Community Experiences on Million-Dollar Blocks in Los Angeles

“At a cost quickly approaching $1 billion annually, more than 17,000 people are incarcerated every night in county jails and city lockups. But not every neighborhood within Los Angeles is equally impacted by L.A.’s massive jail system.” Million Dollar Hoods is an ongoing research project that is mapping the neighborhoods where the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spent the most on incarceration between 2010 to 2015.

YJC in collaboration with the Undercommons will identify target areas for investigation using data from the Million Dollar Blocks project. After training YJC researchers in oral interviews, photography, and videography, researchers will collect interviews and produce videos and photos of impacted communities. The media will then be integrated into the Million Dollar Block maps.

Enter the “Million Dollar Hoods” Map Room to learn how L.A.’s nearly billion-dollar jail budget is largely committed to incarcerating many people from just a few neighborhoods. The first layer of the map, which is currently displayed, highlights in red all communities where the LASD spent at least $1 million annually to jail residents, amounting to a minimum $6 million investment in incarceration over the study’s six-year period. The millions of dollars committed to incarceration in these neighborhoods makes them “Million Dollar Hoods.” In some Million Dollar Hoods, such as Lancaster, Palmdale, and Compton, LASD has spent tens of millions of dollars since 2010.

The second layer to this map will highlight where the LAPD spent at least $1 million annually to jail residents between 2010 to 2015. The LAPD map is not currently displayed, but it will soon be added as soon as it becomes available.

Sign up for the @milliondlrhoods Twitter feed or subscribe to the Million Dollar Hoods Blog to receive notification when the LAPD map is posted and other updates from the Million Dollar Hoods Research Project.

KCRW (89.9 FM): Off the Block series

By: Kelly Lytle Hernandez, UCLA Departments of History and African American Studies; Youth Justice Coalition (YJC); Marques Vestal, doctoral student, UCLA, Department of History and the Undercommons at UCLA

Land, Livelihoods and Displacement in Indonesia

We are organizing a workshop,which promises to open up an innovative research agenda on land transformation, evictions and livelihoods extending across urban and rural areas. In the spirit of the IID’s call for proposals, we plan to invite to this event four activists who have been challenging evictions and developing alternatives in both rural and urban areas. The original motivation for this workshop is the explosion of land transformations in recent years, across rural and urban Asia. In urban areas, spectacular top-end real estate developments and infrastructure projects are displacing the low-income urban majority who reside in informal settlements, which are also key spaces for pursuing the informal livelihood strategies they often depend on. In rural areas, peasant agriculture is being displaced by special economic zones, peri-urban real estate and infrastructure developments, and plantations set aside for cash crops—in particular what have become known as ‘land grabs’: inter-state agreements to set land aside in one country for export oriented food and green energy production to the other country. In both contexts, these changes are triggering displacementof current residents, challenging their livelihood possibilities. The large-scale nature of these transformations, as well as the protests they have triggered across Asia, have made questions of land, livelihoods and displacement a priority for both academic research, development policyand activism. Indonesia, Asia’s third largest country, has become something of a cause célèbre for these issues, because of the dramatic nature of transformations in contexts ranging from rural Kalimantan’s palm oil plantations to downtown Jakarta. In Jakarta, the recent past has seen an escalation of evictions under the current governor:tens of thousands of residents from informal settlements had to watch the police and military, bulldozers, heavy machinery, and construction crews forcefully remove the homes that they had built with sweat equity.

To date there has been very little intellectual exchange between scholars working in rural and urban areas as well as between scholars and activists–not only in Indonesia, but also more generally across the global South. This workshop will convene an interdisciplinary group of leading international scholars and activists from Indonesia to transcend these divides and share experiences and insights. The workshop will be organized by Professors Helga Leitner and Eric Sheppard of UCLA’s Geography Department, who are currently undertaking collaborative research into land transformations in Indonesia, also interacting with Indonesian activists. We have one activist in residence, Dian Irawaty, currently a doctoral student at UCLA, who has been involved in the past in two of the activist organizations discussed below: UPC and RUJAK. She will be a great asset for facilitating the interaction between activists and scholars also bringing her own experience as an activist to the table.

To promote active interchange among participants this will be organized as a dialogic workshop,which intersperses research presentations with small group discussions that culminate in plenary sessions. These will be organized in such a way as to ensure that activists’ voice and experience are central to the discussions; academics and activists will thus be in a position to learn from one another. Beyond the co-production of activist/academic knowledge during the workshop, our intention is to use this as the foundation for a collaborative research program in Indonesia.

By: Helga Leitner and Eric Sheppard, UCLA Geography

The New Debt Peonage: Court-Ordered Community Service in LA County

Each year Los Angeles County courts order over 50,000 (and likely over 100,000) adults to work for free or go to jail. Overwhelmingly people of color, these workers perform forced, unpaid labor for government agencies—from the county Probation Department to the state Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to UCLA itself—and for nonprofits ranging from the American Red Cross to an Elks Lodge. Workers must sign participation agreements declaring that they have “voluntarily agreed to perform hours of unpaid community service,” “I am not an employee,” and, in event of injury, “[I] will not be entitled to recover any workers’ compensation benefits.”

