What you can do:
- Pack the room on Tuesday! (this item is #22, so will likely be heard late morning/early afternoon; the earlier you can come, the better)
- Write a letter of concern/opposition to the Board of Supervisors (you can email each of them through their webpage)
- Spread the word! (these things can be influenced with enough community involvement) -> Facebook event here.
The Sheriff’s Written Proposal: (Download as a PDF)
Dear Board of Supervisors,
Today, April 17th, we learned that Sheriff Jim Hart is proposing to build a seven-foot tall, 364-foot long gated iron fence around the Santa Cruz County Main Jail parking lot, which would cost $47,925 to complete. This proposal will be on the agenda this Tuesday, April 21st. The parking lot where the fence would be built is an area that has been used in the past by community members for public assembly and political demonstrations.
We are deeply concerned by Sheriff Jim Hart’s proposal for a few reasons. For one, $47,925 is a large amount of taxpayer dollars to spend restricting First Amendment rights. The intention behind demonstrations like those cited by Hart have been held to let inmates know that community members outside care about their well-being and their conditions of incarceration. The few noise demonstrations that have occurred in the past few years were minor disruptions and to our knowledge have never threatened the security of the jail or those inside of it. Community members, specifically those formerly incarcerated, have consistently expressed appreciation of this effort and the ways that it breaks through the isolation and shame that can arise from imprisonment.
We feel this fence proposal is an extension of the trespassing ordinance (Chapter 10.24) that was passed on February 10th, 2015. During that time, we expressed concerns through public comment, a widely-signed petition, and letters sent to Board members. Our concerns were addressed when the Board asked the Sheriff to specify that the ordinance did not intend to stifle free speech and the freedom to assemble, and only concerned the area of the jail already fenced off. Our collective concerns that were validated at that meeting are resurfacing with this proposal.
Freedom of assembly is a First Amendment right and if the proposed fence were to be constructed, it would not deter activists from assembling in that area. Providing for the physical and mental health of inmates and available educational resources should be the Sheriff’s top public-safety priority.
In order to maintain safety and stability inside and outside of the jail, an open, transparent, and accessible process of community input and participation is essential. Because the fence would be ineffective in its stated purpose, we encourage the Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors to prioritize spending $47,925 on long-term solutions to challenges faced by our criminal justice system, such as the Prudent Care for Incarcerated Seniors program. We urge you to reject the Fencing Project and encourage more community dialogue around concerns Sheriff Hart may have regarding protests.
Thank you for your consideration,
Members of Sin Barras