Numerous members of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs led a report that could result in extensive changes throughout Los Angeles County jails.
Social Welfare lecturer Miriam Krinsky, who teaches Public Policy for Children and Youth in the spring quarter at UCLA Luskin, was the executive director of the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence, leading a panel appointed by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to investigate the use of excessive force in jails.
The report, which was delivered last week, was 193 pages long with over 60 recommendations to fix the ongoing jail problems. The group spoke with over 150 witnesses and experts and received more than 35,000 pages of documents. This week, County Sheriff Lee Baca agreed with all of the commission’s findings and has already started working to improve the problems through the commission’s recommendations. To view the full report as well as have access to the commission's reports and meetings, please visit the Citizens' Commission Jail Violence website.
Krinsky, who had led other projects overseeing law enforcement in her career, acted quickly to have current and former public policy students involved in the summer-long process.
“We needed some thinkers who were not law school graduates,” she said.
Krinsky ultimately had six public policy students working on this project, including two who served as project managers; “Although the reality is that they were my right and left hands,” Krinsky wrote in an email of Julie Quinn (MPP, 2009) and Katherine Williams (MPP, 2009).
“They are graduates who exemplify the best of what an MPP graduate can do with his or her degree,” she wrote.
Two former students of Krinsky’s were Alicia Castro (MPP, 2012) and Erica Quintana (MPP, 2013) each worked on various policy analysis of the report.
“It was very validating to my choice of what I’m focusing on for my master’s,” said Quintana, who heard of the report in Krinsky’s Children and Youth Policy course in the spring. “We were able to practically apply what we do. And to see the success of previous alumni, it was neat for me to see everybody’s work ethics. I thought it was wonderful. I wouldn’t have traded it for any other internships.”
The group, which also included MPP alum Teresa Magula (2004) worked in various shifts from the time Krinsky was named executive director in January all the way through the final hours before the report was published last week.
“The students I had were absolutely amazing,” Krinsky said. “It was a wonderful blending of the positions on the team. It was a wonderful group. It gave them a chance to see what they had learned in a classroom put into play.”
The final report, in Krinsky’s words, reflected that “there certainly are many wonderful public servants who work in jails, but among others there is a mindset and a culture that led to a persistent pattern of unreasonable force and we learned that had been going on for years. … Some of concerns we identified as long as two decades back.”
Baca’s news conference this week further confirmed how detailed and accurate the report was.
"I couldn't have written them better myself. ... We will be a stronger and safer jail," Baca said at a news conference at the Men's Central Jail.
Quintana, a Phoenix, Ariz. native, echoed the feelings of all the UCLA Luskin public policy representatives felt once the report was completed and accepted by the sheriff.
“Every step of the way we had to keep in mind that this has real effects, not only on the inmates, but on the deputies, too,” said Quintana, who also works in an internship at the United Way in housing stability. “It’s always rewarding to see something you do actually matter but it’s also rewarding to see what (Baca) actually had to say. The whole experience was rewarding. The work we did was rewarding in itself. Baca’s willingness to do it is the icing on the cake.”