Antelope Valley Doesn’t Need to Lock Up the Whole Family

Antelope Valley JailLos Angeles County got its application approved by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) 2016, to spend about $100 million to refurnish the Mira Loma Detention Center and turn it into a woman’s jail due to an increase of prisoners, jail over-crowding, and increasing amount of violence in prison due to lack of resources.

After the refurnishing is done, female prisoners from Century Regional Detention Facility—also known as the Lynwood Women’s Jail—will move to the Lancaster Women’s Jail. Next, the Mens Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles will be demolished and rebuilt.

Once the construction is complete, the male prisoners in Lynwood would return to Men Central Jail. The women prisoners in Lancaster would go back to Lynwood Jail. Lancaster Women Jail will increase the number of female prisoners in time. This entire project would cost Los Angeles $3.5 billion.

This proposal to expand our jail system is terribly shortsighted. There must be problems in our jail system if the CDCR (2016) states that prisoners are more violent today than they were in the past. Something about our jail system must be producing more violence. As stated in the CDCR (2016):

“There are 529 sworn and custody assistant vacancies within Custody Operations and Correctional Services Division. Previous studies indicated that 728 additional custody personnel are necessary to supplement the current staffing in the Los Angeles County Jail System”.

By being extremely understaffed, does that mean that people do not believe in the work of the Los Angeles County Jail System?

Before building a new jail, our communities need to work on jail reform, addressing inequality issues, treatment of prisoners, and jail overcrowding.

There has been a lot of discussion about increasing medical and mental health services in jails coming out of  the Affordable Care Act. But before building a new jail, our communities need to work on jail reform, addressing inequality issues, treatment of prisoners, and jail overcrowding. According the the CDCR (2016) , “Crowded conditions in the jail system have resulted in low-level offenders being released after serving only a very small portion of their sentences or serving no time in jail at all”.

We need to figure out other solutions to keep those accountable without putting people in jail. If low-level crime has anything to do with drug abuse or mental illness, we should invest in mental health services instead of rebuilding and expanding jails.

According to the CDCR (2016), “In a costly cycle of incarceration, release and re-incarceration, mentally ill people come to jail facilities time and time again for crimes that grow out of their mental illness” Clearly, mental services are necessary to improve our communities. A better solution than putting prisoners with mental illness in and out of jail is to have a rehabilitation center instead of another jail.

Law enforcement and our communities need to work on building a relationship to prevent racial profiling that occurs in Los Angeles County, which has a population of 8.7% African Americans in 2010 (US Census 2010), while they represent about 30% of our jail population (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 2016).

It also doesn’t make any sense to expand our jail system with a loan to pay back on with interest and waste taxpayer dollars for services that make prisoners more violent. According to Board of State and Community and Corrections (2011), “Jail construction financing will be administered by CDCR, with oversight provided by the SPWB, from the issuance of lease-revenue bonds. This financing mechanism requires the SPWB on behalf of the State of California to hold an irrevocable leasehold interest of the jail facilities during the term of the lease revenue bonds [approximately 25 years after bonds are sold]”.

Enaya-Hanbali-200This would only make banks more profitable, which is not fair to our communities and government. In the Antelope Valley, Critical Resistance is working with the local community to stop the expansion of our jails. The Antelope Valley is an extremely under-served community that needs many services and can’t afford to have a jail. It is enough that there is a juvenile hall and a men’s state prison; we don’t need to lock up an entire family by having a woman’s jail.

Enaya Hanbali

Enaya Hanbali is a native Southern Californian of Arab American descent. She has a very strong interest in local and international affairs. She is a graduate at California State University, Long Beach, where she has received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Administration.