For De-Bug, visiting Spirit House in Durham, NC is like going to a family reunion and meeting cousins you heard of through stories — family who moved, believed, and breathed like you, just in a different part of the country. Last week, De-Bug organizers Gail Noble, Cecilia Chavez, and Charisse Domingo shared space with amazing organizers from Durham, NC who are holding it down in the community: Spirit House, a cultural-arts and community organizing group fighting mass criminalization; All of Us Or None, a membership-based organization made of formerly incarcerated individuals organizing to transform the system; Southern Coalition for Social Justice, an organization made of lawyers, researchers, and organizers supporting communities of color addressing racial inequities; and Inside Outside, an organization made of families addressing disparate jail conditions in Durham County. We were brought together by the Hayward Burns Institute’s Community Justice Network for Youth, who promoted the peer exchange among our organizations. We spent two days sharing Participatory Defense strategies and collectively brainstorming how to support each other in our larger movement to end mass incarceration. We can’t wait to keep building with these dedicated community warriors! Check out our photos below!
Last Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to spend approximately $155 million to build a new jail in the county. Proposed by Sheriff Greg Munks, the construction of a new jail is supposed to relieve overcrowding in the current jail, create space for a women’s facility, and address the potential overflow as a result of AB109, the California realignment plan that makes counties deal with low-level offenders.
Instead of addressing why there are high incarceration rates to begin with, the County chose to just figure out how to house the growing population. Community advocates such as All of Us Or None led by Dorsey Nunn, Critical Resistance, and Youth United for Community Action in East Palo Alto showed up at the Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday to state their opposition to the jail, saying the money put towards the jail only takes away from community services. “This is a jail for future generations,” Dorsey said. “Not only will they take our sons and daughters, but our grandkids.”
YUCA, a youth organization in East Palo Alto committed to environmental and social justice, first got involved about 2 years ago when the jail was being proposed to be built in East Palo Alto. They collected over 400 petitions and got the City to declare their opposition to the jail construction in the community. However, regardless of where the jail was in the county, YUCA youth were also opposed to the idea. Anna Turner, a longtime resident in the community and is a Program Director at YUCA, attended the Board meeting as well. “We should be spending the money on preventative measures, targeting the root cause of crime, not just locking people up. Plus, we don’t want this jail to target undocumented people as well.” YUCA and community advocates are looking to challenge the county’s decision.
At De-Bug’s ACJP, we’ve seen incarceration be too easy of an answer for San Mateo County. We have seen some of the harshest sentences imposed on San Mateo County defendants, and on the front end, some of the most extreme charges placed on people that will almost always guarantee a plea bargain. Compounded by this is ICE’s Secure Communities Program that has entangled immigration and criminal justice laws, and turned every police officer into an ICE agent. We have seen immigrants with ICE holds beat their charges, have their charges dismissed or dropped, or could have been eligible for drug programs like Prop 36 but because of their ICE holds have been sent away to federal detention facilities. We feel that this decision to build a jail is counter to what seems like a regional trend of dealing with criminal justice issues in a more holistic and progressive way. We hope the county rethinks this decision, and takes a more courageous, creative, and cost-effective stance to deal with the criminal justice system. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo