The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. California, of course, is part of the problem. But what if a city in the Golden State had the chance to buck the trend?
This isn’t a hypothetical question.
The city of Santa Ana is at a critical turning point. Next Tuesday, the Santa Ana City Council will decide on the future of its local jail. There’s a lot at stake here, not only because the jail currently operates at an $8.6 million annual deficit, but also because the decision will determine what kind of community the city of Santa Ana wants to be.
We believe Santa Ana should reimagine the use of the jail, repurposing it into something that is a benefit to the community. Residents also have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
Today, we are releasing a report titled “Rebuilding Trust: A Case Study for Closing and Repurposing Immigration Detention Facilities.”
In it, we investigate human and civil rights abuses at the jail such as excessive force and inadequate medical care. We provide a basic plan for reuse, such as a community-based reentry center. My organization, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), and our partners released this report to help city leaders make an informed decision, especially since they also will be receiving a jail reuse report from Vanir Construction Management, a firm with a track record of turning “jail reuse” possibilities into self-serving jail construction opportunities.
Santa Ana residents have been clamoring for the closure of the city jail for years. Last year, thanks to hard work and effective campaigns, residents won the termination of the city’s contract with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), after the city voted to become a sanctuary city. This continues to be a significant victory.
However, the city maintains a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to hold people in criminal custody for extended…