Written for Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014
Sin Barras is a prison abolition group based in Santa Cruz, California. We are not a registered non-profit, receive no government or foundation funding, and are unstaffed. We say this immediately because we are organizing in a moment of neoliberal non-profits and constant co-optation, so “grassroots” does not get the point across.
We are celebrating a recent victory that has improved medical conditions and treatment inside the Santa Cruz County Main Jail. Our celebration is not an endpoint, but a moment of re-invigorated energy, which we are using to reflect on our strategies and learn our next steps. We are trying to hold systems of incredible violence accountable and at the same time are working to render them obsolete. But one clear takeaway is that a militant and community-oriented direct action led to a year-long grand jury investigation of the inhumane conditions in our local jail. Of course the work continues, because we know deeply that the jail itself is inhumane.
To Dr. Pushpa Iyer, Professor Edward Laurance and anyone else it may concern:
On October 9th, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin is scheduled to speak on a panel titled “Police Legitimacy in Communities of Color” presented by the Center for Conflict Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Under Chief McMillin’s command, four unarmed Salinas community members — all Latino men — were shot and killed by officers in a span of four months. Between March and July of 2014, Salinas police officers shot and murdered Angel Ruiz, Carlos Mejia, Osman Hernandez, and our dear friend and activist Frank Alvarado. Mejia and Hernandez were allegedly shot because officers felt threatened by work tools that they were carrying. Ruiz had a pellet gun, and Alvarado had a cell phone.
We believe it is unethical and disrespectful to give Chief McMillin such a privileged voice in a space that is uncritical of his department’s policies and the violence he has continually justified. None of the community activists, family and friends of the murdered men were invited to present on the panel and likely view the space as hostile — given that they would have had to sit across from the person ultimately responsible for these deaths.
City on a Hill Press – May 22, 2014 by Aron Garst
California already spends more than 60,000 on each inmate while only spending 9,200 on each K-12 student, and to add to that Jerry Brown is adding $500 million to the states budget to expand county jails.
Last week, organized protests took place across the state in San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento in a coordinated effort to halt Gov. Brown’s revised May budget. Protesters from the coalition Californians Reunited for a Responsible Budget (CURB) gathered outside the Santa Cruz County’s Superior Courthouse last Wednesday to stand against California’s proposed budget.
“It’s really illuminating to see where the state’s priorities are,” said community organizer Tash Nguyen. “We’re in a place where we really need to follow the money to see how lawmakers are addressing our issues. Clearly they’re not.”
We’ve won! Community organizing works!
Santa Cruz Sentinel – May 21, 2014: Report blasts Main Jail over inmate deaths by Jason Hoppin
A Santa Cruz County civil grand jury on Wednesday issued a scathing report into a slate of Main Jail inmate deaths during an 11-month period, saying most were preventable.
Our very own Noah Miska made another comic!
Now it’s your turn–tell our Supervisors that Santa Cruz doesn’t want $24 million to build a bigger jail! Our County should not be investing more resources in a system that targets poor families and families of color.
Let’s uplift our community by taking action and spreading the word!