A Care First Vision
Table of Contents
Public safety is housing stability; it’s zero traffic deaths; it’s road repair and emergency vehicle access; it’s access to jobs, unions, labor centers, and healthcare; It’s aging in place; it’s clean air; it’s programs and support for youth. My platform and my values are centered around this fundamental question of safety: Who gets to be safe? How can we build towards equity and care-first systems that prevent harm rather than just reacting to harm after it has already happened.
Los Angeles is one of the wealthiest cities in the country. Our city’s budget is over 11 billion dollars annually. We absolutely have the resources we need to take care of Angelenos and pull us out of a vicious cycle of inequity, criminalization, and death. After all, the wealthiest communities are the safest. In the last few years, decades of organizing, popular education, and coalition building have moved major victories and challenged what is possible in LA. In a moment of reactionary push back to our monumental wins, we have to keep our aim true and fight for the future we want to live in, nothing less.
A Care First Vision
Platform & Policy Priorities
Links & Resources
MY EXPERIENCE AS A PUBLIC POLICY ADVOCATE ON THE CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM IN LOS ANGELES
I am the co-founder and co-Executive Director of La Defensa, and I’ve had the honor of participating in and co-creating campaigns, coalitions, and commissions that shifted LA County’s priorities away from jail construction and towards a Care First vision. With these coalitions, I helped pass successful policies and budget demands, such as Measure J, which have begun to drive hundreds of millions of dollars into expanding and creating access to community-based services, housing, and support for young people in LA County.
I led La Defensa as a core member of the coalitions that successfully stopped LA County from building two new jails. We were told many times that these things were not possible and to just give up. But being impacted by systemic harm — and working in partnership with the community to dismantle the architecture of systemic harm — has only reinforced my belief that we have the solutions and the power to change our communities for the better. The power of our communities has kept me in the struggle, and together, we won these battles. In 2019, we convinced LA County’s leadership to invest additional millions of dollars previously designated for jail construction into building up the infrastructure of alternatives to incarceration, such as supportive treatment for substance abuse and mental health.
I helped create state-level coalitions, including A Budget to Save Lives, Care First California, and the SNAC: Survivors Network Against Criminalization. These coalitions are moving policies and budget demands to better support people harmed by violence and invest in non-carceral pretrial services. I have spent years working on writing and passing legislation at the state level, such as SB 443 (civil asset forfeiture reform), SB 180 (drug sentence enhancement reform), SB 1393 (five-year prior sentence enhancement reform), and other bills focused on creating harm-reduction programs, diversion programs, and other state efforts to stop the expansion of probation.
Through all this work, my goal has been to liberate and support our loved ones, to divert money and power away from the harmful systems we are trying to dismantle, and to leave no one behind.
It’s time we invest in community. Investing in community care, workforce development, social services, and harm-reduction programs will help make our neighborhoods and business corridors safer and healthier places.
A CARE FIRST VISION
This platform is dedicated to the people of Los Angeles who lost their lives to state sanctioned violence and harm due to existing ineffective responses: Rosendo Olivio Jr., Daniel Elena Lopez, Andrés Guardado, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, David Ordaz Jr., Marco Vasquez Jr., Dijon Kizzee, and the over 960 people that were killed by LAPD.
For too long, our communities have been forced to rely on failed responses to violence, harm, and crises. We have some of the largest jail systems and law enforcement departments in the country, yet the crises in our city and communities continue to be met with responses and policies that fail to address the driving causes of crime, violence, and other harm.
Some people define “public safety” as the strong presence of law enforcement and carceral-based responses — but those systems don’t keep us safe. We can look to the “tough on crime” era of the 1980s and ‘90s to see the ineffective and damaging results of punitive policies which have separated families, led to the construction of dozens of prisons and jails, and blocked millions of people from fully participating in our legal economy — and we’re still living with the impact of these regressive policies. The $1 trillion “War on Drugs” criminalized poverty and disproportionately impacted and incarcerated Black and brown people and communities intergenerationally, and did nothing to prevent the exploding opioid epidemic or overdose crises we’re dealing with now. Criminalizing a public health issue only makes it worse.
