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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

A Success Stories Story

August 17, 2015
Guest Blog By: Lirisi ‘Bless’ Arzu

My name is Lirisi Arzu. I am 26 years old and I was a participant in Success Stories. The group in itself was a delight. It’s probably the only self-help program tailor-made for millenials (in prison). It is a fusion of business and therapy, which is just the right blend for both social and economic success.

A lot of us have been traumatized by what we’ve seen and experienced in life. This group gave us the outlet to express our thoughts and emotions about those situations. How they molded/impacted our lives and what was needed to be done in order for us to turn our lives around. The therapeutic aspect of the course definitely delved deep into core problems. That’s something a lot of us, especially I, have never done before. Not to mention the group’s full-hearted belief in self-employment.

The second phase taught us all about business. It talks about raising capital, how to formulate a business plan, down to the marketing. But, it’s much more than that. It teaches you how to budget your money and how to invest in stocks. Like I said earlier, it’s the perfect blend for social and economic success. The only requirement is that you need to want to change and do something positive not just for those dependent on you but for yourself.

I personally believe that this group should be incorporated in every prison and inner-city high school in the nation because everybody deserves a chance to succeed in this game we call life.

BLESS Arzu

Lirisi ‘Bless’ Arzu is a DJ and Success Stories graduate. He is being released and deported to Belize in March 2016. Contact him on Facebook or via email.

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.

Seed Love: A Summer Arts and Healing Series

It’s been my deep honor as DPN’s Cultural Arts Coordinator to have facilitated Seed Love this summer. Seed Love is a pop-up arts and healing series that took place directly outside the LA County jails. It was the intention of Seed Love to disrupt the oppressive and shaming environment created by the LA County Sheriff’s Department and provide space for families with incarcerated loved ones to heal, create, and organize.

​Delia applies aloe plant medicine to Coyote's foot at the herbal healing station. Participants left with planted seeds and bundles of healing herbs.

​Delia applies aloe plant medicine to Coyote’s foot at the herbal healing station. Participants left with planted seeds and bundles of healing herbs.

We had five successful events this summer! The response from participants has been so heartwarming. <3

​Justin writes a letter to his Brother inside at the Kaya Press booth.

​Justin writes a letter to his Brother inside at the Kaya Press booth.

Justin (above) who we met at the Pitchess event wrote us later to say, “Thank you for the work you’re doing and for helping connect my mother and I with my brother behind bars. You truly made a difference for me today.” We’ve also had many loved ones thank us verbally and enthusiastically sign up to volunteer at future events.

DPN is so grateful to all of you who have made this series possible this summer! Thank you for donating your time, your money, your skills, or food. We love you!

Mariella Saba providing free massage therapy for people visiting loved ones at Pitchess Detention Center.

Mariella Saba providing free massage therapy for people visiting loved ones at Pitchess Detention Center.

Our next artistic endeavor is the new issue of the DPN Zine. Please be in touch if you are interested in getting involved!

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