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Jail expansion - it ain't over 'till it's over

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

What happened?

This year we saw the County bring back its plan to expand the jail, despite the community having previously blocked an expansion on 3/10/21 (to learn more click here). Once again, the public has been lied to & the county is breaking promises made to explore solutions other than a jail expansion.


Back in September (09/14/22) the Sac County BOS received reports (agenda doc linked here) from "experts" that claimed to support the need for the construction of a new jail. No decision was made at this meeting. The item was brought back to the Board in December; presentations regarding the proposed expansion and public comment took place on 12/7/22, and the following day, 12/8, the Board voted in favor of approving the jail expansion plan.


As a brief reminder, Sacramento County is under a consent decree (Mays Consent Decree) that provides a legal mandate to remedy some of the abuses taking place in the jails - summary below:

[Sacramento County jails] failed to provide constitutionally required mental health and medical care to people in the jail, employed harsh and extreme forms of solitary confinement, failed to implement essential suicide prevention measures, and discriminated against people with disabilities (Mays v. County of Sacramento, 2019)

Tifanei Moyer, attorney and founding member of Decarcerate Sacramento, tweeted an explanation about how consent decrees and the legal system behind them are disconnected from the real needs of people trapped in jails and prisons, and how these "solutions" to abuse within the carceral system can end up causing more harm by providing governments with an excuse to pour more money, time, and resources into already bloated and corrupt carceral facilities.

READ THE FULL THREAD HERE


We want to emphasize the the fight is FAR from over! There's much more to be done before we get anywhere near construction! We'll get into more details regarding outcomes and next steps at the end of this piece - first we're going to dig into the meeting.

How was the meeting structured?

As usual the meeting kicked off with comments on items off the agenda, and then rolled into presentations relevant to item 2 - Report On Population Reduction Efforts And Request For Direction On Steps To Address Jail Facility Deficiencies For Mays Consent Decree Compliance.

The first presentation (almost 2 hours long) was given by Eric Jones, Deputy County Executive of the Public Safety and Justice Agency - his presentation slides can be found here.


As predicted, this presentation was full of bureaucratic nonsense designed to push for the expansion. The county staff coordinated across departments to provide a united front in the fight to grow the jail... without using those words of course; if you asked any of the staff, they would tell you that picked the most prudent, cost effective, and beneficial option.


Some particularly enlightening slides can be found below:




This slide is representative of the amount of effort that was put into really considering population reduction as an alternative to a jail expansion






This demonstrates how little county staff cares about things being accessible. This chart was projected on the monitor during the presentation, and was every bit as difficult to read in the room as it is here





Here's where things get pretty sneaky. The staff brought some "alternate" proposals to the $450 million one which had been publicized. All of them were more expensive, and all of them necessitated much MORE construction and took significantly longer to finish. As you can probably guess, these recommendations are not meant to be taken seriously, but instead are a ploy to make the $450M proposal seem modest in comparison. This is exactly what staff said in the slides below listing their conclusion & recommendations.


Let's move on to some presentation shoutouts!


Absolutely amazing presentations were given by Liz Blum and Tifanei Moyer of Decarcerate Sacramento, Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako on behalf of the Sac County Mental Health Board, and Justice 2 Jobs! All of these presentations were given by experts in the community with a deep understanding of what society can look like without carceral systems, and with specific and comprehensive options for alternatives to incarceration.


None of these organizations were given an appropriate amount of time to present (20 minutes max), while between county staff, law enforcement agencies, and other presentations in favor of the staff recommendations, there was well over 3 hours of testimony supporting the jail before public comment even began.


First up! Decarcerate Sacramento's (DS) presentation, given by DS founding members Liz Blum and Tifanei Moyer

Liz and Tifanei gave an outstanding presentation detailing the actual requirements behind the Mays consent decree, addressing safe ways to remedy the legal violations and reducing the jail population, debunking the lies told by staff and government officials who claimed that jail expansion was the only way to meet decree requirements and critiquing their proposed plans, recommending revisions to the population reduction plans AND providing alternative solutions. So. An incredible amount of information to pack into a 20 minute presentation. Props to the presenters for holding their ground and working to communicate as much information as possible even though their (meager) time allotment had concluded. A few of their presentation slides are listed below.


Next! Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako, Vice Chair of the Sac County Mental Health Board, absolutely crushed this presentation! She reported out an enormous amount of information in a clear and concise way and made an extremely compelling case against the use of incarceration, particularly as it applies to those with mental illnesses. We wanted to compare Corrine's highly effective presentation, in which she detailed all 6 of the MHB's recommendations to the Board in regard to behavioral health services provided to those detained in County jails (read more about those recs here), as well as a good amount of ADDITIONAL information as a lone speaker, to the presentation given by the Downtown Partnership.


