Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
Los Angeles, CA – Below is a statement from Jeannette Zanipatin, Esq., California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, in response to the presentation of the final Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) report to LA County Board of Supervisors, which includes proposals to adopt Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS) in LA County, decriminalize public drug use as part of a package of ‘Quality of Life Crimes’ and support for a motion to create an ATI Unit in the county’s CEO office:
“We commend the Board of Supervisors for showing their commitment to improving public health outcomes in LA County by heeding our recommendations to decriminalize ‘quality of life crimes,’ including public drug use, and invest in health-centered approaches, such as the adoption of safe consumption sites. It should come as no surprise that treating substance use and mental health issues with incarceration has only exacerbated the harms associated with them, and so we owe it to ourselves to try something different that has shown promising results in other jurisdictions.
By removing criminal penalties for simple drug possession, we are likewise removing one of the biggest barriers to care and long-term stability for those in need and the community as a whole. An arrest—in of itself—can have a lasting impact on someone’s life, limiting their ability to obtain housing, gain employment, further their education, receive government assistance, and can even complicate child custody and immigration status.
In also pairing that with the recommendation to create supervised consumption sites, LA County is sending a clear message that saving lives and providing people with access to care is our number one priority.
However, in order to achieve the vision of providing “care first, jail last,” it is crucial that the Board of Supervisors pass the motion to adopt the five strategies outlined in the ATI report to implement the first phase of the ATI’s work group recommendations containing foundational recommendations that would scale up treatment options like Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). And that would instruct the county’s CEO to establish an Alternatives to Incarceration Unit to oversee the implementation of the ATI recommendations. The approval of the motion would ensure that LA County works to implement the ATI recommendations and build systems that would prioritize community health and safety over incarceration.”