FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–April 20, 2012
Contact: Isaac Ontiveros, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Four months after Sheriff Lee Baca proposed borrowing $1.4 billion to expand the Los Angeles County jail system (“It’s bold. It’s large. But there’s no better timing than now” – Lee Baca 21 Nov. 2011), a report endorsed by Sheriff Baca shows that the County can close Men’s Central Jail without expansion elsewhere by taking moderate steps to reduce the jail population.
“It is about time that the Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors faced facts,” said Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “Los Angeles doesn’t need more jail cells.”
Evaluation of the Current and Future Los Angeles County Jail Population, authored by the JFI Institute, echoed findings in Los Angeles County Jail Overcrowding Reduction Project, a report commissioned by the Board of Supervisors and issued in September 2011 by the Vera Institute for Justice. This month’s report notes that of over 30 population reduction measures, “none of the recommendations [from the Vera report] have been adopted by the County’s criminal justice system,” and shows that County leadership has not demonstrated a commitment to “reducing unnecessary detention and incarceration in the interest of justice and the efficient use of taxpayer resources.”
Questions about the capacity of the jail system have been raised by a series of exposés and lawsuits about the brutal conditions at Men’s Central coupled with Gov. Brown’s plan to realign those state prisoners convicted of non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual crimes to the counties.
“The Sheriff should be ashamed of himself” said David Stein of Critical Resistance. “A few months ago, while his jails were first being condemned for brutal, regular beatings of mentally ill prisoners, he was stirring up fear of realigned prisoners in order to grab $1.4 billion. The truth is, there is not that much news in this new report. We’ve known the county doesn’t need to be locking so many people up and so has the Sheriff.”
Los Angeles County has recently been granted $112.5 million by Sacramento for realignment, but has spent very little on community-based programs touted as the way forward in addressing California’s prison crisis, instead prioritizing expanding the Sheriff’s budget. “Now that even the Sheriff knows we don’t need more jail beds, the Supervisors should use that $112 million to fund community-based alternatives we know work to keep people out of jail–drug treatment programs, healthcare, job training, job creation, housing, schools and transportation,” said Geri Silva of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes. “There are a lot of service providers in poor and working class LA who could put that money to good use.”
“With $112 million we could make a real difference in the lives of LA’s young people,” said Kim McGill of Youth Justice Coalition. “We could hire 500 full-time community intervention workers, build 50 comprehensive youth centers in areas of the county with the highest imprisonment rates, create 25,000 jobs for youth returning from lock-up. You want to make LA safer?”
Critical Resistance, Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, and the Youth Justice Coalition are members of the statewide coalition Californians United for A Reponsible Budget, which seeks to reduce prison spending by reducing the number of prisons and prisoners in California. For more information, visit: www.curbprisonspending.org.