What's the Downtown partnership?


Downtown Sacramento Partnership is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of the central business district (language pulled from their website). So they represent business interests, which is why exactly no one was surprised that they expressed support for the jail expansion. In the most meaningless of all the presentations, they had 6 white members of the business community come to the podium one by one to say that they agreed with the initial speaker. This initial speaker gave pretty weak testimony about the importance of public safety in regard to business...safety, or whatever it is that they say. Basically a lot of people stood in a line and said nothing, but apparently we needed to hear that voice because they own businesses.


Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako holding it down on behalf of the entire Mental Health Board

....as compared to the Downtown Partnership


In the first image you can see one of the members condescendingly turning to where DS and other advocates were seated and insisting that "we all want the same thing"



In the second image, at the bottom of the screen (it's difficult to see, but there wasn't a good shot of them from the front), you can see the SIX heads of business community members, all white, and all saying nothing except that they support a jail expansion




Finally! Lynn Berkley-Baskin from the Justice 2 Jobs coalition presented their meticulously research report which covered three main points regarding county staff's deceptive tactics in pushing for this jail expansion, and listing recommendations for both changing the decision-making culture within the county, and for pursuing solutions other than funding the jail expansion.

A brief description of their points are listed here:

1. County staff cherry-picked facts in regard to the necessity of this expansion by ignoring any and all evidence that conflicted with their narrative

2. County staff selectively shared & withheld information in order to build a narrative that construction is needed to meet the consent decree

3. County counsel showed no interest in considering the the overwhelming recommendations from expert reports that a more effective solution would be to reduce the jail population and connect folx to community services


READ THE FULL REPORT BELOW

J2J Interrogates Data and Arguments
.pdf
Download PDF • 3.06MB

Now for some good news! Let's hear from our community!


Public comment baddies!

With almost 150 public comments, the majority of them opposing the expansion plan, there were an enormous amount of amazing comments made! We couldn't include them all, but we have created several compilation videos!

Thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this opposition process, and to those who were able to make their voices heard on the 7th, you're all amazing <3


Video 1: Blu Bear, Alfred, & Les

Video 2: Desire, Andi, & Carlos

Video 3: Jael, Marshal, & Keyan

Video 4: Talitha, Shanie, & Sarah

Video 5: Sonia & Mack

Video 6: Marjorie, Allen, & Courtney

One more shoutout!


A sincere thank you to Supervisor Nottoli for listening to the community, asking important questions during meetings, and generally being an ally to those fighting for social justice in Sacramento County, we hope you have a healthy and happy retirement. You will be missed.

(Supe Nottoli pictured left)




Outcomes and next steps


This time around we didn't get the votes we needed. Thank you to Supervisors Nottoli and Serna for listening to the community and voting against a jail expansion proposal that would have lasting detrimental effects to the people living in this county. Supervisor Serna should expect that we're holding him to this decision to move away from expanding carceral systems. Supervisors Kennedy, Frost, and especially Desmond (after the way he came out full-cop to these meetings and demanded "civil discourse" aka no pesky community members making it difficult for him to do whatever he wants - see for yourself in the clip below) you're not finished hearing from us. This also goes for incoming Supervisor Hume.


The Board made their final decision on 12/8, after a 12 hour day on 12/7, during which (say it one more time) around 150 people made public comment, with the vast majority of them expressing opposition to the jail expansion plan proposal. The continuation on 12/8 lasted for another 2h 45m, and was both frustrating and disappointing. Up top there were some theatrics during which county staff were given time to express how hurt they were by the fact that it had been pointed out that they have NOT been doing enough to provide the needed services to people in this county struggling with mental health issues. Lots of praise from the supervisors for all their hard work, lots of petulance for not being recognized enough from the staff.

Truly horrifying were some of the comments made by Supervisors Kennedy and Desmond. Two instagram posts, created by SJPC Social Media Manager and Counselmember Meg White, have been embedded below because they capture the statements made perfectly.


Obviously these two comments are both horribly offensive, totally disconnected from reality, and steeped in the values of white supremacy culture.


Final vote results below

Right now, and moving forward, it's important to remember that there will be many interjection points between now and any walls being built. Decisions will need to be made, things will need to be approved, and budgets will need to be finalized. We're not done, and we can still stop this thing! Thank you to everyone for all your hard work up to this point, get some rest over the next few weeks, and we'll come back ready to go in the new year. Stay tuned to SJPC as always to receive updates.


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