Yolo County to Pass Resolution Recognizing Racism As a Public Health Crisis

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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.”

Full resolution…

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.


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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57 thoughts on “Yolo County to Pass Resolution Recognizing Racism As a Public Health Crisis”

  1. Chris Griffith

    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.

    Could you possibly give us a breakdown of what crimes these 49 individuals committed in Yolo county?

     

     

    1. Eric Gelber

      … what crimes these 49 individuals committed …

      The vast majority of county jail inmates (approximately 70% nationwide) have not been convicted of any crime.

      1. Ron Oertel

        A more meaningful statistic might be to show what percentage are ultimately convicted, and whether or not there’s differences between skin color, regarding that (among those arrested).

        Skimming through the resolution itself, it appears to be nothing more than hot air.

        1. Tia Will

          Ron

          From the point of view of a local, now retired MD, I can assure you that these statements, at least as regards medical care in our community are anything but “hot air”.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I would argue if the County Governing Board acknowledges them it would be revolutionary. I think Ron is mistaking this for an action item – it’s not – it’s a recognition though.

      2. Ron Oertel

        The vast majority of county jail inmates (approximately 70% nationwide) have not been convicted of any crime.

        Actually, I have a question regarding that, as well.  Does this mean that those 70% have never been convicted of any crime?  Or, just that no judgement has been made regarding what they’re currently being accused of?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Thanks.  The manner in which Eric worded that seemed to imply that they had never been convicted of any crime.

          But perhaps the more important figure is how many of those being held actually are convicted, e.g., on average.

        2. Tia Will

          Ron,

          Why would that matter unless you believe individuals should be incarcerated for past crimes for which they have already served their sentence?

           

        3. Ron Oertel

          Tia:  Again, Eric’s comment implied that they had never been convicted of a crime.

          That’s all I was trying to clarify.

          But the more important number here is what percentage are ultimately convicted of the crime that they’re now accused of, on average.

        4. Ron Oertel

          Another possibly interesting statistic to look at (e.g., in regard to the 200 in the local jail) is the type of crime that one is accused of, and whether or not there’s differences between skin color regarding that.

          For example, are the 49 African-Americans being accused of a lesser crime, than the other 150 or so detainees?

          A lot of this type of examination is not necessarily going to point to one conclusion, or another. Unless one is looking at it with an intent to prove a point, to begin with.

        5. Ron Oertel

          But, one thing I’m pretty confident in saying is that most detainees are probably younger males, thereby proving that the system is stacked against that cohort/gender.  😉

        6. Eric Gelber

          But perhaps the more important figure is how many of those being held actually are convicted, e.g., on average.

          That would provide some relevant information, unless the rate of convictions is also subject to racial bias. Consider, for example, the following finding of the National Registry of Exonerations, at UC Irvine:

          African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated. They constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large-scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.”

          http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Race_and_Wrongful_Convictions.pdf

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Good example, the Brooklyn series we’ve been running, I believe 24 of the 25 exonerees were Black

        7. Bill Marshall

          In addition to your good point, remember the adage, “Past performance (people or processes) is no guarantee of future results”… so, we’re agreeing, but I’m amplifying…

        8. Ron Oertel

          If one were to actually examine this issue (honestly), you’d have to examine whether or not African-Americans (for example) commit crimes at a higher rate, and what types of crimes.

          I don’t have much faith that such an examination is forthcoming. And yet, it’s the elephant in the room, that no one wants to examine. It seems to be much more “popular” these days, to just claim that the criminal justice system itself is racist. The problem is that this argument lacks credibility, without such an examination.

          Without an honest examination (and/or acknowledgement), none of the other statistics provide much evidence of discrimination regarding the criminal justice system itself.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Ron – has it ever occurred to you to do basic Google searches before posting comments?

            On this subject, I would recommend Prof. John Pfaff’s research. “Locked In” is a good start, but you can find various essays of his elsewhere. These have been addressed in the literature.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            Here’s another well-known finding from the system:

            “Over the course of their lives, white people are more likely than Black people to use illicit drugs in general, as well as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs (for non-medical purposes) specifically. Data on more recent drug use (for example, in the past year) shows that Black and white adults use illicit drugs other than marijuana at the same rates and that they use marijuana at similar rates.

            Yet around the country, Black adults are more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white adults to be arrested for drug possession.”

            Link

          3. David Greenwald Post author

            “In the 39 states for which we have sufficient police data, Black adults were more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white adults.”

            ibid

        9. Ron Oertel

          Regarding the “past crimes” comment, one might also examine what percentage of those who have been convicted are ultimately convicted again.

