connect / 2018

Justice LA, along with FreeAmerica, are working to radically transform LA County's justice system.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Activation Challenge by Justice LA | Dignity and Power Now

Through public art exhibits, community town hall meetings and voter registration activations, we will connect and empower Los Angeles residents to build safer neighborhoods and end mass incarceration.

Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.

Using art as a catalyst for civic engagement, Justice LA will launch exhibitions in spaces featuring jail beds as a powerful visual to raise awareness about mass incarceration and its negative impact on society. Against this backdrop, we will host town halls to convene community members, organizers and public officials, utilize a robust digital strategy to inform residents about policies related to incarceration, register voters and provide residents with tools to stay involved and connected.

Which of the connect metrics will your activation impact?​

  • Attendance at cultural events
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
  • Voting rates

Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?

  • Advocate for policy
  • Digital organizing or activism
  • Trainings and/or in-person engagements
  • Create new tools or technologies for greater civic/political engagement
  • Increase participation in political processes
  • Influence individual behavior

Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to connect?

Justice LA is committed to making Los Angeles safe, connected and equitable. A huge barrier to creating this environment is the exorbitant rates of incarceration and state violence perpetrated against Black, Latino, immigrant and poor communities throughout LA County. For too long, LA County has viewed safety exclusively through a policing and incarceration lens and poured billions of limited public resources into failing solutions. Over the past 20 years, LA County has dramatically increased the budgets of its Sheriff’s Department and Probation Department. These decisions were made despite evidence that policing and incarceration does not significantly impact crime rates and a mandate from the majority of Californians to decrease reliance on incarceration to public health and safety issues.

Ending mass incarceration is a growing movement. For this effort to continue to gain momentum and to garner additional support, we must work to change narratives, shift culture, and engage communities most affected — many of whom do not know or believe that they can be advocates for positive change or recognize their place and power within the democratic process. We must educate residents about initiatives that bring us closer to our goal and will have an immediate impact on their quality of life. Two such initiatives include: stopping LA County’s $3.5 billion project to build two new jails and reinvesting those funds into much needed community services and reforming the money bail system to increase the number of people able to return home after arrest, thereby reducing LA’s jail population.

Justice LA will produce:

Public art exhibits are unique opportunities to gather large and diverse groups of people, introduce residents to the arts and encourage people to visit other arts and cultural institutions. The art installations will be created by local artists and feature actual jail beds. These activations will help LA2050 reach its targets for 50 percent of households participating in the arts by engaging with at least one arts and cultural institution, and increased attendance at public/open streets gatherings.

People with common interests and concerns need spaces like Town Halls to learn from, converse and stay in touch with one another. Our activations create the chance for residents to meet and exchange social media contact information. This environment will help facilitate LA2050’s work to increase the total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have and for 95% of adults receive social and emotional support.

Potential voters are likely to register when they understand how democracy should work and envision themselves participating. The voter registration/education component of these activations align with LA2050’s work to increase participation in the political process, and will help it reach its target of 75% of Angelenos voting often in local elections, as well as impact government responsiveness to residents’ needs.

How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to connect

Justice LA’s ART+CONNECT+ACT will target Black, Latino, immigrant and poor communities that are disproportionately incarcerated at higher rates, while also having lower voting rates. Our activations will focus on residents who may not realize or understand the negative impact mass incarceration has on the population at large, LA County’s vibrant and diverse arts community, the entertainment industry, and activist organizations with which we’ve collaborated on other social, racial and economic justice issues. Justice LA’s deep network and long-standing relationships with thousands of individuals and organizations give us the ability to widely cross-promote our activations, develop strategic messaging to generate excitement and interest within targeted constituencies, work with facilities to secure physical spaces, and utilize virtual tools i.e. mailing lists and social media followers to engage with attendees before, during and after the activations take place. The tactic of using art to stimulate dialogue, create narratives, foster understanding and compassion, unite diverse communities, and humanize complex, controversial issues has been successful. Local LA artists have created exhibits using actual jail beds, which we know tell a powerful, visual story about the devastating toll mass incarceration takes on society. For example, Justice LA’s #JailBedDrop exhibits last year garnered wide media attention, and our Town Hall meetings have connected hundreds of people.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.​

The success of ART+CONNECT+ACT will be our ability to activate 4 art exhibitions, 4 Town Hall meetings and voter registration drives in a 2 year period to:

Increase interest and attendance at L.A.’s arts and cultural institutions

Secure 5,000 signatures on a petition to the Los Angeles County Supervisor demanding a stop to the County’s massive, wasteful jail construction project

Place a moratorium on the building of the two new jails and reinvestment of a portion of the $3.5 billion allocated to developing much needed services including affordable housing, youth centers, assisted living facilities for mentally ill people and transitional housing for the homeless population

Increase awareness about and public support for the passage of comprehensive cash bail legislation

Register 500 new voters, and positively impact voter turnout in LA County among Black, Latino and low-income residents

Connect 10,000 Los Angelenos with each other via social media to help provide with social and emotional support

Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?

The ART+CONNECT+ACT activations will provide: powerful visuals to stimulate interest and conversation; a platform for in-person engagement at community Town Hall meetings on issues including the County’s plan to build two new jails and a cash bail reform policy; training sessions to teach citizens how to advocate on policy issues and digital organizing strategies; new technologies/social media toolkits to increase civic and political engagement; and opportunities to educate and register new and disenfranchised voters. Within five years, we hope that ART+CONNECT+ACT:

  • Will have effectively shifted public attitudes and policy away from incarceration as a solution for creating a safer Los Angeles

  • Can be replicated to address other social, criminal, economic and racial justice issues in cities and counties in California and throughout the U.S.

  • Will have provided the infrastructure necessary to engage, empower and encourage our fellow residents in marginalized communities, and solutions to address reducing incarceration rates and over policing in these communities.

  • That the art created through this project will be permanently housed in an arts and/or cultural institution dedicated to fostering understanding about racial, criminal and social justice.

We hope Justice LA will be able to pivot from stopping new jail constructions and reducing the prison population and, instead, be focused on reimagining radical, creative solutions for building a safer, more equitable, vibrant, healthier, happier Los Angeles for all residents.