Criminal Justice advocates tell Supervisors “coercive” reentry services company should not receive $3.2 million contract

Robert J Hansen
Liz Blum of Decarcerate Sacramento speaking at a Sacramento BOS meeting Wednesday, September 14, 2022.Photo by(Screenshot by Robert J Hansen)

Sacramento criminal justice advocates are urging the Board of Supervisors (BOS) to not approve a $3.2 million request from the Sheriff’s Office for a contract with a private for-profit company, for reentry services.

The BOS is scheduled to vote on the $3.2M contract with Leaders in Community Alternatives (LCA), a private for-profit company, at tomorrow’s meeting.

Decarcerate Sacramento, an organization that works to shift county funds away from policing and incarceration towards systems that promote community safety and health, said LCA has a history of breaking laws and coercing clients .

“While we recognize that more reentry services are desperately needed for individuals being released from Sacramento County jails, LCA does not provide the services that our community needs,” Decarcerate Sacramento said in a statement. “We urge you to vote no on this contract [which] is not an ‘alternative to incarceration’’that will create a healthier, safer, Sacramento County.”

In 2018, a class-action lawsuit was filed against LCA for extorting money from poor Californians. The full burden of the cost of LCA’s programs are placed on those sentenced to wear the tracking devices and their families, according to Decarcerate Sacramento. 

“Under this pay-or-jail scheme, an alternative to incarceration masks a form of extortion: pay what is demanded or end up in a jail cell,” the 64-page complaint states. “The Named Plaintiffs in this action have given up their homes and borrowed money from family and friends to keep up with payments and avoid returning to jail.”

“LCA’s abuse of the people under its supervision shows yet again the toxic result when counties delegate their criminal justice responsibilities to private companies,” Executive Director of Equal Justice Under Law, Phil Telfeyan said. “This ‘pay-or-jail’ scheme is unconstitutional and allows LCA to prey upon people when they are extremely vulnerable.”

One plaintiff was sentenced to home detention (and ankle monitoring) to accommodate the chemotherapy treatments that he could not receive from jail. 

When he was unable to make a payment, LCA reportedly threatened to tell the court that he was in violation of the terms of his home confinement.

Another plaintiff was sentenced to GPS monitoring after his wife unexpectedly died, leaving him as the sole provider and caretaker to his three children. 

LCA took half of Jackson’s pay during the monitoring period, and demanded $800 to take the one-pound ankle monitor off. Jackson was forced to sell his car and give up his apartment, separating his kids and making him homeless, in order to pay the fee, according to the lawsuit.

The company misleads those under its supervision, telling them that they have to work to come to an agreement with LCA regarding the terms of their payment before they can have a judge determine their ability to pay the exorbitant fees, according to the complaint.

“LCA makes the agreement process intentionally burdensome and slow so participants will be forced to pay them at a higher rate they cannot afford for as long as possible,” Decarcerate Sacramento said.

The Court ruled in favor of LCA and its employees in 2021 stating that employees “may have engaged in hard bargaining techniques”, but the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence of extortion.

The advocacy group said there are many other local organizations, based in Sacramento, that provide reentry support that truly help people. 

“The county can, and should, be funding those organizations with the general fund, and AB109 Realignment funding,” Decarcerate Sacramento said.

Comments / 23

Published by

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

More from Robert J Hansen

Comments / 0