Authorities seek to invest in their youth success and not their incarceration.

Los Angeles County Proposes to Decrease Adult and Juvenile Prison Population

LA correctional facilities.

Impremedia / Impremedia

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two motions on Tuesday related to criminal justice reforms for youth and adults.

One of them was presented by supervisor Hilda Solís. It directs the relevant county departments to come up with a 30-day plan that explains how to keep reductions for youth incarcerated in Los Angeles County youth camps and prisons.

Supervisor Solís said that in the past three months, the population of youth detained in county youth jails has decreased by approximately 200 youth, leaving only 355 detainees. And the population in youth camps has decreased by 90 youth leaving just over 200 detainees.

"We did this to protect the health and well-being of incarcerated youth and county employees who work in these custody facilities," said Supervisor Solis. "Without a vaccine, physical distancing is our most effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19."

The motion seeks to explore ways to maintain a diminished population of youth detained in jails and youth camps. Los Angeles County has the highest numbers of African American and Latino inmates.

"We are at a crossroads, where we must not allow anyone to mistakenly assume that African-American and Latino youth with severe trauma pose a threat," said the supervisor. "Rather, we must care for the well-being of these young people and invest in their success to make sure they have a chance to prosper."

Last year the board of supervisors created the Youth Justice Work Group to explore the transition of the Los Angeles County juvenile justice system outside of the Probation Department to another agency, with the goal of creating a rehabilitation system, focused on health and primary care.

The supervisor said that with this group the Board has demonstrated its commitment to following an approach to pay more direct attention to young people.

"Now is the time for all of us to take a step forward and continue moving towards equality of justice and equity for all," said Solís.

The second motion was written by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-written by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to keep the prison population of adults lower after the COVID-19 crisis has ended.

According to supervisors, the Los Angeles County prison system has been overcrowded for decades. Among the seven prisons there is a population of 17,000 people on average daily in a system with a capacity of only 12,404.

However, since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) and local authorities have worked together to reduce the prison population by 5,000 people. As of June 2, there was a prison population of 12,026.

"Overcrowding in prison creates dire conditions for everyone," said supervisor Janice Hahn. "Not only does it make it almost impossible to control disease outbreaks, but it also creates terrible conditions for inmates and officers."

The motion requests that LASD, the Diversion and Reentry Office, and other entities submit a report to the board of supervisors in 60 days with a post-COVID plan19.

The document must explain how they will maintain a reduction in the prison population below the nominal capacity established by the State and Community Board of Corrections, while continuing to protect public security and guarantee adequate services for those released.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the County must continue this unprecedented progress to keep the population to a minimum.

“A pandemic was needed to alleviate overcrowding and meet state requirements, which is a powerful statement on the resistance of the criminal justice system to change. However, we remain undeterred, ”said Ridley-Thomas. "This is the right time for the county to renew its commitment to ending excessive incarceration, expanding alternatives to incarceration, expanding the work of the Diversion and Reentry Office, and addressing racial inequity."


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