Today, the Board of Supervisors rejected the design-build for the Mira Loma Women’s Center project. Following that vote, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, that would collect and analyze data on the pathways that result in the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of women in LA County.
“We are long overdue for a targeted study of the women in our criminal justice system, and what the best practices are to put them and their families on a path towards maintaining healthy, stable, and productive lives,” said Supervisor Solis. “Mira Loma would not have best served women, their families, or their community. Now, we must determine a path forward that enhances diversion, supports women and their families, and therefore protects public safety. My motion today will identify the data and the strategies that achieves these goals.”
“Historically jails were built under the assumption that men would be housed in them. However, because women’s life experiences and needs are quite different, with 2,000 or more women currently in our jails, LA County must design a more gender-responsive justice system,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “To point to an obvious difference, many of the women in our custody are the primary custodial parent of their children. That’s not true for most of our our male population. We need to better understand our female inmate population so that we can better meet their prevention, diversion, incarceration and reentry needs.”
A 2016 report by the Vera Institute for Justice found that, like men in jail, women in jail are disproportionately people of color, overwhelmingly poor and low-income, survivors of violence and trauma, and have high rates of physical and mental illness and substance abuse.
Studies have shown that the direct and collateral consequences of even a short stay in jail makes incarceration even more difficult for women. While time in jail or prison is destabilizing and traumatic for everyone, the impact of an arrest—let alone incarceration—of a woman can extend that instability and trauma to her children, her community, and the entire family network that relies upon them. Furthermore, women are less likely than men to be able to find employment or stable housing upon release. Successful reintegration of women into their communities is essential, not only for them but also for their children and families. Successful reintegration requires gender-responsive approaches to community supervision, including access to effective and tailored treatment.
Today’s action directs the LA County Office of Diversion and Reentry to consult with County departments, community-based service providers and community stakeholders with lived experience, to study the pathways that result in the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of women, including an analysis of any disparities for women of color, LGBTQ, and gender-nonconforming people. The study will identify needed holistic programming and services based on best practices for incarcerated women and their families, as well as practical solutions to keep women out of the criminal justice system and out of jail.