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7 Critical Reasons to #StopToxicJail

1. It’s FAR

The proposed location is the old Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, over 80 miles away from the current jail in Lynwood and the Los Angeles city center. Families would have to drive through steep hills of the Angeles National Forest to visit their loved ones. There is no option of public transportation for women being released. Factors such as these remind us of the negligent death of Mitrice Richardson.

2. It’s TOXIC

In recent years the Mira Loma site has exhibited everything from raw sewage spills to measurable amounts of diesel in the soil. For details read We are Not Disposable: The Toxic Impacts of Prisons and Jails, a report just released by CURB and endorsed by DPN as a direct response to the county’s EIR.

3. It’s HISTORICALLY TOXIC

Used as a military airfield in the 1940s, the Mira Loma Detention Center became contaminated with hazardous waste almost 80 years ago, a classification that has stuck with it since.

4. It puts women at risk for VALLEY FEVER

Valley Fever is no joke. It is spread through spores in the soil, can cause skin lesions, chronic infections, pneumonia, and death, and has already proven to be widespread among those in the Lancaster area. Half of the proposed jail area will not be paved, posing a direct risk to prisoners, staff, and visitors.

5. We need GENDER JUSTICE

not gender responsiveness. Building a jail specifically for women is not what women need. They need to be with their families, have access to effective primary and mental healthcare, to healthy food and education, to job training and childcare, to address harms such as domestic violence through ways that are transformative instead of punitive. Gender justice is an investment in our communities, not in our incarceration.

6. It TEARS FAMILIES APART

The largest impact is felt in the families left behind. Moving women two hours away will put a heartbreaking strain on their relationships, especially with their children. For more on what LA’s incarcerated women experience read our report Breaking the Silence: Civil and Human Rights Violations Resulting From Medical Neglect and Abuse of Women of Color in Los Angeles County Jails.

7. It’s RACIST

The majority of the people impacted by this jail will be economically disadvantaged Black and Brown people. The women’s jail is a pet project of Michael D. Antonovich, a white male supervisor of the Lancaster district with a severely racist history, and he is desperately trying to push it through before he is no longer a supervisor in December. Remember, you don’t get a vote – they do! Which is why it is so important that you make sure your voice is represented.

Join us in requesting the county invest $120 million in our communities – not in our incarceration.

Together we can #StopToxicJail! 

Through and To the Criminal Judicial System

My personal experience brought me through and to the criminal judicial system. I was found guilty at trial for something that I did not do and was sentenced to one year in county jail. While incarcerated for 6 months in 2011 at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF), I was sexually abused by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies and by medical staff.

When I filed complaints in my first month at CRDF they all fell on deaf ears.

This experience brought me to my role as a Dignity and Power Now campaign lead for support of a Civilian Oversight Commission over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

As campaign lead I researched for one year civilian oversight commissions and review boards all across the US, Canada, and Europe. My research included budgets, size of police and sheriff’s departments, salaries, staffing, litigation costs, subpoena power, how many commission members, policy, and protocol. I consistently brought forth pertinent information to share with the working group members like what was working for oversight/review boards across the US and what is necessary for future effective civilian oversight commissions.

My research was to sharpen our knowledge of our 5 non-negotiable demands. Subpoena power, no former or current law enforcement, direct the work of the Office of Inspector General, a nine seat panel, and independent counsel. After one year here is what we won: 1. no current law enforcement, 2. nine seat member commission. Now we are in a fight for the Civilian Oversight Commission to obtain subpoena power by changing County Charter.

The purpose of subpoena power is to have access to police personnel files for more transparency and accountability within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during investigations regarding police misconduct and excessive use of force. Without subpoena power we simply have an incomplete investigation.

This type of thorough investigation would have helped my personal experience at Century Regional Detention Facility. A civilian oversight commission with subpoena power increases transparency and accountability within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during police misconduct investigations.

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My personal experience with advocacy is hands-on education and learning with the American Civil Liberties Union in April 2016. I went to the capital in Sacramento and learned how to lobby senators, assemblymen, and assemblywomen with an ACLU constitutional attorney in support of SB-1286. SB-1286 (or the Police Officer Misconduct Bill) is a bill that would grant subpoena power to all civilian oversight/review boards in the state of California. Although currently waiting to be brought up again in the next bill cycle, SB-1286 is another viable route to make sure Los Angeles County’s Civilian Oversight Commission has the power it needs to be effective.

Stay tuned to our blog or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with my work as civilian oversight campaign lead and the fight to change County Charter and pass SB-1286!

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.

Civilian Oversight Nominees

For over three years our Coalition to End Sheriff Violence has fought for civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department. While we won civilian oversight, the fight for it to be effective and have power is not over. Across Los Angeles Black and Brown communities have voiced strong opposition to the supervisors’ decision to allow former law enforcement to sit on the commission. The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence stands with incarcerated people and their loved ones as we launch our slate of highly qualified nominees who have been active participants in the movement to end civil and human rights violations inside the county jail system. Check them out below!

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AKILI

45 years experience as a community and labor organizer, Akili has dedicated his work to building a just and equitable society for marginalized people, including the successful campaign to change the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of force practices in the wake the 2005 shooting of Devon Brown.

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Patrisse Cullors

Founder of Dignity and Power Now and Co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter National Network, Patrisse has long history of building mass movements and leading successful campaigns that prioritize the leadership of communities directly impacted by law enforcement violence and mass incarceration.

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Rabbi Heather Miller

Part of the world’s first LGBT founded Jewish congregation, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Heather is committed to justice at the intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and economic status.

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Priscilla Ocen

Associate Professor of Law at Loyola Law School where she teaches criminal law, family law, and a seminar on race, gender and the law, her work examines the relationship between race, gender identities and punishment.

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Samuel Paz

Vice President of the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) providing broad support for grassroots and victims’ organizations combating police misconduct.

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Steve Rogers

Civilian Oversight Campaign Lead with Dignity and Power Now, Steve Rogers uses his experience as a formerly incarcerated person to end law enforcement violence by advocating on the local and state level.

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Lloyd Wilkey

25 years of community work to prevent violence and improve community and police relations, Lloyd directs a youth leadership program, trains law enforcement at the Museum of Tolerance, and engages in activism to push for accountability, transparency, and constitutional policing.

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Dayvon Williams

A young organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, Dayvon directs his experience as a formerly incarcerated person into campaigns that counter the criminalization and incarceration of young people.

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Michele Ynfante

Co-Lead of the Dignity and Power Now Civilian Oversight Campaign, she has used her experience being incarcerated in the women’s jail to advocate for an end to medical negligence and abuse.

Although all nine civilian oversight commissioners will ultimately be chosen by the Los Angeles County Supervisors, there is an open application process for four of the positions. If you want dignity and power for all incarcerated people, their families, and communities we encourage you to support our nominees!

TAKE ACTION! Call on your county supervisor and demand that these nominees be appointed.


TAKE ACTION HERE!

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