The same night that 1,400 people packed a Santa Maria City Council meeting opposing the new ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facility, several dozens of community activists gathered in Santa Barbara to talk about a slew of similar topics. Held on Thursday evening at Casa de la Raza, several speakers also discussed the new jail in Santa Maria and the City of Santa Barbara’s gang injunction, which is set to go to trial on May 5.
The evening featured a hodgepodge of community groups, with representatives from Coalition for Sustainable Communities, the Right to Write Campaign, the Young Survivors Support Network, CAUSE, and PODER (People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights) in attendance. A series of short documentaries — some produced locally — featured interviews with labeled gang members and an unsuccessful gang injunction in Orange.
Santa Barbara has historically been considered a progressive place, said event co-host Gaby Hernandez. “How did it come to this?” she asked. “All three of these affect the Latino community more than anybody else,” she said, adding the ICE facility is just a way to instill fear in the Latino population in North County. “They work on quotas and profits.” (The Santa Maria City Council voted 3-2 in favor of the facility after a hearing that lasted until 11 p.m.)
“[The gang injunction] circumvents the legal system we have in place,” said Daniel Martinez, Santa Barbara native and former gang member with the Coalition for Sustainable Communities. “I’d like to see police officers think outside the box.”
Representatives with the Right to Write Campaign also attended, opposing the postcard-only policy with inmates. It’s been a year since sheriff administrators enacted the letter ban at the county jail in response to concerns about inmate contraband. In 2010-2013 and there were five or less cases of drugs found in incoming mail each year (except 2012, which had 11 cases) and several dozens of contraband. Since the ban, there have been no cases of drugs found in incoming mail.
“Put yourself in their shoes,” said Kathryn Barragan, explaining that the more inmates feel connected when they are in jail, the better they’ll be when they get out. It costs Barragan $5 to talk to her incarcerated son-in-law for five minutes. The cost is cheaper with a prepaid card: $5 for 15 minutes. She’s taken to sending 10 postcards bound by a rubber band.
“When we talk about jail expansion, it’s really important to understand the whole purpose of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation,” Hernandez said. After the event, Hernandez said she was “really appeased by the collaboration,” and added two upcoming forums — one on April 1 at the Franklin Center and the other on April 10 at Westside Community Center — to discuss about the three topics in Spanish. “People’s basic human rights are ripped away and we’re not going to accept it,” she pledged.