The community has spoken, and more than two million of us said YES on J to invest in care, not incarceration, and to prioritize investments that meet the needs of Black, Brown, and low-income communities.
Despite that, we continue to face pushback from government bodies. The Office of the County C.E.O. has maintained its stance that only $100 million will be slated for year 1, an amount grossly insufficient to redress generational and ongoing trauma caused by decades of racism and community divestment. And just last week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Stroblem issued a tentative ruling calling Measure J unconstitutional, thereby upholding a legal challenge brought by law enforcement special interest groups who seek to undermine the will of more than two million L.A. voters.
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Los Angeles County has committed to reimagining the County through a care first, jails last vision. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the community have crafted multiple blueprints that move away from the carceral system and prioritize vital resources over criminalization. While the County has made important movements towards this vision, its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Recommended Budget created by the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office (CEO) continues to prioritize public safety departments over community investment services. Los Angeles County is estimated to bring in $36.2 billion in revenues for this fiscal year with a population of over 10 million people. Even during a public health crisis, the Sheriff’s Department saw an estimated increase in spending in FY2021’s adopted budget of $282.8 million—over 8% higher than budgeted. Even with a decrease of $2 billion in Los Angeles County’s overall revenues, the Sheriff’s Department budget saw no cuts. In addition, the County plans to spend $1 billion on the Probation Department this fiscal year. Between FY2020 and FY2022, the Probation Department’s budget has increased about 8%, equaling $71.6 million. The District Attorney’s (DA) Office has a budget of $462.8 million.
Over the past decade, Angelenos across the County have worked to develop a Care First vision for Los Angeles that is rooted in stopping jail expansion, jail closure, and shifting resources to support the needs of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. Measure J’s passage is the result of this effort. The initiative seeking to correct the historical wrongdoings and move away from a carceral infrastructure is a momentous step towards realizing a Care First vision for all Angelenos. Mandated by voters, Measure J set a minimum ten percent set-aside for locally generated unrestricted revenues from the general fund to address the negative impacts of historical racial injustices that attribute to Los Angeles County’s over-populated and dehumanizing criminal legal system. The ten percent set-aside has a three year ramp up and prohibits funds to be used for carceral and law enforcement agencies – including Sheriff’s and Probation Departments and District Attorney’s Office.
The Care First Budget outlines the level of investment needed for all the Reimagine LA strategies and recommendations in year 1 of Measure J implementation and in the full County budget process for fiscal year 2021-2022. The Care First Budget investment of at least $2.017 billion is only the first installment of resources that Los Angeles communities need to begin to repair the harms done by the carceral system, address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and begin the process of racial equity and healing that Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities deserve. The Care First Budget highlights an analysis demonstrating how LA County’s current recommended budget does not align with its Care First vision and offers a path forward, highlighting the solutions in the form of demands, strategies, recommendations, and concrete funding allocations that move us towards achieving our dreams of Care Not Cages. The Re-Imagine LA Coalition therefore asserts the following Care First Budget Demands:
- Close Men’s Central Jail by Reducing the Jail Population by at least 5,000 People and Capturing Cost Savings for Community Based Care
- Fully Fund Measure J by Allocating at least $900 million
- Fund the Care First Budget by Allocating at least $2.017 billion in Year 1 through Leveraging Dollars from Measure J and Other Local, State and Federal Resources
- Fund Youth Justice Reimagined by Shifting $75 million out of Probation as part of the Care First Budget
- Commit to Building the Care First Vision through Authentic Community Collaboration, Power Sharing and Participatory Budgeting to Ensure Consistent Equitable Investment