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Jeff Sessions is a Major Player in the LA County Jail Suicide Epidemic

Throughout the last presidential administration the Department of Justice has played an important role in implementing changes within the LA County Jail system. From stepping up the treatment of mentally ill prisoners to the probe into jail abuse that eventually led to the convictions of both former Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka, the Justice Department has been one of the only departments to even scratch the service of “policing the police.”

Now Jeff Sessions is heading it.

Jeff Sessions has a long history of opposing civil rights, and particularly the civil rights of Black people. In four short months he’s already established himself as a champion of law enforcement, no matter the circumstance. When speaking to a group of federal, state, and local law enforcement in Long Island on April 28th he made his stance clear by saying “This is the Trump era – so you can be confident that this nation’s leadership has your back.”

Despite the fact that he continuously uses terms like aliens and thugs in his speeches, has rolled back protections for transgender students in schools, is actively targeting non-documented people for deportation, and is unapologetically pro-law enforcement, he somehow heads the nation’s DOJ Civil Rights Division.

After a series of investigations into the LA County jails by the Civil Rights Division dating back to 1996, a failed memorandum of agreement, and a lawsuit settlement, everything culminated in 2015 when the DOJ reached a “wide-ranging and court-enforceable agreement to protect prisoners from serious suicide risks and excessive force in the largest jail system in the country.” These reforms were designed to prevent and respond more effectively to suicides and self-inflicted injuries and address use of force through multiple detailed measures. However, this settlement (aka consent decree) only works if it is enforced by the DOJ.

Which it clearly is not…

In 2015 use of force in the jails went up 40%, and recently even the department’s own Inspector General has come out saying there is no updated data on the sheriff’s departments’ use of force. And as for suicide attempts, there have already been nine deaths that we know of in 2017.

As of last month Jeff Sessions has ordered the DOJ to review all existing consent decrees, including the much-needed one in LA County, because, in his words, consent decrees between the federal government and local police departments can “reduce morale of the police officers.”

While the world is focused on Trump (for good reason), as abolitionists we must focus on Jeff Sessions and not let him carry out his discriminatory policies and build his militarized white supremacist police state under the radar. All eyes on the Department of Justice. And that includes Thomas Wheeler II, who currently heads the Civil Rights Division and already has a history of proposing hateful laws and giving questionable speeches.

To stop use of force, to stop the suicide epidemic, to stop the PIC, we must stop Jeff Sessions.

Director of Health and Wellness Mark-Anthony Johnson said it best last week in the Sacramento Bee:

He’s advancing a narrative that Black communities are violent; also that law enforcement is losing the morale and that’s a danger to public safety. That’s a very dangerous combination.

Follow DPN and #TrollJeffSessions on social for future action steps.

Compton Moms Fight Back Against a System that Targets Their Families

A week ago DPN and the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence turned out to the first town hall put on by the Civilian Oversight Commission. Despite the Lakewood venue being far away and difficult to find we showed up along with organization members of our coalition including the Youth Justice Coalition, Black Jewish Justice Alliance, and the ACLU. The evening though belonged to a team of five mothers, four of them DPN members, who’ve been fighting to expose sheriff’s deputies that have been targeting their families in Compton for months.

Alicia had been coming to every single commission meeting demanding justice for her sons. Every month she shows up. Every month she continues to tell the story of the sheriff’s department raiding her house and wrongfully arresting her sons for a shooting in the area. Every month she vows to keep coming until the commission, the Inspector General, anyone will hold the sheriff accountable for tearing her family apart and holding her sons in custody.

Helen Jones protests with DPN outside of Men’s Central Jail where her son was killed by deputies who called it a suicide in 2009.

One of the mothers, a Youth Justice Coalition leader, shared all the steps she’s been going through to protect her son who is currently in the jails and is not being treated for very serious health conditions. She vividly described not only his medical condition but the process she has been dragged through to advocate for her son who is receiving zero care. You can’t make this stuff up. You can’t stop fighting.

Watch our latest collaboration with Fusion on medical neglect inside prisons and jails:

The data presented by the Inspector General’s Office at the regular commission meeting last Thursday was more confirmation of what Dignity and Power Now has been saying from the beginning: the Los Angeles jails are killing our people. We’ve known this. The Department of Justice has known this. The Sheriff has known this. The anonymous source who contacted us to tip us off of another serious suicide attempt two days ago knew this. Helen, whose son was beaten to death by deputies who called it a suicide, knows this.

The LA Times highlighted our work this week around exposing jail suicides:

‘How many people are being shot?’ L.A. sheriff’s watchdog decries lack of transparency

A little more than two years ago, the primary watchdog over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department laid out numerous ways the agency was failing to provide the public with basic information about how often deputies use force, the number of complaints alleging misconduct and how many deputies were being disciplined.

Over the last five years the rate of “self-directed violence” as reported by the Inspector General has quadrupled. It’s a crisis in the realest sense of the word and the common denominator is a jail system that destroys the lives of our loved ones.

#300Problematic Deputies the Sheriff Wants to Expose but the Unions are Hiding

Hey y’all. Mark-Anthony Johnson, Dignity and Power Now.

So LA Times put out an article today written by Maya Lau.

A court is blocking LA County Sheriff, Sheriff McDonnell, from handing over a list of 300 problematic deputies.


300. So, let’s talk about this. Right, so, his own Internal Affairs Bureau has identified 300 personnel, actually some of them are ranking officers, whose conduct within the department has included theft, bribery, brutality, the gamut. And he wants to give this list over to the district attorney.

I think it’s timely, right, you know, we’ve got the Tanaka trial, the Baca trial is happening. And given the history of law enforcement abusing folks, lying, making up testimony. Perfectly valid. That the DA should be able to look at this list of officers, who may be called to testify, and question whether their history of misconduct actually calls into question their testimony. Perfectly fair.

But what’s happening? The district attorney is rejecting the list. Just doesn’t want the list. The sheriffs’ union is making a whole stink about it, saying that it’s violating their officers’ privacy and they don’t want to demonize their deputies that may have done something a long time ago. And three, they got an appellate judge to block any names, to just put a hold on any names period being given to the DA right now.

1. DA’s rejecting the list
2. Sheriffs’ union blocking
3. Court judge is putting a hold

So what does that mean? If the sheriff himself, Sheriff Top Dog McDonnell, can’t even make a list of people in his own department that he’s identified as problematic, he can’t even make that list useful for the sake of transparency and accountability, then the people need to have the power to make misconduct reports, and documents, and records useful. For transparency and accountability. That means changing state law. Right? Just like in 25 other states around the country police misconduct reports are public. Ten of which you don’t even need a ruling, there doesn’t even need to be a ruling that police misconduct was even determined! But in California we can’t do that.

So, change the state law to make police misconduct reports public. And then make sure the civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department has the power to subpoena the sheriff’s department. For times like this. Exactly these type of moments. When the DA is rejecting the misconduct records, when the sheriffs’ union is blocking them, and when a court judge is putting a hold on them. Where do they go? They belong in the hands of the community. So we can expose it, so we can make them useful, for accountability and transparency.

Just sayin’.

Get at us Thursday 9:30 AM, Civilian Oversight Commission meeting, Bob Hope Patriotic Hall. Be there.

Transcribed from a video originally posted via Facebook Live February 20th, 4:24 PM.

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.

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