This research project, a collaboration with A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL),  investigates the scope, operation, and experience of court-ordered community service (COCS) in LA. It does so by utilizing an existing database of 17,000 COCS participants, linking that database to court records, and developing richer, qualitative understanding through exploratory interviews with COCS workers. Both perspectives support development of a legal analysis of COCS, including potential violations of labor & employment law, and policy options for its potential reform. This research will yield an in-depth policy report on this phenomenon that has, until now, almost entirely escaped critical scrutiny or empirical study, especially from a perspective viewing it as an institution that structures work.

By: Professor Noah Zatz, UCLA Law

Our Hoods, Our Stories: Documenting Displacement in Boyle Heights and Chinatown

The graduate student working group connected with community groups as UCLA students and worked on building connections for a project-based course that allows a longer-term commitment from UCLA to support anti-gentrification and anti-displacement work.

  • They have reached out to organizations like Union de Vecinos, Chinatown Community for Equitable Development.
  • Our Hoods, Our Stories Working Group attended community town hall meetings to learn what issues community members are facing.
  • They created a list of readings and a syllabus for a class on gentrification; its effects on community members and local economies; and policies that can either mitigate or exacerbate conditions of gentrification.
  • Their intention is for this to begin as a student-led and student-taught course, but will look for a faculty sponsor for the class to continue to inspire further research and action in the field of displacement.
  • Students hosted Gente Sí, Gentrify No: Resisting Displacement in Boyle Heights with the organizations they have connected with
    • Activists, residents, and community members came together to discuss the struggle against gentrification and displacement in Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights is at the epicenter of a spatially contested struggle for shelter in the midst of Los Angeles’ crisis of housing affordability. This renewed interest in the neighborhood comes after decades of disinvestment, racial discrimination, and substandard employment opportunities for its long-term residents. As a historic entry point for Mexican immigrants into the country, gentrification in Boyle Heights has not only taken a toll on the neighborhood’s most vulnerable populations, but it has eroded the vital social and cultural institutions of self-determination. But the threat of displacement has also inspired a rigorous and thriving social movement. In a moderated discussion, panelists explored the realities of gentrification and the organizing that has emerged as a response to provide context to the debate about gentrification in the neighborhood, and similar debates taking place across Los Angeles.

By: Eve Bachrach, Gina Charusombat, Amman Desai, Julia Heidelman, Lawrence Lan, Jacklyn Oh, Xochitl Ortiz, Carolyn Vera, and Estefania Zavala Urban Planning and Asian American Studies.

Welfare Workings: Popular Politics and the Public in Contemporary India

Our working group, titled ‘Welfare Workings: Popular Politics and the Public in Contemporary India’ comprises doctoral students from the disciplines of Anthropology, History and Sociology, with a shared interest in practices of development and welfare in colonial and post-colonial India. Over the past summer, each of us conducted small fieldwork and archival projects, tying our group’s focus on the multiple, contested, and dynamic meanings and enactments of welfare to diverse historical and geographical contexts in South Asia, ranging from the workings of the rural bureaucracy in Karnataka, NGO programs on women’s empowerment in Himachal Pradesh, late colonial histories of ‘public works’ projects in Uttarakhand, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in the context of mining projects in Jharkhand. Building on these summer projects, the group sought to use our meetings to ground our preliminary empirical findings in relevant theoretical debates on welfare, development, and the changing nature of the Indian state. We formulated an exciting lecture-discussion meeting format to integrate our analysis of critical scholarship on these themes with the relevant expertise of faculty and visiting scholars at UCLA. Our speaker-discussions included a conversation with Dr. Kevan Hariss, Sociology, on welfare in the context of neoliberalization in the global south; with Prof. Akhil Gupta, Anthropology, on the developmental state in India; and with visiting scholar Alf Nielsen on development projects, hegemony and resistance in western India. Further, we organized a public talk, in collaboration with the Center for India and South Asia, with Dr. Vivek Srinivasan titled ‘Delivering Public Services Effectively: Tamil Nadu and Beyond’. Our reading group continues to read key thematic texts in the Spring quarter and aims to develop a concise literature review on the topic over the coming months.

By: Hannah Carlan, Nafis Hasan, Tanya Matthan, Nivedita Nath, Gabriel Locke Suchodolski, Anthropology, History, and Sociology.

