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Reforming Probation

L-R: Community Coalition’s Patricia Guerra, Probation Commissioner Zach Hoover, Children’s Defense Fund’s Patricia Soung, and Homeboy Industries’ Ed Flynn, all testifying in support of the motion. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced a motion aimed at improving transparency and accountability at the troubled Probation Department, saying reform efforts over the years have yet to yield substantial results. A vote is expected on October 17.

Co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, the motion calls for creating a task force and/or enhancing the existing Probation Commission to synthesize the many existing recommendations for reform, develop a plan for implementing them, and submit it to the Board for approval.

Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“Current efforts are fragmented, which could lead to inconsistencies,” Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “We need a singular vision and a clear roadmap for reforming Probation, which has struggled for decades with excessive use of force by staff, mismanagement of funds, and a range of other issues.”

Supervisor Hahn added, “I look forward to moving ahead to create a Probation Department that professionally and compassionately leads our citizens towards productive lives in our communities.”

Several members of the public testified in support of the motion, including Probation Commissioner and retired Superior Court Judge Jan Levine. “Current reform efforts are important and laudable, but insufficient,” she said. “There must be continuous outside oversight of the Department by an independent body to ensure transparency, updating of policies, ongoing review of budgets and spending, continued tracking of outcomes, and the creation of a forum for families and other stakeholders to participate in an ongoing two-way exchange of information about policies and practices.”

“These are critical measures if we are to inspire trust as well as to be effective in efforts to actually help the individuals entrusted to the Probation system,” she added.

CalState LA Associate Dean Denise Hertz, one of the researchers called upon over the years to assess systemic problems at Probation and recommend changes, said, “This motion offers a tremendous opportunity to build a collaborative foundation from which best practices can be identified and implemented.”

Probation Commissioner Zach Hoover lauded the Board’s appointment of Probation Chief Terri McDonald and Deputy Chief Sheila Mitchell. Still, he added, “It’s clear to me that they need more wind at their back. They need the support of oversight to be able to truly transform the department. We’re not interested in reform; we’re interested in a transformation.”

A New Way of Life’s Tiffany Johnson, Urban Peace Institute’s Josh Green, and Californians for Safety and Justice’s Marisa Arona, all testifying in support of the motion. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

Cities’ Summit to Combat Homelessness

Recognizing that homelessness knows no boundaries, Los Angeles County officials convened a summit with city leaders and policy experts to demonstrate their shared commitment to addressing the crisis and to underscore the power of collaboration.

The 2nd Annual Cities’ Summit to Combat Homelessness included a deep dive on outreach strategies, ways to boost the stock of temporary and permanent housing, and efforts to prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless in the first place. All are part of the County’s Homeless Initiative to be funded with Measure H, a voter-approved sales tax projected to raise an unprecedented $355 million a year for a decade to provide housing and supportive services to those experiencing homelessness, or are at risk of it.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas addresses the 2nd Annual Cities’ Summit to Combat Homelessness. All photos by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

“Even before we start to collect the tax on October 1st, the County is already hard at work,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas told summit participants representing dozens of cities across the County. “Immediately after ballot measure passed on March 7th, the County convened a 50-member community stakeholder committee to plan the allocation of Measure H resources, and the Board approved their proposed spending plan in June. To ensure accountability, it also appointed a Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which just held its first meeting.”

“Meanwhile, nonprofits are ramping up to take innovative solutions to scale, including landlord incentives and subsidies to build secondary homes in backyards,” he added. “New partnerships among the County and cities’ various Housing Authorities have already resulted in housing and services commitments to help more than 2,000 homeless persons. That’s Measure H in action, and we’re just getting started.”

County CEO Sachi Hamai said, “Homelessness not only erodes the lives of families and individuals, it profoundly affects the wellbeing of entire communities, and that requires a concerted, regional approach by the County, its cities and our grassroots partners. The power of collaboration can save lives.”

Held in Carson, the summit also covered grants for cities to plan their respective responses to homelessness, as well as the public health response to the local hepatitis A outbreak. Last year’s summit was held in South Gate.

County CEO Sachi Hamai

Making Second Chances a First Priority

Jay Jordan is not ashamed to say that he is an ex-convict.

“I was 19, a young kid, committed a robbery and they gave me seven and a half years with two strikes,” said Jordan.

But he soon realized that with his conviction came tough collateral consequences.

“I got out of prison in 2012 and I wanted to be a barber. Found out I couldn’t do that. I wanted to sell cars. Found out I couldn’t do that. I wanted to sell real estate. Found out I couldn’t do that,” said Jordan.

