Whole Life Magazine

February/March 2020

Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/1207713

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Page 20 of 31

the crime, and leaving dignity intact. Norway being the leading model, houses the inmates in small apartments, with proper food, classes, and health care. They are far more successfully reintegrated into their families and communities with far less recidivism rates than we see in the US. In California, the prisons are concentration camp-style environments with the bleakest of conditions on every level. Then the consequences continue. Did you know that there are 4,800 barriers to receiving legal rights when convicted of a felony and being incarcerated? You can't be a dog walker for example, nor a hair salon owner or even a bingo caller. These unjust consequences continue for the rest of their lives. SC: How did we get here? Is our Constitution being upheld? 40% of the people in jail are held for months without any conviction merely because they can't pay the high bails set. Those who can pay are free until the trial date. The 6th Amendment establishes a citizen is "innocent until proven guilty." Formerly incarcerated citizens pay taxes but are not always allowed to vote. There will be "no taxation without representation." There are other Constitutional principle violations. Am I missing something? LL: Let's talk about the Constitution. The fundamental problem when it comes to the legal system is the 13th Amendment, where a loophole is found. The13th Amendment states that each citizen has all rights UNLESS a crime is committed. So, when we make almost everything a crime and then selectively target people of color for these crimes, we've systematically taken an entire population out of access to their full civil rights. Our policing system was set up around slave patrol. It's racially rooted. What we've done since the civil rights movement post-Jim Crow when it was no longer legal to discriminate because of color, was to use the criminal justice system for systemic suppression or The New Jim Crow as Michelle Alexander so aptly lays out in her book. There are so many laws on our books that honestly, all of us have broken the law at one time or another mostly without knowing it. Our criminal legal system selectively chooses who to punish for violating that behavior like the poor, homeless vets and the most vulnerable among us. SC: REFORM LA JAILS-MEASURE R led by Patrisse and endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Jane Fonda, John Legend, and dozens of elected officials, and national leaders is a start in de-incarcerating and making the system more just. LL: Absolutely! Victory at the ballot box will mean significant changes. I'd like to highlight two. The first will require L.A. County to develop a plan within seven months to reduce the jail population with an emphasis on moving patients with mental illness into community-based health care programs. According to the Office of Diversion and Reentry, the cost of proper care and programs costs seven times less than the $50K per year we spend on each inmate in California. The second will give much-needed subpoena power to the Department Civilian Oversight Committee. Up until now, the elected sheriffs have had no oversight. There is rampant corruption with thousands of sheriff shootings, deputy-on-inmate violence, and other unchecked abuses. Allowing the COC to hold the sheriffs accountable will be a significant step in reducing the abuse of power while ensuring they actually do their jobs; one being keeping the inmates safe. SC: Martin Luther King Jr.'s cautionary words remind us, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The condition of our incarceration system in this nation and certainly in this county affects us all deeply. LL: Yes, that's true. Let's talk about how folks can make a Continued on next page February/March 2020 21

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