End Draconian Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration of CA Inmates (Yes on AB 32)

By Rachel Barkin

Image Source: Carlos Avila Gonzalez for The San Francisco Chronicle

In response to the overflow of prison inmates around 2006, California lawmakers contracted two corporations (GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America) to open five private prisons across the state. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced creating private prisons would resolve the issue of maximum capacity and reduce costs for the state.

Private prisons were intended to alleviate financial burdens but in practice accumulated more costs, increased rates of recidivism, and lead to egregious civil rights abuses of inmates.

Current California Governor Gavin Newsom backs Assembly Bill 32 prohibiting the state from “entering into or renewing a contract with a private, for-profit prison to incarcerate state prison inmates.” After January 1, 2028, the bill would also prohibit a state prison inmate from being incarcerated in a private prison facility. This bill responds to the draconian nature of private prisons and mass incarceration of California inmates.

Unlike public prisons owned by the state, corporate-owned private prisons run a business model of maximizing profits and minimizing costs. These corporations have a financial incentive to increase the number of people behind bars because they are paid $29,399 per inmate, and their shareholders depend on this profit. To maintain the flow of inmates, private prisons notoriously lobby for harsher prison sentences, follow practices increasing recidivism, and charge the state a fine if they do not reach full capacity. Several former California governors, including Schwarzengger, received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from private prison corporations.

The Department of Justice found the likelihood of a newly released convict being readmitted into prison increases if previously held under a private prison. A study of 8,400 Florida juvenile prisoners found released convicts, formerly incarcerated in a private prison, were 7.3 to 8.5 more likely to become repeat offenders than inmates who resided in a public prison. The increase in recidivism within private prisons is largely attributed to the lack of prison guards, as well as sufficient programs and services providing basic necessities for inmates. Private prisons can charge less per inmate because they deprive inmates of rehabilitative programs, mental health services, contact with family members, and adequate food. Both GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America have faced lawsuits for maltreatment of inmates. In the recent California wildfires, these corporations have used inmates as firefighters paying one to two dollars for a 72 hour, deadly shift.

These poor conditions and exploitative prison labor cause inmates to be unprepared to readjust into society once released, which benefits the private prisons profiting off of their return. Understaffed and underpaid prison guards leads to more physical altercations, and violence among inmates has been proven to foster more aggressive, repeat offenders. It is questionable whether California taxpayers save money from cheaper private prisons when those prisoners are more likely to be readmitted and become more violent.

As a California resident, you have the option to tell your representatives that you support AB-32 because private prisons are not aligned with the values of our state. Mass incarceration created by corporate-backed prisons exploits inmates and prison guards, burdens taxpayers, and harms low-income communities and families.

To support this bill in a matter of seconds, download the Click My Cause app and select the organization “Orchard City Indivisible.” AB-32 will appear under “Bill Actions,” and once you click on the bill, a prewritten message to your State Representative will appear. Act now to ensure a crucial step towards reforming the California criminal justice system is made.

Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault/Protect our Community from Rapists (SB 22)

By Rachel Barkin

Under California state law, victims of sexual assault are not guaranteed the right to have their rape kit tested. A person who has been assaulted can undergo all the appropriate steps— not shower, go to the hospital, request to have a rape kit collected— and still be denied their request to have the DNA of their assailant tested. DNA evidence strengthens the validity of sexual assault cases and prevents future assaults. Storing the information of perpetrators allows law enforcement agencies to solve crimes more efficiently and protect a community from a repeat offender.

Continue reading “Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault/Protect our Community from Rapists (SB 22)”

Restore CA Schools to Fully Funded: AB 39

Close your eyes. Imagine California K-12 public schools with no PTA fundraising and no education foundations. Imagine no more parcel taxes to fund our schools. This is not a fantasy. This is the state of California K-12 schools before Prop. 13, when our schools were top ranked – fully funded and performing at the highest level.

CA K-12 schools now rank near bottom in per-student funding (cost of living adjusted) and in academic performance (math, reading). Despite being a top taxing state, we rank 45th in the percentage of our income spent on education. We rank 45th in student-teacher ratios and 48th in staff per student.

