LOS ANGELES (AP) - The city agreed Wednesday to spend up to $30 million to settle a lawsuit that challenged widespread injunctions that restrict the movements of thousands of suspected gang members.
The City Council voted to fund nonprofit organizations to provide job training, counseling, tattoo removal and other services that aim to help people leave the gang life. The city would pay at least $4.5 million but no more than $30 million over four years.
The proposal “creates an innovative pathway for individuals served with gang injunctions to gain the job skills they need to turn their lives around,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement.
If a court approves the settlement, the city also will stop enforcing curfew restrictions that a federal court ruled were unconstitutional and provide an expedited way for people named in injunctions to be removed from the list.
“Unconstitutional gang injunction curfews forced several thousand black and brown residents of Los Angeles indoors on a nightly basis,” Olu K. Orange, an attorney for the lawsuit plaintiffs, said in a statement. “These individuals are part of the Los Angeles community and this settlement is a step by city leaders toward showing them that their lives do matter.”
Gang injunctions were designed as a tool for fighting gang crime and violence. They give police the power to arrest reputed gang members named in the injunction for otherwise legal activities such as gathering in public, wearing gang colors or being outside in a specified gang area late at night.
Since being pioneered in Los Angeles in the 1980s, the use of the injunctions has proliferated across the nation and even overseas. Vast swaths of Southern California have been subject to such injunctions.
Advocates say the injunctions have reduced gang crime while opponents say they cast too wide a net and unfairly brand young men as gang members without due process. Courts have struck down portions of gang injunctions in Ventura and Orange counties.
The proposed Los Angeles settlement covers a lawsuit that was filed in 2011 by two men who were arrested for violating curfew restrictions in an injunction. The men denied they were gang members and charges against them eventually were dismissed.
Their lawsuit argued that the arrests violated their constitutional rights to free assembly, travel and protection from unlawful seizures.
“Gang injunctions are a form of psychological abuse on a whole generation of young people of color,” one of the men, Christian Rodriguez, said in a statement. “Because I was wrongly labeled as a gang member, I couldn’t even be outside helping my mom with the groceries at night. I got involved in this case to help others who like me, did nothing wrong but unjustly live in constant fear of doing something that might be perceived by a member of LAPD as a violation.”
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