Calling All Justice Seekers: County Budget Priorities & Civilian Oversight of the Sheriff’s Department

County Budget PrioritiesIn our Justice Not Jails work we are called to stay awake and stand ready to act when needed. Now is the time our action is need to push for sane budget priorities at the county level and also to push through to the best and strongest possible form of civilian oversight over the abuse-ridden Sheriff’s Department.

Budget Fight: What is called Law and Justice already takes a huge share of total county funds: around $7.4 billion out of a total budget of $26.9 billion This area has the highest number of funded positions in the current budget: 32,710, of which 19,507 are being proposed for the Sheriff’s Department. If the funds were being spent wisely on rehabilitative and support services, including community-based services, we might not object. But this county lags way behind other California counties in pursuing wise justice reinvestment strategies. Shockingly, the new Sheriff is asking for an additional 2,323 budgeted positions in the new budget cycle — taking his total to almost 22,000 even though the jail population is rapidly falling due to Prop 47.

With a new progressive majority of county supervisors in place, it’s time to turn this around and stop rubber stamping more and more money for law enforcement.

With a new progressive majority of county supervisors in place, it’s time to turn this around and stop rubber stamping more and more money for law enforcement – especially when the Sheriff’s Department is anything but transparent about how it uses its already-enormous funding stream.

We urge everyone to show up for the budget hearing on May 13 at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple Street. Press conference at 8:30, hearing at 9:30. Justice Not Jails will be protesting the ongoing misallocation of resources and will also be joining others in calling for at least 50% of the state-provided AB 109/Realignment funds to be used for rehabilitative and supportive services instead of the less than 20% that is used this way now in LA County.

Oversight Fight: It is also now crunch time for the creation of a fully-empowered and fully-effective oversight body to track and transform policies and practices within the Sheriff’s Dept. that are abusive and racist in effect if not in intent.

peter-laarman-k-e1360713223533The working group that will make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors is wrapping up its work. If you can come to the working group’s next meeting on the morning of Friday, May 15 (also at Kenneth Hahn but in a smaller hearing room), Justice Not Jails will equip you with talking points to use in public comment. Everything you need to know about the oversight issue can be found here. And of course you can write to your supervisor at any time to make your views known on this very important matter.

Rev. Peter Laarman
Justice Not Jails

About Peter Laarman

Rev. Peter Laarman serves on the Justice Not Jails steering committee. He formerly directed Progressive Christians Uniting, the LA-based network of activist individuals and congregations that first launched Justice Not Jails in 2012 as a multifaith initiative. He served as the senior minister of New York’s Judson Memorial Church from 1994 to 2004. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Peter spent 15 years as a labor movement strategist and communications specialist prior to training for ministry.