Statement by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas on Suspending Plans for New Jail

jailFor those suffering from mental illness, the worst possible place to heal is county jail. The jail system in the county of Los Angeles is deplorable. And so we have a mandate to act on improving the conditions of the jails and to do so responsibly and holistically.

The Board of Supervisors’ decision to suspend plans to build a new jail until more information is gleaned about alternative options is simply good public policy. We cannot build a new facility until we have more answers about Proposition 47 and other factors that have impacted the inmate population. It is imperative that before we commit billions of dollars on new jails that we feel confident about the projected needs and the review process.

On May 5, I asked that all the departments to present a public report on the status of the jail master plan. And the report we have heard indicates clearly that we must continue to have public conversations about this very important issue. There are a number of questions that remain to be answered before we move forward. While this is an urgent matter, we must get this done correctly.

We need an independent analysis of the actual number of treatment and other beds needed at the new jail, which is being called the Consolidated Correctional Treatment Facility. In addition, we have asked for a broad assessment of all community based alternative options for treatment including, but not limited to, mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Improving Medical Services for Inmates

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LA County Sheriff’s Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility, where a significant percentage of the jail population with mental illness are currently housed. Credit: Wikipedia.com

Hoping to improve the medical services provided to jail inmates, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to shift the responsibility from the Sheriff’s Department to the Department of Health Services.

The county currently allocates approximately $330 million and over 2,000 positions per year on health, mental health, and public health services to the roughly 17,500 inmates housed in county jails.  Of this amount, $238 million and more than 1,700 budgeted positions are allocated to the Sheriff’s Medical Services Bureau.  Los Angeles County is the only county in California where the Sheriff’s Department runs its own healthcare system.

“We must provide county inmates with humane and medically sound treatment,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Los Angeles County cannot continue to bring subpar medical attention to those in our custody. Practically everyone who is an expert on this matter agrees that we can no longer continue in this manner. We simply must do better.”

A single, integrated jail health services system would emphasize primary and preventive care, build substance abuse services, enhance jail mental health, improve recruitment, retention and training of qualified staff, and enhance discharge and reentry planning.

In addition, the Board will receive a report by early fall on any anticipated savings, if any, that will come through the new model and how those funds could be used to enhance services.

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Board Regulates Yard Sales Countywide

 

Hoping to reduce blight and ensure equal footing for brick and mortar businesses, the Board of Supervisors has agreed to regulate yard sales countywide allowing property owners the flexibility to have them often but with a permit.

The new regulation, which will go into effect this fall, will allow for more yard sales annually, but also create more efficient enforcement protocols, if necessary. The proposed ordinance allows property owners to have unlimited yard sales on one designated weekend a month, and two other yard sales a year with a no-cost permit. The County’s current yard sale policy restricts residents to two yard sales in any 12-month period but has not been enforced. Residents may begin applying through Los Angeles County’s regional planning website when the program launches.

Residents will receive two warnings and the opportunity to retroactively register their yard sale on a non-designated date. Upon their third violation, residents would have to pay a $712 non-compliance fee.

“In too many of our unincorporated areas, frequent yard sales effectively function as small businesses, creating a disadvantage for regulated, law abiding businesses,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion. “Many property owners have complained that these neighborhood yard sales create blight. This initiative is a fair compromise that will allow yard sales to continue in a regulated way.”

Preparing for An Emergency

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LA County Firefighters providing CPR training during America’s PrepArathon Community Day at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood on April 30. Credit: Rosemary Viviero, LACoFD

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is urging residents throughout the Second District to participate in at least one of several emergency preparedness events taking place this spring and summer to help them emerge safely from a disaster.

On May 28, the supervisor and the Empowerment Congress hosed “Living on the Line: A Faultful Discussion on the Newport-Inglewood Fault” at Exposition Park.

“It’s imperative that everyone takes precautions to keep themselves, their loved and their homes safe,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The better prepared we are as a community for emergencies and disasters, the better we’ll be able to recover from it.”

The Newport–Inglewood Fault, near Culver City, Inglewood, Gardena, Compton, Signal Hill, Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, is said to be capable of a catastrophic magnitude 6.0-7.4 earthquake. US Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones, Ph.D., and Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) emergency program manager Mariela Balam led the discussion.

OEM emergency program manager and public information officer Kenneth Kondo said it’s important for everyone, but particularly seniors, persons with disabilities, and others with access and functional needs, to take part in emergency preparedness training.

“We encourage Los Angeles County residents, schools and businesses to do one actionable disaster preparedness step,” Mr. Kondo said. “This includes participating in a drop-cover-and-hold-on drill, filling out or creating a disaster preparedness plan for themselves, their families and their businesses; learning or being trained on how to be a community emergency response team volunteer; learning hands-on CPR training; and encouraging their friends, family members and work colleagues to prepare for future emergencies and disasters.”

“Volunteers can provide 99 percent of the initial aid in a disaster,” USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning Director Bill Regenburger, Ph.D., said. “We train them to put out a fire with an actual fire extinguisher, provide first aid, and perform basic search and rescue.”

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The University of Southern California trained people living in and around its campus to join its Community Emergency Response Team. Credit: William Regensburger, PhD., USC

Organizer Gwen Wood said, “I hope everybody is thinking about emergency preparedness because we don’t know what’s coming our way.”

“A lot of people in our community think first responders will come to their aid quickly during a disaster, but that might not be possible,” she added. “We’re encouraging people to store enough food and supplies so they can take care of themselves for at least a week, if not longer.”

Additional emergency preparedness events and activities are planned later this year, at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and the Florence-Firestone Multipurpose Center.

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The LA County Office of Emergency Management participated in an Emergency Preparedness and Community Resource Fair hosted by the Del Amo Mobile Home Estates Block Captains in Rancho Domingez on April 18. Credit: Ken Kondo, LA County Office of Emergency Management.

 

Supervisors Vote to End Controversial Federal Program

LACIMAGEStriking a balanced approach to public safety, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to end the county’s participation in a current collaboration between sheriff’s deputies and federal immigration officials in the county jails. Known as 287g, the federal program allowed for jail staff and immigration agents to screen inmates convicted of certain crimes to determine if they were eligible for deportation.

“This was a failed federal program that was constitutionally flawed and put Los Angeles County at risk—as a recent U.S. Court decision in Oregon found,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Hilda Solis.

However, the Supervisors also asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to continue cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security to implement the Priority Enforcement Program, a new program that would allow federal agents to cross-check the fingerprints of every person booked into a local jail against an immigration database. It would apply only to people who have been convicted of a current crime and immigration agents would no longer be stationed in county jails.

“This approach will address concerns from some in the community about the racial profiling and unfair targeting of folks who have not committed crimes,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “However, our vote also signals a desire to cooperate with the federal government in the development of the Priority Enforcement Program so that dangerous and convicted felons are no longer on our streets.”