A coalition of faith-based and human rights groups has released an open letter titled "Community Message to the Next DA," signed by more than 2,000 LA County residents and voters, that presses the next LA County District Attorney to adopt policies and practices the coalition believes will divert many at-risk people from entering jails and prisons and having their lives blighted by conviction with jail time.
"The district attorney of this gigantic 10-million-person county is already the most powerful elected official many voters don’t know or care much about," said Rev. Peter Laarman of California Faith Action. "And with Public Safety Realignment now underway, the DA’s role becomes even more pivotal. What our chief prosecutor believes and does has a huge impact on incarceration levels. Our shared goal in this awareness campaign is very simple: awaken the voters to the high stakes in this race, and also alert both candidates that we stand ready to work on these important issues with whomever wins next Tuesday."
The coalition has asked the DA candidates, Alan Jackson and Jackie Lacey, to respond to its concerns. So far, only one of the candidates—Ms. Lacey—has responded and has indicated that she generally agrees with the coalition’s goals of fair drug enforcement, commitment to rehabilitation, and fairness for juveniles. The coalition does not endorse either candidate and vows to keep lobbying whomever is elected on its concerns and issues.
The Community Message outlines three primary concerns: fair drug enforcement by the next DA that does not disproportionally entrap people of color and that directs nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of jail; public support from the next DA for rehabilitation and job-readiness training for people inside our prisons as well as those leaving incarceration and seeking to re-enter life on the outside; and active support from the next DA for measures that keep youth with school discipline problems out of the system—measures that avoid the "criminalization of adolescence." The full text of the message is here.
Organized by California Faith Action, the coalition conducting voter education on the DA race includes the ACLU of Southern California, Drug Policy Alliance, Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership, Advancement Project, Violence Prevention Coalition, Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, Community Coalition, Flintridge Center, and the Office of Restorative Justice of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
In addition to its Community Message, the coalition also produced a general education piece on how the DA impacts areas of shared concern and an illuminating infographic on the importance of the DA’s role in deciding the fates of thousands of people each year.