After months of rallying the community in the Jobs Not Jails campaign, organizers with the Ella Baker Center in Oakland and nearly 100 community members peacefully disrupted the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, March 3.
Chanting “jobs not jails” and “sign the pledge,” the group asked supervisors to sign a promise to support a “Jobs Not Jails” budget, which would redirect half of the county’s public safety funding in this year’s budget to community services and programs for people returning home from jail.
Protesters included leaders from the faith and labor communities, local community organizations and activists from Black Lives Matter and Asians for Black Lives.
During the meeting, five individuals – risking arrest – engaged in civil disobedience, crossing the barrier that separates supervisors from meeting attendees and shutting down the meeting for over an hour.
“We’re starting to see more evidence to why less funding should go to law enforcement,” said María Domínguez, local organizer with the Ella Baker Center.
Since the passing of Proposition 47 – which reduced penalties for nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors – the jail population has decreased across the state, according to reports.
“This is the best time to start shifting how they’re spending money,” she said.
The Jobs Not Jails campaign calls for the county to invest more dollars into community-based programs that prioritize job training and job creation, education, housing, mental health and substance programs for formerly incarcerated individuals.
At present, the majority of public safety funds are allocated to the sheriff, which organizers say only serves to expand the system of incarceration that negatively impacts low-income and minority communities.
Supervisor Richard Valle expressed his support for the Jobs Not Jails budget. Supervisor Keith Carson also supported allocating funds to programs and services but not until next year’s budget.
There is a need to “invest in giving more programs and services to people who are now on probation and need more re-entry services,” said Darris Young, a local organizer with the Ella Baker Center.
“There are programs out there in need of funding that are ready to serve the needs of this population,” Young said.
The Board of Supervisors will vote on this year’s budget March 24. Organizers plan to meet with the supervisors individually before then.
For more information, visit www.ellabakercenter.org or follow the hashtag #JobsNotJails.