FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 8th, 2015
LA Residents Rally around Healthcare in Jails, Oppose County Jail Plan
MEDIA CONTACTS: Diana Zuniga—(213) 864-8931, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
What: Press Conference and Art Installation
Where: Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
When: Tuesdsay, June 9th, 10:00 AM
Who: Californians United for a Responsible Budget; Critical Resistance Los Angeles; Dignity and Power Now; Global Women’s Strike; Justice Not Jails; LA No More Jails Coalition; Youth Justice Coalition
Los Angeles— On Tuesday, June 9th, community members and grassroots organizations will be participating in a press conference and art installation against the $2.3 billion jail plan in Los Angeles at a Board of Supervisors hearing. The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors will also be discussing a proposal to consolidate several county agencies that provide health care services to people in LA County jails under the Department of Health Services.
“This is a critical moment for Los Angeles to move away from the long-term suffering caused by housing our loved ones in cells rather than giving them community-based treatment they need,” states Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now. “We understand that this proposal is an acknowledgment and effort to try and alleviate the deteriorating medical services in the jail. However, the county should be transferring people to already existing out-of-custody health services, rather than expand a broken system.”
The new proposal calls for hiring a correctional health director to work directly with the Sheriff’s Department and Department of Health Services. An identified need for two more positions has been suggested, one to oversee substance abuse treatment and another to oversee health care services upon release from jail.
“The Assistant Sheriff of Custody Operations should have never been responsible for healthcare in the LA County jails, nor should the 60% of in jails who have substance abuse needs be locked up,” Christina Tsao of Critical Resistance Los Angeles. “We hope that this momentum results in diverting people out of jail in order to receive adequate medical and mental health care out of custody.” The Sheriff’s Department has asked for $103 million in this year’s county budget to hire more custodial staff for addressing healthcare and deputy use of force, a move opposed by the Coalition and advocates, who argue that an already discussed diversion program needs to be implemented with clear benchmarks towards reduction.
Along with a substantial decrease in the jail population due to Prop 47, District Attorney Jackie Lacey has been working on a plan for mental health diversion. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department also recently received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation that is intended to support a pre-trial program and bail reform, which would further drastically reduce the jail population in LA.
“All signs are pointing to a decreasing jail population, making a $2.3 billion jail plan an utter waste. The proposed and current efforts to reduce the jail population need to be taken into consideration by the Board of Supervisors in this jail status report,” Rev. Peter Laarman, Coordinator for Justice Not Jails. “The LA Board of Supervisors can’t just take the word of a construction company or the sheriff’s department to move forward with this plan that we know is unnecessary and will cost the county billions of dollars for years to come.”