Categories
Statement News

New LA County Bail Schedule: One Step In The Right Direction

JLA Statement: LA Superior Court's New Bail Announcement

JusticeLA is cautiously celebrating Tuesday’s announcement from Los Angeles County Superior Court. On October 1, 2023, LA County will implement new misdemeanor and felony bail schedules that eliminate pre-arraignment money bail for many sections of the penal code. Notably, money-bail is still a factor for various charges, demonstrating that the Superior Court still needs to come a long way in understanding the consequences of wealth-based detention and the drivers of mass incarceration. 

True adherence to the October 2023 bail schedules may result in a measurable decrease in pretrial detention as a number of charges require release prior to arraignment. Right now, nearly 50% of people in LA County jails are considered pretrial and even a single day in pretrial detention has immense consequences for an individual and their community. Reducing and eliminating pretrial detention must be a pillar of LA County’s steps towards “Care First.” 

We commend the work of our coalition partners, Civil Rights Corps, Public Justice, and the plaintiffs in Urquidi v. City of Los Angeles, whose stories and advocacy helped bring to light the injustice and unconstitutionality of money bail. 

Going forward, the coalition remains wary about the impact the new bail schedules will have on pretrial due process and the reliance on risk assessment tools and electronic monitoring. Risk assessment tools are inherently discriminatory and their use in determining someone’s freedom duplicates the structural racism of the criminal legal system. Similarly, electronic monitoring is disproportionately used as a carceral condition of pretrial release for Black and Latinx communities in Los Angeles. The path to meaningful pretrial freedom includes eliminating risk assessments and electronic monitoring.  

Learn more about JusticeLA’s evidence-based pretrial vision here.

Categories
Statement News

JLA Statement 6/26

JusticeLA is horrified by the brutality and negligence depicted in the videos coming out of Men’s Central Jail (MCJ). What is immediately clear from the videos and Keri Blakinger’s reporting is that people are not safe under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and that LASD personnel are collecting and storing footage of violence and medical neglect. We find the behavior on the tapes and the storage of the footage disgusting and inexcusable.   

People are dying inside of LA’s jails at the rate of almost one person per week. In less than 6 months, 24 people have lost their lives inside of LA County jails. This horrific loss of life is due in large part to LASD’s own culture of violence and indifference to the lives of those incarcerated. LASD has over 17,000 budgeted positions so any attempt to label LASD’s mismanagement of the jails as a problem of “understaffing” cannot be taken at face value. Members of the Sybil Brand Commission have noted that during their visits to the jails LASD staff sit there and do nothing, pretend to do safety checks, and are blatantly disrespectful to the commissioners. LASD deputy gangs are born from the units responsible for oversight in MCJ. Violence against incarcerated persons is integral to the operations of LASD deputies responsible for jail supervision. Adding deputies to reduce liability is clearly not the answer to LASD use of force. A reduction in LASD staff and a reduction in the jail population is the only way to mitigate LASD use of force inside LA County jails. 

Today the Board of Supervisors will begin deliberations on the FY2023-2024 recommended budget. Once again, LASD is asking for a $4 billion dollar budget and to increase its staffing levels. The Board MUST consider the consequences of green-lighting a status-quo budget for LASD. Approving LASD’s $4 billion dollar request means $4 billion to a department plagued by deputy gangs, $4 billion to a department that stands idly by while people die in LASD custody, and $4 billion to those responsible for terrorizing and murdering our community members.

Our eyes are on the Board of Supervisors. The only way forward out of LASD’s brutality is to reduce LASD’s budget, reduce LASD staffing levels, and to close Men’s Central Jail.       

Download the PDF of this statement here.

Categories
Statement News

JusticeLA Letter Regarding ODR Housing Expansion Motion

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors:

Supervisor Hilda Solis

Supervisor Holly Mitchell

Supervisor Lindsey Horvath

Supervisor Janice Hahn

Supervisor Kathryn Barger

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration

500 West Temple Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Sent via email 

RE: Agenda Item No. 7, Expanding the Office of Diversion and Reentry Housing

Honorable members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors:

The JusticeLA coalition is writing to express our support for Agenda Item No. 7, Expanding the Office of Diversion and Reentry Housing. Right now over 40% of people in LA County jails suffer from mental health issues and 67% of women in LA jails have unmet mental health needs. These alarming statistics draw the picture of the human rights crisis inside of LA County jails where hundreds of people are denied diversion opportunities and life-saving healthcare all due to the County’s failure to fund and scale-up the programs that effectively facilitate supportive releases from jail. This motion is an important and incremental step in the right direction as it asks for a ramp-up plan, a timeline, resource needs, and funding sources for a 1000 bed expansion in FY24-25. Relative to the massive need for mental health beds, this motion is actually quite minimal, which is why voting YES on this motion should be an obvious next step for every supervisor.

