ADDA Hails Withdrawal of Motion to ‘Depopulate’ Los Angeles County Jails
Prosecutors’ Union Terms Proposal by Solis, Horvath ‘Dangerous’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The county prosecutors’ union has hailed the removal of a motion from the Board of Supervisors’ agenda for yesterday’s meeting that called for steps to “depopulate” the jails and “decarcerate” some of those convicted of crimes.
Among the prescribed actions was closing the Men’s Central Jail.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (“ADDA”) said in a statement released late Monday that Supervisors Hilda Solis and Lindsey Horvath had put forth a “dangerous proposal.”
The motion, introduced on March 29, called upon the board to “[d]eclare the State of mental health services and overcrowding in the Los Angeles County jails a humanitarian crisis, requiring the County to move with all deliberate speed on meaningful solutions; and prioritize decreasing the number of individuals entering the Los Angeles County Jails….”
ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall, a possible candidate for district attorney, was quoted in the ADDA press release as commenting:
“The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ motion to gut parts of the criminal justice system without input from stakeholders is dangerous and reckless. The authors sought no advice from those who know and understand public safety issues.
“The proposal sought to lower the jail population without addressing the root causes of crime or protecting the public. This catch-and-release program comes without any plan or infrastructure to protect the community from violent criminals apprehended by law enforcement. It creates no lockdown facilities for the mentally ill. It benefits no one except career criminals.”
“We need to ensure that the most dangerous offenders don’t get out, first-time offenders don’t come back, and those with serious mental illnesses get appropriate care and help. This proposal does none of that.”
Hahn, Barger Opposed
The board’s chair, Supervisors Janice Hahn issued a statement saying that she agrees that there is a need to address jail overcrowding but believes that “any plan to reduce the population of our jails needs to be decided in partnership with law enforcement, our deputy district attorneys and our courts,” and Supervisor Kathryn Barger also expressed concerns over the effects the measure, if adopted, would have.
“We appreciate Supervisor Hahn’s and Supervisor Barger’s leadership here and for their willingness to join our members in recognizing that the time for applying short-term patches to festering, decades-old problems is over,” Siddall remarked. “We look forward to working together with them on addressing these issues.”
Solis pulled the motion on Monday.
She issued a statement in which she said:
“I introduced the motion on ‘Los Angeles County to Take Actionable Next Steps to Depopulate and Decarcerate the Los Angeles County Jails’ as a way to strike a balance with both justice-involved advocates and public safety representatives. Additionally, with the federal consent decrees and settlement agreements, including a potential receivership from the State, I felt this move was necessary.
“The intention behind my motion was for the Board of Supervisors to use the limited authority it has to safely depopulate, including:
“•Giving the Los Angeles County Sheriff authority to use electronic monitoring as a form of an alternative to incarceration.
“•Advocating for the Los Angeles Superior Court to support the County in its pursuit of ‘care first’ as it once did when it adopted a statewide COVID-19 emergency bail schedule. That set bail at $0 for our pre-trial population, which accounts for almost half of the total jail population. Many who have not yet been tried for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies are languishing in County jails.
“•Requesting CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] to take those individuals in County jails who have been sentenced to prison to their facilities. This includes about 10% of the total County jail population and will help relieve overcrowding.
“•Advocating for legislative changes at the State-level so that those who are medically fragile can be eligible for compassionate release.
“Nonetheless, since the motion was published, my office has received concerns from a variety of stakeholders—those who feel the motion is not doing enough and those who feel it is doing too much. To that end, I will be referring the motion back to my office so that I can continue to gather input from all stakeholders. We must help balance the needs of public safety while also getting into compliance with our federal obligations. And in that process, I ask that County departments and agencies help us with meeting the need of our most vulnerable.”
Opposition to the motion also came from the JusticeLA Coalition which bills itself as a “community based advocacy” group representing “countless families separated by the largest jail system in the world.” Member organizations include the ACLU of Southern California and Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles.
It said in a March 30 email to the supervisors:
“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.”
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