Governor Corbett’s budget slashes millions from public education and social services while continuing to fund the state’s $685 million prison expansion plan. This plan will add over 5000 new beds to the Pennsylvania prison system.
We believe in a different set of priorities for Pennsylvania. Instead of sending more people to prison, we need to address the things that funnel people into the prison system. We want quality public schools, stable housing, jobs and job training programs, health care and food access, drug and alcohol treatment programs, community-based reentry services, and non-punitive practices that address the root causes of violence in our communities.
When Governor Corbett came to Philadelphia, Decarcerate PA lined the streets with cots and banners to demonstrate that money spent on prison beds is money taken away from the things PA really needs. Now we are taking our cots on the road! Every day from now until the budget passes, Decarcerate PA will post a new photo of these cots in front of institutions and places in Pennsylvania that are negatively impacted by Governor Corbett’s broken priorities.
On May 15th, Decarcerate PA, the Teacher Action Group, ACT UP, Fight for Philly and many others protested Corbett's visit to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. We joined together to demand that Corbett stop building prisons and giving tax breaks to corporations, and instead fund schools, jobs, healthcare, and other social services.
Read Decarcerate PA's response to Governor Corbett's comments on the protest here: http://bit.ly/KYnWwi & repost/tweet @GovernorCorbettMay 18, 2012
An Open Letter to Governor Corbett
Dear Governor Corbett,
In response to massive protests during your recent visit with the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, you said protestors need to “get their facts straight.” You claimed that you shouldn't be blamed for the state’s prison expansion because you canceled the construction of a prison in Fayette County.
We have our facts straight, Governor. The canceled Fayette project was just a drop in the bucket. While slashing funding for education, social services, and healthcare, you are moving ahead with the $685 million construction of three new state prisons and the expansion of nine existing facilities. This expansion would add at least 5,000 beds to Pennsylvania’s prison system, costing the state approximately $165 million in additional operating expenses per year.
For the first time in almost half a century, prison populations are decreasing nationally. But you continue to lead Pennsylvania in the opposite direction. Even while Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and your own Justice Reinvestment Working Group examine possibilities for decreasing our need for more prison beds, you refuse to halt construction on expensive new prisons. Maybe the $102,000 in donations your campaign received from the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association speaks louder than your own Corrections Secretary.
When you canceled the Fayette prison, you said you wanted to promote industries that “generate wealth, not sorrow.” You have the perfect opportunity to do just that. With the stroke of a pen, you could make hundreds of millions of dollars available to build brighter futures for our children. Instead, you choose prison cells. You choose sorrow.
Members of Fight for Philly, Decarcerate PA, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Act UP Philly, Occupy Philly and others began organizing on Chestnut, between Broad and 15th, just before 4 p.m., showing their homemade signs, handing out fliers and wrapping themselves in a red carpet to greet the governor, who had better sense than to walk in the front door.
The groups were there, they said, to protest the governor’s budget cuts and other priorities; things like tax loopholes, mass incarceration and cuts to public education. In all, I’d estimate the crowd grew to about 300 at its largest. After about an hour of chanting and building the crowd, leaders of the organizing groups spoke through a bullhorn, implying they hoped Corbett could hear them from outside. “I believe that 99 percent of these issues could be solved if corporations paid their fair share,” said Sam Jones, an organizer with Fight For Philly. “We are here to let Gov. Corbett know that we will not allow him to balance the budget on the backs of our school children…our most vulnerable citizens…the poor…[and]…working families.”
Join the online mobilization and tweet your budget priorities using the hashtag #PAbudget to @GovernorCorbett. Then check out http://www.papeoplesbudget.org/ to see how your values measure up with Governor Corbett's.
On Tuesday May 15th, Governor Corbett is coming to the Prince Theater in Philadelphia to address the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. During his time as governor, Corbett has made massive cuts to education, medical assistance, and social services while he is spending $685 million on new prison construction. His recent budget alone proposes $264 million in cuts to higher education, $319 million in cuts to general assistance, and a funding change that cuts another $21.6 million from Philly's public schools. More recently the School Reform Commission, an entity created by Harrisburg when the state took control over Philadelphia's School District in 2001, has put forward a plan to close 64 public schools.
Governor Corbett has made his priorities very clear: Corporate tax breaks, mass incarceration and environmental devastation.
Join Decarcerate PA, the Teacher Action Group, the Coalition Advocating for Public Schools, ACT UP, Fight for Philly, and many others as we demand a different set of priorities for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania needs quality public schools, stable housing, jobs and job training programs, health care and food access, drug and alcohol treatment programs, community-based reentry services, and non-punitive programs that address the root causes of violence in our communities. Instead of building more prisons we need policy changes that reduce the prison population and reinvest resources in our schools and communities.
Join us to demand that PA build communities, not prisons!
Statewide Coalition Demands Moratorium on Prison Construction
Decarcerate PA to Corbett: Get Serious about Justice Reinvestment
Philadelphia, PA – In an open letter to Governor Corbett that was released today, the statewide coalition Decarcerate PA demands that the governor declare a moratorium on pending prison construction while the newly formed Justice Reinvestment Working Group assesses the state's bloated prison system. The coalition’s letter also calls on Corbett to include two key stakeholder communities that have been excluded from the Justice Reinvestment process: formerly incarcerated people and representatives from Philadelphia.
“Formerly incarcerated people and their families are a crucial part of any conversation about community health, safety, and resources,” said Hakim Ali of Reconstruction, Incorporated, a community-based re-entry organization in North Philadelphia. “But the Justice Reinvestment Working Group isn't listening to us.”
In the letter, which was sent to Governor Corbett, Department of Corrections’ Secretary Wetzel, Mark Zimmer of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and every member of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, Decarcerate PA commends the Working Group’s stated mission, but calls on it to go further to bring all stakeholders to the table. The letter also points out that the Council of State Government Justice Center, which is partnering with Pennsylvania on this effort, has called into question the need for the state's $685 million plan to build new prisons.
The Justice Reinvestment Working Group is a collection of judges, lawmakers, and others who were convened by the governor in January 2012 to make recommendations on how the state can reduce corrections spending, decrease recidivism, and enhance public safety.
The Working Group, which has held one private meeting to date, is tasked with holding focus groups and soliciting input from key stakeholders. Still, this committee does not include people who are currently or formerly incarcerated or their families.
“We do not need and cannot afford more prisons,” said Dan Berger of Decarcerate PA. “The justice reinvestment process is a chance for our state to pull back from the brink of a disgraceful prison crisis. If Governor Corbett is sincerely committed to the process, he must cancel any and all plans to build or expand the state's prison system.”