My vision of public safety is one in which we build healthier, more resilient communities by investing in policies and programs that address the root causes of poverty and violence, and not just the symptoms. This means investing in truly affordable and social housing, because our communities will never be safe as long as there are people who cannot afford a place to live. It also means investing in small businesses in BIPOC communities, mental health care, day care, re-entry services, employment resources, and other alternatives to incarceration.
Currently, law enforcement, criminalization, and incarceration is the go-to response for people experiencing houselessness, extreme poverty, untreated mental health needs, and/or problematic substance use. Carceral-led responses fail to keep communities safe and are ill-equipped to effectively address the root causes of poverty, houselessness, and other poor social determinants of health. They also result in our neighbors cycling in and out of jail instead of getting the care they need to lead and sustain safe and healthy lives. This reliance on police and incarceration leads to underinvestment in systems that could more fully address the drivers of harm and violence, such as treatment, services, and housing.
Less than 8% of calls to the LAPD involve a report of violent crime. The majority of LAPD’s time is spent sending armed officers to respond to traffic accidents, driver and pedestrian stops, and other situations the LAPD classifies as nonviolent “minor offenses.” The most common police activity both nationally and here in Los Angeles are traffic stops of drivers and pedestrians. After making discretionary stops for minor traffic or equipment violations, LAPD officers use the stops as a pretext for investigating other potential crimes. Study after study has shown that these so-called “pretextual stops” are racially biased, and over the past ten years the LAPD has made between 550,000 and 950,000 such stops per year. Over half of police-involved killings begin with responses to a nonviolent incident, and these shootings and deaths disproportionately affect poor and BIPOC communities.
So when traffic stops, non-emergency calls, and so many other “routine” law enforcement activities result in deaths of BIPOC and particularly Black people, we must come to terms with the fact that right now, our BIPOC communities are not safe. Our young, marginalized LGBTQ+ communities are not safe, our migrant communities are not safe, our Muslim communities are not safe. The safest communities don’t have the most police, they have the most resources.
In Los Angeles, we currently give law enforcement full authority to criminalize minor infractions — often ones that are done for survival, a result of poverty or other systemic disadvantages. Instead of using punitive measures to criminalize someone with a broken taillight or an instance of shoplifting or someone whose income comes from an unregulated industry, such as sex work, we need to invest in job creation and social safety nets to prevent situations that lead to harm and violence.
My vision for community safety is a community that is fully resourced with services and life-affirming care. It’s a community that invests in intensive case management and housing-first models for people with substance use disorders and/or co-occurring mental health needs. One where we don’t rely on jails to handle our sickest and most vulnerable community members. One where decisions made for survival are met with social safety nets, not with incarceration, and one where we invest in transforming the conditions that lead people to get caught in a cycle of criminalization.
If elected, my team and I will pursue these strategies highlighted here and expanded upon in our platform below:
► Employ behavioral health responses for people experiencing mental health needs along with problematic substance use, houselessness, and other situations caused by unmet needs.
► Fund and expand violence prevention and peer-to-peer programs for gang-impacted people, developed and led by gang-impacted people.
► Partner with the county and state to pass non-carceral pretrial services policies and survivor support infrastructure, as well as decriminalize sex work.
► Partner with the County to close down the decrepit Men’s Central Jail and replace it with re-entry services, treatment, and housing.
PART THREE: PUBLIC SAFETY PLATFORM & POLICY PRIORITIES
I. EMPLOY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH RESPONSES FOR CRISIS RESPONSE
About 1/3 of people killed by the LAPD are suffering from a mental illness or are in crisis. Mental health crisis response is a critical part of moving us towards safer communities. Los Angeles does not have an adequate delivery system for mental health services, nor do we have enough mental health service slots or long-term supportive housing. As a result of this prolonged under-investment in mental health care and over-investment in carceral systems, many community members and families who call 911 end up losing loved ones to police violence. To build the relationship between community support and healthcare, I will:
► Implement existing federal resources, such as the 988 mental health crisis line which is being piloted in California, at the city level. This way, individuals experiencing mental health crises (or their loved ones) can seek help from trained behavioral and community health professionals instead of calling the police. I will work with the City of LA and the Department of Mental Health to resource and equip community members to support the City’s implementation of 988.