          But, it’s really a side point.

        10. Ron Oertel

          Ron – has it ever occurred to you to do basic Google searches before posting comments?

          Has it ever occurred to you to present the full story, without bias (and insults)?

          I can tell you that (with near-certainty) that there is a “societal belief” that African-Americans commit more crime, or certain types of crime.  Suggest that you address that, before concluding that the criminal justice system is targeting African-Americans for no reason.

          Actually, I did post an article which showed that it is, in fact, true. No, it wasn’t from some right-wing source.

          But what I actually see is a societal refusal to even examine the issue, fully. It is simply too politically-unpopular to do so.

           

           

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Has it ever occurred to you that I’m writing an article, not publishing a study? There is plenty of information out there and your initial comment acted as though you had a novel concept.

            “I can tell you that (with near-certainty) that there is a “societal belief” that African-Americans commit more crime. ”

            And I can tell you that’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. The basic finding from the research is that blacks are more likely to get arrested for the same crimes, more likely to be charge, more likely to serve time, and more likely to serve longer time for comparable crimes. That’s the problem. I’ve been publishing this stuff for over a decade – studies, findings, etc. There is a lot out there. This was a simple piece on a BOS resolution. I’m not going to turn it into a dissertation. I suggest if you are interested in this topic – since you keep commenting on it, you must be – you do more reading.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            There is no resistance. I’ve published it. This article was not about the questions you are asking. That’s extra.

        11. Ron Oertel

          That’s the problem.

          That’s “a” problem, which is also likely related to differences in crime rates to begin with.  It’s a side-effect, as is an inordinate number of traffic stops.

          When you start with actual differences in crime rates, please do let me know.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Racism underlies the criminal legal system – at every step. That’s why the nation is having this conversation.

        12. Ron Oertel

          Racism underlies the criminal legal system – at every step. That’s why the nation is having this conversation.

          There is no honest conversation occurring.  And, there’s not likely to be one.

          Remember Mr. Pickles?

          One would actually do best to steer away from the entire issue, or just go along with the flow.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You’re moving the goalpost here. My point is the reason we have seen what we have since May 25 is that there is a problem and people are responding to that problem.

        13. Ron Oertel

          But, as long as there’s not an honest conversation, there won’t actually be any resolution.  Instead, most folks will just keep quiet, realizing that there’s no way to discuss this issue honestly.  It’s a “lose-lose” proposition to even try to do so.

          And presenting statistics which don’t actually address the issue ultimately won’t convince anyone, other than those already convinced of a particular point of view.

          What you’re seeing nationwide, however, is that folks don’t want police to engage in unnecessary violence. A relatively easy thing to agree on, and something that was not previously so obvious.

          You’ll also see cell phones and other video sources increasingly used to show violent crimes, though.

        14. Ron Oertel

          Has it ever occurred to you that I’m writing an article, not publishing a study? 

          Every day.  And, studies that you do present are those which support whatever you’re trying to “prove”.

          Truth be told, I think you’re too wrapped-up in this issue to examine it objectively.

        15. Eric Gelber

          Ron – You keep harping on the alleged “resistance“ to honestly address or understand the issue. You apparently mean identifying differences in “actual” crime rates between Blacks and whites.

          I’m curious as to how you would design a statistical study to answer that question. There are variables you can control for—e.g., income level, age, education. But other factors influence crime rate data that can’t be measured or controlled for, most notably systemic biases at all points of the criminal justice system, including those David identified in his 11:15 a.m. comment.

          Perhaps the resistance is on the part of those who refuse to recognize the effect of racism in influencing the available data and, consequently, public perceptions.

        16. Ron Oertel

          Ron – You keep harping on the alleged “resistance“ to honestly address or understand the issue. You apparently mean identifying differences in “actual” crime rates between Blacks and whites.

          Such an examination would not necessarily be limited to “blacks” and “whites”.  There may very well be differences regarding other groups, as well.

          It’s entirely possible that “whites” engage in more crime than other groups, for example.

          The “harping” that you are detecting is due to the resistance that I’m perceiving by some to even consider the question, before concluding that the result is due to a racist criminal justice system. I’m sure that a lot of people would consider the question itself to be “racist”, despite it being FUNDAMENTAL, regarding “results”.

          I’m curious as to how you would design a statistical study to answer that question.

