Social Justice Groups Demand LA County Budget ‘Invest’ in Community, Not Sheriff’s Dept

Re-Imagine L.A. County Facebook Page

By Michele Chadwick

LOS ANGELES, CA – Social justice groups—including JusticeLA, Re-Imagine LA and the Los Angeles Youth Uprising Coalition—rallied last week to criticize the proposed LA County’s budget, calling for supervisors to close youth jails, and prioritize monies for the unhoused community.

This year’s budget, they said, cuts $87 million of vital American Rescue Plan funding from community-based programs while simultaneously increasing the sheriff department’s budget by $2 million.

This budget increase is particularly controversial because the Inspector General reports a record number of deaths in LA county jails in 2021.

In a statement, the groups charged, “This austerity has a dramatic impact on the lives of thousands of Angelenos, and sends a message that the Board is willing to increase investments in the Sheriff’s Department – full of fraud, misconduct and waste – while leaving our communities out in the cold.”

The first speaker at the rally,  Michaé De La Cuadra, Campaign Coordinator for the Budget to Save Lives Coalition, coordinated with the county in 2019 in their discussions involving alternatives to incarceration work programs and the need to support the community first.

The result of these discussions was the Care First Community Investment. The intention of this program was funding community-based services rather than prioritize incarceration.

Another speaker, Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, Executive Director of Dignity and Power Now, said, “We have a deadly human rights crisis in our jails.”

Clayton-Johnson argued, “That crisis is the result of people not getting the services and care they need long before they were arrested. Those needs require an expansion of resources and sustained investment in the Care First, Jail Last roadmap, not dramatic cuts that will strain Black and Brown communities more.”

Through the Care First Community Investment there was a projected $900 million set for the community, but the county only allocated 21 percent of those funds to the community. Additionally, critics said, as the money passes through county processes, less and less of the funds will reach the community.

Cuadra said, “It’s a disservice to the community. There is this $900 million promised but only scraps are being given to the community, while $4.5 billion are being given to the sheriff and police departments.”

Cuadra called for the county to invest the money in things “that will help us rather than hurt us” and gave a list of recommendations on how to do so.

The first was fully funding the Care First Community Investment and fulfilling their promise. Second, fund Youth Justice Reimagined and the Department of Youth Development. Third, allocate $237 funds million for 3,000 mental health beds to support those struggling from mental health issues after being released from jail. 

And, fourth, establish a new independent pre-trial services agency with an estimated $110 million rather than jail accused individuals before they are convicted or charged. Lastly, decrease the sheriff and police budget which is currently at $4.5 billion.

By decreasing the sheriff and police budget, critics maintain, the county can reinvest in the community, which is effective in reducing crime.

“The Sheriff’s Department has a track record of violence and receiving unnecessary funding,” said De La Cuadra.

Cuadra added, “Community members have been advocating for a Care First budget for years – one that deprioritizes law enforcement and focuses on funding for Black, Brown, Indigenous, Queer and Trans communities to build and expand their own systems of care.”

“The Board has an opportunity to invest in proven community safety measures that have been working. Instead, their cuts will be felt deeply by all of Los Angeles County,” Cuadra added.

The rally included many speakers describing their experiences navigating L.A. County and the difficulties within their communities due to a lack of resources.

About The Author

Michele is a senior at UC Santa Barbara from Los Angles County.

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