‘Thinking Outside the Box’ to reform California prisons

Photo Courtesy of ACLU of Northern California

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is crowdsourcing its prison reform campaign on the web.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison population by 137%. Two years later, the state has yet to reach its goal. Instead, Gov. Jerry Brown appealed the Court’s decision—an appeal the Court rejected earlier this month.

The ACLU-NC campaign, “Think Outside the Box,” allows users to make policy decisions that cut incarceration spending. Then, users can channel the money saved from prison reform into the underfunded education system and other sustainable programs to reduce the prison population, said Will Matthews, senior communications officer at ACLU-N.C.

“Our goal is to meet people where they are online and engage folks in this issue on the front end,” Matthews told msnbc.

Since 2004, California has spent more money on correction than public universities, and the disparity continues to grow. One state prison inmate costs $50,000 a year. That same amount could pay a year’s tuition for 44 community college students.

The program will launch later this month as an app but, for now, it’s ready as a mobile-ready quiz.

Social activism apps are made to connect with Facebook or Twitter and are increasingly used by advocacy groups to gather support. “You want to meet people where they already are, and make it easy for them to connect with your organization and others,” said Taylor Dankmyer, a new media strategist at Fission Strategy, the firm running ALCU-NC’s campaign strategy.

Matthews hopes ACLU-N.C.’s upcoming app will also ignite change through the rest of the country.

“California is ground zero in the prison reform fight,” he said. “There’s a real need in the state for some out of the box thinking to increase public safety.”