2023 Year in Review

Happy Holidays, fam! ❄️

As our team heads into a winter hiatus, we are reflecting on the year behind us, our successes, and the work (both new ✨and ongoing 💪🏽) that we’re excited to tackle in 2024. 

🎁So without further ado, we present our 2023 Year in Review. 🎁

– Court Watch LA + Rate My Judge –   

Building community power and promoting #JudicialTransparency is our passion, and this year we got to do meaningful work on both of these things. In June, we launched Court Watch LA! [Celestial emoji] Since (re)-launching this iteration of the LA-based program (which we adopted from the National Lawyers Guild), we have already trained over 130 volunteers to court watch. The observations from these volunteers yield substantive data detailing what’s really going on in these courtrooms. This data has helped us spot problematic patterns in multiple courthouses, and has helped us track biased and punitive judicial decision-making. 

Next year, we look forward to continuing our court watching analysis and work to #TransformTheJudiciary. We’re excited about bringing in even more community members to watch our courts. We’ve also been working behind the scenes on Rate My Judge, and we hope you’ll stay tuned to get exciting news about that project! (Hint, we STAY growing!!!!) If you’re not already, sign up for one of our upcoming training dates!

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for work our partners are doing in the upcoming election season by checking out The Defenders of Justice 2024!

– ReImagine LA Coalition – 

Our community-driven efforts to move Los Angeles County towards a true care-first ethos, and away from punishment, incarceration, and community divestment have been steadily continuing throughout 2023.

  • Care First Community Investment Advisory made recommendations to the LA County Board of Supervisors about how to award over  $400M in Care First Community Investment funding  to local community-based organizations and care-first County programs this year. La Defensa and Re-Imagine LA’s very own Megan Castillo was appointed Vice Chair of the CFCI Advisory Body! We are so proud of her continuing determination and courageous leadership. .
  • All year, we’ve continued to fight for full funding from the LA County Board for our communities. We rallied, wrote letters, called in, and pulled up to hold the County CEO and Board of Supervisors accountable.
  • In July, the CA Court of Appeals made the decision to strike down a ruling from a lower Court that Measure J unconstitutional. Despite law enforcement special interests challenging this decision in the California Supreme Court, the highest court in the state refused to even hear the case, meaning Measure J’s permanence and constitutionality is no longer in question. Instead, Measure J is permanently enshrined in the LA County charter, strengthening our efforts to implement this groundbreaking Measure. ⭐️⭐️⭐️Let’s gOoOoOoOooooooOooooo! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Also this year, we began work with Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s Office in the Second District, to co-launch a first-of-its-kind participatory budgeting pilot program for the Ladera Heights and Florence-Firestone neighborhoods.    

Looking forward to 2024:

While the CEO’s ongoing commitment to a Care First future is still lacking, we commit to ongoing efforts to hold them accountable to the promises they make to our communities, and to the voters who passed Measure J. We’re excited about spreading the word about participatory budgeting, advocating for budget reform county-wide, and getting ever-more funding to the orgs that need it.  

– POLICY & ADVOCACY –  

This year we welcomed Shayla Wilson to our team, who brings a wealth of experience to our team having worked on statewide legislative advocacy in multiple states, and who also brings wisdom about program evaluation and Coalition-building. Shayla’s  areas of expertise include fighting for pretrial justice and combating carceral legislation. We’re grateful to have Shayla helping us develop and push policy that supports our most impacted community members.

In 2024, we’ll be co-sponsoring SB 850 – a bill that will standardize court reminders across the state. We are also actively seeking an author for our Judicial Term Limit bill for Superior Court Judges. This piece of legislation would limit the number of terms superior court judges serve to two six year terms.

– TRANSFORMATIVE ORGANIZING CONVERSATIONS 

Transformative Organizing Conversations (TOC) is La Defensa’s newest program. TOC supports the successful facilitation of organizing conversations with loved ones and community members through poli-ed resources and online courses offered by our team and our organizing comrades within the LA abolitionist ecosystem. We launched with a holiday guide for navigating tricky political conversations that often come up at holiday gatherings amongst family and friends. We can’t wait to  keep expanding our TOC program in the year to come, to support more and more community members with navigating abolitionist conversations in values-aligned ways. Check our Holiday Guide for Transformational Political Conversations in English and Spanish on our new website.

– OPERATIONS –  

Our operations team has been amazing (as always), as they have worked to embody and enact our abolitionist principles at an organizational level. This year, in an effort to make work-life more sustainable and fulfilling for our team, we piloted a four-day work week, as well as a non-hierarchical support structure across all departments. We have successfully implemented both pilots and are feeling the benefits across our programs. The ops team has also experimented with how we can most successfully execute our remote and in-person hybrid structure, and has helped us to plan and budget for our future as we continue to grow! 

– MEDIA & COMMS –  

Our Comms team also grew this year with the addition of Phillip Kim, whose formidable creative prowess, commitment to abolitionist organizing, design and multimedia chops, and depth of knowledge is a huge gift to our organization. 

And, our incredible team and Coalition members were bold as they shared insights, stories, and analysis in the media landscape this year.  La Defensa team members and Re-Imagine LA Coalition members  informed the press about everything from judicial accountability to budget advocacy. They shared incredible insights on long-form podcasts, as well as on TV screens and the radio waves

We know that having the bravery to talk about the issues we care about most is what helps us win. We’re so grateful to have the opportunity to share our vision for a care first future with our communities. 

We’re looking forward to continuing to develop engaging poli-ed programs in 2024, and to ongoing amplification of the brilliant work of the visionary femmes on the La Defensa team. 

– OTHER VERY IMPORTANT NEWS – 

And last, but not least: This summer, our beloved Mya Hendrix (Reimagine LA Coalition Community Organizer) and her partner TJ welcomed baby abolitionist, Tre, into the world. Many happy returns to Mya and family. 

With warm holiday wishes,

The La Defensa Team

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