Saturday, May 18, members of the Los Angeles No More Jails Coalition took their fight against the expansion of LA County’s notorious jail system to one of the proposed construction sites at the Pitchess Detention Center in the city of Castaic.
In a lively demonstration a group of over 50 County residents representing nearly a dozen organizations carried colorful signs and banners, played drums, performed spoken word and gave powerful statements demanding that the L.A. County jail expansion project be abandoned and that county resources be used instead for alternatives to imprisonment, increased education and job opportunities, and reentry support for people returning home from prisons and jails.
Last year, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca applied for $100 million from the state to expand Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. The proposed expansion would be used to lock up over 1,000 women. In March, the Sheriff was scheduled to submit his expansion plan to the LA County Board of Supervisors but instead called for a nine-month extension to explore other options.
“Poor women of color are already facing huge obstacles to accessing healthcare, education, housing and jobs. Sheriff Baca’s scandalous and harmful jail expansion plan targets these same women, destroys their families, and steals precious resources that should be put into programs and services they and their children need the most,” said Theresa Martinez, a former prisoner and current board member of the prisoner advocacy organization Justice Now. “As always, the community is determined to stop this jail and to fight for what it needs to stay healthy and strong.”
Controversially dubbed a “women’s village” by the Sheriff, the Castaic project is part of a wider jail expansion scheme that would cost the county over $1.5 billion and would increase the jail population by over seven thousand people.
“There are clear alternatives that we could implement right now to avoid locking up more LA County residents and reduce the jail population. These alternatives would strengthen our communities and could save the county over a billion dollars,” says Mary Sutton of Critical Resistance, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest.
“The Board of Supervisors should expand community-based treatment options for individuals with mental health issues, reduce the number of people who are thrown in jail because of parole and probation violations, prioritize funding for quality drug treatment programs, and stop locking up people who simply can’t afford bail,” Sutton said. “All of these steps are proven to keep people out of jail and could lead Los Angeles on a path toward ending the cycles of imprisonment that have caused so much harm for so many of its communities.”