Vote on Funding Diversion is Coming

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On Tuesday, September 30, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to set aside $20 million as a first step towards creating a robust and coordinated plan to redirect mentally ill offenders away from our county jails, where they currently constitute a substantial portion of the population, to treatment programs.

Effective diversion programs keep non-violent, low-level offenders, especially those with mental illnesses, out of our expensive, broken and traumatizing prison system. Multiple studies show that diversion can save tax payer dollars, can teach self-reliance and can improve public safety by preventing persons from committing petty crimes that send them to jail or send them back to jail.

Los Angeles County has both the largest inmate population of any county in the nation and the largest population of mentally ill people who are incarcerated. The Board of Supervisors has adopted a $2 billion-jail master plan to demolish Men’s Central Jail, modernize Mira Loma Detention Center for women and construct a new two-tower Correctional Treatment Facility, which when accomplished will substantially expand the system’s capacity to house inmates. That plan, however, does not address the creation of alternatives to incarceration for mentally ill inmates.

The motion, authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, moves the county forward. It takes a concept, supported by all five supervisors, reducing the over-incarceration of the mentally ill, and calls for action. It begins the process of identifying property or available facilities on county medical campuses that could be used for permanent supportive housing or as psychiatric health centers for an effective diversion program.

A strong diversion plan also would likely include training for law enforcement and emergency services providers, preventive services for those who may be at risk of getting arrested, offer post-arrest alternatives to incarceration and programs that would help former inmates re-enter society after they are released, such as job training. This plan would work in collaboration with the District Attorney, the courts, law enforcement, mental health, substance abuse and health providers and other key players to make sure it is coordinated and comprehensive.

Moving to reduce the population of mentally ill people in our jails is not just fiscally prudent and humane, it is required by our constitution and the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice recently reported that inadequate supervision and deplorable environmental conditions deprive Los Angeles County jail inmates of constitutionally-required mental health care.

Other cities throughout the country have seen impressive results with their diversion programs, including New York City’s Nathaniel Project with a reported 70 percent reduction in arrests over a two-year period; Chicago’s Thresholds program with an 89 percent reduction in arrests, 86 percent reduction in jail time, and a 76 percent reduction in hospitalization for program participants; and Seattle’s FACT program with a 45 percent reduction in jail and prison bookings.

It’s time for Los Angeles County to do join other forward-looking municipalities and embrace a more humane and fiscally prudent approach to treating mentally ill offenders.

LETTERS OF SUPPORT

Paying for Results

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Knowing that results matter, Los Angeles County is looking to increase partnerships with organizations that show clear, measurable, positive outcomes for the programs they run and the work that they do.

The so-called “Pay for Success” model has been used nationwide as a way to bring together nonprofit expertise, private sector funding and rigorous evaluation to transform the way government and society respond to protracted social problems such as prison overcrowding, homelessness, child welfare, probation services and infant care.

The concept is straightforward: providers receive funding when they have demonstrated positive outcomes.

The Pay for Success model will help Los Angeles County expand successful pilot programs like “Just in Reach,” a program that helps soon-to-be-released inmates so they do not become homeless or re-commit crimes by providing services such as mental health help, job placement, housing, social services and educational opportunities.

A thorough review of outcome data by the county’s Chief Executive Office, showed only 24 percent of the Just in Reach participants were re-convicted within one year of their release compared to 65 percent of those from the general inmate population.

“The Just in Reach has demonstrated it works well,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who with Supervisor Knabe, authored the unanimously adopted motions directing the county to use Pay for Success to expand this type of program and others that demonstrate promise.   “Just in Reach and other health and social programs that show accountability and bonafide results should be scaled up throughout the county. Through public-private partnerships we can address these complicated problems and improve outcomes for our residents.”

 

Century Crunch a Success

The Century Crunch was a success. By Monday morning, all demolition of the Century Boulevard bridge was completed and tons of debris from the bridge and the layers of protective soil was removed– several hours ahead of schedule.

Now that the demolition is finished, traffic flow will be reduced by a lane in each direction for 16 months as the new Crenshaw to LAX station is built on Aviation Boulevard.

The Metropolitan Transportation Board unanimously agreed this month to build a new light rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard along the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will carry passengers to a newly built front door—or “gateway”—at Los Angeles International Airport.

The board agreed that building an automated people mover at 96th Street is the most cost effective option and promises the most convenient transportation experience for travelers. The station must now be designed and funded. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is currently under construction and the new station would be added to that project.

“I commend everyone involved in the Century Crunch for making this event the least disruptive for travelers and Los Angeles residents. Now that the old bridge has been demolished, we will begin to see serious work on the new rail line and station,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It is a very exciting time for Los Angeles and the future of public transportation.”

 

 

Business Solution Center Approved

The Metropolitan Transportation Board unanimously approved a first-of-its kind business assistance program for small business owners currently struggling with the construction of the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard. The motion to establish the Business Solution Center was introduced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Director Jackie Dupont-Walker.

“While this is not a perfect solution for the small businesses along this construction corridor, it is a step in the right direction,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and MTA Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “If the Metro Board wants to pursue more rail projects in the future, we must show local small businesses that we are a committed partner during construction periods.”

“We’re finally making desperately needed investments to our public transportation system in South L.A., but construction simply cannot come at the expense of our businesses,” said Los Angeles Mayor and MTA Chair Eric Garcetti. “During the construction of the Crenshaw Line, I am focused on ensuring that businesses along the project route are able to thrive despite any temporary inconveniences to customers and employees.”

A Business Solution Center will provide direct technical assistance to businesses along the Crenshaw corridor to help them through construction activities. Federal and state law prevents Metro from providing direct cash subsidies to businesses unless access to the business is denied due to construction impacts. A Business Solution Center, staffed by paid employees, will help provide business owners an individualized plan that could include financial planning advice on small business operations as well as dealing with municipal permits and regulations, legal assistance, marketing and grant/loan application management.

“We must make sure South L.A. benefits from the economic stimulus this project will produce,” said MTA Director Jackie Dupont-Walker. “This Business Solution Center will go a long way in providing local businesses rapid response when required and the assistance and support they need.”

The pilot program is expected to provide proactive and hands-on business assistance to more than 100 businesses between 48th and 60th Streets and other areas that are significantly affected by the construction. The establishment of a Business Solution Center is an innovative and new approach by Metro to help some small businesses endure the construction.

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is a $2.058 billion light rail that will connect Metro’s Expo and Green Lines with eight new stations. When the Crenshaw/LAX line opens to the public in 2019, passengers and customers will be able to travel to work, medical care, entertainment, shopping, school and other activities all over the entire Los Angeles region. It also will help revitalize the local and regional economy.

Notice of Date Change

The Sheriff and Inspector General were originally scheduled to present their joint response to Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Molina’s Sheriff’s Department Oversight Commission motion along with public testimony and a board vote on July 22, 2014. However, this item has been moved to *Tuesday, August 5, 2014*. If you are a member of the community and would like to have your voice heard on this important issue, please note the date change and register here.