We made history. But the fight isn’t over.

We made history. But the fight isn’t over.

Last week, Justice LA and many other organizations and community members turned out in force to actualize the vision of generations of organizing. A sea of orange shirts filled the room as a reminder to the Supervisors and to each other that people power makes the impossible possible. The women’s jail (Mira Loma) was rejected outright and the mental health jail plan (CCTF) was shifted to instead build a mental health treatment facility! Our victories are a culmination of nearly a decade of activism by advocates, community members, individuals and families impacted by incarceration. Through our collective work, we have not only stopped the jail expansion plan for LA County, we have shifted the entire paradigm away from a reliance on jails to health and human services.

The Wins

  • The County replaced their plans for the mental health jail from a law enforcement driven model to a treatment model. We are well positioned for the Sheriff to no longer be the sole authority in this structure moving forward, with Departments of Health Services and Mental Health called to strongly participate.
  • The Supervisors adopted JusticeLA’s recommendations to explore the decentralization of the approved replacement to Men’s Central Jail.
  • We saw the largest and strongest anti-jail mobilization to the Board of Supervisors that we’ve seen in years!

But we must remain activated and vigilant.

As Supervisor Hilda Solis so clearly pointed out: “A jail is a jail is a jail.” In her statement following the vote, she writes, “It is not enough to change the name of the [mental health jail]. What the Board of Supervisors approved today still has to be certified and approved by the Board of State and Community Corrections and not a mental health regulator. The Board of Supervisors did not solicit input from the community or mental health experts when developing this brand-new project. Further, the Board of Supervisors made this decision without examining the population currently in our custody or forecasting the tremendous impact that diversion and bail reform efforts would have on further reducing our jail population.”

Supervisor Kuehl argued that approving the contract for the mental health treatment facility “hardens our ability to think in other ways … this hospital would be bigger than all of our hospitals put together.” Both Solis and Kuehl stated concerns that building this mental health treatment facility will funnel resources away from efforts to expand community based treatment. We share the concerns that both Supervisors Solis and Keuhl raised during the meeting and that ultimately informed their ‘NO’ votes to Supervisor Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas’ amendments.

The Struggle Continues

  • A jail by another name: The Supervisors voted (3-2) to approve a $2.2 billion contract originally designed for jail construction. Although the preamble of the Hahn/Ridley-Thomas amendments to CCTF were some of the most progressive words to come out of this board regarding shifting from jail construction to a treatment centered model, the directives failed to live up to the preamble. We must continue to demand a rejection of a centralized mental health facility that resembles a jail. The construction of a 3,800 bed mental health treatment facility is not only obscene in size and cost, it is diametrically opposed to LA residents’ needs and national standards of treatment. Mental health experts, including those directing the County’s health departments, clearly stated that a decentralized approach to mental health treatment that builds care in the community is the only appropriate course of action. What will be both cost effective and provide better treatment is JusticeLA’s plan for at least one community-based mental health center in each district of the LA County.
  • Transparency and Accountability: There is no explicit mechanism for community input regarding the size and scope of the revised project and the Department of Public Works and CEO’s office have proven to be untrustworthy in this process. We need to ensure that a transparent and accountable process is immediately in place.
  • Population and Diversion Analysis: The approved plan does not allow sufficient time to consider the results of various studies the Board has set in motion – including a study of mental health bed capacity and pretrial diversion. We need to ensure that LA County continues to lead this project from a position of prioritizing lowering the jail population.
  • Current plan limits job creation and expansion of community based services: The proposed 3,800 bed mental health treatment facility is intended to be built in the heart of LA. This will limit job creation and opportunities for people who live in other parts of Los Angeles County. This mental health facility is set to cost up $2 billion dollars from LA County’s general fund. General fund dollars that can be and should be invested in developing community based services. 

Our organizing towards stopping jail expansion and investing in LA County’s genuine community needs is not over. #JusticeLA is regrouping and strategizing our next steps. Congratulations to our coalition members and thank you to our partners and allies for standing so strong with us yesterday! We encourage everyone to stay plugged in and stay activated!

With gratitude,