Political Sociology and the Global South Working Group

With generous assistance from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, the Political Sociology and the Global South working group has been a success in advancing research, critical thought, and alliances on issues in the Global South. Our working group, led by a group of graduate student coordinators across the social sciences, is an intellectual community of graduate students and scholars who share interests on the intersecting issues of Global South socioeconomic development and underdevelopment, political and social movements, labor, and state-society relations. Our working group is open to all regardless of enrollment status. In the fall quarter, we had two students — Leydy Diossa and Emma Colven — present drafts of their paper while also hosting professors —William Robinson, from UC-Santa Barbara, and Steven McKay, from UC- Santa Cruz. We followed the fall quarter with a strong winter quarter that had three students — Joel Herrera, Pei Palgren, and Andrew Le — present their work while three external speakers — Phillip Hough from Florida Atlantic University, Aihwa Ong from Berkeley, and Yen Le Espiritu from UC- San Diego — also came to our working group. We plan on completing the academic year with Summer Gray, Leslie Salzinger, and Vivek Chibber visiting us from their respective universities along with student presentations by Cory Mengual and Dan Zipp. We will cap the year off with a mini-conference that connects with themes of our working group and the Institute.

By: Kenton Card, Matias Fernandez, Andrew N. Le, Urban Planning and Sociology.

Who Owes What to Whom? From For-Profit Colleges to Payday Lenders: Next Steps in the Debtors Movement

Professor: Hannah Appel, Anthropology

Project Description: The Debt Collective is a team of debtors, organizers, technologists, media, and legal experts that is building a platform to allow members — whether they are low-wage workers, mortgage holding families, people caught up in the court and human caging system or struggling former college students — to renegotiate, resist, and refuse unfair debts. Leveraging the collective power of mass indebtedness, we offer debtors a shared platform for organization, advocacy, and direct action. We are building debtors unions. Alone, our debts are a burden; together, they make us powerful.

Income Inequality and Income Mobility for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

Professor: Randall Akee, Public Policy

Project Description: This project investigates the well-known phenomenon of increasing income inequality and reduced economic mobility in the U.S. in recent years.[1] The analysis is novel in that we are able to separate out differences across the major race and ethnic groups in the U.S. Previous researchers have been unable to conduct this type of analysis given the relatively small sample sizes in survey data for certain race and ethnic groups. This table shows the discrepancies across the race and ethnic groups in terms of the top and bottom shares of income distribution in the United States for the years 2000 and 2014.

The share of income accruing to the top 10 percent of the population of all tax filers was about 41 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2014. Looking across the columns for 2000, about 90 percent of the income that accrued to the top 10 percent of tax filers went to Whites, while about 2.5 percent went to Hispanics, 2.1 percent to Blacks, 0.25 percent to American Indians, and 5.3 percent to Asians. At the bottom of the panel, we report the proportion of the population of each of these groups for our restricted sample of tax filers ages 25–65. Comparing the share of the population to the share of income accruing to each group provides an additional measure of inequality. Whites received a strongly disproportionate share of top income, while Asians received slightly more than their proportionate share. Meanwhile Hispanics, Blacks, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Others accrued less than their proportionate share of total income in the top 10 percent. Looking at Panel B (2014), there are noticeable changes over time: The share accruing to Whites decreased to about 84 percent and the share for Hispanics increased to 4 percent. However, the proportion of Whites in the population decreased to about 70 percent, while Hispanics increased to about 13 percent. Asians realized an increase to an 8 percent share while Blacks, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders did not realize any noticeable changes at the top 10 percent over this time period.

This analysis is repeated for the Top 1%, Top 0.1% and the Bottom 1% in the income distribution.

 Full working paper is available at:

[1] This draft is released to inform interested parties of research and to encourage discussion. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Youth Justice in Four Countries: Defining Criminal Responsibility in Law and Practice

Professor: Laura Abrams, Social Welfare

Project Description: The goal of this study is to investigate the historical development and implementation of policies and practices related to age and justice. We will look at variation in definitions and constructions of age and criminal responsibility, the ways that these policies and practices are currently in flux due to discourses of neo-liberalism, extended age of adolescence, and neuroscience, and what these cases can teach the U.S. about de-incarceration. Purposively selecting four nations as case studies,we pose the following questions: 1)How are “children,” “youth,” “young adults,” and “adults” distinguished, discursively and practically, within global criminal justice systems? 2)How do state-level policies and institutional practices reflect these constructions? 3)What blend of political, economic, or social factors are driving changes and controversies in the policy arena concerning youth justice? 4)How do stakeholders, including policy makers, practitioners, and currently and formerly incarcerated youth view the effectiveness of these policies and practices in promoting youth well being and public safety?

The goal will be to delve into definitions, meanings, and formulations of strategies to address the problem of youth offending in locations with a diverse range of policies and services for young offenders. Four countries have been selected reflecting various combinations of the age of juvenile justice jurisdiction and the age of criminal majority. These four countries will include: a) England/Wales(lower ages in both categories, yet special young offender institutions for 18-21 year olds);b) Belize(low age of juvenile justice jurisdiction and low age of criminal majority); c) Finland (high age of both categories; child welfare involvement for youth under 15, and special provisions for 18-20 year olds); and d) Argentina, (high age of juvenile justice jurisdiction, low age of criminal majority).These four countries represent unique strategies and challenges in their approach to reducing peak age offending .

The findings provide insight into how the category of “juvenile” is conceptualized and delineated within diverse youth justice systems. Read the draft report on this study (paper under review: please do not cite without author’s permission): What is a juvenile? A cross-national comparison of youth justice systems