Sheriff Oversight Commission needed
On behalf of Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Santa Cruz County, we submit this letter to draw your attention to urgent needs in our community that have been ignored for too long. We trust you agree that each of us deserves the benefit of basic human rights. Unfortunately, many of our jailed community members do not receive these protections. It is up to those of us with greater freedoms to bring attention to the general lack of care and active mistreatment and abuse that they are suffering. We can no longer pretend that people in jails exist separately from our community, or that our systems are always right in putting and keeping them there. We invite you to join our efforts to ensure that appropriate oversight is put in place in our jails, and that there are consequences for neglect and abuse of authority by those enlisted to protect us. If you are moved by what you read here, please contact your Board of Supervisor representatives and ask that they support implementation of a Sheriff Oversight Commission.
The people held inside our Santa Cruz County jail have faced serious abuse, neglect and violence, including sexual assault at the hands of jail staff. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, tasked to run our County Jails, presently operates on approximately $90 million per year—about a quarter of the entire county budget—without public oversight or accountability. On June 17, the Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury issued a report detailing numerous deficiencies in the management, resourcing and efficient oversight of the Sheriff’s Department. It also found the need for more transparency of the operations of the Sheriff’s Office to rebuild trust with the public, observing that these deficiencies contributed to “inmate deaths, violence, and equipment failures at the Main Jail and criminal conduct including sexual assaults by correction officers.” Ultimately, the Grand Jury concluded that neither the Board of Supervisors, nor the Grand Jury itself, possessed the level of expertise and qualitative granular oversight required to address the current jail crisis.
Angelee Dion, Natasha Fraley and Nicole Reynolds, Standing Up for Racial Justice Santa Cruz County
I am both mystified and disappointed that rail advocates have not yet joined the compromise solution for immediate use of the dormant county rail line. Certainly, they understand that modern passenger rail code requires the old, existing rails be removed and upgraded. Certainly, they understand that federal ‘railbanking’ allows temporary use of the line for a ‘Greenway’ until such time rail becomes more effective and affordable. Certainly, they understand that Greenway can happen from north to south with existing funds and without the need to tax yet again our already over-taxed citizens. Certainly, they understand that rather than waiting 20-30 years for a $1.5 billion passenger rail an affordable, scenic, and highly functional ‘Greenway’ can happen within just a few years.
Certainly, though literary, the opponents to the Greenway trail have declared transportation options limited to: “Our way … or the highway!”
Julie Scurfield, Freedom
Greenway is running an “end of discussion” voter deception campaign, collecting signatures for their initiative with a benign “let’s all vote” sales pitch. Voters are likely not being told this ballot measure removes all rail transit planning language from the County General Plan. This would effectively end all research, environmental and engineering studies required for rail trail funding and stop the Regional Transportation Commission from applying for these funds. Their primary objective is not so much building trails, but killing rail permanently. Climate change is real. Wider freeways, more buses and an oversized trail won’t reduce carbon emissions like rail with a trail between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Social justice for South County residents means quick and clean light rail and a trail. I trust the RTC’s transit professionals, who consistently agree rail with trail is best environmentally and feasible, more than Greenway’s privately-funded “studies.” I want the RTC to continue building the rail trail and keep bringing in available outside funding for the next sections. Don’t be deceived.
Saladin Sale, Santa Cruz
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