CFCI / Measure J Funding is intended for independent pretrial services and treatment – not expensive consultant contracts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2023
LOS ANGELES – La Defensa co-founded the ReimagineLA Coalition with the explicit intent of moving LA County dollars to community-based services outside of law enforcement, including pretrial services. With the support of over 2 million voters, the coalition successfully passed Measure J in 2020. Despite best efforts from law enforcement special interest groups to overturn Measure J, it was upheld by the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in July. While pro-law enforcement groups may still appeal that decision, the fact remains that Measure J has been ruled constitutional and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors (BOS) have committed to its implementation by creating the Care First Community Investment funding and advisory committee.
The language of the board policy clearly states that Care First Community Investment funding should be used for “pre-trial non-custody services and treatment.” Despite these guidelines, the county has chosen to spend these precious resources intended for services to contract with Accenture, a consulting firm with a disturbing track record of working with local and federal law enforcement agencies. La Defensa opposes the use of Care First Community Investment funding (also known as Measure J) for the Accenture contract and joins the calls for the LA County Board of Supervisors to cancel the contract and immediately redirect the dollars to be spent on pretrial services, as intended by the board’s own policy, the recommendations of the Care First Community Investment Committee (CFCI) and the language of Measure J.
Ivette Alé-Ferlito (They/them), Executive Director of La Defensa, shares the following statement in response to the county’s contract with Accenture and failure to implement pretrial services:
“Over the last 5 years, I have volunteered my time in county commissions and workgroups guiding pretrial reform for LA County, including the drafting of the ATI Workgroup’s pretrial recommendations outlined in the Care First Jails Last Report. Among the recommendations, the workgroup called for the creation of ‘an independent, cross-functional entity, situated outside of law enforcement’, ‘presumption of pretrial release for all individuals,’ and ‘warm handoffs to community-based systems of care, to provide targeted services.’ This is the blueprint the county should be following to jump-start pretrial services now. For years, we have consistently advocated directly to the BOS, the County’s Chief Executive Officer and relevant county departments to begin implementation of the ATI recommendations as written without further delays, and called out the obscure contracting processes happening within JCOD back in May, stating in the Care First Budget Report, “More than three-quarters of those JCOD resources are earmarked for ‘services and supplies,’ including $39 million for Contracted Program Services. The [JCOD] budget does not specify what specific contracts or services these are, and the community has limited visibility into the terms and deliverables of these agreements.”
Unfortunately, the county chose to create yet another committee essentially replicating the ATI processes minus its robust and transparent community engagement, in what appears as another delay tactic. I know this because La Defensa was one of the comparatively limited list of CBO’s invited to participate in a voluntary capacity in the Justice Care and Opportunities Department (JCOD) Pretrial Services Steering Committee. After consulting with our movement partners, we agreed to engage in the process to share our community’s perspective and hold the line on pretrial justice, as we have in countless county commissions and spaces in years past. Our engagement has been in the spirit of advocating for community demands and challenging harmful proposals, and should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the process. Our goal, as it has always been, is to ensure that the demands of the community are given a voice in what would otherwise be a county echo-chamber. We have remained steadfast in uplifting the pretrial justice principles that center presumption of innocence and services over supervision. VERA Institute of Justice, another group that participated in the Steering Committee, recently released a statement detailing critiques of the process, all of which we share. We will not let La Defensa’s name be used to justify or validate the county’s errors, especially a contract funded with dollars meant for pretrial services.
When we wrote Measure J, we intentionally included “pretrial non-custody services and treatment” to ensure that the pretrial recommendations that were collectively developed in the ATI Workgroup had the necessary funding to be implemented. The county has instead chosen to use the Measure J funding intended for services to contract with Accenture. The county’s choice is a fatal flaw on three fronts: The first is contracting with a company with a track record of working for law enforcement to guide the creation of what is supposed to be an independent pretrial services agency. The second is spending millions of Measure J / CFCI dollars on consulting fees that Board policy and Measure J explicitly designates for pretrial services and treatment. And the third, not honoring the recommendation of the Care First Community Investment Advisory Committee that those dollars be earmarked for services. I say these are fatal flaws because people incarcerated pretrial are dying at alarming rates inside of our jail system, many of whom could have been released had the county acted sooner to fund and implement the recommendations delivered to them over 4 years ago. The County must act now to change course and begin the implementation of pretrial services like an accessible court date reminder system, a functional transportation assistance program, and case management, rather than delay life-saving implementation with more reports.
Ensuring pretrial justice for LA County is central to La Defensa’s mission, and to that end, we support the demands to cancel the Accenture contract and call on the county to redirect that funding to services immediately. We also support Vera’s demand that LA County hire an experienced and dedicated pretrial services director to guide the creation of services. It is past time the county course corrects their mistakes and makes good on their promises.”
La Defensa is a femme-led, Los Angeles based organization working to decarcerate the largest jail population in the United States–the LA County jail system–by reducing the power and scope of the judiciary, law enforcement, and the legal injustice system. We do this by fighting for pretrial justice, state and local budgets that reflect our values, judicial accountability, and gender justice.