Reclaiming the Budget with Radical Politics

By Theri Aronson SC ‘20
Staff Writer

On the afternoon of April 1, Research and Programs Director at UCLA, and Million Dollar Hoods co-director, Danielle M. Dupuy, as well as Director of Student Services for the San Francisco State University’s Metro College Success Program, Jade Rivera, spoke on a panel that discussed topics like – gender, policing, and public health. The panel discussion was hosted by the Intercollegiate Feminist Center for Teaching, Research, and Engagement in our very own Hampton Room at Scripps College.

In 2013, Danielle Dupuy enrolled in the Community Health Sciences program with a minor in Law so she could focus on incarceration, and its effect on the wellbeing of black communities in the U.S. An expert in mass incarceration and race, Dupuy has since devoted her career to mapping the cost of incarceration in Los Angeles County, and uncovering what L.A.’s nearly billion-dollar jail budget is being spent on with her team at Million Dollar Hoods.

Dupuy revealed – Since 2010, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on incarcerating female residents in neighborhoods such as Lancaster, Palmdale, and Compton, where the top causes of arrest are 1. Possession of a controlled substance 2. Failure to appear in court.

“Notably, the rate of women being incarcerated is going way down,” Dupuy said.

More money is spent incarcerating Lancaster residents than any other area county in LA. Recently, L.A County’s had a $2.2 billion jail project plan to create a new women’s jail, which quickly fell under scrutiny by local resistance groups like Million Dollar Hoods. In Jan 2019, Danielle Dupuy spoke out against the controversial plan to create a new women’s jail in the city of Lancaster at a rally and press conference.

According to the L.A. Times, “In Feb 2019, in a historic move – LA County Supervisors voted to dump the new jail project in Lancase, in favor of a new mental health treatment center, which will no longer be overseen by the Sheriff’s department.”

Growing up in a neighborhood that was heavy on policing, Jade Rivera has long understood the urgency in confronting police violence as a social, as well as public health issue.

As a leader in the healthcare field, Rivera has dedicated herself to seeking answers to questions such as: “ ‘How dedicated are we to health equity?’ How can we uplift communities and empower them to leverage their ideas of justice?’ ‘Why don’t we invest in more community programs such as housing and jobs?’”

Significantly, in 2018 Rivera was one of three students with a Master’s in Public Health management to develop and pass an American Public Health Association’s policy statement regarding police violence in marginalized communities as a public health matter. For three years, Jade Rivera and her groups of dedicated public health educators and professionals worked on the “Law Enforcement is a Public Health Issue” policy statement, which passed in November in 2018.

Using data to reveal the decrease in education spending, and 405 percent increase in police and carceral budget spending, Rivera and the team were able to demonstrate that the money was being inaply redistributed amongst marginalized communities.

“The passage of this statement and the recognition of policing as violence is a huge victory against racism and classism in this professional field,” Rivera said.

Rivera’s current project is focused on reclaiming the billion dollar budget, and using that money that would otherwise be spent on policing, on more community projects that focus on getting residents’ voices heard. Additionally, she continues to advocate for decriminalization measures, divestment from law enforcement, and other alternatives to policing. In this way, Rivera explains, we can help mitigate community trauma, which is itself, a public health concern.

“Our goal is for this work to be used to further organizing, research, and education in the field of public health and beyond,” Rivera noted.

Since submitting for policy change at the national level, Rivera says she feels a shift in the national conversation.

“Appealing, community intervention, and radical politics is what it took to get the policy passed,” Rivera said. “If you are a student activist, put yourself out there, and focus on who is doing the work, and offer your time to them because now is the time.”