stop the 2 billion dollar jail Archives - Dignity and Power Now

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! 

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.

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

Racial Discrimination: A Worldwide Issue, an LA Epidemic

In the UK, without “reasonable suspicion” as a law enforcement policy, Black people are 35x more likely to be stopped and questioned by police. With the policy in place, Black folks are 7x more likely than white people to be stopped and questioned. This statistic was presented to us at special convening of international “experts” on racism, hosted by Mutuma Ruteere, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenohobia and Related intolerance. I was excited to represent DPN at this convening for a two-day discussion on conditions and best practices for combating racial discrimination. Across the two day convening the statistic stuck with me for two reasons: 1) It points out how real anti-blackness is as an international practice in law enforcement, and 2) Racial profiling is much harder to track and monitor in the jail setting because it requires that that law enforcement be invested in tracking its own personnel’s racist practices. I can’t see the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department doing that.

Me and Kristina Ronnquist representing DPN's Building Resilience at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland

Me and Kristina Ronnquist representing DPN’s Building Resilience at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland

Dignity and Power Now has been prioritizing the international human rights framework this year; including our shadow report we submitted to the UN as part of a review of US compliance with the international convention of eliminating racial discrimination. Our report focused on abuses and discrimination of Black people with mental health conditions in the jails and pointed out the same dilemma I mentioned above. The dilemma being that behind the jail walls the ever present violence against Black and Brown people is invisible. One of the clearest examples of this is the tremendous lack of data and tracking on racial and gender discrimination as well as human rights violations behind the jail walls.

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The recent Department of Justice critique of the Los Angeles County Jails as unconstitutional is important but the United States is not immune to human rights violations. Our loved ones coming out of the jails know this. Our loved ones who are still inside know this. As we move forward with our campaign to win civilian oversight, stop the $2 billion jail plan, and win mental health diversion that decarcerates Black and Brown people from the county jail system, DPN is invested in protecting the civil and human rights of all incarcerated people.