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State should invest money in kids, not prisons, L.A. activists say

Justice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeMark Ridley-ThomasJerry Brown

A day after leaders in Sacramento reached a deal on a proposed solution to prison overcrowding, advocates in Los Angeles rallied outside the jail complex downtown to call for funds to be diverted to early childhood education rather than prisons.

The activists convened by Raising California Together -- a coalition of labor groups, community organization and education advocates -- rallied outside the Twin Towers jail Tuesday with children dressed in uniforms including those of a police officer, a construction worker and a chef.

"We know what investment is about. We want to make the investment on the front end. That is early childhood education," Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the crowd, before heading back to the county's regular weekly board meeting.

Leaders in Sacramento agreed to ask a panel of three federal judges for time to expand rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing the number of released inmates who commit new crimes and return to prison.

Advocates in Los Angeles said the state should also restore funding to preschool programs.

"The first five years have the potential to determine if this child receives a high school diploma or a jail sentence," child-care provider Marta Delgado said in Spanish.

Federal judges deemed California's prisons unconstitutionally crowded and gave them until Dec. 31 to reduce the inmate population by 9,600.

If the judges reject an extension, the state will implement Gov. Jerry Brown's original plan to spend $315 million this year moving inmates to private prisons, county jails and other facilities. The money for the extra housing would come from the state's $1.1-billion reserve. 

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Twitter: @sewella

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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