Right now the County is under tremendous pressure to depopulate LA County jails and build the systems of care and support Angelenos desperately need. The County is facing multiple lawsuits and is in the midst of fielding a visit from the United Nations concerning the deadly conditions inside of the jails. Supporting this motion would demonstrate the Board’s commitment to concrete action for depopulation and diversion. Rather than starting from square one, this motion recognizes a logical pathway for adding more capacity, holding ODR to a timeline for accountability, and securing funding to make sure ODR never has to close its doors again.

The community demands that the Board do the right thing on Tuesday and vote in support of this motion. JusticeLA has the privilege of working with numerous community members whose lives have been changed thanks to ODR’s effective housing program. ODR has helped break decades-long cycles of incarceration for so many Angelenos. A YES vote on this motion is a vote for a Care First Los Angeles.

Sincerely,

JusticeLA Coalition

Categories
Statement News

Letter of Opposition to the Motion: Los Angeles County to Take Actionable Next Steps to Depopulate and Decarcerate the Los Angeles County Jails: Granting Local Authority, Advocating for Court and State Support, and Legislative Changes

March 30, 2023 

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors: 

Supervisor Mitchell
Supervisor Solis
Supervisor Horvath
Supervisor Hahn
Supervisor Barger 

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012 

Via email: executiveoffice@bos.lacounty.gov 

Sent via email 


Re: Los Angeles County to Take Actionable Next Steps to Depopulate and Decarcerate the Los Angeles County Jails:  Granting Local Authority, Advocating for Court and State Support, and Legislative Changes

Honorable members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors: 

We are writing in regard to the motion “Los Angeles County to Take Actionable Next Steps to Depopulate and Decarcerate the Los Angeles County Jails:  Granting Local Authority, Advocating for Court and State Support, and Legislative Changes,” introduced by Supervisors Solis and Horvath on March 29, 2023. We oppose this motion and ask that you do the same. We appreciate Supervisor Solis and Horvath’s urgency in exploring all possible avenues to address the consent decree and close Men’s Central Jail without a replacement; however, we have significant concerns that this motion is not consistent with the Care First vision, and does not address – and may even interfere with – the County achieving important priorities necessary to realizing that vision. We hope you will consider our concerns in determining how to move forward. 

We support the county pursuing state legislative changes.

LA County’s ability to implement meaningful decarceration has continued to be stifled by state policy, as well as the policies of the LA County Superior Court. We strongly support directives #4 and #18; however, directive #18d could be strengthened by advocating that the state not only mandate that LASC and LASD share data with a county department, but that the data be made publicly available. 

This motion does not reflect good governance.

While we share the urgency to act quickly to implement comprehensive strategies that reduce the jail population, the scope of the motion and the process in which it was developed failed to include input from critical stakeholders and county departments. 29 directives are included in this motion. The volume of directives without a frontloaded, intentional process for input from community and relevant county stakeholders that have brought us the progress that has been achieved towards the closure of Men’s Central Jail over the past several years, runs contrary to the February 28,2023 motion,  Improving Los Angeles County Board Governance to Strengthen Equity and Transparency, which your Board unanimously approved. This kitchen sink approach to policy making is exactly what that motion attempted to curtail. Failing to shape this motion in line with recommendations from the community undermines the intent of the February 28th motion and the collaborative spirit of the Care First initiative. 

This motion creates models and sets precedent that the county will have to dismantle.

Central to the Care first vision is shifting away from a reliance on the carceral system and towards systems of care. This motion seeks to leverage and expand the power of the Sheriff’s Department to release people, and in so doing, expands the already widespread use of electronic monitoring in LA County. Electronic monitoring is not an alternative to incarceration, it is just another form of incarceration. The use of EM actually leads to re-incarceration because of all the violations associated with EM supervision. Furthermore, it is a more restrictive condition that is used to regulate people who would have otherwise been released without those restrictions. Cities like Chicago have found that when the use of EM increased, the jail population also went up, instead of the predicted decrease. This would likely be true for Los Angeles too, which would be contrary to the intent of this motion to decarcerate. EM also presents numerous barriers to obtaining and keeping employment and attending to and caring for one’s dependents, which again would be contrary to the principles of a care first approach. 

The motion’s proposed model fails to honestly recognize the ongoing threat of Deputy Gangs.

Directive #10 positions LASD as central to the development and coordination of a plan to implement “community services programs at each LASD station.” The directive runs contrary to foundational strategy #1 of the Care First roadmap, which instructs community based services to be scaled up through decentralized, coordinated services hubs, and capacity building efforts. The strategy also emphasizes removing barriers to treatment. 

