Democratic Club speaker to discuss human and fiscal costs of O.C. Jails

Sarah Kahn is a former extern with the ACLU of Southern California. Courtesy of Laguna Beach Democratic Club

Sarah Kahn, a pro bono third-year law student at UC Irvine, will speak on the incarceration system in Orange County at 7 p.m. on April 7 in a Zoom meeting hosted by the Laguna Beach Democratic Club.

“This program is part of an ongoing commitment to providing the community with a range of expertise in the issues of our day,” Gwen McNallan, president of Laguna Beach Democratic Club, said in a press release. “Sarah Kahn is a rising star in advocacy for those who are detained and denied dignity.” 

Kahn will discuss plans for a new Orange County jail and other Orange County Sheriff’s Department budget issues. 

In May 2020, the Orange County Board of Supervisors awarded a more than $261 million contract to expand the James A. Musick Facility jail in Irvine, a project decades in the making. The new jail is critical to provide a safer environment for mentally ill inmates and deputies, sheriff officials said.

“We do not need another jail when the jail population is at a historic low,” Kahn said. “Plus the Sheriff’s Department is not the right agency to provide mental health care to people, incarcerated or not.”

In September, the Supervisors budgeted 20 percent of its discretionary funds for the Sheriff’s Department and Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“That money could be used for mental health services in the community that could avert people with mental disease from winding up in jail in the first place,” Kahn said.

Kahn developed an extensive knowledge of the prison system while devoting 400 hours to pro bono work during law school. Much of her experience was with the ACLU of Southern California, where she is an extern. In addition to addressing the new jail and county budget, Kahn will discuss racial disparities and discrimination inside the jails and unnecessary jail deaths.

“Untreated illness, mental health problems and COVID-19 have led to scores of deaths in Orange County [jails], all while the budget for the OCSD continues to soar,“ Kahn said.

In other pro bono work, she has advocated for asylum seekers at the Tijuana border with Al Otro Lado, immigrants in detention centers, legal permanent residents seeking citizenship, and for those with past criminal convictions, expungement applications. 

Prior to attending law school, Kahn created Free Verse, a nonprofit that taught writing to minors held at juvenile detention centers.

Register for this free event at

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