Currently, there are 8 million Californians who have a state conviction record and who may face over 4800 restrictions similar to the challenges Jordan faced.  These barriers represent limited access to jobs, housing opportunities, educational loans and other key assets to establishing emotional and economic stability.

To address these barriers to re-integration, the Office of Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Empowerment Congress Public Safety and Justice Committee, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership and Californians for Safety and Justice’s Second Chance Project led a Fireside Chat with community and Los Angeles County leadership.

“Criminal justice reform is needed because too many people are incarcerated for long periods of time for reasons that are not important to public safety,” said Peter Espinoza, Director of the LA County Office of Diversion and Reentry.

Espinoza recommends finding new alternatives to incarceration for those individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders and mental illness.

“The mission of this work is for people to understand how important health care reform and justice reform is to the work of reducing barriers for people that are returning citizens,” said Troy Vaughn, Executive Director of L.A. Regional Reentry Partnership.

With measures such as proposition 47, California voters have embraced justice reform prioritizing prevention, rehabilitation, and treatment rather than incarceration. The legislation has helped to shift the paradigm by giving people such as Jay Jordan a second chance at giving back to society.

 

First Forum for Furthering Economic Opportunities

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ridley-Thomas convened a first-ever gathering of 171 leading economic development officials, policy makers, practitioners, and business organizations within the Second Supervisorial District. The event hosted at California State University, Dominguez Hills was initiated to discuss economic development priorities, address challenges, identify solutions, and encourage greater intra-regional collaboration by bringing together academic, business, community, and governmental leaders across a diverse district of eight cities and nearly two million residents.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas during his keynote address. “Today, we are looking to you to bring forward innovative and creative solutions to the challenges we face creating sustainable, well-paying jobs.”

Fostering economic prosperity has been a long standing priority for the Second District.   Evidence of the County’s commitment includes the County’s new small business assistance programs, a commitment to local hire, and facilitating transit oriented development.  Additionally, the neighboring cities of Compton and Inglewood were recently selected as finalists in the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s annual competition for Most Business-Friendly City.

In addition to the keynote, the forum featured an address from Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price, an overview of the regional economy by the Economics Institute of CSUDH, an informative panel discussion on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship and a presentation on the thriving sports economy that is taking hold across the Second District by SVP of the Los Angeles Football Club, Mr. Benny Tran.

A recent report by LA Biocom demonstrated the important role of bioscience in boosting the local economy, generating more than $40.3 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 69,000 direct jobs and 162,000 indirect jobs.

“Many may see bioscience as a ‘lab coat’ industry, but in reality it provides job opportunities at all levels,” the Chairman said.

The forum also addressed the important role of health services, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and expanding sports and entertainment in strengthening the economy.

“Think outside the box and be bold in bringing forward ideas that will help our collective efforts to bring hope and opportunity to all in Los Angeles County,” the Chairman said.

A critical component of the economic forum were four working sessions focused on specific topics, including Access to Capital; Education, Training & Workforce Development; Housing; and Technology Infrastructure.  The Supervisor looks forward to receiving the recommendations from each group and working with all interested parties to implement plans that can strengthen the district’s regional economy.

Opera Opens at Exposition Park

For the first time ever, the LA Opera presented a live Opera at the Park simulcast at Exposition Park sponsored by Los Angeles County and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. The performance of CARMEN starring Ana Maria Martinez and conducted by James Conlon, was broadcast live in high-definition from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the big screen at Exposition Park for over a thousand community members.

“I am pleased to bring to the Second Supervisorial District a world-class opera performance in the perfect Southern California outdoor setting for families to enjoy,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas while introducing the simulcast. “Expo Park is where arts, sports, science, history and education all come together, so tonight, the LA Opera is right at home.”

The event began as the sun was setting with pre-show entertainment by student musicians and choir members from Manual Arts High School.

Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, and Manual Arts High School Choir and Band.

“It is appropriate that the simulcast is taking place in Exposition Park, a hub of artistic and cultural activity that is on the cusp of a transformative period in its history,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas who recently introduced a motion to issue a resolution declaring Exposition Park as the ideal location for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be a one-of-a-kind gathering place to experience art and exhibitions dedicated to the power of storytelling across all media, including paintings, illustrations and moving images. The Lucas family will fully fund the Museum’s construction, collection, and operating endowment with no cost to taxpayers to build the Museum.

“Through participation in the arts, people are brought together; we realize that we all have a story to tell, and that we can learn from one another, especially in these troubling times,” the Chairman said.