Safeway and Ralph’s Have Joined Forces With Some of State’s Largest Police Unions to Bankroll Initiative That Would Increase Incarceration

June 23, 2020

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – A new radio and online advertisement released this week urges corporations and law enforcement unions to withdraw their support for a November statewide ballot initiative that would cost California as much as $450 million every year by increasing the state’s prison population. The measure would put more people in prison, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color, while taking away resources from programs in these communities. 

The advertisement highlights that the initiative, which is estimated to significantly increase the number of people incarcerated and funnel billions of dollars into law enforcement, is at odds with growing calls across the state and nation to shift dollars away from the criminal justice system and back to local communities.  

“As Americans confront injustice, why are corporations and police unions pushing an initiative to massively increase prison spending?” the ad says. “Tell backers to withdraw the prison spending scam.” 

Proponents have until June 25 to withdraw the measure from the ballot. 

“In recent years, California has proven that you can significantly reduce incarceration and the amount of money we waste on failed prisons, and redirect those hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen the safety and well being of our communities,” said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, whose partner organization, ASJ Action Fund, released the ad. “At a time when the state faces a record budget deficit and there’s broad support for the need to reduce spending on prisons and the criminal justice system, an initiative that would reverse California’s progress to send incarceration and prison spending skyrocketing should be a non-starter.” 

The Prison Spending Initiative is being funded by nearly $3 million in campaign contributions from grocers like Albertson’s Safeway and some of the state’s largest police unions, including the Police Officers Research Association of California, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Protective League. 

The initiative would prohibit people in prison from rehabilitating themselves before release, incarcerate people for the lowest-level offenses, and return people to prison for non-criminal violations of probation. According to a report released last week by the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the initiative would cost taxpayers as much as $457 million annually in increased incarceration costs.