California has the world’s 5th largest economy. Yet, 4 out of 5 states spend more on public education, on a per-student basis (cost of living adjusted). We rank 45th in the percentage of taxable income spent on K-12 education.

Continue reading “Restore CA Schools to Fully Funded: AB 39”

Full Mitigation for PAUSD Schools in the Stanford GUP

Protecting PAUSD school quality is a top priority of the Palo Alto school community

Stanford, under its proposed 2018 GUP, proposes to build 550 additional rental units on Quarry Road. Santa Clara County is considering, to address the County’s acute housing shortage, requiring Stanford to build additional high-density rental housing

The Stanford GUP family rental housing, based on County planning staff projections, is expected to generate between 275 (Stanford proposal) and 1445 (County proposal) additional students for PAUSD.

PAUSD , as a Community Funded (“Basic Aid”) school district relies on local property tax dollars to fund a large majority of its operating funds.

Stanford is exempt from paying property taxes on its rental housing units, by CA law.

Adding hundreds of new students with little or now additional property tax revenue would cause permanent PAUSD budget shortfalls, class size increases, and program reductions – irreparably damaging the quality of all PAUSD students, including those coming from Stanford.

Additionally, the Quarry Road housing development is miles from the nearest PAUSD school.

PAUSD board resolution (passed unanimously 11/4/18):

Stanford mitigate the impact on PAUSD of its housing expansion by:

  1. Annual payments to PAUSD or PiE based on the number of students residing in tax exempt housing owned by Stanford
  2. Setting aside a parcel of land for PAUSD to build a neighborhood school
  3. Impact fees to mitigate the cost of building the new school

Palo Alto PTA Council additional mitigation asks of Stanford:

  1. Contributions to the PAUSD Safe Routes to schools
  2. Fund the expansion of oversubscribed after school childcare on PAUSD campuses with Stanford staff student body
  3. Subsidized housing for PAUSD staff and teachers
  4. Hold community meetings on the Stanford GUP when PAUSD is in session.
Critical: Speak up Now to the County Board of Supervisors and Stanford University!
iPhone Users
Speak up with just a tap on your phone
  • Update the Click My Cause app on your phone OR Download the FREE Click My Cause app from the App Store
  • Create your account, selecting “Palo Alto PTA Council” as your organization.
  • Tap “allow” to allow notifications. We will send you a mobile alert every time we need your voice.
  • In the app, tap the red “act now” buttons to message the board of supervisors and Stanford.
Android users:
Sign this petition OR
Copy and paste message below into an email to Stanford and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

“As the Stanford GUP adds new housing and hundreds of new students to the Palo Alto school district, please do not dilute the quality of our schools. To protect our public school quality, please include in the Stanford GUP Development Agreement:
1. ANNUAL PAYMENTS to PAUSD or PiE for the cost of educating each student living in Stanford tax exempt housing – NO UNFUNDED STUDENTS
2. Elementary school site near the proposed housing – traffic mitigation, safe routes, neighborhood schools
3. Impact fees for the cost to build the new school
4. Contributions to the PAUSD Safe Routes to schools
5. Fund the expansion of oversubscribed after school childcare on PAUSD campuses with Stanford staff student body
6. Subsidized housing for PAUSD staff and teachers
7. Hold community meetings on the Stanford GUP when PAUSD is in session.
Thank you”

Board of supervisors email addresses:

Stanford email addresses:

More Info

PTA FAQ on the Stanford GUP

PAUSD Briefing Book on the Stanford GUP

PAUSD School Board Resolution

Palo Alto PTA Council Fact Sheet

Prevent Discrimination and Harassment in CA Workplaces

By Rachel Barkin

If you are familiar with the #MeToo movement, you may have come across the term “hush money.” Actress Rose McGowan was offered $1 million of hush money from Harvey Weinstein to sign a non-disclosure agreement after speaking out about sexual harassment claims. The unfortunate reality is that hush money is not only prevalent in Hollywood, but in every industry from food corporations to law firms. Continue reading “Prevent Discrimination and Harassment in CA Workplaces”