Building Resilience Archives - Page 2 of 4 - Dignity and Power Now

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!

Thanks to Prop 47, Californians are less oppressed than they were a year ago

One year ago California voters adopted Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that reduced 6 low level felonies, including drug possession, to misdemeanors. Check out this report out of Stanford analyzing the first year of Prop 47 that highlights reduced jail and prison overcrowding, the resentencing and release of 13,000 people as of Sept 30 (4,454 of from state prison, the rest from jail), the state savings of $70 million already and an estimated $93 million more every year, the county savings of $203 million annually, and the recidivism rate at a mere 5% – far lower than the state’s average.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and others in law enforcement have been quick to attack Prop 47. It’s no surprise this pushback is coming at a time when the sheriff’s department is trying to build two new jails. We agree that not enough funds were given to rehabilitation programs, education, and victim services. What Sheriff McDonnell fails to mention in his recent videos in the LA Times is that those funds are historically given to the sheriff’s department! Well, we’re addressing his failure in our own series of Prop 47 videos.

Here’s our LA Times video response:

We didn’t set Prop 47 up for success

Housing rather than criminalizing folks on Skid Row

Recidivism rates via Prop 47 are at 5%

Our communities have spoken

The idea of the Ferguson Effect

Sneaking a $2 Billion Jail Construction Project into a Jail Diversion Vote

On August 11th the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to spend upwards of $2 billion to build two new jail facilities. The vote was illegal. According to the Brown Act, all public meetings require items to be publicly placed on the agenda at least 72 hours before the meeting, not read into the agenda the day of.

Many of us attended the board meeting that morning with hopes of celebrating a motion – spearheaded by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Kuehl – to secure $100 million for an Office of Diversion and diversion infrastructure such as supportive housing. This would have been a victory in the wake of the previous meeting where both Supervisor Knabe and District Attorney Jackie Lacey felt the need to emphasize that jail diversion is not jail reduction. The ongoing, and at times compulsive, narrative that jail alternatives won’t reduce the jail population is frustrating and ungrounded. Sneaking a $2 billion jail construction project into a jail diversion vote shows us that this logic is not only faulty, it’s compulsive.

Last week Mike Antonovich introduced a motion to re-vote on the issue of an Office of Diversion and jail construction. This swift move to correct the Brown Act violation was appropriately initiated by Supervisor Antonovich as he kicked off the illegal August 11th vote by reading in his jail construction proposal. The motion to vote on the issues again was approved while there are still plenty of unanswered questions. For example:

 

1. How much will these proposed facilities actually cost the county?

2. A report by Health Management Associates stated that the jail population would grow beyond current capacity if the county did nothing. Since the county is funding diversion efforts and since the sheriff’s department has received a state grant to reduce the county jail population by 15%, why not maximize this momentum and build community alternatives?

3. Why is 50% of the jail population being held on exuberant bail schedules when they could be subject to a risk-based pre-trial release program?

4. Why is the county considering building a women’s jail when jails have only produced medical negligence and abuse for people housed in women’s facilities?

These are just a few of the unanswered questions that stain any talk of jail construction.

 

On September 1st we will converge again on the Hall of Administration where the supervisors will again vote. As of now the county is moving forward with these two issues as one agenda item. Both diversion and jail construction should be dealt with separately but follow one single agenda: optimize diversion efforts for Black and Brown people, women, and those with mental health conditions as a long term jail reduction strategy.

For more info on this please click to watch our latest video and read our new report on the women’s jail.