It’s time to change the law and invest in communities

It’s time to change the law and invest in communities

I am excited to announce the Reform LA Jails and Community Reinvestment Initiative to provide subpoena power to the Civilian Oversight Commission of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and to develop a Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan to reduce the L.A. County jail population and provide alternatives to incarceration.

There are two unacceptable problems with LA’s jail system: millions of dollars wasted on a revolving door and no accountability for the people in charge of running the largest jail system in the world.

LA’s jail system is broken. It’s costly and ineffective, wasting millions of dollars to incarcerate people struggling with mental illness, addiction and homelessness. There’s also no accountability for misconduct and abuse by sheriff’s deputies.

In Los Angeles County, we need to see a greater investment in our communities, and that means providing and funding alternatives to incarceration to help reduce the population of the mentally ill and homeless in jail. Instead of investing $3.5 billion into building more jails, we should be investing in youth programs, quality public education, and affordable housing to keep people out of jail.

We also need to address the widespread calls from the public for more accountability and transparency for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Following the corruption scandal that rocked Los Angeles and the nation involving a scheme to obstruct an FBI investigation of abuses in Los Angeles County jails, we saw the criminal convictions of deputies and command staff culminating with former Sheriff Lee Baca, and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka sentenced to prison time.

In response, on January 12, 2016, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to implement a Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission with the mission to improve public transparency and accountability for the Sheriff’s Department.

I’m proud to say that I–along with Dignity and Power Now and numerous other organizations–led the fight for independent oversight of the Sheriff’s Department. But sadly, our work is not done.

Two years later, we’re still plagued with misconduct in the Sheriff’s Department including deputies trafficking drugs, deputies raping female inmates under the color of authority, deputies assigned to narcotics skimming money, the continuous widespread reports of inmates being mistreated in our jails, and the countless “suicides” of inmates who were allegedly under the watchful eye of deputies.

To identify, expose and end corruption and misconduct in the Sheriff’s Department, we need a Civilian Oversight Commission with the power to subpoena records and to compel the testimony of deputies and their superiors accused of wrongdoing.

We’re currently gathering signatures throughout Los Angeles County, and I’m calling on all us to get involved and invested in changing the law here in Los Angeles and bringing real accountability and transparency to the Sheriff’s Department.

Join me today and sign up to help us gather signatures, find out where you can sign the petition, endorse the Reform Jails and Community Reinvestment Initiative, donate to make sure that we have enough money to gather the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot and to share the news about what we’re doing.

This initiative would strengthen existing mechanisms of accountability and develop a plan for Los Angeles to move towards comprehensive alternatives to incarceration.

It’s an ambitious goal to get the Reform Jails, and Community Reinvestment Initiative qualified for the November 2018 ballot, but I believe that together we can do it. Will you join me?

Sign up today and let’s make it history while changing the law.

Patrisse Cullors
Reform L.A. Jails