► Fund and expand existing mental health mobile response teams city and countywide. Mental health mobile response teams are made up of clinicians that answer mental health crises calls, but there aren’t nearly enough, with only 30 teams serving 10+ million people in LA County. We can start by building out 30 teams dedicated to the City of LA, which itself has a population of over 4 million. We also have the opportunity to expand our City programs like the CIRCLE teams pilot, which addresses mental health needs in people experiencing homelessness, currently only operating in Hollywood and Venice.
► Support and expand mental health services for individuals experiencing homelessness. Over half of all people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles are impacted by mental illness. To address this, we can expand the work of E6 outreach teams, which are teams of healthcare workers that provide outreach and mental health support for individuals currently experiencing homlessness. These teams are currently only operating in Hollywood, Downtown LA, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Westlake, and Mid-City. And we can fund and expand capacity for Street Medicine, like the teams from USC or UCLA currently operating in CD1. My council office would work to build a relationship with USC and other schools and hospitals in the district to expand and further facilitate the work being done.
► Create and expand decentralized, cross-coordinated service hubs where individuals and their loved ones can access referrals or immediate admission for a spectrum of trauma-informed services including Psychiatric Urgent Care Centers.
II. RESTORATIVE CARE VILLAGES
Los Angeles County operates the largest jail system in the United States, and incarceration is shown to exacerbate the symptoms of mental illness and problematic substance use. About 43% of people in LA County jails have identified mental health needs, and according to a 2020 RAND study commissioned by the LA County Board of Supervisors, “up to 61% of people in the Los Angeles County jail mental health population could be appropriate for community release.” I have dedicated my career to ending mass incarceration and moving money into systems of care that allow us to support our loved ones and community members with mental health and substance use needs, as well as disabled individuals. To continue this work on City Council, I will:
► Expand proven diversion models in Los Angeles that I have had the privilege of visiting and studying across the country and the world. I led the establishment of LEAD in Long Beach, pre-booking diversion program developed in Seattle that diverts people into intensive case management instead of jail. It’s been proven to reduce the use of carceral responses, increase the use of services and housing by impacted people, and reduce recidivism. My state level advocacy for the program brought the resources to establish it here in California.
► Introduce legislation directing the city agencies to implement non-carceral pretrial reforms to make sure people make it back to court. 72% of the pretrial population does not have a hold from a probation, ICE, or parole office, and are likely incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail. This means that individuals are sitting in jail while legally presumed innocent, in large part because they can’t pay for their freedom and judges won’t release them. The pretrial population spends an average of 221 days and a median of 99 days in custody. It is unacceptable to hold people in jail for months and put them at risk of losing their jobs, missing medical appointments, and subjecting them to conditions known to cause deterioration of mental and physical health, because they cannot afford bail.
► Expand the LA County Office of Diversion and Reentry to the city level to ensure that we divert people away from the jail system while creating pre-arrest diversion programs in a way that doesn’t require law enforcement to become social workers.
► Partner with the county to close down Men’s Central Jail (MCJ). MCJ, one of the largest and oldest jails in the U.S., is based in District 1 and is overfilled and in disrepair. It is consistently ranked as one of the worst, most dangerous jails in the country. I would continue to work with county supervisors and community coalitions who have been leading this work — like the JusticeLA coalition, Black Lives Matter-LA, and Dignity & Power Now — to shut down and replace MCJ with reentry services, treatment, supportive housing, and Restorative Care Villages.
III. IMPLEMENT COMMUNITY-BASED APPROACHES TO GANG AND VIOLENCE PREVENTION
I believe that people who are impacted by the traditional system of incarceration need to be leaders in developing and implementing policies and programs that support violence reduction and restorative justice practices in our communities. On City Council, I will:
► Leverage Measure J and Care First Community Investment (CFCI) and state funding to support the creation of programs that are community-based and led by impacted people.
