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[LAAMN-ANN] No on Proposition 21

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  • Butch Wing
    Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Joins Local Community Groups Announcing Opposition to Proposition 21 Contact: Tracy K. Rice Butch Wing Los Angeles
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2000
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      Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Joins Local Community Groups
      Announcing Opposition to Proposition 21

      Contact:
      Tracy K. Rice Butch Wing
      Los Angeles Bureau Chief State Coordinator
      310-889-1111 510-486-1095

      Statement of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

      February 1, 2000

      Proposition 21 is yet another example of "zero tolerance"
      for our youth. Just as the Decatur School Board chose police
      intervention over educational intervention, California
      voters are being asked to dismantle the juvenile justice
      system and eliminate the current emphasis on rehabilitation.
      In addition, the 43 page ballot measure would reduce
      judicial discretion and according to the California
      Legislative Analyst's Office, would cost the taxpayers
      hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

      California's laws already are among the toughest in the
      country. Right now, the law allows 14 year olds to be tried
      for murder and receive an adult sanction. Last year the
      California legislature passed its own juvenile crime bill,
      SB 334, which holds that any child at least 16 years old,
      with a prior felony, automatically goes to adult court.
      Judges can, and currently do, send younger kids to adult
      court at their discretion.

      Prop. 21, if it passes, will send juvenile offenders to
      prison with hardened criminals. It is proven that kids who
      receive an adult court sanction commit more crimes and
      return to prison more often than kids who are sent to
      juvenile facilities. Furthermore, Prop. 21 will cost
      California billions of dollars. This money shouldn't be
      spent on more prisons. It should be spent on prevention.
      It should be spent on education. It should be spent on
      rehabilitation.

      We are increasingly becoming a nation of first class jails
      and second-class schools. Most rural and urban schools are
      not wired for the Internet, but nearly all of the jails are.
      The United States is spending an average $5,500 per year to
      educate a youth, and almost $20,000 to lock up a youth.
      Right here in Downtown Los Angeles you have a 400 million
      dollar "glamor slammer" just waiting for more young
      customers while at the same time the Los Angeles Unified
      School District is in crisis. These two issues are
      inextricably intertwined.

      This jail-for profit industry is becoming a source of
      international shame and disgrace. Of the two million
      Americans in jail, 90 percent are high school dropouts, 92
      percent are functionally illiterate, with a 76 percent
      recidivist rate. We are often tempted to think of China as
      an oppressive country, but we incarcerate 500,000 more
      people in this country despite the fact that we have less
      than one fourth the population of China. The poor and the
      unlearned of this country are becoming fodder for the growth
      of the jail/industrial complex. This is not right.

      It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the U.S. system of
      punishment isn't about crime or justice, but rather is about
      social control. We lock up our poor, our uneducated, our
      unruly, our unstable and our addicted, where other countries
      provide treatment, mental hospitals and care. The financial
      costs of maintaining such a system are staggering.
      Operating prisons this year will cost about $40 billion.
      Our states now spend more on prisons than on universities.

      The human costs are incalculable. Young people arrested for
      drugs are brutalized once in jail. Prison becomes their
      university. Its lessons are not uplifting. The U.S. imposes
      the longest sentences in the industrial world, locking
      non-violent offenders into the prisons with the worst
      conditions that provide the least treatment. The offender is
      violated, hardened, and then released into a society with
      hope cut off. Not surprisingly, recidivism rates are
      staggeringly high. No wonder the stocks of the corporations
      now competing to privatize prisons are sky-high: the market
      is locked in.

      Cowardly politicians play on people's fears and hatreds and
      perpetuate the crime of punishment. It isn't hard or clever.
      Conservative Republicans became the party of white sanctuary
      in the South by using law and order as a code for racial
      fears. New Democrats thought it easier to switch than fight.

      Three strikes and lifetime jail, two strikes and out,
      racially biased laws on crack versus cocaine, mandatory
      sentences, macho work camps, even the death penalty - all
      became grist for campaign ads to prove they were tough
      enough to govern.

      Last Friday, Governor Gray Davis announced his support for
      Prop. 21. He, like so many politicians, does not have the
      courage to tell Californians the truth: the prison system is
      a crime against justice; the punishment complex a moral
      outrage. Lives are being lost and ruined, billions wasted,
      and crimes abetted because we choose to lock people up
      rather than help them up. Robbing our youth of the
      opportunity for rehabilitation, education and prevention
      programs is detrimental to both the individual child and
      society as a whole. When Californians go to the polls on
      March 7th we should remember that macho posturing by
      politicians is not the same as good policy.

      Proposition 21 is unnecessary and ineffective and will only
      make matters worse for California's youth and for California.

      -30-


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