end sheriff violence Archives - Page 4 of 6 - Dignity and Power Now

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.

AB 953: Imagining an Existence Without Racial Profiling

Can You Imagine an Existence Without Racial Profiling?
With Assembly Bill 953 (Preventing Racial Profiling by Law Enforcement), We Can.

Imagine that harassment and oppression are a routine part of your life. That on a regular basis, you, your loved ones, and your community are consistently targeted by police because of your race or identity. Imagine the trauma caused by the knowledge that no one was keeping track of when this happened and that the police were not being held accountable for their actions.

Many communities in California do not have to imagine this at all. Many people of color, whether cis gender, transgender, or gender non-conforming adults, and children, are constantly targeted by law enforcement because of their race or identity even when there is NO evidence of criminal activity. A 2015 report by a police department in California found that blacks were stopped twice as often as their driving age demographic representation, and that blacks and Latinos were searched at three and two times the rate of whites, respectively.

For these communities racial and identity profiling, though currently illegal, is a routine part of their reality and is the entry way to mass incarceration, and other disparities.

Now, imagine an existence where police are held accountable for their actions, and where we can get basic information about what police are up to. That when police are trained, this training takes into account that the officer may have biases about race and identity that impact how they treat you and your community. Imagine if there were a group of people, an—advisory council, so to speak,—whose job it were to monitor how the police are interacting with your community with the goal of protecting you against racial profiling. Imagine that each and every time the police, stop, search, or shoot someone, it were reported or somehow captured.

Now, realize that there is a bill (AB 953), making its way through the California Legislature right now, that will do much of what we imagined above. Although, we know that collecting data will not fix broader issues with disparate policing, but increased transparency and accountability will bring us one step closer to a more just system.

In short, AB 953 allows us to #ImagineNoRacialProfiling and to imagine a system in which #BlackLivesMatter.

 

What you need to know about AB 953:

1. Racial and identity profiling occurs when law enforcement personnel stop, search, seize property from, or interrogate a person without evidence of criminal activity.

2. Though racial profiling by law enforcement is technically illegal, to date, California does not collect or make public basic information about who police stop, search, or even shoot. AB 953 would change that.

3. The Bill was authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), and the cosponsors are Dignity and Power Now, the ACLU of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Sacramento, PICO California, Reform California, and Youth Justice Coalition.

4. The Bill is currently on the California Assembly Floor which means that THIS WEEK, on JUNE 3RD it will be voted on by ALL MEMBERS OF THE CA ASSEMBLY.

 

TAKE ACTION:

AB 953 is on its way to the Assembly floor for a vote on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3RD. The law enforcement lobby is ramping up its efforts and we need votes to pass this bill and protect our communities!

1. Click to TWEET!

2. Click to find and CALL your assemblymember!

3. Click for a prompt to EMAIL!

Photo: Balthazar Beckett

Baltimore Solidarity Statement

To the People of Baltimore who are Resisting Police Terror:

Dignity and Power Now sees and supports you. We know that you are not thugs, you are freedom fighters. We know that the first rock was thrown by the state. We know that you have been suffering the rocks of poverty, systemic racism, trans and homophobia, and misogyny hailing down for all your lives. Too often these rocks are police bullets or beatings so vicious they kill you or your loved ones.

We revel in the miracle of your resilience against this brutal tyranny. We rejoice in your organized and passionate rebellion against police terror. We know that your resistance has forced the Baltimore DA to file charges against the police who murdered Freddie Gray. We recommit in your honor to our work supporting the needs of incarcerated people and their loved ones. We recommit in your honor to our work to abolish the prison industrial complex, the only true justice and the only way to be sure there will never be another Freddie Gray. We know that none of us are free until we’re all free. We know that your fight in Baltimore is for our freedom too.

In Solidarity,
Dignity and Power Now

Photo: John Taggart—EPA

Reinvesting in the Dignity of Our Communities

I have spent more than half my life as a community organizer advocating for change in the prison system in Los Angeles. My first brush with the system was as a child experiencing my father cycling in and out of the system until he passed away in 2009. Despite witnessing my father’s struggles, I didn’t really become aware of the depth of injustice in the system until I was 16.

My brother, who is four years older, was arrested after taking our mother’s car joy-riding. He was incarcerated in an LA County jail, where he was almost killed by the sheriffs. They beat him. They tortured him. They brutalized him. The abuse of my brother became my awakening. I was compelled to take action. I sought out mentors, established a network, and over a period of 11 years I learned the craft of community organizing.

In 2011 I came across an 86-page report prepared by the ACLU for their lawsuit against the LA Sheriff’s Department. Using this report I created STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence, a piece of performance art designed to bring community attention to state violence. During a year of touring I connected with many others who were also driven to take action. We built the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence.

At our onset we were the only group in the community advocating for civilian oversight. We gave testimony, rallied the people and secured two county supervisors votes. It quickly became clear that the Coalition was not enough. The issues extended beyond the conditions in the jails. We needed more resources to confront the increasing problem of violence against the Black community as a whole.

Expanding the organizational, psychological, and motivational capacity to end state violence meant developing five other projects that used art, research, resilience practices, and leadership development as center pieces in the work. Dignity and Power Now was created to be the primary organization for a multifaceted, trauma informed, healing, motivated movement to end state violence and mass incarceration.

Where are we now? We have achieved quite a bit, but more is needed. We continue to work to affect change. Dignity and Power Now demands a civilian oversight commission with power, mental health diversion, and a halt to the $3.5 billion jail plan. Black, Brown, and poor communities need a Los Angeles that will fight for our health and well-being instead of our incarceration.

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I am proud of the work I have been able to lead in Los Angeles. I am even prouder of the team that has grown out of fighting for greater accountability for the sheriff’s department. Dignity and Power Now currently has a core leadership team made up of staff and volunteer members who have worked diligently to tell their stories and fight for the people they love. This team has been resilient against all odds. I have been honored to work with this team for the last 3 years and I am confident that they are the leaders Los Angeles County needs. As for me, I am transitioning from Executive Director of Dignity and Power Now and will be developing and revamping our Board.

As American democracy is continuously compromised by law enforcement with very few checks and balances, I feel compelled to support a national movement that is focused on pushing for local government to reinvest in the dignity of communities of color, black communities in particular. No movement is ahistorical. No movement is without strategy. When folks in Ferguson made the choice to demand accountability, and when local law enforcement’s response was to tear gas and rubber bullet a community that was grieving, I understood that there needed to be an intervention in the discussion around state violence.

Mostly, state violence and mass incarceration are seen as two separate issues. I argue that they are two sides of the same coin. The police arrest people who end up in jail or prison. The amount of funding that has been poured into law enforcement, jails, and prisons far exceeds the lack of investment made into black and poor communities. We can’t compartmentalize one apparatus from the other. They interact with one another. They support one another. We can’t have jails without police and police without jails. In the last nine months one thing has become clear. We need a national network that will help support victims and survivors of state violence. This network will build the capacity and support the leadership of victims and survivors. This will change the culture of America’s relationship to law enforcement and jails/prisons.

My new venture: Truth and Reinvestment Director at Ella Baker Center for Human Rights! In my position I will work to build the capacity of communities who are affected by state and law enforcement violence. We will support them in responding quickly and in a coordinated way through the creation of an online and on the ground support network. We will provide toolkits and a registry of local and national resources through the ACLU of Southern California’s mobile app. We will develop a web based platform for communities to better utilize tech tools for our agency and to change policy. I am excited about this powerful work and ready to push for greater accountability and transparency for law enforcement across the country. Follow my journey on twitter @osope and on Instagram @love_cullors.