Justice Reform Group Opposes Los Angeles County Deal with Firm Linked to Law Enforcement

PC: Cedric Letsch
Via Unsplash

By The Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – The criminal justice reform group La Defensa this week, in a strongly worded statement, said it opposes the Los Angeles County’s contract for “a consulting firm with a disturbing track record of working with local and federal law enforcement agencies.”

La Defensa noted the county’s expenditure was not in the spirit of a “measure designed moving LA County dollars to community-based services outside of law enforcement, including pretrial services.”

“With the support of over two million voters, the coalition successfully passed Measure J in 2020. Despite best efforts from law enforcement special interest groups to overturn Measure J, it was upheld by the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in July,” explained La Defensa.

The group added, “Measure J has been ruled constitutional and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors (BOS) have committed to its implementation by creating the Care First Community Investment funding and advisory committee.”

“The language of the board policy clearly states that Care First Community Investment funding should be used for ‘pre-trial non-custody services and treatment.’ Despite these guidelines, the county has chosen to spend these precious resources intended for services to contract with Accenture, a consulting firm with a disturbing track record of working with local and federal law enforcement agencies,” La Defensa said. 

“La Defensa opposes the use of Care First Community Investment funding (also known as Measure J) for the Accenture contract and joins the calls for the LA County Board of Supervisors to cancel the contract and immediately redirect the dollars to be spent on pretrial services, as intended by the board’s own policy, the recommendations of the Care First Community Investment Committee (CFCI) and the language of Measure J,” the group argued in its statement.

Ivette Alé-Ferlito, executive director of La Defensa, said, “Over the last five years, I have volunteered my time in county commissions and workgroups guiding pretrial reform for LA County, including the drafting of the ATI [Alternatives to Incarceration Initiative] Workgroup’s pretrial recommendations outlined in the Care First Jails Last Report. 

“Among the recommendations, the workgroup called for the creation of ‘an independent, cross-functional entity, situated outside of law enforcement,’ ‘presumption of pretrial release for all individuals,’ and ‘warm handoffs to community-based systems of care, to provide targeted services.’ 

“This is the blueprint the county should be following to jump-start pretrial services now. For years, we have consistently advocated directly to the BOS, the County’s Chief Executive Officer and relevant county departments to begin implementation of the ATI recommendations as written without further delays.”

Alé-Ferlito added, “Unfortunately, the county chose to create yet another committee essentially replicating the ATI processes minus its robust and transparent community engagement, in what appears as another delay tactic.”

“We have remained steadfast in uplifting the pretrial justice principles that center presumption of innocence and services over supervision. VERA Institute of Justice, another group that participated in the Steering Committee, recently released a statement detailing critiques of the process, all of which we share. We will not let La Defensa’s name be used to justify or validate the county’s errors, especially a contract funded with dollars meant for pretrial services,” Alé-Ferlito said.

La Defensa’s Alé-Ferlito said there are “fatal flaws because people incarcerated pretrial are dying at alarming rates inside of our jail system, many of whom could have been released had the county acted sooner to fund and implement the recommendations delivered to them over four years ago. 

“The County must act now to change course and begin the implementation of pretrial services like an accessible court date reminder system, a functional transportation assistance program, and case management, rather than delay life-saving implementation with more reports.”

“Ensuring pretrial justice for LA County is central…we support the demands to cancel the Accenture contract and call on the county to redirect that funding to services immediately. We also support Vera’s demand that LA County hire an experienced and dedicated pretrial services director to guide the creation of services. It is past time the county course corrects their mistakes and makes good on their promises,” Alé-Ferlito added.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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