The motion undermines this foundational strategy by ignoring the Civilian Oversight Commission’s scathing report on deputy gangs as well as the commissions recommendations recently approved by the Board. The Special Counsel makes clear in the report that not only do deputy gangs exist, they currently “engage in harmful activities in several of the Department’s patrol stations and bureaus.” Twelve deputy gangs have been identified as operating “primarily at patrol stations.” Directive #10 dangerously assumes that deputy gangs will not produce significant roadblocks to the coordination of care despite concrete evidence that their influence over LASD station activities has been devastating to communities. The directive is out of touch with deep seeded distrust that communities hold as the result of the decades of harm deputy gangs have brought upon our communities at the custody and station level.

This motion does not align with the Board’s commitment to implement a Care First System.

March of 2020, the Board adopted foundational strategies found in the Care First, Jails Last Report, including, Strategy 3, “Support and deliver meaningful pre-trial release and diversion services.” That strategy includes the following recommendations:

Recommendation #56: Institute a presumption of pretrial release for all individuals, especially people with clinical behavioral health disorders, whenever possible and appropriate, coupled with warm handoffs to community-based systems of care, to provide targeted services, if necessary, to help individuals remain safely in the community and support their return to court.

Recommendation #55: Develop a strengths and needs-based system of pretrial release through an independent, cross-functional entity, situated outside of law enforcement, to coordinate voluntary needs and strengths assessments expeditiously upon booking, and to provide relevant information to court officers to make informed release decisions.

Recommendation #53: Improve and expand return-to-court support services to reduce failures to appear.

By centering the Sheriff’s Department in the key strategy for pretrial decarceration, the motion fails to live up to the ATI pretrial recommendations above, which focus on expanding pretrial services through a care-based approach, independent of law enforcement, which would be consistent with best-evidence and the most effective programs across the country. The actual provision of services, particularly those that support return to court, is not captured in the motion’s directives and should be the focus of the Board’s policies and budget priorities. 

Further, the motion itself does not address the funding needed to scale up existing programs and develop the community based programs needed to facilitate pretrial service provision in a supportive non-carceral setting. Instead, the motion relies on harmful carceral approaches like split sentencing, which not only still subjects individuals to jail time, but also to the ever-present surveillance threat of a probation department that has proven itself time and time again to set people up to fail by being overly punitive and failing to see the humanity of people who are caught up in the system.

This motion fails to include accountability mechanisms.

Noticeably absent from this motion is a concrete timeline for the closure of Men’s Central Jail and benchmarks to measure progress. The Jail Closure Implementation Team was established almost two years ago and there has been no impact on the jail population. In fact, in that time, conditions in the jail have only become ever more dangerous, as evidenced by the three deaths that occurred in the past 10 days. JCIT’s failure to initiate meaningful progress is in part due to the lack of measurable benchmarks for population reduction and lack of accountability structures created by the County. A motion that takes seriously the crisis inside of MCJ must explicitly commit to the closure of MCJ in 18-24 months as outlined in the Men’s Central Jail Closure Report. 

Conclusion

The intent behind this motion is well received: there is a crisis in LA County jails and the county must consider various strategies for decarceration. However, the methods and strategies proposed by this motion are not the ones that will bring about safe and effective closure of Men’s Central Jail, nor are they the strategies that will invest in the long-term well-being of justice involved populations. It is deeply disappointing that community advocates who have worked for years on alternatives to incarceration, pretrial reform, and jail closure were not consulted in the drafting of this motion. Board offices cannot continue to draft such consequential motions in silos without considering the input of community experts and other relevant stakeholders who hold the expertise which will inform the implementation of effective jail closure. For the reasons outlined above, we strongly oppose this motion and respectfully request that you do the same. 

Sincerely,

The JusticeLA Coalition

Categories
News Statement

A Vision for Supportive Pretrial Services in LA County 

→ See The Full Version of this Vision

A Vision for Supportive Pretrial Services in LA County: Abridged

November 2022

Introduction: 

On any given day, nearly 7,000 people in Los Angeles County jails are at the pretrial phase of the criminal legal process, this number represents 45.7% of the County’s current jail population. LA County finds itself at a crossroads– the County can either choose to prioritize investments in the future of our communities, or systems that dehumanize Angelenos of color and perpetuate cyclical poverty. While the County has committed itself to a Care First vision for Los Angeles, the jail population continues to rise and people are spending more time in jail, away from critical services and resources. 

