We are thrilled to introduce you to our new Executive Director Ivette Alé-Ferlito. Ivette, one of the co-founders of La Defensa, has officially taken the helm of the organization, as our other co-founder, Eunisses, steps into her new role as Los Angeles City Council Member of the First District. Ivette transitions to La Defensa from their role as Policy Director at our movement partner, Dignity and Power Now.
Ivette is a transformational leader. They’ve spearheaded the Justice LA Coalition, and supported the creation of statewide and local coalitions such as the Care First Coalition, A Budget to Save Lives Coalition, the ReimagineLA Coalition, and SNAC – the Survivors Network Against Criminalization.
Eunisses and Ivette are longtime comrades in organizing. Spanning multiple years, coalitions, and organizations, their strong and unified advocacy has helped shape the abolitionist movement in LA County and beyond. They founded La Defensa after their years of organizing together, passing legislation at the CA state level, and growing the Justice LA Coalition in partnership with other grassroots organizers.
Together, they saw the need for abolitionist electoral organizing, as well as an organization that held the vision for judicial accountability and transformation in the face of a previously impenetrable and regressive branch of government: the judiciary. Knowing it was important to center the how of organizing, rather than just the what, their vision for La Defensa also centered femme leadership development, sustainable work cultures, and radical gender justice values being woven into all levels of organizing.
As coalition partners and leaders of grassroots campaigns, they have collectively passed landmark criminal justice reform legislation and ballot initiatives, including the Repeal of Ineffective Sentence Enhancement (RISE) Act of 2017 (Senate Bill 180-Mitchell) and the Fair and Just Sentencing Act of 2018 (Senate Bill 1393-Mitchell). They were part of the team that drafted Measure J, and both played integral roles in getting over 2.1 million voters to approve it in 2020. In addition to their policy victories, they led the JusticeLA campaign in defeating Los Angeles County’s $3.5 billion jail expansion plan that included a new jail for women and a new jail for people with mental health needs. Through their leadership in the JusticeLA coalition, they coalesced Los Angeles organizations and stakeholders around pretrial reform, centering a strategy that rejects biased risk assessment tools, removes pretrial services out of the hands of law enforcement and into a service-based model, and upholds the presumption of innocence. They led and coordinated statewide resistance against Senate Bill 10, which would end the use of money bail in California at the expense of due process, more probation officers, and more judicial power. Although the bill passed, the mobilization shifted the landscape of pretrial reform in California that has reverberated across the country. Ivette and Eunisses continue to lead and influence the broader conversation around pretrial reform, both locally and nationally.
In February 2019, their advocacy moved the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pass a motion creating the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) County Workgroup. The workgroup was tasked with developing the vision for implementation of mental health and substance use treatment, community-based systems of care, pretrial reform and triaging crisis response outside of law enforcement, among other diversion strategies. Over the course of a year, the ATI Work Group developed 14 goals, along with over one hundred recommendations and strategies for how to provide care and services first, and jail as a last resort or not at all. They are all aimed at providing treatment and services to those in need, instead of arrest and jail. Although created through separate consensus-building processes, with the leadership of Eunisses as Community Based System of Care Chairperson and Ivette as the JusticeLA Coordinator, they were able to get consensus from County and Stakeholders from impacted communities to create a report that points toward a cohesive vision of a more fair and effective system of alternatives to incarceration throughout Los Angeles County.
Ivette has been a recognizable community voice within the LA County, serving on the County’s Gender Responsive Advisory Committee (read the GRAC Report here), Public Safety Realignment Team, ATI Community Cabinet, and Pretrial Workgroup.
Ivette’s sharp policy analysis and innovative leadership will continue to propel La Defensa forward. They also bring to the table a long history of cultural organizing, including queer art curation and global music event production from NY to Mexico City. This body of work uplifts the creativity of queer and TGI BIPOC artists.
We are so excited to collectively continue building the momentum of La Defensa’s work in partnership with Ivette. We are so proud of Eunisses for her powerful victory in CD1, and are excited for Eunisses and Ivette to remain in thought partnership and co-struggle together in their various new roles.
With love and solidarity,
The La Defensa Team