LOS ANGELES — More than 4,000 Angelenos wrapped around the Million Dollar Theater in downtown June 2 to hear U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and Real Justice PAC co-founder Shaun King deliver impassioned speeches on what it will take for America to fix it’s failing criminal justice system and what is at stake if it doesn’t.
“I don’t believe we’ve thrown our best solutions at our worst problems,” King said.
“Years ago a reporter asked me what we want, [and I] said ‘we want civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Department,’” Cullors told the crowd. “That reporter laughed at me. Two years later Dignity and Power Now won. The local fights are where the most important fights are.”
Political strategist and Reform L.A. Jails Campaign Director Jasmyne Cannick grounded the How to Make Change event by bringing the conversation local to Los Angeles — the home of the largest jail system in the world.
Cannick said: “Reform L.A. Jails is about telling the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that instead of planning for us to be in jail by spending $3.5 billion on building new jails — that they should instead be planning on how to keep people out of jail.”
Cannick called on a increase in the $221 paid to those on general relief and for more money to be put into housing and jobs.
Sanders told the crowd that five years ago he didn’t know that of the 2 million people incarcerated in the U.S., roughly 400,000 were in jail for “being poor.”
“When we talk about criminal justice reform, this reform has enormous political ramifications,” Sanders said. “Today, 6 million Americans have lost their right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement. A million and a half of them live in the state of Florida. Now, some of you may remember a little while ago that a presidential election was decided by a few hundred votes in Florida.”
Cannick used her time on stage to share the story of 24-year old Mitrice Richardson who was found dead in a Malibu ravine eight years ago after the Sheriff’s Department released her in the middle of night without her purse, a cellphone or her car.
“Nearly 10 years later, we still don’t know what happened to Mitrice other than she was arrested for something that today in California the police wouldn’t even waste their time on.”
Additional speakers included Jayda Rasberry with Dignity and Power Now, Melina Abdullah with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and Ivette Ale with JusticeLA all of whom are in support of Reform L.A. Jails’ commitment to ensuring the L.A. County Board of Supervisors creates a reinvestment plan for allocating funding towards restorative justice models that work.
Currently in the signature-gathering phase, Reform L.A. Jails needs to collect 170,000 signatures of registered voters in Los Angeles County to qualify for the ballot. To get involved with the campaign and to sign the petition, visit www.ReformLAJails.com.