In March 2022, the County established the Justice, Care and Opportunities Department (JCOD) and tasked this new department with implementing and housing the County’s pretrial services agency. Shifting pretrial services into an independent agency is a critical first step in implementing the ATI pretrial recommendations; however, in order to ensure the success of the County’s new system, additional recommendations must be adopted in shaping JCOD. 

Grounded in best practices developed by national experts, the Community Care and Support Agency (CASA) model, ATI recommendations, and continuous community engagement, LA County’s care-based pretrial services model must be anchored in the following components:

  • The presumption of release 
  • Care and support, and NOT supervision
  • A commitment to address the long-standing, pervasive racial disproportionality issues in LA County’s jail system
  • Making significant advances towards the closure of Men’s Central Jail

In order to achieve and operationalize these anchoring components, the County should apply the following methods: 

  • Articulating a Comprehensive Vision and Concrete Benchmarks for JCOD: JCOD was founded in direct response to the findings of the Alternatives to Incarceration working group and designated as the County department to oversee pretrial services. Yet JCOD’s current mission is vague, shortsighted, missing key components of the ATI report findings, and lacks any discernible commitment to an actual Care First vision. JCOD’s pretrial model must articulate a clear plan for collaboration with judicial actors, service providers, and community stakeholders for group development of a departmental vision that is robust, focused, and geared towards tackling the issue of over incarceration in Los Angeles County through a socioeconomic, gender, and racial equity lens. The plan should include concrete goals, timelines, and benchmarks for implementation alongside other county departments and work groups. 


  • Community Engagement and Collaboration: Community engagement is a critical part of development and implementation of an effective and care-centered pretrial model. JCOD needs to establish concrete structures–including a JCOD steering committee, a community advisory board, and community engagement workgroups–to work with community leaders and organizations. Together they should articulate a robust vision for how its pretrial model will supportively move people out of jail and into community based structures of care. Once JCOD’s pretrial model is established, ongoing opportunities for community feedback must continue as outlined in recommendations 88 and 76 of the Care First, Jail Last Roadmap. (see full list of recs here).


  • Presumption of Release: As the COVID emergency zero bail order revealed, there are thousands of people who enter the jails who can and should immediately be released. Recommendations #55 and #56 of the ATI report recommend that the County institute a presumption of pretrial release for all individuals, especially those with mental health needs. The County’s pretrial services framework must ground itself in a presumption of pretrial release, prioritize release at the earliest possible point in the criminal legal process and create more efficient pretrial process and standards for assessing the needs, developing safety plans, and securing release of individuals at arraignment no later than 24 hours after arrest. The County should advocate for legislative changes that advance the presumption of release, and expand resources for the offices of the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender. (see full list of recs here).


  • Care and Support not Supervision: Successful pre-trial models from across California and the country show that two components are necessary for Los Angeles’ pretrial model: 1) that it be grounded in community based support, 2) without supervision. Reliance on supervision denies the constitutional presumption of innocence and failure to comply with supervisorial requirements often lead to extreme consequences such as re-incarceration pre-trial and potentially harsher sentences. Surveillance-based conditions to pretrial release limit the viability of community support. To implement robust and effective pre-trial services, Los Angeles County must ensure service connection is provided at the earliest point possible and is led by a Community Care and Support Agency (CASA) rather than the probation department. 


  • Service Providers: Invest in Safety by Resourcing Care: A Care First model that centers public health and safety must center community based service providers who foreground trauma-informed care approaches. Emphasis must be placed on community service providers who provide specific and tailored services for individuals with mental health and substance use needs. All service providers included in the pretrial model must be aligned with Care First and have long-standing community trust. JCOD can work with the County to expedite funding processes for very-small to medium sized organizations to expand the pool of services providers able to meet the needs of pretrial populations and expand workforce development for the mental-health sector (see full list of recs here)


  • Tracking Progress Through Data Collection, Utilization, and Transparency: Frequent collection and reporting of data allows for an evaluation of the effectiveness of the County’s pretrial model. Data is also a tool for accountability and will support community advocates and public defenders in their own analyses of JCOD’s development. JCOD must build and maintain an adequate data infrastructure to ensure robust program evaluation and Conduct periodic data analysis to address issues of inequity and efficiency and implement evidence based practices in collaboration with the JCOD Steering Committee.  

Conclusion

The County’s investments into the Justice Care and Opportunity Department have the potential to transform a legal system that has, for too long, harmed low-income, unhoused, and communities of color in Los Angeles. We are at the precipice of change; to reimagine the future of Los Angeles County, it is necessary to finally invest in Care First systems and structures that reduce pretrial incarceration and help us realize the closure of Men’s Central Jail. 

→ See The Full Version of this Guide