CCAN Statement on Jail Understaffing

The City urgently needs to address the understaffing of the jail, which threatens the health & well-being of those it incarcerates, the vast majority of whom are Black and Latinx people. Unfortunately, this urgency is the creation of years of neglect by the City and the PD. The inspection cited as the basis for action is from January 2018, and it reported that the violation had been noted two years before. Since 2016, the PD has come to Council with requests for automated license plate readers that would surveil every car entering or leaving the City in partnership with a company that fed data to ICE, for drones, and for an armored vehicle. From 2015-16 through 2019-20, the PD sought and received an annual budget increase of over $12 million, from $35.2 million in 2015-16 to $47.6 million in 2019-20.  Fixing this threat to the lives of incarcerated people just did not matter enough to be addressed, even amidst all this new spending. If the situation today is so dire, who is being held accountable for creating that situation through years of neglect and misplaced priorities?

After years of delay, the August 24 City Council agenda presents a false choice between privatizing jail operations with G4S Solutions through a five-year, $2 million contract and adding five permanent direct-hire jailer positions at twice the cost. Both solutions appear to increase police patrolling by freeing up officers who currently, though inadequately, fill the jail staffing shortfall. As was true when the issue was initially agendized for August 10, the staff report again fails to acknowledge, let alone address, the serious concerns about safety, transparency, and accountability with private jail management, and with G4S Solutions in particular. It refers obliquely to the idea that privatization could “minimiz[e] liability” for the City, but the flip side of that idea is that it could minimize recourse for people who suffer harm while Culver City incarcerates them.

Several potential alternatives have not been addressed:

1)       The City could identify a short-term solution that does not lock us into continuing current jailing practices, and expense, at the very time when we are attempting to reimagine public safety and reduce harms from over-policing and incarceration.

2)       The City could identify offsetting immediate budget reductions to other CCPD operations to avoid net expansion of budget and personnel.

3)       The City could reduce the number of jail beds to reduce staffing and budget needs. A 30-bed jail seems far larger than necessary to handle 4 bookings per day for 2-3 days each.

4)       The PD could reassign existing personnel to cover the jail staffing shortfall. This would have the advantage of avoiding a long-term commitment (as with point (1)) and avoiding the need for budget cuts (as with point (2)); the staffing burden might be reduced by (3).

CCAN rejects the false choice presented by Monday’s Agenda and calls on the Council to follow three principles in the short term: don’t lock in excess reliance on incarceration, don’t increase the CCPD budget, and ensure transparency and accountability for any jail solution.

Sunday, August 23, 2020