          It would be challenging to do so, given that some would then claim that the system is biased (and therefore cannot represent results accurately), rather than being due to differences in crime rates.

          One aspect that might be looked at (rather easily) is the crime rate in traditionally “black” neighborhoods (e.g, the murder rate).  Then, compare that to traditionally “white” or “Asian” neighborhoods, for example.

          Perhaps the resistance is on the part of those who refuse to recognize the effect of racism in influencing the available data and, consequently, public perceptions.

          A “chicken-and-egg” scenario.  Which came first?  Crime rate, or perceptions?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “Such an examination ”

            Such an examination has been conducted over the years by people with decades of training in such matters and who are experts on both them and statistical methods. You seem to be unaware of this volume of research. I recommended one such book. You made no comment about it.

            When these conversations arise you raise objections that have already been raised and discarded and call for examinations that have already been done – here and elsewher.e

        17. Ron Oertel

          When these conversations arise you raise objections that have already been raised and discarded and call for examinations that have already been done – here and elsewhere.

          Just to clarify, you’re claiming that the referenced book shows that there’s no difference in crime rates between those of different colors?

          I call b.s.

           

           

        18. Ron Oertel

          When these conversations arise you raise objections that have already been raised and discarded and call for examinations that have already been done – here and elsewhere.

          Just to clarify, you’re claiming that the referenced book shows that there’s no difference in crime rates between those of different colors?

          I call this complete and total b.s., if that’s what’s being claimed. And if you believe it, that would explain a lot.

          It would almost be statistically impossible for that to occur, and defies common sense.

          Again, I posted an article which showed the opposite.

           

           

        19. Eric Gelber

          One aspect that might be looked at (rather easily) is the crime rate in traditionally “black” neighborhoods (e.g, the murder rate).  Then, compare that to traditionally “white” or “Asian” neighborhoods, for example.

          Not quite so “easily.” If, for example, there’s a far greater police presence, or more frequent police random stops in non-white neighborhoods, then the data aren’t comparable.

        20. David Greenwald Post author

          This is what 538 referred to as the “Collider bias” problem – link

          Namely, “the crime data that shows racial bias is, itself, biased by racist practices.” 

        21. Ron Oertel

          Not quite so “easily.” If, for example, there’s a far greater police presence, or more frequent police random stops in non-white neighborhoods, then the data aren’t comparable.

          Count up the dead/murdered bodies during a given period in one area, and compare it to another. Parts of Chicago come to mind, recently.

          Unless you think the police are “dumping” them there, to prove a point.

        22. Ron Oertel

          I’m starting to think that an old (but modified) saying might apply to the entire situation:

          “Racism is in the eye of the beholder”. Or, at least “interpreted” by those eyes, at times.

          What a “beautiful and uplifting” thought, like the original saying. 😉

        23. Eric Gelber

          “Count up the … bodies”. But if Blacks are more likely to be charged with first degree murder than whites, and more likely to be convicted even on the same charges, or if whites are more likely to be charged with manslaughter under similar circumstances, can we conclude the murder rate is higher in the Black neighborhood?

        24. David Greenwald Post author

          Or to put it another way, even if we accept Ron’s contention on crime rates (and there are mixed results there imo), that only addresses step one – arrests, not the rest of the equation.

        25. Ron Oertel

          Unequal enforcement?  Sure.

          But, I suspect that a lot more murders/serious crimes go unsolved, in areas primarily occupied by African-Americans.  And, a lot more of them occur.

          So, is the system “stacked” against whites, since they’re more likely to be caught and prosecuted?  😉

          Before I commit more “faux pas”, is it now “blacks”, or is it “African-Americans”? This type of thing changes more often than advances in computer technology, and it’s such a BIG DEAL.

          After all, I better prove that I’m not a racist or insensitive jerk. (Well, too late for the latter, at least.)

        26. David Greenwald Post author

          That leads me to an important question – why is Ron focused on murder when murder is a tiny fraction of the incarcerated population?

        27. Ron Oertel

          why is Ron focused on murder when murder is a tiny fraction of the incarcerated population?

          It was an example, but I wouldn’t even listen to the guy, if I were you.  😉

          You win – the system is out to get certain groups, for no reason other than the color of their skin. Nothing to do with crime, other than on the part of the police and system.

  2. Bill Marshall

    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.

    Point one:  what course of action?

    Point two:  “improving… inequalities”?

    As to point 1, would have been better if there was indeed, a course of action that the BOS adopted…

    As to point 2, would have beet better worded if “reducing”, “mitigating”, or “eliminating” was used instead of “improving”… by about 180 degrees…

    The other concept that gets confused… “equal opportunity”, vs. “equal outcomes”….

