Jan 31 2012
Civic Circus with Ankur Patel breaks down local politics, with a weekly report on city, county, and state bureaucracies. This week on Uprising I’ll cover last weeks LA County Board of Supervisors meeting where item number 19 dealt with many issues surrounding our current prison system.
The initial tone of the meeting was about implementing alternatives to incarceration, in light of AB 109 and the Prison Realignment issue. But the final result was a vote by the board to ask for a workplan from prison building corporation, AECOM, showing how it would spend $5.7 million on a report, if it were to get that contract. AECOM is a major player in the global prison industrial complex as it has recently built prisons in Delano, California, Belmarsh, London, a 2 million square foot prison in Coleman, Florida, and a $100,000,000 prison for the Sultanate of Oman.
In addition to the potential report from AECOM, the county board of supervisors already received the Vera Report. A separate report on the county’s prison system, which made recommendations on how to deal with our prison population. Unfortunately, Supervisor Molina said “i did not know anything about the Vera report. It was never presented to me, okay? It;s a lot of pages, a lot of graphs and a lot of information. I don’t know if anybody read it. Has anybody read it?”
This transitioned into public comment on this item which saw about 75 members of the public, not one in support of prison expansion, take time out of their day to speak up. It was a great organizing success thanks to organizations like the Youth Justice Coalition, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, and so many others. There were professors from USC and CSULA, retired police officers, and many personal stories making the horrible conditions of the California jail system all too vivid. There was a sharp question asking the board of supervisors if they actually thought building more prisons was going to make the world a better place. Another speaker connected the dots as AECOM, primarily a group that engages in prison construction, would probably suggest building more prisons as opposed to developing creative alternatives to depopulate the prisons.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky tried to preempt the publics’ comments by stating that there were previously only two options: the first being the $1.4 billion prison expansion to replace the Central Jail (which would actually be closer to $2.6 billion if they factored in the interest payments the county would have to make) and the other option being to do nothing. Yaroslavsky then commended the staff on the report of alternatives to incarceration to which Supervisor Molina replied “I don’t think it’s the brilliant report you claim it is… not one sentence about how we are managing our jail population.” – wait is that the same report that you didn’t know anything about?
So these million dollar reports that are being commissioned and no one knows about are a new development in the current prison reform conversation. Even though the tactic is used throughout politics: call for a report, study, or research, let the heat die down, and then figure out a different less-obvious way to keep the masses either domesticated, uneducated, or incarcerated.
Outro: For Uprising, I’m Ankur Patel with Civic Circus
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