For the first time in decades, there is consensus among advocates, health care and social services providers, elected officials and those directly affected to adopt a ‘care first, jail last’ approach when it comes to criminal justice. A report produced by the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) workgroup lists 114 recommendations, organized under five overarching strategies, that ensure the County is a leader in prevention, diversion, and rehabilitation, rather than punishment and incarceration. Today, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, directing the County’s Chief Executive Office to prepare a 30-day report back to adopt these interdisciplinary strategies, as LA County continues to reshape its approach to criminal justice.
“We know now that mental health care, and even efforts to reduce homelessness, cannot be effectively administered through our jails and if we want real change, then we must be unwavering in our commitment to adopt a ‘care first, jail last’ model,” said Supervisor Solis. “I am committed to shifting LA County’s focus on punishment and incarceration to prevention, rehabilitation, and diversion to end inequities in our criminal justice system. I thank everyone who invested their time on the Alternatives to Incarceration report and look forward to implementing the study’s innovative strategies.”
“This report puts forward a bold but attainable vision for the future of our criminal justice system—one rooted in fairness, treatment, and healing,” said Supervisor Hahn. “By making this ‘care first, jail last’ concept an official priority of this Board, we can ensure that the hard work implementing this vision continues.”
In recent years, the County has been moving toward a criminal justice system that relies on a decentralized countywide continuum of non-custody community-based care facilities. For instance, last year the Board rejected plans to move ahead with two jail projects in favor of adopting a “care first, jail last” model. It is expected within the next few weeks that Supervisor Solis will celebrate the groundbreaking of the Restorative Care Village at the LAC+USC Medical Center, the country’s first mental health and well-being campus dedicated to meeting the needs of our most vulnerable populations. Through its interrelated services, the Village will serve as a national model in providing individuals care first before they potentially get involved in the legal system.
The County also established the Office of Diversion and Reentry while taking bold approaches to address the rising mental health needs for people in county jails. In recent years, Supervisor Solis has advocated for a comprehensive review of the County’s jail population to understand the specific needs of women and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Over the last nine months, the ATI held 50 meetings with more than two dozen County Departments, 100 community organizations and over 1,100 attendees. ATI’s 98-page final report emphasizes strengthening the County’s systems of mental health care, while reducing the role of law enforcement in responding to health emergencies, opening more community mental health urgent care centers and substance abuse treatment facilities, as well as providing more housing services and pathways to education and jobs.
Contact: Rosa Maria Santana, Deputy Communications Director, 213-359-0795, or firstname.lastname@example.org