Every time someone loses their life in the ongoing struggle for real public safety it’s a tragedy. Period. After the shooting in Whittier yesterday, it’s really important that we hold that truth while keeping in mind what we know.
At the press conference Whittier Police Chief Piper made an important point. It is true that laws, propositions, and other reforms are being passed at the ballot box overwhelmingly by the people of California, including Black and Brown folks who want something different than laws that have used prisons and jails to tear our families apart for decades. In the case of AB 109, the bill was signed into effect by the governor. It is also true that in moments like these it is very easy to criticize reforms as the cause of the violence. That is also harmful. Reforms like AB 109 have the real potential to reduce harm in our communities by lowering recidivism, however, they are not being implemented with that goal in mind. In fact, just the opposite is happening.
What we know is that the purpose of AB 109 was not only to fix a deplorably overcrowded prison system in California, but to ensure that our loved ones who are coming out of the system never return.
What we know is that if you’re going to stop “the revolving door” of incarceration, you won’t get there by investing in the people who operate the door.
What we know is that Assembly Bill 109 was designed to give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to reentry services including substance abuse, mental health services, and housing to reduce recidivism. However, of the $1.4 billion that Los Angeles County has received in AB 109 funding, 76% of it has gone to the sheriff’s department and to probation. Reentry service providers, community based treatment programs, housing, job training, and many other vital services that have been proven to reduce recidivism have been de-prioritized.
What we know is that our folks who have lived inside the Los Angeles County jail system are experts and leaders in the Reimagine 109 campaign calling for LA County to put at least 50% of AB 109 funds where they belong. This includes in the hands of formerly incarcerated Black and Brown leaders who are running real programs and have concrete proposals for how to reduce harm in our communities. None of those needs include pouring over a billion dollars into law enforcement.
In this moment it easy to criticize reforms that are being set up to fail. What we know though is that if we are going to achieve real public safety for our communities, we’re going to have to fight for every single dollar to make it happen.