Tuesday during Los Angeles County’s highly anticipated primary election, voters overwhelmingly cast ballots in support of Measure R, a ballot initiative that aimed to reform the county’s criminal justice system in unique and substantial ways. Measure R swept over 70% of the vote, revealing voters’ determination to reform an overcrowded county jail system that fails to meet the needs of those most in need of treatment and support instead of confinement.
Measure R will strengthen community oversight of the LA County Sheriff’s Department through the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission (COC). Created in 2016, the COC will now have the power to directly subpoena the sheriff’s department, which will streamline its ability to perform the central function of increasing accountability and transparency around the actions of law enforcement, and to make recommendations to correct certain practices and behaviors. Previously, the COC could only request the Office of Inspector General to subpoena documents or witnesses on its behalf.
The COC will also be required to craft a Comprehensive Public Safety Reinvestment Plan, aimed atreducing the county’s jail population through the development of alternatives to incarceration and community-based healthcare programs. This plan will focus on diverting the county’s most vulnerable populations away from the system, particularly those in need of mental health treatment. The COC plan must include a feasibility study, strategies for jail population reduction, a timeline, and an overview of how resources for the plan will be allocated. The plan will ultimately be financed by funds that had previously been allocated to build new county jails.
With Measure R successfully passed, jail reform advocates say more work still remains. To find out how to get involved, check out Prism staff reporter Carolyn Copeland’s reporting on how to join the fight for jail reform in LA County.