Nothing is more important to me than the safety and security of the residents of the First District. For many, that means a good-paying job to ensure that there is always food on the table and a roof over your family. It also means that you feel safe in your home, on the way to work, in school, at the park, and in your everyday life.
As originally designed, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety was deeply unbalanced, excluding advocates for the re-entry population. In local governance, we need evidence-based community-centric solutions – this is especially true for public safety. I am pleased that the Board of Supervisors passed my amendments to equitably balance the the Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety. Before my amendments, 11 seats on the Commission were reserved for law enforcement compared to 10 seats for non-law enforcement. After my amendments were accepted, there are 10 seats for law enforcement versus 17 seats for non-law enforcement.
As dozens of public speakers urged at today’s Board meeting, this new Commission will now be an open forum that is inclusive of different voices, a safe space where law enforcement and the community can equally discuss best practices, strategies, and opportunities to address recidivism.
Public safety demands restorative justice for those who can be diverted and safely reintroduced into society following incarceration. But for far too many in the Prop 47, Prop 57, and AB109 re-entry populations, there are significant barriers to gainful employment – and studies have shown that employment is the single most important influence on decreasing recidivism. In fact, one study found that two years after release, nearly twice as many employed people with criminal records had avoided legal trouble than their unemployed counterparts.
As Secretary of Labor, I saw firsthand that workforce development and a highly targeted focus on restorative justice works. The voters who passed Prop 47, Prop 57, and the state legislature that passed AB109 believed that society needed to ensure that formerly incarcerated men and women have a second chance at life. That is why I have spent so much time and energy ensuring that our re-entry populations have a good job waiting for them, to help them pick up the pieces of their life and begin to rebuild. Their voices are crucial in any conversation about public safety and reducing recidivism.
It has been an incredible and eye-opening experience to be a longtime partner with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). Just two weeks ago I visited ARC’s Second Chance Union Apprenticeship Program at Los Angeles Trade Tech College. This unique partnership between ARC, the LA County Federation of Labor, the Building Trades, and LA Trade Tech is a tangible example of my efforts at the County to reinvent the workforce development system. This 12-week class, which I helped fund, is a comprehensive technical education program combined with supportive services that prepares formerly incarcerated individuals for success in union apprenticeships in the Building and Construction Trades and places graduates directly into apprenticeships. The outcomes to date have been exceptional: in their last cohort of graduates, over 75 percent of the participants successfully joined the unionize workforce as plumbers, electricians, boiler makers, and painters. It was heartening to see the excitement – and tears – in the eyes of the students as they recounted their stories and shared their enthusiasm for their future.
Supporting restorative justice programs such as ARC is only one such action I have taken as LA County Supervisor to address the needs of our formerly incarcerated population and the community at-large. I have worked to expand the County’s proposed Local and Targeted Worker Hire Policy to help individuals facing barriers to employment, including criminal records, poverty, or homelessness, find a good job quicker. I authored the motion establishing a Fair Chance Ordinance that will establish hiring policies that enable qualified job applicants, including those with a criminal record, to have opportunities to obtain employment. And earlier this summer I helped launch Youth@Work, a countywide initiative that pairs work experience, personal enrichment and training, and other supportive services for at-risk youth – and my recent motion on the Youth Bridges Program will expand on this success, building a central resource across all County Departments for giving at-risk youth the tools they need to build successful lives while staying out of the legal system.
These policies to assist formerly incarcerated individuals have proven effective in preventing crime and recidivism around the nation. With additional voices from the re-entry community, including private defense counsel, service and treatment providers, and individuals directly benefitted by Prop 47, Prop 57, and AB 109, today we created an inclusive Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety that was forged in the core values and deeply-abiding belief in healing, second chances, and salvation.