The Plan for a Safer Oakland is a coalition of community members and organizations who care about the people of Oakland. We care about making our neighborhoods safer. But we know that policing, curfews, and prisons are NOT the answer to genuine safety. We believe that it is necessary to reverse Oakland’s priorities and re-invest in programs that help members of our communities succeed. Our communities will only become safer places to live when we have secure income, when our basic needs for housing, nutrition and health care are met, and when we believe our lives matter and we have worth.
To create safer neighborhoods, we have developed the following three-point plan. We ask you to join us in urging our city government to implement this plan. We know that only pressure from our community will make this plan a reality. Join us!
1. Re-entry Support & Services for People Returning from Prison
People returning from prison often find it very difficult to secure a job, permanent housing, education, transportation, and other necessities to create a successful life. A bus ticket and $200 (what people are given when they are released from prison) is simply not enough to get started! If we truly want to reduce the cycles of re-imprisonment and keep people OUT of prison, we need to support successful transitions home. [(See, 1. “The Problem with Addition by Subtraction: The Prison-Crime Relationship in Low-income Communities,” by Todd Clear. http://www.sentencingproject.org/pub_invisible.cfm OR 2. “Parole Policies Only Make the Streets More Dangerous” LA Times, January 23, 2005. http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-op-cop23jan23,1,7164395.story]
Some concrete steps are:
• Ban the Box – The City of Oakland should follow the lead of San Francisco and eliminate the requirement that job applicants disclose all past convictions on their initial application. If a person qualifies as a finalist for a job, their conviction history would be revealed at that time – allowing the person to explain their past. We need to help people secure a job, not throw obstacles in their path.
• Fund Re-entry Services – People emerging from prison need immediate access to ID documents, housing, job training, and drug & alcohol treatment. The City of Oakland needs to re-prioritize funding allotments that promote the improvement of any existing services for former prisoners as well as the development and sustainability of new ones.
• Waivers & Vouchers – Waivers for AC Transit and vouchers to pay for community college need to be given to those emerging from prison to aid in a successful transition back into the community.
2. Invest in People, Not Police and Prisons
Increased spending on policing and prisons means fewer resources for programs that create long-term, lasting safety. We want to put an end to expensive and ineffective programs that criminalize people of color and our youth. These programs are NOT creating safer communities. They are creating more fear, violence and desperation. And they are keeping our prisons full. Several concrete steps we can take in this direction are:
• Fund Schools and Programs Instead of Jails – Right now we are shutting down schools and building prisons. We need to REVERSE these priorities. Every dollar spent on prison construction could instead be used to create smaller classroom sizes, higher teacher salaries, and after-school programs. Our youth need art and music classes, not handcuffs and razor wire. The City of Oakland must re-invest in our youth by creating and maintaining accessible and safe youth centers, and keeping our schools open and well-funded.
• End the Curfew for People on Parole –Studies have repeatedly shown that curfews DO NOT reduce crime. When people come out of prison, they need to be treated like adults who have the right to go out at night without being suspect. The City of Oakland should take a positive stance and support its residents by ending the curfew. [According to the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “the evidence does not support the argument that curfews prevent crime and victimization.” The Western Criminological Review finds that “there is no support for the hypothesis that jurisdictions with curfews experience lower crime levels.]
• Stop the Three Strikes Law – The Three Strikes Law separates families and often puts people in prison for misdemeanor offences. We need to keep our residents OUT of prison, not frivolously create cycles of re-imprisonment. The City of Oakland does not have to count charges as strikes and should issue a resolution that does not support Three Strikes.
• End Police Harassment and Collaboration with ICE – We urge the City of Oakland to stop using Operation Impact which unfairly targets black and brown communities and costs Oakland residents hard-earned wages. Operation Impact does not increase safety, but rather harasses residents and tows their cars for small infractions like loud music and broken taillights. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serves not to make Oakland safe but instead to increase deportation and the criminalization of immigrants. We call on the City of Oakland to stop towing cars and stop all collaboration with Immigration Enforcement agents and to be the City of Refuge it claims to be. [Maywood, California in April, 2006 similarly declared their city to be a Sanctuary city, as has San Francisco].
3. Stand Up for Youth
• Adopt the Children’s Bill of Rights – Children of incarcerated parents need to be safe and well-cared for while their parent/parents are in prison. They have the right to speak with, see and touch their parents. Public policy needs to encourage family contact and nurture the relationships between children and parents.
• Community-based Programs Instead of Sending Youth to the CYA – The California Youth Authority (CYA) fails to keep youth safe and only serves to create more harm and fear. Youth need reliable counseling services and alternative forms of dealing with trauma and harm. The City of Oakland can stand up for youth by developing alternative community-based systems that help youth to flourish and learn without punishment and separation from their families and communities.
If you want to learn more about the Plan For A Safer Oakland, and perhaps get involved, contact us at: Phone: 510.444.0484, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us at 1904 Franklin Street, Suite 504, Oakland.
all photo credits: Scott Braley