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Update from La-La-Land: Prioritize “Decarceration”

Monday, April 10, 2023

Update from La-La-Land: Prioritize “Decarceration”

In Los Angeles, the local transit agency has resorted to the desperation tactic of playing classical music in a downtown subway station to see if it has any impact on the crime, vagrants, drug users, and calls to police from transit customers. Even as violent crime (robbery, aggravated assault, and rape) in the metro system increased 24% in 2022 compared with 2021, some politicians feel that ramped-up music is preferable to ramped-up policing. Hilda Solis, for instance, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, reportedly issued a statement to The L.A. Times indicating she supports “safety interventions” that “introduce alternatives to deploying additional armed law enforcement on the system.”

A Fox News reporter has highlighted another initiative by Supervisor Solis, being a motion she co-authored appearing on the April 4 agenda of the County Board of Supervisors. Agenda item no. 22, as originally proposed, contains a lengthy list of directives that, among other things, would require the County to “move with all deliberate speed” to “prioritize decreasing the number of individuals entering the Los Angeles County Jails,” “prioritize increased opportunities for pre-trial release,” and “prioritize increased opportunities for post-sentence release and re-entry.” It would expand pre-trial releases, including a proposal that the County Sheriff “release individuals with aggregate bail amounts set at $50,000 or below,” and a more general proposal to “expedite release of individuals being held in local custody on behalf of the State.” It also directs the Board to reaffirm its commitment “to depopulate and decarcerate through legislative advocacy” by supporting measures like “a zero-bail schedule for individuals accused of low-level offenses, infractions, misdemeanors, and some felony offenses.”

Supervisor Solis, unsurprisingly, is also a big supporter of gun control. In March, she joined President Joe Biden as he announced a new gun control order, tweeting that, “I was proud to join @POTUS today … as he announced a new Executive Order on comprehensive gun control focused on keeping Americans safe.” To follow up, Solis authored a motion requiring the county’s counsel to review Biden’s executive order and report back with recommendations on further gun control measures the Board could take.

Solis may have problems reconciling her “decarcerate” program with her anti-gun stance and “making our communities safer.” A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys (LAADDA), a group representing prosecutors, points out that Solis’s motion would require “law enforcement to cite and release suspects for offenses such as illegally carrying a gun, domestic violence, possession of child pornography and some violent crimes, including residential burglary, robbery, and assault with a firearm.”

In fact, the LAADDA representative had nothing positive to say about the plan, calling the motion “to gut parts of the criminal justice system without input from stakeholders … dangerous and reckless. The authors sought no advice from those who know and understand public safety issues. The proposal sought to lower the jail population without addressing the root causes of crime or protecting the public. This catch-and-release program comes without any plan or infrastructure to protect the community from violent criminals apprehended by law enforcement. It creates no lockdown facilities for the mentally ill. It benefits no one except career criminals.”

Others who quickly registered their concern included the California Contract Cities Association, the “premier advocacy association in Los Angeles County” for local governments, and the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association. A letter by the police chiefs association indicated that it had been “blindsided” by the proposal and summed it up as worse than useless: “In the midst of surging crime rates, pre-arrest decriminalization policies, and a complete shift away from sound public safety responses, it appears the County [Board of Supervisors] is poised to exacerbate our current plight.”

By April 3, Ms. Solis advised she was withdrawing the motion, for now, due to “concerns from a variety of stakeholders — those who feel the motion is not doing enough and those who feel it is doing too much. To that end, I will be referring the motion back to my office so that I can continue to gather input from all stakeholders.” While her statement mentions balancing public safety with federal obligations, nothing in it is a clear recognition of the need to “prioritize” protecting law-abiding residents from “our pre-trial population” and those “languishing in County jails.”  

The plight of the actual victims of these progressive public safety experiments isn’t completely overlooked by Los Angeles politicians. Another April 4 agenda item is a proposal that the Board “Proclaim the week of April 23 through 29, 2023, as ‘National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.’” A resident responded, “But yet you want to depopulate and decarcerate the LA County Jail?”  “This is hilarious,” wrote another. “You want a National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, but you, the Board of Supervisors continue to ignore the victims of crimes.”

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