LA County Considers Reallocating Funding from Jails to Diversion, Treatment Programs

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Los Angeles, CA—Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors backed a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn and coauthored by Supervisor Hilda Solis to consider reallocating funding provided to the county through AB109 from the jail system to alternatives to incarceration.

“This moment is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get away from our over-reliance on incarceration and invest in treatment and services,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who authored the motion. “We cannot police our way out of all of our problems—whether that be mental illness, or poverty, or addiction. I want to look critically at the State funding that we currently give to our jail system and see if there is a smarter way to spend this money.”

The Hahn-Solis motion passed June 23, instructs the county’s CEO to report back to the Board with options for how to reallocate the County’s future AB 109 community corrections funding toward alternatives to incarceration. This could include funding diversion programs, substance abuse programs, mental health treatment, housing, restorative justice programs, and community-based services. The recommendations should be based on and build off of the recently passed recommendations in the Alternatives to Incarceration Workgroup’s “Care First, Jail Last” March 2020 report.

“Today’s vote in support of this Board motion demonstrates LA County’s commitment to meaningful changes to the criminal justice system. Investing in community-based treatment and services, instead of incarceration, is not only humane, but is cost effective in the long run. It allows people to remain with their families and stay at their jobs, as they get treatment and help and that benefits all of us in the long run,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who coauthored the motion. “As we consider how to align our spending with the priorities of the ‘Care First, Jail Last’ approach, we must continue to invite community voices to the table to not only participate in this conversation, but to also be part of the solution in how we can uplift and empower our justice-involved communities.”

The California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011 (AB 109) shifted the responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the state to the counties. To help the counties implement their new responsibilities, the state provided an annual permanent funding stream to be used for criminal justice and rehabilitative services.  Since 2011, LA county has allocated most of its AB109 community corrections funding to the LA County Sheriff’s Department to manage the jail system and the Probation Department. AB109 was responsible for a jump in LA County’s daily jail population which went from 15,000 to 18,000 in the first year after realignment.  

In the nine years since AB 109 was passed, the county has begun to reimagine its criminal justice system away from incarceration and punishment, and instead towards diversion and rehabilitation. In 2015, the Board of Supervisors created the Office of Diversion and Reentry with the goal of implementing criminal justice diversion for individuals with mental illness. In 2019, the Board created the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Workgroup that was composed of representatives from county departments and the community. The ATI Workgroup spent almost a year compiling 144 recommendations for a comprehensive county-wide system of care that reduces the role of incarceration and instead uplifts the role of care and community.

In addition, the COVID-19 epidemic has meant the Sheriff’s Department has dramatically reduced the population of the LA County jail system to around 12,000 today – well below what it was at when AB109 passed.

This year, the county is facing a projected decrease in AB 109 Community Corrections base allocation funds because of lost sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The motion states “this gives us the opportunity to revisit the way the county has spent AB 109 Community Corrections funding in the past and to reassess ways we could spend AB 109 revenue in the future to support the visions put forward by the ATI Workgroup.”

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