Essential Information on Civilian Oversight of LASD
Below are the five key demands of Dignity and Power Now, the group we work closely with in advocating for empowered civilian oversight. These points align with principles and practices followed by the best oversight bodies around the country and should definitely guide our thinking about what we need in Los Angeles County.
Of the five, subpoena power is the most crucial. For more information on why, please check out this link.
Dignity and Power Now’s Five Points:
- A nine member board with four members appointed from the community
- Subpoena power to obtain records and documents
- Independent legal counsel for the commission
- No law enforcement representatives (current or former) on the commission
- Office of Inspector General reports to the commission
For more general background on LASD civilian oversight, check out this LA Times article from when it was approved by the Board of Supervisors, and this most recent article after several community meetings around the county.
The simplest way to contact all five county supervisors is to use this address and ask that your letter be distributed to the supervisors and their justice deputies: executiveoffice@BOS.lacounty.gov.
“We Who Believe in Freedom” Curriculum Available
Justice Not Jails is proud to announce the release of a new seven-part adult study curriculum on mass incarceration for use by Christians seeking deeper understanding of the issues and a deeper theological grounding for their activism. Versions of the curriculum related to other faith traditions will be forthcoming. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
Resource Materials for Preachers on Topics Related to Mass Incarceration
The title we have given to these materials is meant to trip readers up ever so slightly. The premise most preachers take for granted is that they will preach about the evil of mass incarceration to their congregation, and it goes without saying that in most cases the congregants won’t be physically restricted. Most preachers do not preach to “captives” in that sense. Yet the assumption made here is that many of the sincere believers who come to church regularly are nevertheless held captive to some degree to ideas about crime and “criminals” that are part of this culture’s dominant narrative. That narrative insists that we lock a lot of people up in the United States because we have a lot of bad people here. And further, that locking them up has made us significantly safer over the past 40 years.
To use a word that our 16th president used most appropriately in 1862, we must “disenthrall” ourselves in relation to this narrative. White people in particular must look squarely at the hard-to-miss racial dimension within the narrative. And all of us must seriously interrogate the part of us that is content with a system in which we respond to violence and threat with yet more violence and threat: a way of engaging others that is about as far removed from the Jesus way as can be imagined. We must, in theologian Walter Brueggemann’s words, “emancipate our imaginations” in order to participate in the larger emancipatory project.
For each of the 10 preaching texts given here — one a week for 10 weeks in all — we provide some of the biblical context first. Then we invite the preacher to ponder a set of questions. And finally we suggest some possible homiletic directions.
There is no doubt that some of the messages proposed here will be hard for congregants to hear and thus hard as well for preachers to preach. We urge our colleagues in pulpit ministry to pray earnestly for their personal strength and courage, even as we pray earnestly for God to bless and sustain the prophets whom these difficult times require.
Past texts in this series:
- Luke 4:18-19 – Jesus Identifies Himself with Radical Liberation
- Luke 14:24 – Unexpected Guests at God’s Abundant Table
- Luke 15:11-32 – Welcoming the Prodigal’s Return
- John 8: 1-11 – Neither Do I Condemn You
- Mt. 7:1-5 – The Measure You Give Is the Measure You Get
- Mt. 12:1-14 – Higher Laws
- Mt. 18:21-35 – Forgiveness Without Limit
- Mt. 26:59-60 – The Trial of Jesus: Justice or “Just Us?”
- Jeremiah 31:29/Ezekiel 18:2 – No Multi-Generational Curse
- Hosea 6:6/Isaiah 58:6-9 – The “Worship” That Pleases God
Please note that the 10 preaching texts have been developed for use in Christian pulpits. Materials relevant to other faith traditions will be forthcoming.
What Is a Beyond Bars Congregation?
A Beyond Bars Congregation is one that has consciously identified the issue of racialized mass incarceration as a core social justice concern. In some cases it might be the sole justice focus of the community, but in most cases mass incarceration will take its place alongside of other social justice concerns, such as fighting for basic needed community resources (quality education, health, housing), fighting for low-wage workers, pursuing environmental justice, etc.
A Beyond Bars Congregation does not simply have members who study The New Jim Crow or who hear it addressed occasionally from the pulpit, although both of these are important. Just as important is helping congregants grow in faith and grow spiritually through their personal engagement in front-burner criminal justice policy issues and also their direct interaction with formerly incarcerated persons.
Congregations that have existing prison ministries are encouraged to supplement these services with new advocacy actions. Beyond Bars Congregations are free to offer members multiple opportunities for direct exposure to the mass incarceration crisis. No congregation can do everything, and we know that different communities will be in different places in terms of interacting with returning citizens.
Justice Not Jails offers these potential markers for a Beyond Bars Congregation. If two things on the list are already part of the vital life and witness of your church, celebrate – and then reach an additional two!
Markers for a Beyond Bars Congregation
- Reviews and possibly uses the new (January 2015) Justice Not Jails small group study guide on mass incarceration, race, and faith (“We Who Believe in Freedom”);
- Lifts up race and incarceration from the pulpit, possibly using Justice Not Jails’ “Ten Texts for Preaching” resource;
- Identifies as a re-entry friendly congregation that relates directly both to the incarcerated and the formerly incarcerated through relationship-building and advocacy;
- Offers its members multiple opportunities for direct exposure to the mass incarceration crisis by serving as a venue at which those most intimately affected can share their stories;
- Involves its members in activities such as implementing “Ban the Box” hiring practices by public employers, volunteering at a local resource fair for formerly incarcerated persons, mentoring formerly-incarcerated individuals, and helping persons with criminal records work their way through the expungement process;
- Supports direct lay activism in the form of writing letters, showing up at critical public meetings of governing bodies, and participating in delegations to key public officials in the Greater LA Region (and occasionally in Sacramento);
- Acts as a safe space where persons can safely identify themselves as having experienced incarceration, either personally or vicariously through a loved one.
- Gives pastoral support to loved ones of the locked up and to all harmed by the system.
LA-Based Congregations That Are ‘Beyond Bars.’
Four toolkits faith communities can use to deal with the challenges presented by mass incarceration.
Healing Communities: A Framework for Congregations in their Ministry to Families Affected by Incarceration
This report tells how faith communities can play a unique role in healing individuals, families and communities devastated by crime and cycles of incarceration. They can help build a community consensus around the challenges facing families with an incarcerated loved one, as well as the individuals returning home from incarceration. Faith institutions, including faith-based organizations, but particularly houses of worship, can serve as resources for transforming neighborhoods into places where family and social support are available to people affected by crime and incarceration.
This guide, developed for an interfaith audience in secular language, seeks to engage congregations in restoration and healing people in their own congregations who have been affected by crime and incarceration.
This guide, developed in partnership with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, illuminates the Healing Communities model. This model seeks to engage congregations in restoration and healing people in their own congregations who have been affected by crime and incarceration. It does this by transforming hearts and minds, creating a sense of welcome inclusion, reducing stigma and shame, and building networks of support that start in houses of worship and expand to the community at large.
This guide, developed for an interdenominational Christian audience, illuminates the Healing Communities model. This model seeks to engage congregations in restoration and healing people in their own congregations who have been affected by crime and incarceration. It does this by transforming hearts and minds, creating a sense of welcome inclusion, reducing stigma and shame, and building networks of support that start in houses of worship and expand to the community at large.