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More Incarceration More Money

2.8.22 Sac County Board of Supervisors meeting report-back Item 30: Sacramento County Jail Accessibility Update and Plan.pdf For those of us with a nose for social justice, the incarceration system smells like hot garage.

It is where we imprison mainly poor people who have committed crimes of survival, untreated mentally ill people, people who are awaiting trial (legally innocent), and anyone else who may or may not have been deemed "unsafe" for living in the community. Here in Sac County, Black people are 7x more likely to be incarcerated than white people. Nationwide, suffering from an untreated mental illness makes you at least 10x more likely to be incarcerated, recidivism rates are through the roof, and huge chunks of our budgets (locally, state-wide, and nationally) go to maintaining these, as one public commenter said, “torture boxes.” At some point we as a society have to ask ourselves, what is the purpose of incarceration?

Is it rehabilitation? - If so, recidivism rates have shown that to be a lie.

Is it accountability? - Because socioeconomic status has a lot to do with who gets what punishment. Is it revenge? - Because taxpayers are footing the bill, to the detriment of community building programs. Another important question for lawmakers and community members: Can we afford it? County Staff brought back a request for over $1.6 million to upgrade jails according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Mays Consent Decree (read more about the Consent Decree here). There were a few very interesting points within the 100s of pages of reports brought to the county.

1. Sac County is being sued for its cooperation with Immigration Customs Enforcement (see our blog post on the subject here), so why, as Supervisor Serna mentions in the video clip above, are there still holding cells marked for ICE detainees? To quote Sean Riordan, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California:

This lawsuit shows that California must outlaw all local cooperation with ICE. It’s still too easy for local officials with an anti-immigrant agenda to find ways to exploit the law and harm our communities.

(quote taken from a Davis Vanguard article - click here to access).

2. Construction costs have doubled since 2018, at least in part, due to the pandemic. Yikes.

3. And most interestingly - the report notes that some construction changes wouldn’t need to be made if the sheriff would change, and follow, certain policies. Such as….reducing the jail population.

Public comment was on fire again. One caller spoke about her family’s experience with having someone locked up, the racial bias in the carceral system, and how cruel and unusual it is to be using prisons as mental health facilities.

Her point was that we need to shift to prevention instead of imprisonment, and she reminded the BOS that family trauma is being inflicted upon generations of our community members by our abusive policing system.

Supervisor Nottoli requested staff bring back a report about how many people would need to be released to meet ADA requirements without expensive construction. I, for one, would also like to see the list of things the Sheriff could do to run a more ethical jail - that wouldn’t require such high construction costs. Anyone else with me?

At the end of the day another $1.6 Million was thrown into the never ending money pit that is American incarceration - but let’s all keep a vigilant eye out for those numbers Nottoli requested. In the meantime - email the supervisors with these questions:

1. What is included in the full list of policy changes?

2. How many people would the Sheriff have to free in order to comply with the ADA and Mays Consent Degree (without doing additional construction work)? The staff report titled “Sacramento County Jail Accessibility Update and Plan” from 1.5.2018 (linked here) noted:

In some cases, however, changes in policy relative to how services are provided by the Sheriff's staff can render a physical improvement unnecessary

Our friends from Decarcerate Sacramento (website linked here) would also like to know:

What is the full scope of ADA renovations required at the Main Jail, and who is setting the priorities?

Can community members and advocates see the 2018 report that these renovations are based on?


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