Coalition to End Sheriff Violence Archives - Page 4 of 9 - Dignity and Power Now

2.3 BILLION Reasons Los Angeles Must Stop Building Jails

These days when you search the news for “Los Angeles County Jail” you are bombarded with articles about racist emails from a top sheriff’s official, use of force increasing by 40%, deputies being convicted of assault, Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka’s conviction, Former Sheriff Lee Baca’s conviction, and the deaths of Matrice Richardson and Wakiesha Wilson.

If you look hard hidden within all of the news about sheriff brutality you can find a sentence here and there about the fact that Los Angeles County is moving forward with a plan to build two more jails to house this rampant culture of violence.

Let’s be clear, stopping this jail plan is not about money – it is about people’s lives. But, just to show how incredibly negligent the county is, let’s talk about money for a minute…

Los Angeles County’s proposed budget for the next year includes $118 million dollars for a new women’s jail to be built in the toxic Mira Loma site in Lancaster, more than 80 miles away from the current location in Lynwood, and another $5 million towards the planning of a new Men’s Central Jail, marketed as a “mental health jail.” The entire project is estimated to cost at least $2.3 BILLION dollars, but if the LASD has it their way it’ll cost even more. In an effort to ramp up the jail plan the sheriff’s department has been doing their own deal on the state level, scheming to get an additional BILLION dollars to take on 600 state prisoners within the county jails. That would make the jail expansion cost $3.5 BILLION at the minimum.

The LASD and the county would like to have you believe that they are “reforming,” “building trust,” and “focusing on alternatives,” but the fact is that although the county is planning on investing a few million towards mental health and reentry projects, they have not yet taken the multi-billion dollar jail plan off the table.

A perfect example of the sheriff department’s eagerness to expand the largest jail system in the world is the recent MacArthur grant. The MacArthur Foundation just awarded 11 grants ranging from $1.5 to $3.5 million to reduce jail populations. New York, Philadelphia, and New Orleans were among the winners. Los Angeles was not. They instead received a smaller, lower-tier award of $150,000. Our team that looked over the LASD application theorize that it was deliberately flubbed.

There is hope. First of all, the budget has not been approved and you better believe we will be at the County Board of Supervisors meetings in full force advocating for funding community solutions. Second, the supervisors do not seem keen on accepting this sheriff-lead state deal. And third, just look at San Francisco! The people there were successful in stopping the jail plan.

Let’s change the news headlines and #STOP2BILLIONJAIL!

LA County Board of Supervisors agendas are often posted last minute so keep your Tuesday days flexible and follow us on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on actions. In the meantime contact your supervisor and tell them to stop the 2 billion dollar jail plan and invest in mental health diversion and community solutions! We. Will. Win.

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Stay tuned to our blog for big updates regarding the Civilian Oversight Commission this month!

We Made History, Now Let’s Secure the Victory

Three years ago the idea of civilian oversight was farfetched, not possible, and according to the sheriff’s department unnecessary given what they already had in place. On Tuesday the county supervisors voted to approve several key features of this commission. We watched as the board of supervisors voted in favor of a motion that justified the presence of former law enforcement on the commission and gave the district attorney a formal channel to weigh in on the selection process. The language of the motion warns that restricting law enforcement from sitting on the commission would be “overtly discriminatory.”
 
Those of us who have been in this fight are disappointed that the board would blur the civil rights history of the term “discrimination” in a moment where #BlackLivesMatter actions over the last three years have exposed the targeting of Black people by law enforcement. We are deeply troubled with the board’s decision to entertain the idea of former law enforcement sitting on this commission in the same year that former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka will be on trial for corruption charges and while former Sheriff Baca has been denied immunity in that trial. Both of them have had their reigns on the department for at least a decade.

While Dignity and Power Now and the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence are in this work for the long haul and while many civilian oversight bodies have increased their powers and refined their structures over time, we are not interested in repeating those histories. It took the New York Civilian Review Board over twenty years to get where it is now with more effective leadership, subpoena and disciplinary power, and an average rate of substantiating complaints of 70 days. It’s not uncommon for complaints to take a over a year to process in other cities. We don’t have that kind of time. This historical moment requires us to fight for the totality of our vision and for that vision to be realized at the outset. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence has been pushing five non-negotiable demands that are the foundation of that vision.

As we move forward, we are clear that creating independent civilian oversight over the largest sheriff’s department in the country – running the largest jail system in the world – is a historic accomplishment. We also know that the victory for Black and Brown people who bear the brunt of incarceration and excessive force in Los Angeles must be secured and protected. For us victory is ensuring that formerly incarcerated people are on this commission. Victory is ensuring that the input of the district attorney does not in practice undermine the input of the community during the selection process. Victory is securing subpoena power for the commission. Victory is ensuring that former law enforcement are not appointed to a commission that community members across L.A. County have demanded be reserved for civilians.

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.