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Group Opposes Using Bond Funds for Prison Expansion

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Aired 4/19/09

A group that opposes prison expansion is suing to block California's plans to add thousands of prison and jail beds. Jenny O'Mara reports from Sacramento.

The lawsuit has been filed by the group Californians United for a Responsible Budget . It's challenging the use of so-called "lease revenue bonds" to build more than fifty thousand new prison and jail beds. Those bonds are approved by a two thirds vote of the legislature, not by voters. Spokeswoman Rose Braz says the expansion moves in the opposite direction of real prison reform and goes against voters' rights. 

Braz:  "We think voters have a right to approve or reject debt and that's what's violated here when they use lease-revenue bonds to try to build these new prison cells."

The expansion package was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger last year to address prison overcrowding. It authorizes roughly seven billion dollars in bond funds. A spokesman for the Governor's Department of Finance says a history of case law supports using such bond funding for the project.

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