On Tuesday, October 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion that the board hopes will do something about the outsized number of women, and other vulnerable populations in the county’s lock-ups.
This comes after a recent report asking the County to set a goal of seriously reducing the incarceration of women, lesbian-gay-bisexual and transgender people.
The report by the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee (GRAC) is the result of two years of meetings, briefings and analysis. The recommendations in the report echo many of the strategies found in the 2020 Alternatives to Incarceration Care First, Jails Last report.
Approximately 1,400 people are currently housed in LA County’s women’s jail, the Century Regional Detention Facility. Guesstimates place the County population of lesbian-gay-bisexual and transgender people at approximately 850.
“Women need help, but, instead, our custody system often retraumatizes people who are already victims of poverty and violence,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “Today’s action calls for us to better understand specific custody subpopulations including the cisgender female, lesbian-gay-bisexual and transgender populations, what factors drive them into the justice system, and how we might provide the services that could prevent justice involvement. There are better ways to protect public safety than locking up people who simply need help.”
The disproportionate number of women of color was also addressed by Supervisor Holly Mitchell when she stated, “Black women comprise only nine percent of all the women in LA County, yet they make up 33 percent of jail bookings among women,” said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, co-author of the motion. “The racial and gender inequities in our jail system are real and must be addressed. This motion ensures the recommendations of the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee are prioritized appropriately to decrease the jail population, close Men’s Central Jail, and advance the County’s Care First vision.”
GRAC’s updated mission explicitly named cis-women plus “two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, and transgender, gender non-conforming and/or intersex (2S-LGBQ+TGI)” individuals as part of its target population and prioritized expanding the county’s alternatives to incarcerationinitiatives — such as diversion and community-based prevention programs — to target these groups.
The 38 page report made it very clear that women, as well as two-spirit (2S)-LGBQ+TGI individuals, are being needlessly incarcerated, and that it is essential for LA County to significantly reduce the incarceration of women, along with the lesbian-gay-bisexual and transgender people, populations that are found in disproportionate numbers in the county’s jail system.
The report also provides a set of detailed recommendations as to how to keep these populations out of jail to begin with.