► Expand funding to support violence-reduction programs for and led by gang impacted people. The programs I support exist outside of traditional programs like the Mayor’s GRYD program, which works closely with law enforcement. I believe that law enforcement and the carceral system should not be conduits to funding and services.
IV. PURSUE GENDER JUSTICE AND INVEST IN SURVIVOR SUPPORT SYSTEMS
The criminal legal system has an enormous and often-overlooked impact on women. I have dedicated the last few years of my career to developing alternatives to incarceration that can support women who have been impacted by intimate partner violence, who are in the LA County jail system, and who are returning home after being incarcerated. The top charges that put women in the LA County jail system include driving with a suspended license or no license, property damage, mental health needs, and substance use needs. I served as chair of the LA County Gender Responsive Advisory Committee (GRAC), whose report found that 86% of incarcerated women have experienced sexual violence and that 77% have experienced intimate partner violence. The report also found that 1 in 5 transgender women have been incarcerated in their lifetimes. As chair of GRAC, I led the development process, recommendations, and overall content of the report. I shifted the committee’s outlook from one that recommended how to build more “inclusive jails” to one written by women and trans and gender diverse people impacted by the carceral system that recommended investment in diversion, decarceration, and decriminalization. If elected to City Council, my office would:
► Introduce legislation to address the unique challenges faced by women people experiencing homelessness in LA. Domestic violence is the leading cause of houselessless for women in Los Angeles. LAHSA data shows us that at least 39% of the people experiencing homelessness in LA are women, and over half of the women experiencing homelessness in LA are domestic violence survivors. Women and LGBTQ+ people have a unique set of barriers and challenges to get housing that can support their needs.
► Introduce legislation to advance budget proposals for expanding and enhancing family reunification services, intimate partner violence crisis response, and daycare services.
V. DECRIMINALIZE POVERTY
To realize our care-first vision, we must repeal ineffective “tough-on-crime” laws that are used to criminalize poverty and houselessness, loitering, trespassing, sex work, and more. Serving people experiencing homelessness and having well-maintained streets are not incompatible. I‘ve worked to repeal these so-called “tough-on-crime” policies at the state level, including SB 966 (Mitchell), a law that repealed a three-year sentence enhancement for prior drug convictions. And I’ve advocated against local laws like LAMC 41.18, which targets people experiencing homelessness and makes it illegal to “sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or other public way.” These laws don’t work because they merely displace individuals while making it harder for that person to get off the streets and housed permanently. Banning encampments only scatters people from places where their caseworker may be able to find them, causes people to lose documents, medication, and survival supplies, and often pushes unhoused people further away from the resources and amenities they need to survive. On City Council, I will:
► Push to repeal 41.18. LA’s City Council dramatically expanded LAMC 41.18 in July 2021, even in the face of strong opposition from advocates, experts, and service providers. On City Council, I would work with Council to replace 41.18 with solutions that actually work to address encampments, and help people into housing.
► Pro-actively apply for available state and federal homelessness funding. In this year’s budget, Newsom created $50M for an Encampment Resolution Fund. Only one council office (CD4) has applied for funding. Additionally, in the proposed California 22-23 budget, there is $500M for Encampment Resolution Grants for local jurisdictions, these funding opportunities are critical to translating progressive rhetoric into actual capacity and housing.
► Implement services and embedded outreach for encampments in council district 1. We have effective and sustainable models of outreach, including from Councilmember Nithya Raman’s office (CD4) and Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD11). These Encampment to Home or Street to Home initiatives are grounded in relationship-building, resource distribution, and voluntary cleaning with the participation of encampment residents. Their efficacy is strongly supported by service providers.
► Push for the decriminalizion of sex work in Los Angeles and statewide, and stop using loitering laws to target sex workers.
