In early June, the Yolo County Public Defenders had a march in front of the Yolo Courthouse to emphasize the unequal access to justice that Black and Brown people have in the criminal legal system.
Public Defender Tracie Olson, on TV later that week, was asked about the disparities in the system, and responded, “Honestly we see Black people go to prison for crimes that white people don’t go to prison for…On April 20, I looked at the jail population. We had about a little under 200 people in the jail, 49 of whom were Black. So that’s 25% of our Yolo County jail population is Black. Yolo County’s demographic population is 3% Black. So we have over an 800% over-representation of Black men and women in our local jail. So it is a local problem.”
DA Jeff Reisig in multiple press releases took the comments as a personal affront and demanded to Ms. Olson “the ethical and legal obligation is on you to appear in public session before your employers, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, and demonstrate the truth of your televised allegations of racism and corruption against judges and law enforcement from two weeks ago with facts and evidence. On issues as important as these, at a time as critical as now, silence or fact-dodging is not acceptable.”
On Tuesday, the board of supervisors put forward a resolution that goes far broader than a strict focus on the criminal legal system. However, they acknowledge the core underlying issue that Public Defender Olson attempted to highlight.
In a resolution that recognizes “racism as a public health crisis,” one of the provisions notes: “Black and Latinx residents of Yolo County are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.”
The core of the message goes far deeper, recognizing “socio-economic and race-based disparities,” racial gaps in life expectancy, and “racism creates health inequities that result in disparities in family stability, physical and mental wellness, education, employment, public safety, criminal justice and housing.”
RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING RACISM AS A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
WHEREAS, historically, racism has manifested as discrimination and oppression toward numerous populations resulting in suppression, trauma and long-term detriments; and
WHEREAS, the United States Office of Disease Prevention recognizes that discrimination negatively impacts health outcomes; and
WHEREAS, in Yolo County we have local data that demonstrates the tremendous impact that social and institutional inequities like racism have on life expectancy across different communities in the county; and
WHEREAS, disparities start early, are rooted in social and economic inequities, and manifest themselves in poor health outcomes throughout life; and
WHEREAS, from unmet childcare needs to disparate third grade reading levels, Yolo County recognizes the socio-economic and race-based disparities; and
WHEREAS, individuals living in certain affluent areas of Yolo County can expect to live approximately 14 years longer than their counterparts living in less affluent areas; and
WHEREAS, racism has given rise to further geographic segregation and disproportionately exposes Black and Latinx people to poor air quality, inadequate nutrition, and a lack of recreational and health care facilities; and
WHEREAS, Black and Latinx residents of Yolo County are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system; and
WHEREAS, when the building blocks for a healthy, long and prosperous life are disproportionately allocated, the community as a whole suffers; and
WHEREAS, educating the community on racial health inequities, processing the trauma of the past, creating a new narrative based a vision of health equity, equal justice and impartiality, can help to heal and change a community.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors of Yolo County affirms that racism creates health inequities that result in disparities in family stability, physical and mental wellness, education, employment, public safety, criminal justice and housing; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors of Yolo County has committed to a course of action that recognizes and addresses racism and its attendant inequities in a manner that will endeavor to erase the pernicious and destructive damage of racism by ensuring meaningful progress in improving, for the good of all residents, inequalities in physical and mental health, education, employment, public safety, the judicial system and housing.