In most California cities and counties, public safety is the single most significant budget expense. The criminalization of communities of color leads localities to spend their money on suppression-based approaches like incarceration. Besides the social impact on communities, over-reliance on suppression can be costly and ineffective, as high-need individuals are sent into incarceration rather than receiving the mental health and drug treatment programs they need to succeed. Fixing these unjust priorities can free up resources to invest in prevention-based strategies that can keep communities safe, healthy, and whole.
California’s communities of color have been among the nation’s hardest-hit by mass incarceration, but now our state can be a model for data-driven public safety reforms that reduce spending on suppression and reinvest those resources in prevention and recovery.
Through partnerships with policymakers and community organizations, we provide budget analysis and campaign support to help advocates expand the concept of “public safety” and move justice-system dollars into the equity column.
Where We Work
Los Angeles County locks up more people than any other county in the state – and it also has the second-highest level of racial disparities in incarceration. The jail system costs well over a billion dollars annually and incarcerates thousands of poor people who cannot make cash bail, or who have become justice-system-involved due to unmet mental health and substance abuse issues.
Alongside our partners, we are working to transform the justice system in L.A. County. We are building on our earlier efforts such as Measure J, the 2020 historic ballot measure that mandated a 10 percent set-aside of LA County’s locally generated revenues to address the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color by or by funding investments in community services and alternatives to incarceration. We are also developing data-driven tools to help the County invest in the communities impacted by mass incarceration so that dollars for services line up with needs.