VI. PRIORITIZE SAFETY FOR TWO SPIRIT, LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER, GENDER-DIVERSE AND/OR INTERSEX (2S-LGBTQ+ TGI) PEOPLE
Trans women and particularly Black trans women are disproportionately criminalized and incarcerated in LA, and access to healthcare for trans and gender-diverse people by, or informed by, trans and gender-diverse people is a huge need. In office, I would:
► Work with the city and the county to make budget requests to expand housing, mental health, and substance use treatment delivered by and for people who are trans and gender diverse in District 1. We don’t have to recreate the wheel in creating and delivering these services — we can follow the leadership of existing local organizations and service providers such as the TransLatin@ Coalition.
► Meet the demand for trauma-informed services and housing, particularly for BIPOC women and LGBTQ+ people. To do this, I would draw on my work as Chair of the Los Angeles Gender Responsive Advisory Committee to build out gender responsive and trauma-informed housing, reentry, and supportive services for women and LGBTQ+ folks in LA.
VII. PROTECT MIGRANT COMMUNITIES
I have seen the impacts of our harmful immigration enforcement system and our exclusionary social support networks on my loved ones. Just like with prisons in the criminal legal system, I do not support the incarceration of migrant people. Not only is the existence of detention centers inhumane and immoral, but also has a detrimental impact on Los Angeles in every way: families are torn apart, workers and businesses are impacted, and crimes against migrant people go unreported. For example, we know that domestic violence is severely underreported within migrant communities. Los Angeles has been grandstanding about protecting our immigrants while our actual policies are lagging behind cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. For LA to be a real sanctuary city we should not only enshire immigrant protections into law but also:
► Fight for a fully funded and permanent and universal LA Justice Fund that extends access to legal representation and counsel to individuals and families dealing with deportation and removal proceedings.
► Campaign to end information sharing between local law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security as well as third party vendors like Palantir and LASER. DHS/LAPD task forces and raids sometimes share information besides immigration status, such as a person’s address, image, voice or fingerprints, which can be used to identify people for immigration enforcement. Los Angeles also engages in sharing info with third party data vendors who then resell info to DHS.
► Collaborate with local leaders to pressure for stronger SB54 and other immigration protections to ensure no state or local resources are used to assist federal immigration enforcement.
► Enhance Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) protections for vulnerable youth. Many of our young people and gang-impacted youth are migrants and would benefit from SIJS relief, but the current system is underfunded and needs to be augmented with support from the city.
► Enfranchise migrant Angelenos to vote in municipal elections.
VIII. CHANGING LAWS AROUND THE ROLE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY
We need to reduce our city’s dependence on ineffective public safety responses for our communities while creating new services and responses that are community-based, fully funded, and rooted in holistic trauma-informed care. Turning cops into social workers is not effective. I am a survivor of harm and violence in many forms. Law enforcement did not keep me safe, nor have they prevented harm to my community members.
Violence perpetrated by police is unacceptable, and we have to demand greater accountability and oversight of the LAPD. A police officer who harms someone should not be allowed to remain in their job. I’ve worked with families who have lost loved ones to state-sanctioned violence and I will always follow the lead of those directly affected, both victims and families, and support their aims with whatever power I have. My response to violence by police will be to work with directly impacted individuals to create policies that remove the power of police to commit acts of violence. Law enforcement special interest groups should not have the political power that they do and will never be allowed to contribute to my campaign.
To truly pursue a Care First approach and address the outsized impact of law enforcement on our communities, a number of changes to state and county policy are needed. Changes I would pursue include:
► End the criminalization of vehicle code violations. Poor communities of color are fined, arrested, and prosecuted at far higher rates than wealthier and whiter communities, and the criminalization of vehicle code violations pushes working people deeper into poverty. Instead of fining and arresting people, I would advocate for expanding free services to help folks fix their cars, pay their fines and registration.
► End LAPD spying on communities and the use of risk assessments. The LAPD has been a pioneer in adopting so-called “data-driven” and “predictive policing” practices, which has led to the same harassment and over-policing of Black and brown communities that LAPD has always been notorious for. Even though these programs are racially biased and do nothing to make our communities safer, the LAPD is currently trying to rebrand them to keep using them.
► Discontinue the use of gang injunction lists, or any lists that bar persons from receiving housing or qualifying for jobs.
► Remove police from our schools and fund services and support for students and families instead.
