Stop Jail Expansion in OC

More incarceration is not the solution to a failing social safety net. But on May 5, Orange County supervisors unanimously approved a construction agreement to expand the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine and build 896 new jail beds.

Sheriff Barnes claims that these new beds are for “mental health.” 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 poor people. As Jose Armendariz points out in his op-ed from OC jails, a bigger jail will encourage the Sheriff to continue to criminalize people with unmet mental health and substance use needs and people 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 OC jails’ rated capacity to roughly 6,200 when the average daily population 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 inside because they can’t afford bail.

While communities across the country are demanding defunding police and the carceral state, OC supervisors continue to waste taxpayer dollars on incarceration. Spending $350 million to expand an empty jail is wrong, especially when we need those dollars to fund community-based healthcare, mental health support and affordable housing.

Join us in urging OC supervisors to end the construction of a bigger jail and to instead put community first.

Message Recipients:

Orange County Board of Supervisors
Michelle Steel
Andrew Do
Don Wagner
Doug Chaffee
Lisa Bartlett

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Your Message

As an OC resident, I join the ACLU SoCal, Transforming Justice OC, and other community-based organizations in demanding you fund policies and practices that reduce the jail population, stop the revolving door of incarceration, and increase community health and safety.

We urge you to:

• Introduce or support action by the Board of Supervisors to cancel the Musick expansion agreement with Bernards Bros., Inc., and Vanir Construction Management.

• Invest in community-based systems of care, including affordable housing, community mental health and substance use care, and diversion programs.

Over the last decade, your constituents have sent a clear and consistent message in support of criminal justice reform voting in favor of Prop 36, reforming California’s “Three Strikes” Law, Prop 47, which reduced some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, Prop 57, increasing parole chances for some people in prisons, and Prop 63 which legalized the adult use of cannabis. Recent polling shows that your constituents identify Orange County’s affordable housing and homelessness crises as their top priorities—not expanding the police and carceral state.

Despite this, people with mental health and substance use needs and those who are unhoused continue to be overpoliced and criminalized rather than offered services and safe, affordable housing. And as homelessness continues to grow, the County is working to expand rather than reduce incarceration.

Putting people in jail for being unhoused or for having unmet mental health or substance use needs is cruel, costly, and does nothing to end our housing affordability and mental health crises. Now more than ever, we must defund OC jails and invest in community care.


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