Anti-jail groups launch P.R. offensive against county
Community groups launched a public relations offensive against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday over what they characterized as the county’s failure to look beyond incarceration in the two years since state prison realignment.
The county has struggled to implement the law, which shifted responsibility for tens of thousands of felons convicted of nonviolent offenses from the state to counties. The county’s jails house about 6,000 of the offenders who previously would have gone to prison, and the county probation department has more than 8,000 under its supervision.
County supervisors recently approved contracts that will move about 1,000 of those offenders from county jails to government-run fire camps and to a prison in Kern County run by the city of Taft. They said the moves would prevent the early release of other county jail inmates serving time for serious offenses.
Advocates of alternative sentencing decried the Taft contract in particular, saying that it will divert state realignment money from programs that provide housing and other transitional services to offenders being released from state prison.
They launched a petition drive and Twitter campaign Wednesday calling on the supervisors to increase the share of realignment funds used for rehabilitation to at least 33%, give a full accounting of how the state money has been spent over the last two years, divert more offenders to treatment programs and release those awaiting trial, and curtail the use of aggressive “compliance checks” and incarceration for offenders who violate their probation.
They also called on the county to pay for reentry services for state prison offenders being released as a result of the reform of the “three strikes” law.
“It saddens us and it angers us that in this vast county ... our county supervisors can’t seem to do this right,” said the Rev. Peter Laarman, administrative coordinator of Justice Not Jails, a faith-based jail reform group. "...We believe in rehabilitation, we believe our supervisors can change their ways. Right now, as of this moment, they’re on probation.”
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