Angelenos Protest Jail and Law Enforcement Expansion in County budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – MAY 12, 2015

Press Contact: Christina Tsao, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Christina@curbprisonspending.org or 626-215-4818

Twitter: @CURBprisons #NoMoreJails

What: County Budget Press Conference and Creative Action

Where: 500 W. Temple Blvd. Los Angeles, CA

When: May 13, 2015 at 8:30am

LOS ANGELES – On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing for the 2015-16 county budget. Prior to the budget hearing, county residents will participate in a press conference and action to protest the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s request for a $4 billion budget. Community members will deliver a letter to the Board of Supervisors also opposing the allocation of $103 million in this year’s budget to construct a 1,616-bed women’s jail in Lancaster. Residents will demand the redirection of resources from the Sheriff’s Department to alternatives to imprisonment and reentry programs, as well as full transparency of budget expenditures.

“The vast majority of those locked up in women’s jails in LA don’t need to be there,” said Diana Zuñiga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “This plan for a new women’s jail promises services and programs that cannot be delivered. The fact that the Sheriff’s Department is completely unqualified to provide effective programming is only the first problem. Women need quality treatment, supportive housing, employment opportunities and sustained connection with their children in their communities, not another jail. To top it off, there haven’t been any reports documenting the actual needs of women inside and outside the county jails. When will the needs of those inside women’s jails be taken into account?”

The budget proposes new ongoing funding upwards of $100 million, the majority of which will go to new budgeted positions in the Sheriff’s Department to comply with the Department of Justice and Rosas settlement regarding improvements to mental health services and the use of force in custody. District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s mental health diversion plan will only receive $10 million, half of the $20 million set aside last year. The community has been calling for a shift in resources from the Sheriff’s budget to underfunded community programs. It is timely that the supervisors have approved a motion put forth by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to revisit the overall jail plan in consideration of DA Lacey’s mental health initiative and the impact of Prop 47 on the jail population. The Board requested the Sheriff to return on May 19th to provide a progress report on the Jail Master Plan.

“We commend the Supervisors for approving this encouraging motion,” said Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now. “We support Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in questioning the Sheriff’s reasoning for more  custodial deputies in order to address the mental health crisis in our jail system. Expanding custody operations in a system where Black and Brown people with mental health conditions are more likely to be targets of sheriff violence undermines the growing momentum for diversion and alternatives to incarceration. The violence of lockup, especially against those with mental health conditions, cannot be fixed with more deputies no matter how much training they receive. What will keep people safe is diversion from the jails, placement in alternative programs, and a legally empowered Civilian Oversight Commission.”

LA County’s public protection sector receives 27.5% of the total county budget, which is approximately $7.4 billion of the $26.9 billion budget. The Sheriff’s Department is requesting an additional 2,323 budgeted positions. If approved, the Sheriff would staff a total of 21,711 individuals, making the Department the second largest law enforcement agency in the nation. The Department is also requesting over $189 million of AB 109 funding which is an increase of $8 million from last year.

“Given all that has happened nationally regarding police violence it would be a slap in the face to increase funding for law enforcement in LA County. This county leads the nation in police misconduct in and outside of the jails,” stated Kim McGill of Youth Justice Coalition. “We demand the Board to stop giving the Sheriff’s a blank check to continue traumatizing, imprisoning, and killing our community members. They don’t need more money, they need to be held accountable and the community deserves full transparency.”

Wednesday’s press conference will feature expert testimony, a large Mother’s Day Card signed by family members of people in Lynwood jail, and other compelling visuals. Speakers will be available for interviews in English and Spanish.

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