Alongside the nation, the Orange County community is voicing rage and grief after the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and centuries of racism and the carceral state. Communities across the nation are demanding the carceral state be defunded and budgets be reallocated to support community care.
OCSD accounts for roughly 20% of the county’s general fund. Last year, OC supervisors approved more than $150 million in raises for OC deputy sheriffs under a new contract. Roughly $110 million of the raises and $48 million per year between 2019 and 2022 will come from discretionary funds that could be used for affordable housing, mental health and substance use services in the community, and other programs.
From 2008 to 2020, OC supervisors more than doubled the amount the Sheriff’s Department received from discretionary funds, while the OC Health Care and Social Services agencies saw reductions in their discretionary funding. Discretionary funds are taxpayer money the supervisors directly control. Unsurprisingly, OCSD experienced a 40% increase in mental health cases since 2015. Currently, 30% of the jail population require various levels of mental health services. When OC supervisors defund public health and social services while simultaneously increasing funding for the Sheriff’s Department, they exacerbate the policing and criminalization of public health issues.
Orange County residents know policing and incarceration are not policy solutions to a failing social safety net. Yet on May 5, county supervisors unanimously approved a construction agreement with Bernards Bros., Inc. to expand the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine and build 896 new jail beds, a majority slated to be so called “mental health beds.”
But mental health issues cannot be addressed when a person is inside of a cage. Instead, the expansion of Musick will encourage OCSD to continue to overpolice, criminalize and incarcerate communities of color and underserved people. As Jose Armendariz points out in his op-ed from OC jails, a bigger jail will exacerbate the perverse financial incentives to continue criminalizing people with unmet mental health and substance use needs and those who are unhoused. If the county builds a bigger jail, Sheriff Barnes will fill it.
Expanding the jail is especially unnecessary when the jail population is at a historic low. The expansion would increase the county jail system’s rated capacity to roughly 6,200 at a time when the average daily population of the jails is down to 2,800. More than half of the people inside have not been convicted of the charges they are facing, but they remain in custody due to the inability to post bail. Jailing people also has a racial impact, as a majority of people incarcerated in OC jails are Black and brown.
At a time when communities across the country are demanding divestment from police and the carceral state, OC supervisors continue to waste resources and funds on deputy raises and operations of the scandal ridden sheriff’s department rather than much needed community investments. Wasting $180 million in state funds and more than $170 million in local dollars to expand and operate a jail that has been vacant for close to a year in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible and unethical.
Join us to demand OC supervisors #DefundOCSD, #StopTheMusic, and invest in #CareNotCages!
Armendariz: Sheriff Barnes, Rise of an Empire
“More jail beds added to James A. Musick Facility in Irvine, CA will not solve the mental health crisis that currently plagues the Orange County Jails system.”
OC Approves $151 Million in Sheriff’s Deputy Raises
“County supervisors approved the raises without public discussion Tuesday.”
New contract for Orange County Sheriff’s deputies will cost $150 million over four years
“Deputies will get raises totaling 14% over four years. Among other contract provisions, the amount reimbursed for career-related education jumps.”
Sheriff to Get Extra $65 Million for Existing Services Amid Pushback Over Housing, Public Defender
“County costs are growing faster than revenues, most prominently with the Sheriff’s Department, officials said.”