Monday, April 20, 2020

Open letter to the Sacramento County Supervisors about funding new jail facilities

Dear Supervisors,

I've just read that you considering spending $7 million to design a new County jail. This is proposed despiting declining arrest and conviction rates, and despite a reported 60% of those incarcerated in the County's jail being there not because they have been convicted, but because they can't afford bail.

In other words, it's illegal to be poor in Sacramento County.

Civil rights attorney Alec Karakatsanis reports (in his Usual Cruelty book): "There are 2.2 million human beings confined in prison and jail cells in the United States tonight. About 500,000 of those ... are presumptively innocent people awaiting trial [note: far fewer than in Sacramento], the vast majority of whom are confined by the government solely because they cannot pay enough money to buy their release. This country has five percent of the world's population, but twenty-five percent of the world's prisoners--the highest rate of human caging of any society in the recorded history of the modern world. At least another 4.5 million people are under government control through probation and parole 'supervision.'

"Between eighty and ninety percent of the people charged with crimes are so poor that they cannot afford a lawyer. Twenty-five years into America's incarceration boom, black people were incarcerated at a rate six times that of South Africa during apartheid."

I have friends who are police officers, and I object to this incarceration binge making their job more dangerous, transforming them from peace officers into an army of occupation.  

Could we have a non-cash diversion program that would not incarcerate people simply because they cannot afford cash bail? Probably not, because the County spends millions designing and improving its cages, not caring for its citizens.

I urge you to reject any proposal for a new jail, and start releasing prisoners from the old one. Those supporting criminalizing behavior and incarcerating "criminals" like those presumed innocent awaiting trial, "don't even know [whether] locking people in jail cells actually ... decreases the frequency of things that they call 'crimes'--and a lot of evidence suggests that it makes communities less safe."

Please reject the proposed new jail.

--Your constituent,
--Mark Dempsey

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Where are all the homeless poor coming from? Attacks!

(c) by Mark Dempsey In its majestic equality, t he law forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the street, and ...