By Roni Ayalon
LOS ANGELES, CA – Re-Imagine LA Coalition released its “Care First Budget Report” this past Monday, including an analysis of the LA County FY 2023-2024 budget and its shortcomings, and charged the county must reduce “funding for the failed Sheriff and Probation departments.”
In short, the coalition said, the budget is an “over-investment in systems of harm.”
It also reported on “the status of Care First Community Investment (CFCI), AB 109 implementation,” and other important initiatives, according to La Defensa, a “community-based advocacy org dedicated to decarcerating the largest jail population in the US,” and part of the coordinating committee for Re-Imagine LA Coalition, along with Black Lives Matter LA, TransLatin@ Coalition, and others.
According to the Coalition’s report, “The County must align the [FY 2023-2024] budget with a Care First vision, and fully invest in CFCI, while reducing funding for the failed Sheriff and Probation departments.”
Care First Community Investment (CFCI) is an LA Board of Supervisors initiative that, according to the County’s Justice Care and Opportunities Department (JCOD), is “committed to creating a new kind of justice system that prioritizes giving people the help they need to stay out of jail in the first place—and makes it easier for people returning from incarceration to get the support they need to rebuild their lives.”
CFCI started as a ballot measure to “allocate at least 10 percent of the County’s locally generated unrestricted revenues to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice through direct community investment and alternatives to incarceration,” according to JCOD.
Once the measure was passed in 2020, the Re-Imagine LA Advisory Committee was created to “help develop proposals for spending the 10 percent set-aside.” The JCOD says the fiscal redistribution proposals include “direct investments in communities and funding for alternatives to incarceration.”
“Despite a clear voter mandate to invest $900 million annually in affordable housing, good-paying jobs and mental health, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and County CEO have only invested 21 percent of this amount in community services to date,” said Re-Imagine LA.
La Defensa’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, Megan Castillo, who also serves as a Coordinator for the Re-Imagine LA Coalition, said, “Los Angeles County’s budget reflects an over-investment in systems of harm and serves as an indication of the County’s values and leadership.
“The CEO’s recommended budget proposes a troubling increase in Sheriff’s funding, and an insufficient amount of funding for Care First Community Investment. Re-Imagine LA encourages the Board and CEO to reverse these trends by allocating more resources to Care First priorities this budget cycle.”
La Defensa said the report also explains “the ‘care first’ possibilities inherent in smart planning for the use of the AB 109 funding stream.”
According to the report, Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109) “aimed to reduce state prison overcrowding and potentially reduce state incarceration costs by shifting responsibility for people who are charged and convicted for nonserious, non-violent, and non-sexual convictions to counties rather than to state prisons.”
It “expanded county probation departments’ ‘post release community supervision’ responsibilities, increased the length of sentences possible in county jails, and ‘required’ counties to make educational, rehabilitative, and restorative justice programs available.”
The report continues, “So far, AB 109 has not been able to fulfill its purpose of reducing jail populations because the funding has not yet reached community organizations with the highest re-entry needs.”
Ivette Alé-Ferlito, Executive Director and Co-Founder of La Defensa, stated, “The AB 109 budget stream presents LA County with an opportunity to robustly fund community-based services.
Alé-Ferlito added the county “must interpret this funding stream broadly, as progressive counties like Alameda County and Contra Costa County have done, and use AB 109 dollars for pressing diversion and alternatives to incarceration needs. In so doing, the County can save lives lost in deadly County jails, and reduce wasteful spending on cost prohibitive and ineffective incarceration.”
Furthermore, “the report unpacks the critical nature of centering gender justice in County and Statewide budget advocacy, referencing LA County’s Gender Responsive Advisory Committee Report and building upon its recommendations. The 2023-2024 Care First Budget Report reads, ‘It is imperative that LA County Invest in the decarceration of LA County CRDF and K6G with a lens for how to help Black, Latine and Indigenous TGI+ and LGB+ communities thrive this budget cycle.’
CRDF refers to Century Regional Detention Center, a women’s jail facility. According to the report, saying K6G is “a separate unit that incarcerates TGI+ and LGB+ people in MCJ,” which stands for Men’s Central Jail in LA.
The report notes K6G “has the highest overrepresentation of Black people of any carceral setting in the County, making the need to decarcerate this unit all the more pressing.”
The President and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, said, “An investment in services and in the lives of Trans, Gender-Expansive, and Intersex TGI communities must be centered in this budget cycle.
“TransLatin@ Coalition has authored statewide demands that LA County must advocate for that are comprehensive plans for TGI+ re-entry housing, workforce development, and health. If the County fails to advocate for these things, TGI+ people will continue to be over-incarcerated and under-invested in.”
Advocates in the report urged MCJ must be closed and said the County needs to “… reduc[e] the jail population to less than 8,500 people, allocat[e] $275 million for mental-health treatment beds, and fully fund… an independent pretrial services agency.”
Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, co-founder and executive director of Dignity and Power Now, added, “There are so many opportunities this budget cycle to invest in the specific funding streams that will allow us to close Men’s Central Jail in the near future. With 17 deaths in the jails reported by LASD the first quarter of this year alone — at least eight of them deaths by suicide — it has never been more timely that we close these deadly facilities.”