Proposed jail expansion draws protests
Advocates urge funding go toward community-based alternatives instead of jails
Black Lives Matter, JusticeLA spearhead jail expansion protest aimed at County Board of Supervisors
LOS ANGELES — Black Lives Matter, JusticeLA, and a coalition of organizations working with communities directly impacted by incarceration in Los Angeles County staged a protest, Tues., Sept. 26, outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration to urge L.A. supervisors to oppose spending $3.5 billion on jail expansion and support re-investment back into the community. The protest occurred prior to the supervisor’s meeting at 9 a.m.
In addition, a motion was presented to the supervisors urging a moratorium on jail construction. The county supervisors plan to build a 3,885-bed replacement for the downtown Men’s Central Jail and renovate the now-vacant Mira Loma Detention Center into a 1,600-bed women’s facility in Lancaster, Calif., — replacing the Lynwood, Calif. facility.
In L.A. County, 40 percent of female inmates are Latino while 32 percent are Black. The population in the men’s facilities is currently 50 percent Latino and 30 percent Black. While Black people make up less than 9 percent of the population in the county, the demographic comprises one-third of the county jail population.
The most impacted districts in the county are Districts 1 and 2, represented by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, respectively and encompassing the larger areas of East L.A. and South L.A. — neighborhoods that are predominantly low-income/working class, migrant, Black and Latino. More than half of those imprisoned have not been convicted of a crime and cannot afford bail.
There are plans to build a new mental health jail with an inadequate amount of health care workers. JusticeLA believes this will directly endanger communities of color who do not have access to low-cost, quality mental health care in Los Angeles, yet who appear to be targeted by policing and incarceration. According to L.A. County District Atty. Jackie Lacey, there are approximately 3,000 people in L.A. jails suffering from mental illness.
“I believe that the County Board of Supervisors should have a commission to study alternatives to jails,” said Patrisse Cullors, with JusticeLA and co-founder of Black Lives Matter. “With $3.5 billion we could support people who are [homeless] and getting them homes. We could support children who have little access to getting healthy food. I’m a lover of life and I deeply believe in humanity’s ability to do better than we’re currently doing.”
JusticeLA is advocating for AB 109 realignment funding to go into community- based alternatives and not jails to address the communities with the highest rates of imprisonment. Those communities tend to be primarily poor and working class communities of color that are also disproportionately high in unemployment, home foreclosures, school cutbacks, inadequate access to healthcare and lower-than- average life expectancies.