    1. Bill Marshall

      Society can and should make “equal opportunity” a strong goal… “equal outcome” is often based on an individual, or their situation growing up…

      Ex. : a white male, growing up in an affluent family, but a dysfunctional family, may have a poorer outcome than a female POC in a lower middle-class loving, supportive family…

      Just saying… I was lucky… lower middle class family, loving/supportive… good outcomes… but yeah, a white male… some would say it is all due to “that”… but we struggled to afford college, so was the first in my immediate family to get a degree… and two professional registrations…

    2. Alan Miller

      The other concept that gets confused… “equal opportunity”, vs. “equal outcomes”….

      I believe that is at the core of the disagreements here (and all over the country).  A more ‘conservative’ belief is ‘equal opportunity’, a more progressive belief is ‘equal outcome’.  My heart is with the progressive belief.  My life experience is that government F-s up most everything it touches and makes the problems worse, and that government cannot be seen as the savior for these problems.  Simply giving money, in whatever form or program, often exacerbates the problem long-term, and creates new self-perpetuating bureaucracies and money holes.

      It would be heartless to fail to recognize that, overall, some groups’ starting lines in the ‘race’ of life are far behind the starting lines of others.  This isn’t ‘fair’.  The group trauma caused by horrific practices such as slavery cannot simply be brushed off.   These hurts permeate cultures and peoples.

      I don’t know what the resolution does.  This seems worded as a trap.  How could a politician vote against such a resolution?  They would be branded a racist in the modern climate.  So they acknowledged something and pledge something — the below.

      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.

      Is it so far fetched to call this hot air?  It seems the supes have declared a completely undefined set of programs that would require massive redistribution of wealth far beyond their willingness to instigate nor their powers to implement.

      I invite you to prove me wrong.  But I have a feeling if we were to re-visit this resolution one year from today, those who found the resolution appealing will be very disappointed in anything the supes have done to make it for reals.

      1. Tia Will

        Alan

        “Simply giving money, in whatever form or program, often exacerbates the problem long-term, and creates new self-perpetuating bureaucracies and money holes”

        Your statement seems to erroneously imply that government aide entails “simply giving money”, but that is often not the case. Without social security, a government program, I would have been homeless and reliant on charity for food after my father’s death. Who would have benefitted from that outcome? My first job, designed specifically for at-risk youth was funded by taxpayer funds and was instrumental in me later getting private-sector jobs. Where was the long term harm? My entire education from public schools, community college, state university, UCD medical school, my internship at a county hospital, and first two years as a GMO were all government-subsidized. Would our society be better served if only the independently wealthy could hope for professional careers?

        I think many who default to a generalized criticism of government assistance may fail to be aware of its many benefits and/or somehow believe that private enterprise +/- individual philanthropy is somehow sufficient or nobler. I believe this is an erroneous perspective.

      2. Tia Will

        Is it so far fetched to call this hot air? “

        I believe it is for several reasons.

        1. I do not equate aspirational statements with “hot air”.

        2. I don’t think I have ever seen systematic improvement occur without some form of preceding articulation of values and goals.

        3. I am an impatient woman. I am likely to be disappointed in the degree of progress made. That does not mean that progress has not occurred even if not at my desired pace.

        There is no intent to “prove you wrong”, only to present a very different perspective.

         

         

  3. Alan Miller

    If someone had an ancestor who . . .

    If someone had ancestors who had been on this continent for untold thousand of years, and some guy landed here on a ship from White-O-World and thought he was India, would those people be referred to as  “Indians” for hundreds of years after the fact?

    Seems far fetched . . .

  4. Alan Miller

    The ‘disappearances’ have increased in recent weeks.  Silence is violence, but it’s OK to silence others, ‘because we can’ — people of privilege with the privilege of protecting others from so-called hurtful words.  Not a demeaning stance at all.

  5. Chris Griffith

    On April 20, I looked at the jail population

    I consider this cherry-picking data.

    This study should have been carried out at least 4 a year for coming up with some accusation of racism

    As far as a health problem you bet it’s a health problem… The county jail is chock-full a people with mental health problems they’re just not black there every color in the rainbow.😊.

    The county jail is chock-full a people with drug-induced mental illness. If your stand back and look at this little problem it’s not racism it’s a drug problem everybody in that county jail has been arrested for something that was drug-related in one shape or another.

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