On March 5, a six-person group consisting of members of Kehilla’s Economic Justice Committee and Plymouth United Church of Christ’s Social Justice group, presented a workshop on Criminal Justice Reform in Alameda County. The workshop took place at Plymouth, a church just a short walk up Oakland Avenue from Kehilla. There were 26 people in attendance from the two congregations, as well as four observers from other Oakland Community Organization (OCO) congregations and two unaffiliated community members.
The workshop content built off of the report “What’s Up with Our Jails, Holding Alameda County’s Sheriff Accountable,” which was developed by the OCO Live Free committee (available at www.oaklandcommunity.org/OurJails). The workshop was geared toward identifying future collective action opportunities for people concerned about criminal-legal justice in Alameda County and the State of California. Attendees were most interested in working on ways that our congregations could support relevant initiatives currently being considered by the California legislature, such as regulating policies for a safe release from jail; establishing humane standards for holding pregnant women in county jails; and defining narrow conditions under which law enforcement can use deadly force.
Participants were also interested in working on legislative initiatives under consideration by activist/advocacy groups, such as changing the requirements for eligibility to run for sheriff; separating the coroner’s office from the Sheriff’s Department; and establishing a county commission to oversee the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. There was considerable interest in working on the Audit Ahern (the current sheriff) Campaign, being championed by the Ella Baker Center, for budget and performance transparency. This effort has been proposed because the budget of the Sheriff’s Department keeps increasing as the jail population has been decreasing.
Attendees were also interested in a second workshop proposed to take place in a few months on Re-entry Support for the Formerly Incarcerated. The planners will also be working on an ‘Action Alert’ email network to support lawsuits involving the jails, and to notify people of advocacy opportunities, likely in conjunction with OCO’s Live Free committee.
If you would like to learn more, and/or join in future actions, please contact Laura Finkler at firstname.lastname@example.org, Karen Pernet at email@example.com, or Richard Speiglman at firstname.lastname@example.org.