Community members rally to demand rejection of controversial jail construction plan

Press Contacts:

Diana Zuñiga – 213-864-8931 – diana@curbprisonspending.org
Christina Tsao – 626-215-4818 – christina@criticalresistance.org

The LA No More Jails Coalition and community members are rallying to demand the rejection of a controversial proposal to build a new women’s jail in Lancaster. Today, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors will vote on the final Environmental Impact Report for the proposed women’s jail, which experts have criticized for failing to adequately address environmental concerns. The board will also vote to move forward with the other piece of LA County’s $3.7 billion jail plan: a replacement for Men’s Central Jail.

“This is a big day for the economic future of Los Angeles,” says Diwaine Smith a youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition. “The LA No More Jails coalition has been fighting the construction of the proposed women’s jail for more than ten years and the entire jail plan for at least five years. We know our communities deserve so much more than another jail. As a coalition, we oppose this jail plan and will continue to fight for a more equitable and just Los Angeles that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of Black and Brown communities.”

The vote on the new women’s jail was originally slated for October 11, but the Board delayed the vote due to community pressure. Grassroots organizers, environmental justice advocates, and health experts have been raising concerns over the serious health hazards of the facility. The risk of exposure to Valley Fever  — a chronic, crippling, and sometimes fatal disease — has infected people imprisoned in state prisons in Antelope Valley, including Lancaster.

“Constructing a new jail in an area that is endemic to Valley Fever will ultimately put a lot of people at risk of suffering from a horrible disease, where there’s no cure, and treatment with medication can cause dangerous side effects, including kidney damage, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Antje Lauer, a soil specialist and microbiologist at California State University in Bakersfield. “If the County is invested in preventing public health risk, it is not a good idea to have a jail system expanded in an area that is endemic for the Valley Fever pathogen.”

The supervisors will also be hearing a report by a Proposition 47 task force, initiated last December to assess and maximize the reduction in the county jail population. Community organizers have pointed out that LA County’s moves to reduce the jail population through Prop. 47 stands in direct contradiction with the push for new jails, which would increase the size of the jail system.

“Los Angeles has the largest jail system in the entire world,” said activist and organizer Salena Coleman. “In the 90’s I was incarcerated in the Mira Loma Facility and experienced the horrendous conditions that we were exposed to. While I served time my daughter passed away from sickle cell anemia and I had no way of being reconnected to my child before her last breathe. From personal experience and as a community member of the Antelope Valley I know that this jail is not the answer. We need economic opportunities, mental health resources, and environmental protections. LA Board we are demanding you stop the building of these cages because we know if you build them you will fill them.”

On Tuesday, October 25 will be one of the final opportunities for the Board of Supervisors to vote against the women’s jail plan.

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