Editor's Note: This article was submitted to Redwood City Patch by Occupy Redwood City
Today, San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve $44.2 million in the 2012-2013 budget, ramming through a plan to build a new jail in Redwood City over strong and growing concerns from community members.
Occupy Redwood City (ORWC) is proud to announce that over fifty speakers attended the meeting to demand the cancellation of the jail.
Multiple speakers expressed outrage at the Sheriff's recent remarks about out-of-town activists trying to impose an agenda on the Peninsula:
"It's just reprehensible," Jess Hansen of San Mateo said after the meeting.
"Hundreds of county residents came out two weeks ago to share their deeply personal stories of incarceration with the Board. For the Sheriff to accuse these people in his own community of being led by some out-of-town agenda is just insulting."
Many speakers pointed out the concrete, feasible alternatives that the Board of Supervisors could enact to reduce the county’s jail population, including:
- expanding funding for alternatives based on County Health System recommendations;
- using new realignment authority to decrease the jailed pre-trial population; and
- passing a resolution not to use local funds for ICE detainers.
"We know that jails do not work. We also know that probably sixty to seventy percent of people in these jails are from the poor communities in the county." said Robert Hoover, Program Manager for Reentry in East Palo Alto.
"It seems worthwhile to spend our time, energy and resources to develop processes that would get us into a mode of prevention instead of incarceration and punishment."
This week the County cancelled a commissioned study from the Institute for Law and Policy Planning when the ILPP began to express strong concerns that building the jail would be a waste and that the county should instead work on expanding re-entry programming and cleaning up inter-agency relationships. The authors state that building more jail beds will actually prohibit the improvement of the current system’s deficiencies.
“This is only the latest of expert reports that the Board of Supervisors has turned away from, pretending that they have no other options than to build a jail that will devastate the budget and poor communities in the County.
From the forced departure of the former county manager to the multiple willful rejections of sensible alternatives, they are working their hardest to silence dissent on this issue," says James Lee, resident of Redwood City.
Reports from the Center for Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the County Manager’s office, the County Health System, and the Civil Grand Jury have all concluded that the County could easily reduce its jail population if there was political will, and that such reductions would eliminate the supposed need for a new jail.
With the jail approved in the budget, residents committed to defeating the jail tax that will be on the November ballot as "Measure A." Anonymous contacts within County government and within the rank-and-file membership of local organizations that have officially endorsed Measure A have admitted to members of ORWC that despite descriptions to the contrary, Measure A is indeed a jail tax.