FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 25, 2016
Diana Zuniga – (213) 864-8931, LA No More Jails Coalition
Mark-Anthony Johnson – (818) 259-1322, LA No More Jails Coalition
LOS ANGELES – Today, after years of community pressure against the $3.7 billion jail plan, a coalition of formerly incarcerated people, community organizers, students, health and environmental experts chanted down the LA County Board of Supervisors hearing and demanded the supervisors reject the jail plan. The protest forced the Supervisors into a brief recess after which they approved the final Environmental Impact Report and proposed plans to move forward with the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility in a closed session without public participation.
The LA No More Jails Coalition challenged the Supervisors’ negligence in moving forward with a plan that significantly endangers the public health and wellbeing of women incarcerated in the proposed jail. The proposed women’s jail would be constructed at a toxic site in Lancaster. These dangers include toxic soil, historically poor waste management, and increased risk of the deadly illness Valley Fever in the area. Research has shown that Black and Brown women are most vulnerable to contracting Valley Fever. While Black women make up only 4.6% of county population, the Sheriff’s Department’s custody report from March of 2016 states that Black women make up around 31% of the women’s jail population.
The Coalition has also repeatedly challenged the inadequacy of the environmental review process by citing numerous environmental harms that would be caused by the project. Most notably, the County has failed to appropriately mitigate potential health consequences from exposure to Valley Fever, a disease that is endemic to the project site in Lancaster. Black people, and especially Black women, have been found to be more susceptible to contracting Valley Fever than other demographic groups, a fact that organizers with the LA No More Jails coalition say should raise serious alarm among county officials.
“The Sheriff and county supervisors plan to build a women’s jail in one of the highest risk Valley Fever areas in California, and will be imprisoning Black women there, the most at-risk population impacted by the disease,” says Kim McGill of Youth Justice Coalition. “This is a clearly destructive move, as this jail will impact the community already most disproportionately targeted by imprisonment. I have been locked up numerous times in county jail and have seen firsthand the inhumane conditions and lack of medical care that contribute to more serious impacts of infectious disease.”
Throughout the Board’s closed meeting to discuss the jail item they mentioned a commitment towards ensuring the human dignity and rights of incarcerated people. Supervisor Kuehl also discussed her interest in moving forward with bail reform and questioned Sheriff Jim McDonnell on how that would impact the jail plan. She also mentioned an interest in allowing women to live with their infants in the proposed women’s jail.
“The vast majority of those locked up in women’s jails in LA don’t need to be there,” said Christina Tsao of Critical Resistance Los Angeles. “This plan for a new women’s jail promises services and programs that cannot be delivered. The needs of women can’t be met in a jail setting. 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.”