For Immediate Release – March 4th, 2013
Los Angeles Residents Continue to Demand Cancellation of Massive Jail Project, Push for Community Based Alternatives
Contact: Emily Harris, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
On Tuesday, March 5 at 11:00 am the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors will receive a status report on the County’s implementation of AB109 realignment funds from the Chief Probation Officer, Jerry Powers (agenda item S-1). Los Angeles residents & dozens of organizations continue to press the Board to cancel plans to expand the County’s scandal-prone jail system.
“The ongoing Federal investigation of our jail system confirms years of reports from watchdog groups and from those who have been locked in LA’s jails,” said Patrisse Cullors-Brignac of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in LA Jails. “This is one of the most violent and worst managed jail systems in the country. Baca’s jails are a disgrace, and every resident of the County should be ashamed of them. The Supervisors should be taking immediate and concrete steps to shrink the jail population and close Men’s Central Jail. Giving Sheriff Baca more money to expand his jail system is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.”
In the coming weeks, the Board will decide whether to accept $100 million from the state to build new jail facilities and the spending of $90 million remaining AB109 realignment funds.
“The vast majority of those locked in women’s jails in LA don’t need to be there,” said Diana Zuñiga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Sheriff Baca has wrapped his plan for a new women’s jail with 1,156 beds promising treatment and mental health programming. The fact that the LA Sheriff’s department has a miserable record on providing treatment or programming is only the first problem with Baca’s plan. Women need treatment in their communities, not soon-to-be broken promises of treatment in the proposed Women’s Village. Furthermore, there are no reports done documenting the actual needs of women inside and outside the Los Angeles County Jail. When will the needs of women be taken into account?”
Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers and the Director of Mental Health will be reporting on AB 109 and addressing the reduction of recidivism with a focus on rehabilitation and re-entry. They will also be addressing compliance checks with the the Sheriff’s Department, local police departments, and other departments.
“State funds for realignment need to be taken from the Sheriff and used to expand community treatment programs and supportive housing that work to get people back on their feet, supporting themselves and contributing to their communities,” said Mary Sutton of Critical Resistance Los Angeles. “New jail cells and a re-branded Women’s Village are not going to make the LA Sheriff’s department an acceptable treatment site. Let the Board finish cleaning up the Sheriff Department problems with mismanagement and violence before it decides to build more jail cells.”
“Sheriff Baca is hoping the Board is ignorant of recent California history,” said Diana Zuñiga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Thirty years of building prisons that would solve the prison crowding crisis only made that crisis worse. Now the Sheriff wants to continue expanding LA’s jails to solve crowding here. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of our state prison system.”
The ACLU, the Vera Institute and James Austin have all shown that bail reform, expanding a pre-trial release program, split sentencing, reducing over-classification of crimes, and many other recommendations can reduce the number of people in jail significantly. Reducing the population would result in a fewer instances of violence in jail. Reducing the population would also lead to less County money going to the Sheriff’s department and more to community based services that prevent recidivism.