Getting Off a Gang Injunction
From 1982-1983, LA County established the nation’s first gang injunctions in West Covina, Pomona and an unincorporated portion of East Los Angeles. By 2010, more than 100 neighborhoods throughout L.A. County were operating under a gang injunction – AND NOT A SINGLE PERSON HAD EVER BEEN TAKEN OFF AN INJUNCTION – no matter how positive their life.
In 2007, the Youth Justice Coalition negotiated with the City Attorney’s Office and the L.A. City Council to create the nation’s first Petition for Removal from a Gang Injunction. While the process is not perfect, it is a step forward toward giving people an opportunity to break free from police surveillance and threat of custody.
If you or someone you know is on an injunction in Los Angeles City – or if you think you’re on an injunction – we encourage you to petition to get off. Fill out a petition and submit it to the City Attorney’s Office. Send a copy of your petition to us or contact us if you want help to push for fairness in the review of your petition.
Click here to download a copy of the L.A. City Petition: Petition For Removal From LA City Gang Injunction
Contact the YJC, if you want support in challenging an injunction or a proposed injunction in your area, or if you want help in establishing a similar exit process. (The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office followed L.A. with their own exit process as did some other areas of the state. We will work to get copies of those petitions as needed.)
Five Benefits to Getting Off a Gang Injunction
CONSTANT STOPS, PAT DOWNS, ARRESTS AND PERMANENT CRIMINAL RECORDS: People named on an injunction faces regular police stops, questioning, pat downs and arrests. This impacts how your community sees you – whether or not you are a active in a neighborhood, you gain a reputation for being a dangerous person. Cycling in and out of court and jail can be constant, and totally disrupts your sense of security or freedom. Each case adds misdemeanors to your record, impacting your ability to access or keep jobs, school or housing. (See more on this below.) Furthermore, if you’re over 18, L.A. County jails are severely overcrowded, violent, unhealthy, filled with neighborhood and race politics and are under investigation for abusive sheriffs. The constant contact with the system often forces you further into street politics and violence, it doesn’t offer you a way out. Getting off the injunction makes it possible for you to break from the system and move on with your life.
EMPLOYMENT, HOUSING AND SCHOOL: Unfortunately, with the constant police stops and frequent violations for people named in injunctions, most people cycle in and out of jail. Many people have lost jobs after only a few days of absence from work. Employment discrimination is a reality for anyone with a conviction. Many jobs won’t hire people with court or system involvement; nearly all include questions about past convictions on their application. Colleges and high schools have strict policies on attendance. Regardless of whether you’re in court or locked up, missing school can get you expelled. If you are able to stay in school, you can fall so far behind in your school work that it impacts your grades. In college, if you don’t finish the semester, you lose your financial aid, and have to pay back thousands of dollars before being able to return. Explanations about missing days at work or school due to arrest are difficult to communicate – especially when people have little to no experience with the police or courts, let alone gang policies, and don’t understand that gang injunction violations aren’t for new crimes, but for associating with other people, missing curfews or hanging out on your block. For employers and school officials, your explanations of constant police contact and arrests start to sound like those old “dog ate my homework” excuses. In addition, gang injunction arrests can also lead Public Housing and Section 8 to evict you, and even your entire family; and limit your ability to sign a housing lease. Because injunctions cause so many people to lose their jobs, housing or schooling, they often force people back onto the streets in order to survive. Getting off an injunction is key to your ability to get and maintain a legitimate job, attend school and maintain your housing.
FAMILY UNITY AND CONNECTION: Gang injunctions prohibit “association with other gang members” even if those alleged gang members are also members of your family. It becomes a common occurrence for people to be stopped, questioned, frisked and even arrested for being with other people within the “Safety Zone” – the geographic area that makes up the injunction. The fact that your family or friends live in the same house or same neighborhood does not protect you from violation. Parents have been arrested visiting their small children. Teenagers have been arrested visiting their parents, uncles or cousins. Family gatherings – birthdays, Christenings, even funerals – are sometimes raided and those named in injunctions violated. Many people give up and choose to move out of their homes altogether. Ultimately, gang injunctions split families apart and cause community displacement and gentrification. Getting off the injunction protects families, and reunifies you with your loved ones.
COMMUNITY: People who have been in gangs or have trusted relationships with gang members have an important role to play in building peace in our communities. It usually takes the OGs to talk people out of violence, remove guns from people’s hands, or bring neighborhoods together to build and maintain truces and cease fires. But, being named in an injunction makes this important work nearly impossible. First, you face being arrested any time you “associate” with another alleged gang member in the injunction area. In addition, schools, recreation and youth centers usually can’t hire or even allow people to volunteer who have convictions – and are afraid to work with people named in injunctions. Getting off the injunction makes it more possible for you to build community safety and youth progress.
THREAT OF DEPORTATION: The L.A. County Sheriffs cooperates with federal ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “Secure Communities” Program – to check the immigration status of everyone entering a county jail. Anyone who is undocumented faces transfer to federal detention and deportation. If you are undocumented and detained (while going back and forth to court) or incarcerated, (for violating the injunction or any other misdemeanor or felony), you can be deported. Even if you are here “legally” – born in the U.S. or here with a green card or visa – many people have been deported “accidentally” due to errors by courts or jail. In addition, being on an injunction, makes it less possible for you to get through a deportation hearing or apply to stay in the U.S. Getting off the injunction makes staying in the U.S. more possible, and increases your chances for permanent residency or citizenship.
Click here to download a copy of these benefits: Benefits to Getting Off a Gang Injunction