JustLeadershipUSA Responds To L.A. County Approval of Environmental Impact Report, Statement From Lex Steppling, Lead National Organizer

June 20, 2018

“Los Angeles County is home to the largest jail facility in the world. Its jails have become symbolic for how our society and legal institutions have decided to deal with mental illness. The jail complex stands out not just for its sheer size, but also for its brutality and harm and for the scope of the generational impact it has had in communities throughout L.A. County.

“Over 17,000 human beings are locked in 7 jail facilities. 83% are Black or brown. Over half of these people are legally innocent, locked away as they await trial. Alarmingly, 70% of people in L.A. County jails suffer from mental health conditions; the majority of those locked up with conditions are Black people. To further alarm, L.A. County is advancing a proposal for a new facility that includes treatment for a growing number of medically and mentally ill people. Studies show that people with mental health conditions worsen in jails. For those who enter jail without a mental health issue, their chance of developing a condition doubles once they are in jail. How can L.A. County’s solution be to put people in conditions proven to worsen their health?

“This is abhorrent and unforgivable. It is not something the county should be investing in. As a member of Justice LA’s executive committee, JustLeadershipUSA supports the idea that communities in L.A. County are in need of justice reinvestment and community-based alternatives that would prevent people from getting to the point of charges or convictions that allow judges or prosecutors to block pathways to healing.

“Instead, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has voted to approve an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility – a key moment in the proposed 3.7-billion-dollar expansion of a facility that’s already an egregious outlier in size and scope and that is an obstacle to goals of mental health, safety, and justice. Depopulating and deconstructing facilities is the only real solution to L.A.’s jail crisis. We cannot double-down on failed policies that have criminalized, incarcerated, and traumatized our communities.

“The EIR vote was a crucial opportunity in which the Board of Supervisors could have chosen to reimagine what our communities could look like without this harmful institution. Instead, the Board has chosen to expand a jail complex that is an incubator of trauma and violence that targets Black and brown people disproportionately. The Board chose to build cages when we know what they must do, instead, is build communities by allowing reinvestment of this unfathomable amount of money into community-based services and solutions, with reinvestments guided by the people most harmed by L.A. County’s horrific legacy of punishment and torture.

“We will continue to stand alongside directly impacted communities to demand a moratorium on jail construction and to reclaim and reimagine what L.A. County could do with a $3.5 billion justice reinvestment.”

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