► Remove the role of law enforcement as a conduit to services and housing; to persons with mental health, substance abuse, and/or health crises; and as part of any response to protests.
► Expand civilian oversight of the LAPD, hold officers accountable for their crimes against the community, and shift financial responsibility to police departments for the harm they cause. Right now, the financial burden of these lawsuit payouts fall on the local taxpayers. In 2021, the LA Times estimated that we paid over $245 million to resolve legal claims involving LAPD over the last five and a half years.
IX. INVEST IN SAVING LIVES THROUGH HARM REDUCTION
For LA to become a city that provides safety and justice for all its people, we need to shift our mindset from crisis response to harm prevention and reduction. A record of over 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, and the opioid crisis is worse than it has ever been. The drug supply continues to become more dangerous, unpredictable, and adulterated with things like xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer. A UCLA report last year found that nearly 1,500 people have died on the streets of LA during the pandemic, almost half of them because of a drug or alcohol overdose. This is a humanitarian crisis, and the current law enforcement-driven approach has only made things worse. The impact of our failed policies has hit our Black, brown and indigenous communities the hardest, with drug overdoses rising fastest among those groups. On City Council, I would:
► Following New York’s life-saving model, I would push for funding overdose prevention centers in Los Angeles. These centers provide safe consumption spaces for folks who would otherwise be using drugs on the streets, and include harm prevention and health services. Thirty years of research across multiple continents has proven that overdose prevention centers work to save lives, and there has never been an overdose at any of the 120+ ODCs operating around the world.
► Work with the county to make sure millions in funding allocated for harm reduction makes it to our communities. Following the lead of groups like Bienestar, Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, and others, I would push for more county funding to come to the city to support harm reduction and overdose prevention programs. I am also supporting legislation at the state level including SB57, which would expand safe consumption sites in cities across the state.
► Create neighborhood-based mental health and substance use services to expand and enhance access to services and treatment. I would push to establish Integrated Service Facilities citywide that would provide comprehensive treatment and overdose prevention services, as well as legal support for underlying factors like housing, immigration, and employment.
► Keep law enforcement away from safe consumption sites. The sheriff and federal immigration authorities often patrol healthcare facilities to target migrant folks in particular. I would push for rules and regulations that keep law enforcement out of these spaces that save lives.
► Support and fund existing harm reduction community-based organizations. This includes needle exchange programs and expanding the distribution of Naloxone, a lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses.
X. YOUTH JUSTICE AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
Black, brown, indigenous, and low income youth are disproportionately criminalized, over represented in the number of youth experiencing homelessness, and those incarcerated in LA County probation camps. We must do a better job at investing in the over 800,000 young people between the ages of 10-24 that live in the city of LA. Currently the city of LA invests 70 times more in police than they do in youth development initiatives. This is woefully unacceptable. Our office will fight for an investment in youth justice and youth development. On City Council, I would:
► Expand pathways to career and education programs for young people. Work with the LA City Youth Department to expand career pathway programs for all young people, including foster youth, migrant youth, gang impacted youth, and transitional age youth. Programs should include: community advocacy and paid work experience in areas such as social work; civic engagement; communications, arts and culture; and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, by providing paid internships, fellowships and apprenticeships.
► Create physical and online resource hubs for youth: These Resource Hubs will provide young people with access to programs, services, resources and referrals for housing, mental health, substance abuse, individual and family counseling, food assistance, employment, education support, legal services, and clothing assistance.
► Expansion of School-Based Mentorship of Young people: Expand school-based mentorship programs that connect young people with culturally relevant mentors and support social and emotional development through educational resources.
► Reimagine Youth School and Summer Programs: Fund and expand after-school programs and summer programs led by community groups and school community coalitions that focus on academics/tutoring, rites of passage, youth development, arts and culture, and mentoring.
► Expand Art as Youth Diversion: Work for the LA Cultural Affairs Department to expand art diversion programs at the city with a focus on fostering healing and positive self-expression among youth from historically marginalized communities, steering them away from being impacted by criminalization. Programs should include training local and emerging youth artists in the community to create culturally relevant artwork for the community run by arts and culture organizations.