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Several dozen protest Pitchess expansion proposal

Posted: May 18, 2013 7:47 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2013 7:47 p.m.

Protestors hold up a sign reading, "Invest in life and welfare, not in war and prisons," on The Old Road Saturday afternoon. About 50 people turned out Saturday afternoon to protest a proposal to expand the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

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Carrying signs that read, “No More Cages” and “Education not incarceration,” about 50 people lined the intersection of The Old Road and Biscailuz Drive in Castaic to protest a potential expansion of the Pitchess Detention Center.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has previously asked for funding to build a new facility to house female inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center as part of a larger effort to increase the countywide jail capacity.

Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said a study is being conducted to take a comprehensive look at the county’s jail system. That study will likely be out in July, Bell said.

“Nothing is happening at Pitchess or anywhere else right now,” he said.

Regardless of the results of that study, those who turned out Saturday said putting more beds in jails is not an effective way to lessen the county’s criminal activity.

Rather, the county should spend more money on community programs to try and keep people out of jail in the first place, said Isaac Ontiveros, communications director for Critical Resistance.

“The services are in the community,” Ontiveros said. “They just need the resources and the priority.”

Critical Resistance is a national group dedicated to ending the “prison industrial complex,” according to the group’s website.

Ontiveros’ sentiments were echoed by representatives from several groups present at Saturday’s protest.

“We’re just advocating for alternatives in the community instead of building another jail that isn’t responsive to what’s really needed,” said Diana Zuñiga, a statewide organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

Protestors waved signs and banners throughout the hour-long protest, sometimes breaking into chants or songs.

“The people, united, will never be divided,” the protestors chanted, as some drivers coming back from Pitchess Detention Center honked their horns.

Saturday’s protest is one of several planned against the potential expansion of the county jail system, Ontiveros said.

“I imagine we’ll be back here in Castaic soon,” he said.
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