Kern County officials announced a possible plan last month that would decrease the homeless population on the streets. They are considering putting homeless people in jail for misdemeanor drug offenses and potentially for trespassing, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood and DA Cynthia Zimmer are spearheading the idea; however the plan is still in the early stages.
Bakersfield has seen a spike in the homeless population. In January, the city conducted the annual point-in-time count. Volunteers recorded a 108 percent increase in unsheltered homeless people compared to 2018, according to the LA Times. It was also recorded of homeless people in Kern County counted in 2019, 51 percent of those surveyed reported a substance abuse issue.
Youngblood and Zimmer said the plan can help reduce crime and provide an opportunity for drug addicts to get treatment, The Bakersfield California reported.
Bakersfield College students shared their thoughts on this potential strategy. Here’s what they had to say.
“Personally I don’t agree with how the sheriff’s office is taking action on this matter. Because, one I feel it’s going against our civil rights. And even if they do put them in prison and get them clean, there’s no saying that it will be 100 percent sure that the outcome will evolve the homeless people and I don’t think that very logical.”
— Malina Cerrillo
“I think that it is kind of a good idea but also bad. It depends on how people take it. I know there are some homeless people that once you take them to jail they want to get clean. But, once they show that behavior — that they want to get clean — then they get out and go back to the way they were.”
“I do agree with the idea that the government should be intervened in some kind of intervention. My plan was to round up all the homeless people and put them into camps and have local businesses put down ads where they can get jobs. Put down a lot of voluntary and charity organizations to give them haircuts and showers. Give them a certain time period to get them back on their feet. Although I don’t know if a site penitentiary is the best place for that. I’ll probably read more into it but that’s my opinion.”
— Carlos Lopez
“There are so many places that are vacant now that (officials) can fix up to turn into spots where (homeless) can go eat and shower. There could be another place where they can go learn some interview skills, then go set off into the world. They’re not just homeless because of drugs. Some of them fall on hard times. There’s some out there that actually have degrees. Putting them in prison for minor things is just stupid. California should just admit y’all spent that money last time you tried to help the homeless. Be honest with us. We already know.”
“I honestly think it’s a bad idea because if they really cared about homeless people getting off the street, you could take them to homeless shelter or recreational facility to make them better. If you really think putting someone in prison to make them better is a good idea, that’s just retarded. That’s far beyond what you should be doing. It’s a bad idea.”
— Donnie Coleman
“I think the government likes throwing money out anyway, and we have so many abandoned buildings. Like they are trying to say the homeless shelters are over flooded. We have so many abandoned buildings, and y’all throwing out money anyway. Why can’t we just get these people off the street open up an abandoned building and turn it into another homeless shelter? They want to throw these people into prison but their homeless because no one ever gave them a chance in life.”
— Alex Ayala
“The way I see it is the homeless are probably not going to jail first off like that’s a little messed up. At the same time I understand that there is a growing homelessness problem but I think sending them to jail is probably the wrong idea. I know that homeless shelters are a thing and if their filled up, then they need some place to go. But I don’t think jail is the right idea. Because that’s just demeaning in a sense and at the end of it, they might just think okay well if I’m just going to go to jail again then there’s not a point in doing anything else like going to rehab or trying to get help.”
— Adam Hakker
“They should open up more homes in the open areas we are not using. There are buildings all over town that they can turn into homes. Why don’t they just do that? They have so much money to do other things too.”
— Louis Moreno
“I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s smart. It’s not helpful like you are going to put them behind bars when they have a better chance of figuring it out here on the streets rather than you locking them behind the gate.”