Group of experts talks to supervisor Hilda Solís about how to help inmates, far from just penalizing them inside prisons; They emphasize that entering jails now can be a death sentence.
Seeking to clear up misunderstandings of the work between the sheriff’s department and Los Angeles County, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, accompanied by a group of experts, spoke about options for incarceration and some of the problems. minorities face.
Kelly Lytle-Hernández, a UCLA professor, said she worked for years on an investigation into women at the Los Angeles County Jail. There she discovered that the main charges for which women were being admitted were minimal, but kept them locked up for long periods.
“The main charges for women within the Los Angeles County Jail between 2010 and 2016 were possession of narcotics, driving with a suspended license, not appearing in court, and a DUI,” said Lytle-Hernández.
He added that these are internal people, who have needs, who are often in crisis, and instead of penalizing them, the county must address their needs.
“The public narrative will say that we need to put people in these cages to keep us safe, that the police and jails is what stands between us and lawlessness,” said Lytle-Hernández. “But let me tell you, these are all issues that can be addressed with best practices and care approaches.”
Another problem is sheriff violence faced by communities of color. While it’s been known lately, there has been talk of creating gangs within sheriff’s stations themselves and the lack of body cameras makes it easier for officers to break free of certain charges.
Ivette Alé, Senior Policy Officer at Dignity and Power Now, said the experience of these communities has been mentioned for decades.
She explained that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) currently has a budget of more than $ 3 billion.
“But last year alone, the county spent more than $ 80 million on actions and lawsuits, which accounted for 55% of the county’s total liability costs,” said Alé.
“So when we talk about holding the sheriff’s department accountable, we are talking in the broadest way to address the demands that are taken from our taxpayer dollars and that could be invested to address the root causes of the damage.”
Alé said investing in housing support, job training, job opportunities, mental health care, and substance use treatment is best.
The expert stressed that these options are valid not only for the person who is incarcerated but for family members who know that the prisoner will not be treated with dignity and respect within a prison.
They will also be more exposed to more damage, disease and infection, he added.
“And that is more important now than ever because of COVID-19, so if someone goes to jail for a DUI, it could possibly be a death sentence,” said Alé. “These types of arrests have been made a few days ago, just when there have been five people who have died inside the jails due to COVID-19.”
For this reason it is important that entities such as the Civil Supervision Commission exist. This commission is made up of civilian volunteers, are not employees of any government agency, and independently supervises the sheriff’s department, which is the largest in the country.
Commissioner Hernán Vera said that this entity in which he participates was created by the board of supervisors to become a bridge to which the community can have more access through his comments related to the sheriff’s department.
“It serves as a public oversight body to research and study the policies and practices of the sheriff’s department, and to make recommendations to the public, the Board of Supervisors, and the sheriff’s department on how to improve those practices,” Vera said.
The supervisor Hilda Solís explained that through the information provided by the experts, some disinformation that has been shared can be clarified.
“My office continues to work with advocates and shareholders to create systemic change within prisons,” said the supervisor.