On March 3, Los Angeles County will vote for a new ballot initiative regarding jail reforms. Known as Measure R, the “LA County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission Ordinance,” is designed to bring oversight, transparency, and accountability to the LA County’s Sheriff Department.
Journalist and activist Jasmyne Cannick, who is running for a seat on the County Central Committee, AD 53 on the same ballot as Measure R, has been known to be an advocate for reforming California’s jails. Especially LA County jails, which are known to be overcrowded. In 2018, she was the Measure R campaign director.
If Measure R is adopted, it would require the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan. This means that it will focus on reducing the jail population by redirecting $3.5 billion, which was previously expected to be spent on jail expansion, toward mental health care and youth center programs, as well as the Office of Re-entry and Diversion.
Measure R will also be able to expand legal powers to the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to effectively and independently investigate misconduct and corruption, which has been a major issue in the past.
LA County has the largest jail population in the country, as well as the largest jailed population with mental health issues. The average daily population at LA county jails is around 17,000. Of that, 5,500 suffer from an acute mental illness, but receive no treatment. Another 70 percent of that population suffers from substance abuse.
Once released from jail, 25 percent end up homeless.
It costs an estimated $1 billion annually to incarcerate LA residents. One of the main reasons LA jails are overcrowded is because many of those awaiting trial have been arrested for non-violent offenses and cannot afford bail.
The non profit social welfare organization “Equal Justice Now,” which advocates against false arrest, unreasonable detention, wrongful conviction and incarceration, believes that Measure R has a chance to succeed.
“We do believe that Measure R will take place and reduce incarceration rates of African-Americans. By spending money on mental health programs, youth centers and reducing recidivism rates in LA County, this will definitely have the impact of lowering the incarceration rates of African-Americans,” a spokesperson for Equal Justice Now said. “Additionally, Measure R would give the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission the authority to use its own members and staff to conduct investigations regarding complaints by inmates to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). We believe this will help inmates against false arrests, unreasonable detention and wrongful convictions.”
In order to reduce crime the Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan and Feasibility Study will recognize needed crime prevention, as well as treatment programs to create a new public safety, by diverting resources.
This new ballot measure would also mean change for the LAPD and its current tactics.
“Equal Justice Now does believe that Measure R will change how the LAPD operates. It will hold the LAPD accountable to how defendants are treated and whether there are any abuses associated with false arrests, unreasonable detention and wrongful convictions,” a spokesperson for Equal Justice Now said. “If passed, Measure R would allow citizen complaints to be elevated to the Office of Inspector General who would now be able to determine if there was any wrongdoing by the LAPD.
“We believe that Measure R is a right step in the direction to lower racial disparity rates in LA County by keeping the LAPD accountable to the Office of Inspector General for false arrests, unreasonable detention or wrongful convictions.”