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New Law Prohibits Cemetery Abandonment and Brings Justice to Grieving Families
By Sentinel News Service
Published October 14, 2021

Mike Gipson 

AB 651, a measure authored by Democratic Caucus Chair Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson), was signed into law and will now prohibit caretakers from neglecting or abandoning cemeteries and will expand contributions that cover cemetery maintenance to avoid disrepair.

AB 651 addresses an issue that was highlighted by the deplorable conditions at one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles County: Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in the City of Compton. In the case of Woodlawn, many families visited their deceased loves ones only to find their tombstones damaged or missing, and the surrounding cemetery grounds unkempt. Conditions became so severe that families were eventually unable to visit due to restricted access.

“Cemetery neglect is a social injustice, especially in communities like the City of Compton that have been historically marginalized,” said Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson. “Whether it’s financial mismanagement or simply a lack of funds needed to maintain, it is unacceptable and heartbreaking to allow the final resting place of our loved ones to be neglected or abandoned. AB 651 will provide a necessary remedy that will restore respect and dignity to every community facing similar issues.”

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“Many of us in Compton have witnessed Woodlawn Cemetery deteriorate over years of neglect, abandonment and financial mismanagement, until volunteers stepped in to try to take matters into their own hands,” said City of Compton Mayor Emma Sharif. “That kind of deterioration of a cemetery is not what our families, or any grieving families, deserve. We deserve better. This bill by Assemblymember Gipson which was signed into law today by Governor Newsom will put an end to this and hold cemetery authorities accountable in order to preserve public access.”

“We are pleased that Assembly Member Gipson included in AB 651 the increase in the minimum contributions cemetery authorities are required to make to endowment care funds (ECF),” said Jerry Desmond from the Cemetery and Mortuary Association. “AB 651 furthers the objective of ECFs to provide for the long term care and maintenance of cemeteries.”

Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery is home to many notable figures, including Civil War Veterans; Al Prentice “Bunchy” Carter, Founder of the LA Chapter of the Black Panthers; and Founders of the City of Compton and Carson.

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