California National Guard. Photo courtesy Austin Dave

The recent 2020 election has been a major topic of discussion in most homes. There were many propositions and measures that California voters were deciding on in November. 

Measure J stood out on the ballot and resulted with the measure being passed by a majority of 57% – 43%. The goal of Measure J is to allow Los Angeles County to set aside at least 10% of the county’s yearly unrestricted budget to invest in other alternatives of incarceration. The 10% of the unrestricted budget can be anywhere from $300 million to $500 million. These funds will not be allowed to be used by law enforcement – which includes The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, District Attorneys, probation, and the County Superior Courts. 

Measure J was introduced and stemmed from the racial inequality that many are facing in society. Instead of incarceration being the first choice for people in need of mental, physical, and social assistance, helpful alternatives will become available for these issues. Some alternatives that would come about are youth development programs, job training, rent assistance, counseling and substance abuse services. 

Protest in Santa Clarita. Photo courtesy Austin Dave

With the increase of protests because of police brutality, defunding the police has been the goal for many people who are fighting for racial equity. Rather than taking away funds from law enforcement the measure will just not allow extra funds to go to them. 

Larry Alvarez, a professor and chair of the Administration of Justice Department for College of the Canyons, spoke on his perspective and why he both agrees and disagrees with Measure J. 

“I spent 24 years in the criminal justice system. Is it perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Of course there is. I support the intent of the Measure,” stated Alvarez. “Our corrections programs are a dismal failure. Our recidivism rates are outrageous and we are failing on every measurable level. I support any efforts that will evaluate and access failed programs.”

While he supports the expected goal of Measure J, he has his doubts due to limited information on the plan. 

“I believe the intent of the measure was made with good intentions. However, because the measure lacked any substantive plan of action, I do not expect to see the intended results,” said Alvarez. “For reasons of no specific plan, no proper prior planning, and no apparent system of accountability, I oppose Measure J,” he adds. 

Sebastian Cazares, a youth organizer in Santa Clarita, expressed his support for Measure J. 

Sebastian Cazares at a protest in Santa Clarita.

“Measure J is a step forward to take a stand against systemic racism and prioritize the needs of people. Measure J will influence budgetary decisions for our local government’s fiscal priorities in Los Angeles County to serve the needs of marginalized populations and take steps to fund programs that make steps towards racial equity,” said Cazares. 

“I especially support these efforts that empower efforts of youth development, and support rehabilitation, basic needs, care, and restorative justice for young community members instead of jails, incarceration, and efforts that disproportionately impact disenfranchised communities,” he added.

There are people who are for Measure J or against, depending where they stand. Now that the measure is officially put in place, it’s just time to see the changes it can do for our community.

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