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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Criminal justice reform groups say LA County budget lacks alternatives to jail time

Law enforcement reform groups convened Wednesday in front of the administration building, saying they were unhappy with Los Angeles County’s proposed $38.5 billion budget that underestimated incarceration alternative programs that provide services to those in prison recently released or at large. probation.

A coalition of Black Lives Matter-LA, Re-Imagine LA, Justice LA and Dignity and Power Now (the latter is a group that advocates for prisoners and their families) demanded more money for youth development, housing assistance, vocational training and prison outreach programs to mitigate the effects of racial injustice. They urged the county to transfer funds allocated from traditional law enforcement agencies to these other programs.

While the 2022-2023 Budget Proposal allocates $3.6 billion to the Sheriff’s Department, the money that will go to programs that create alternatives to incarceration under the county’s Care First, Community Investment Plan is to receive $100 million, which $87 million less than the previous one. annual budget, coalition activists say.

“Of course it’s a step. But $100 million is not enough. We think they need to do more this year,” said Marc-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, chief executive of Dignity and Power Now.

Groups point to Measure J, approved by county voters in 2020, which provides for 10% of the county’s unlimited funds — or about $900 million a year — to address the county jail crisis. Often the problems are related to the death of prisoners, the denial of medicines, or other alleged mistreatment. This often leads to lawsuits that result in large county payouts.

The coalition wants the county to allocate the full $900 million of the upcoming budget to community initiatives as outlined in the measure and set up the Juvenile Justice Department, fully fund the Office of Diversion and Reentry, and move forward with the closure of male facilities. Central Jail, which should include $237 million in insane beds and housing options for those released from prison.

The county disagrees with the group and says it will not cut funding for community initiatives, saying it has provided a total of $200 million when combining last year’s and next year’s amounts, county media specialist Jesus Ruiz said in an email response Wednesday. In addition, the CEO’s report states that the district is working towards meeting the 10 percent Measure J requirement and will achieve that goal by 2024.

Ruiz said $30 million has been added to the county’s budget for current funding for the Diversion and Reentry Authority. Members of the Coalition for Justice say this is a drop in the bucket and are asking for more funding for this program as soon as possible.

What happens if the programs are not fully funded? “People will not be able to get the care and services they need after they are released from detention. There is a real possibility that you will be sent back to prison,” said Mishae De La Cuadra, campaign coordinator and moderator of the Budget to Save Lives Coalition rally.

Clayton-Johnson said he heard from supervisor Sheila Kuehl that she could provide money to set up an independent pretrial services agency to help lower bail and get prisoners awaiting trial out of custody.

“Average bail in California is prohibitive and discriminatory, and it keeps poor and working-class people in jail. Seventy percent of the dead in our prisons were awaiting trial. They died before they could make themselves known,” Clayton-Johnson said, noting that the county must act faster to deal with the ongoing crisis of inmates with mental health issues.

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, groups are holding a rally demanding funding for alternatives to incarceration and other programs to help people get out of detention. Groups including Re-Imagine LA and Black Lives Matter-LA addressed the crowd as they dodged raindrops in front of the County Hall in downtown Los Angeles. (photo by Laura Coholan of La Defensa and Re-Imagine LA)

Dodging raindrops, about six speakers from the coalition addressed about 100 people on the concrete patio outside the Supervisory Board building. Sheriff’s Department patrol cars were present, but no one was arrested and there were no clashes.

“It’s not more sheriffs that saves us, it’s more resources,” said Greg “Baba” Akili, a Black Lives Matter organizer who attended the rally and was previously in a group that asked for LAPD budget cuts.

Akili said it’s been two years since voters approved Measure J and implementation has been slow. “Two years later, we’re getting more black deaths, but the county hasn’t done anything,” he told the crowd. “Now we are calling on the county to do what the people have said they should do.”

He wants the county to give $100 million to the Department of Youth Development to keep young people out of jail. And he reiterated the goal of the coalition – to close the Central Men’s Prison.

“Keep in mind that budgeting is an ongoing process and budget revisions will continue to be made on June 27 (next public hearing) and again on October 4 before the final county budget is passed,” a Ruiz County spokesperson wrote.


Sources and methodology

Community activists from many groups call for more funding

World Nation News Desk
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