Building Resilience Archives - Dignity and Power Now

The Whittier Police Killing: Criticizing Reforms as the Cause of Violence

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.

Unplug, Breathe, and Plug-In

Here at DPN we have been busy organizing ourselves to respond to all that is happening in our own families, communities, and world. I’d like to share with you a few things you can to do to dig deeper into your paths as movement makers and creators.

1. Unplug

It is too easy to keep our eyes on bright screens right now. So many of us are worried about our lives, our partners, families, neighbors. Unplug from the screen to make moments for yourself, to connect with your loved ones in person if possible, and reconnect to your higher being and mother nature.

2. Take Deeper Breaths

Breath is your own personal refresh button. Refresh, refresh, refresh, restart. Every moment is an opportunity to connect with yourself and what most matters to you. If breath is hard to find these days, remember that you have tools that can help you. Crystals, sage, incense, flowers, and other plants are all waiting for you to help you breathe deeper into your self and your truth.

3. Plug-in to Meaningful Movement Work!

Listen to your heart, your gut instinct. What is it saying you want to fight for, or fight louder for? Choose your issue, look for organizations and groups doing the frontline work and get involved. Unplugging and breathing can help connect you to the work that has been waiting for you to pick up! Now more than ever we need folks on all the front lines. Front lines are at home, in our neighborhood, our city, county, country, and beyond!

Sending prayers of light, love, and deep joy from the DPN office.
Come by or call if you need support or wish to get involved!

Push Back on the Fear and Safety of Law Enforcement

Baca stepped out of the courthouse on August 1st, came down to face the cameras, and began to justify all the reasons why he was withdrawing his guilty plea. I listened to him make his statement and a couple things came up for me…

There’s a really offensive irony in the fact that he continues to play up his Alzheimer’s diagnosis as a reason why he shouldn’t go to prison. Meanwhile we still have hella folks inside who aren’t getting proper treatment. Law enforcement’s psychological and emotional wellbeing has so much more value and weight than the psychological and emotional wellbeing of Black and Brown people in Los Angeles County; particularly incarcerated people. Clearly Baca is using his diagnosis as a legal maneuver while many of our folks in the jail system, which he ran for years, are experiencing cognitive “impairments that are beyond minimal” (as his lawyer described him.) Baca may in fact benefit from the “mental health diversion” climate that has the county’s attention but our loved ones inside have yet to see those benefits.

Even when you talk about an officer involved shooting the popular narrative is that “police are scared for their lives.” The family members of Donnell Thompson, Jr. have expressed that he had a disability. Those needs were met with military force. The Sheriff’s response in his case was to deploy SWAT, deploy armored vehicles, and kill him.

Donnell Thompson, Jr.’s case is a clear indication of how the fear and psychological health of law enforcement is valued over the safety and lives of people in our community. They are given so much more priority – even in a legal context, which is why Baca is playing up his diagnosis so hard. All the while Donnell’s family endures another example of “treatment” for Black people. This is a clear indicator of the crisis of state violence.

The health and wellness of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Black and Brown people and their loved ones is the necessary priority. It is all the more critical that we look at it not as supplement to the conversations of stopping lethal and excessive force, but as essential. Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown LA is still the largest mental healthcare provider in the country and Los Angeles County is looking to build another jail to function as a treatment facility. As long as incarceration and public safety are the lenses through which we “treat” Black and Brown people’s health our communities will never be safe.

It is necessary that we push back on this narrative that the fear and safety of law enforcement should be the deciding factor in determining the life and death of Black and Brown people.

NOW HIRING: $40,000 and Full Benefits to be a Freedom Fighter!

As the movement to end mass incarceration progresses and grows, so does our staff! Dignity and Power Now is hiring for a full-time Organizer and a part-time Director of Finance.

We are an abolitionist organization working for the dignity and power of all incarcerated people, their families, and communities, and we strive to build the leadership of formerly incarcerated Black and Brown people. The ideal candidates will be strategic thinkers, storytellers, sociable, passionate about prison abolition, and will have a basic understanding of the Los Angeles County jail system. Formerly incarcerated people are encourage to apply!

applicant_2Organizer

The Organizer will be responsible for building the member base of Dignity and Power Now by doing outreach throughout the county of Los Angeles, planning and implementing campaigns, representing DPN at events, and will work closely with our Organizing Director Jayda Rasberry.

Do you like talking to people about how much jails suck?
Are you receptive to trauma and mental health issues?
Do you have 3-5 years experience in grassroots organizing?
Are you passionate about building Black leadership?
Are you ready to join a badass team of abolitionists?

APPLY NOW!

applicant_1Director of Finance

The Director of Finance and Fundraising will develop financial protocol, develop budgets, and will be responsible for foundation fundraising towards our annual budget. (We are open to those with other financial contracts to apply as this is a part-time position.)

Do you get psyched about fundraising to abolish the prison industrial complex?
Do you like creating revolutionary budgets?
Are you ready to write some radical grants to fund the movement?
Are you looking forward to presenting your hard work to our fiscal sponsor and our Board?
Are you ready to join a badass team of abolitionists?

APPLY NOW!