prison System by $1 Billion


There are any number of reasons California is bleeding population, but crime rates are certainly one of the biggies.

In 2022, violent crime in the Golden State increased by 5.7 percent, a troubling jump when you consider the spike in lawlessness that followed the pandemic and the summer of George Floyd.

(Violent offenses are up by 13.5 percent over 2019 levels, in case you were wondering.)

Property crimes, meanwhile, were up 6.2 percent in 2022 — also not a good sign in a state where residents of one particularly hard-hit city, San Francisco, have resorted to leaving their car trunks open just to prove to would-be thieves that there’s nothing of value to pilfer.

With these kinds of numbers combined with the exodus of residents, you would think that even the progressives in Sacramento would be getting hard on crime — particularly Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has made no bones about the fact that he wants to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2028.

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Instead, state Democrats are doing just the opposite. According to Politico, state legislators are looking to slash the prison budget dramatically — and they think they have the leverage to get Newsom to play along.

California needs to pass a budget by June 15, lest legislators forego their paychecks. Furthermore, the fiscal year starts July 1, putting additional pressure on the various parties.

The balancing act is trickier than in years past, since the Golden State is no longer running the surpluses it once was. As of Wednesday, CalMatters reported, closed-door talks between the governor and legislators had failed to bridge the impasse over how to deal with the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit.

Newsom’s plan involves, among other things, “dipping into reserve accounts, deferring school funding, eliminating government jobs and cutting or delaying money for infrastructure, health and climate programs,” among other things.

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According to The Associated Press, the Legislature rejected many of these proposals on Thursday and fast-tracked a temporary tax increase to address the deficit. That’s just a band-aid, however — and one of the targets for progressive Democrat legislators is a dramatic cut in prison spending.

“Democratic lawmakers argue that the $14.5 billion budget of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has long been bloated, noting that the agency is expected to have nearly 15,000 empty beds in the next fiscal year, according to a recent report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office,” Politico noted.

The outlet further added: “Newsom and prior governors have, for many years, bucked the requests of liberal lawmakers who want to slash how much money the state spends on incarcerating people, arguing they are instead focused on using the corrections budget to improve prison conditions and reentry programs for former inmates.”

Now, Newsom is willing to at least consider cutting prison spending, proposing an $80.6 million cut. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire, on the other hand, asked for a $1 billion cut (yes, that’s a B, not an M) in their proposed budget.

The Legislature’s progressives think that they have the upper hand, given the budgetary situation, and aren’t letting a good crisis go to waste.

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“This should have happened before, but no time like the present to right-size CDCR’s budget,” said state Sen. Scott Weiner, chair of the state Senate Budget Commitee. “We know that our prison population is down, but the budget keeps going up.”

Well, perhaps the growing budget isn’t the problem, but the dwindling prison population instead. After all, the numbers don’t lie — violent crime up, property crime up, population down, tax base down. While Scott Weiner and reality have never mixed, Newsom has political aspirations beyond Sacramento and those numbers, when put before the American people, don’t add up to 270 electoral votes.

However, it’s not just Weiner who’s clamoring for slashing prison funding and closing down correctional facilities.

Assemblymember Mia Bonta — a former Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety chair and one of the loudest voices calling for defunding California’s correctional facilities — says she wants to end what she calls the Golden State’s “prison industrial complex.”

“It signals to me, and I’m sure makes other Californians wonder, whether we care more about buildings than people,” Bonta said.

If California Democrats actually cared about people, what they’d do is start locking up the individuals who pose a threat to personal safety and property. Instead, they’re locking up chewing gum at Walgreen’s. That’s the priorities of Sacramento’s far left — and Newsom may just blink.

Granted, just pouring money into prisons won’t solve what ails California if politicians don’t start waking up to the reality of what their state has become. However, lawmakers do their constituents no favors by slashing the money going into correctional facilities, either. It’s time for the Golden State to get real about its quality of life problems, and that starts with putting those who flout the law in facilities where they’re no longer able to do so.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture