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Shutting Down CA’s Juvie Prisons, SCOTUS Ethics, a Needed Clemency & More

January 23rd, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


BROWN WANTS TO SHUT DOWN THE STATE’S JUVENILE PRISONS, BUT SHOULD WE?

The short answer is YES. They’re preposterously expensive and they’re a mess that seems immune to fundamental reform.

However, shutting them down must be done wisely or it will simply result in more kids being tried as adults and so shoved instead into the adult prison system, as the Bakersfield Californian points out in an editorial.

The plan doesn’t appear to provide clear safeguards that would keep juveniles convicted of lesser crimes out of adult prisons. What if the counties, deep in their own budget problems, can’t accommodate them? Will these kids end up in adult facilities? Will counties lean toward prosecuting more youth offenders as adults to avoid having to house them? Will they be tempted to not prosecute them at all?

The NY Times also looks at some of the disagreement on the issue:

Joaquin E. DiazDeLeon, a former Fresno gang member, spent two years inside California’s juvenile prison system. What he found there, he said, was no better than the streets he came from.

Instead of rehabilitating young offenders, he said, correctional officers spent most of their time separating rival gangs. Violence was so pervasive, he said, that he kept his gang affiliation just to protect himself.

“Basically you’re being thrown in a box and expected to change,” said Mr. DiazDeLeon, 21, now a student at City College of San Francisco.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent proposal to eliminate California’s Division of Juvenile Justice was billed as a way to cut $242 million from the state budget. It was also the culmination of a decade-long effort to shut the state’s troubled youth prison system, which for years has been plagued by violence, abuse and decaying facilities.


CLARENCE THOMAS FAILED TO DISCLOSE WIFE’S EARNINGS

The LA Times’ Kim Geiger has this head-shaker of a story. Here’s the opening:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report his wife’s income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years, the watchdog group Common Cause said Friday.

Between 2003 and 2007, Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, according to a Common Cause review of the foundation’s IRS records. Thomas failed to note the income in his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms for those years, instead checking a box labeled “none” where “spousal noninvestment income” would be disclosed.

Common Cause also says that Ginny Thomas was paid a salary in 2009 by a group called Liberty Central. But again in 2009, Justice Thomas checked the “NONE” box.

“Without disclosure, the public and litigants appearing before the court do not have adequate information to assess potential conflicts of interest, and disclosure is needed to promote the public’s interest in open, honest and accountable government,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar wrote in a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Do we think this is an oversight? Nope. Not really. One year maybe. But six? Although it’s admittedly hard to know what exactly Thomas was thinking with such a bone-headed move.


THE CLEMENCY QUESTION OF HAMEDAH HASAN

Lisa Ruth, at the not normally bleeding-heart-liberal Washington Times, asks—quite rightly—why President Obama hasn’t given clemency to Hamedah Hasan, the mother and grandmother whose case typifies the nation’s War on Drugs sentencing madness.

Ruth writes that presidential commutations are rare, but that sometimes justice demands them:

One stand-out in the more than 3,000 requests for Presidential commutation is Hamedah Hasan, a mother and grandmother serving her 17th year of a 27 year federal prison sentence for non-violent crack cocaine conviction. She has no prior criminal record.

In 1991, Ms. Hasan was arrested for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, after three other known drug traffickers implicated her as the “manager” of the conspiracy to sell 5.9 kilograms of crack cocaine. They received lighter sentences for their cooperation with authorities. Police never found any drugs on Ms. Hasan, nor did they find any drugs in her house. Despite repeated stake-outs, they did not observe her selling, using, or possessing drugs of any kind.

Mandatory federal sentencing guidelines put Ms. Hasan in jail for life. The requirements at the time included a 100:1 ratio for crack cocaine to regular cocaine. In other words, if you had one gram of crack, your punishment was equal to having 100 grams of cocaine.

Changes in the Sentencing Guidelines later reduced her sentence to 27 years.

Ms. Hasan has applied for Presidential commutation of her sentence, and has received an outpouring of support.

The ACLU now represents Ms. Hasan due to the strength of her argument. The application included more than 50 letters of support from community leaders, prison chaplains, advocates, friends and family.

One letter is from the federal judge who sentenced Ms. Hasan, the Honorable Richard G. Kopf, U.S. District of Nebraska. Part of his letter reads:

“…I can say, without equivocation, that Ms. Hasan is deserving of the President’s mercy. I have never supported such a request in the past, and I doubt that I will support another one in the future. That said, in this unique case, justice truly cries out for relief.”


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF IMPRISONMENT, THE LATEST ON BRADLEY MANNING AND HIS SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

The Guardian has the story. As you read the clip below, remind yourself that Manning has been kept in solitary confinement for six months—although he has yet to be convicted of anything at all.

Supporters of Bradley Manning, the army private suspected of leaking confidential documents to WikiLeaks, were thwarted in an attempt to deliver a petition protesting his treatment when US Marines took a sudden interest in traffic law.

David House, a friend of Manning’s, and Jane Hamsher, founder of the Firedoglake blog, were stopped by guards at the Quantico Marine Corp base in Virginia where Manning is being held, on Sunday when House planned to make a regular visit to see Manning.

The pair also wanted to deliver a petition with 42,000 signatures protesting at the conditions Manning is being held under, including solitary confinement and round-the-clock watch which his lawyers describe as unfair and abusive.

But despite having visited the base to see Manning on several previous occasions, yesterday the pair were stopped by military police and Hamsher’s car impounded after guards found the vehicle’s license plates had expired and Hamsher was unable to produce insurance papers.

After nearly two hours the pair were released – but too late to see Manning during the military brig’s visiting hours, denying the prisoner of his sole weekly respite from solitary confinement.

Posted in California budget, CDCR, crime and punishment, juvenile justice, State government, State politics, Supreme Court | 1 Comment »

Parents of Victim Sue Schwarzenegger Over Nunez Commutation

January 21st, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Criticism over the last minute commutation
of the prison sentence of Fabian Nunez’s son is not going away.

The LA Times’ Jack Dolan has the details of the latest development.

The parents of Luis Santos, a 22-year-old college student killed in a confrontation with the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, filed suit against former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento on Thursday, claiming that his decision to reduce the younger Nuñez’s sentence violated California’s Victims Bill of Rights.

During his last hours in office, Schwarzenegger cut Esteban Nuñez’s 16-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter to seven years, without notifying the Santos family. Schwarzenegger noted in his commutation order that Nuñez, although involved in the fight that ended in Santos’ death, did not inflict the fatal knife wound.

Under the Victims’ Bill of Rights, which was added to the state Constitution following a 2008 ballot measure, victims have a right to be heard “upon request” in any proceeding involving a “post-conviction release decision.” One of the Santos attorneys, Nina Salarno Ashford, said the family members didn’t have a chance to request a hearing because they didn’t know Schwarzenegger was going to take action. The former governor had a duty to inform the family, Ashford said….

Days after releasing the commutation order, Schwarzenegger sent the Santos family a letter apologizing for not informing them of his decision. Fred Santos, the victim’s father, accused Schwarzenegger of reducing the sentence as a favor to Fabian Nuñez, who as Assembly Speaker was often an ally of the governor’s.

The suit asks the court to reinstate Nuñez’s original 16-year sentence, which a San Diego judge imposed after a plea bargain that reduced the original charge of murder to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.


NOTE: Next week I’ll have a portrait of one more young man whose very long sentence Arnold could have commuted instead of that of his buddy’s son.


UPDATE: PATT MORRISON HAS INTERVIEWED THE SANTOS PARENTS

Patt Morrison’s interview with Luis Santos’ parents just went online on Friday night. For those of you interested in the case, it is very much worth reading.

Here is a clip:

What happened that night? The four attackers had been turned away from a San Diego State frat party. They were angry, and then they encountered Luis.

Kathy: He and his friend were jumped. The papers said it was a fight, but I guess it was fight or flight. They were minding their own business. That’s one thing that has annoyed me — almost every report said it was a fight. It was not a fight. Our son’s group was jumped.

One account said Luis was overheard bragging that he was “carrying.”

Fred: Neither Luis nor his friends ever carried any weapons. Luis was joking around with his friends that he was “carrying” by grabbing his cellphone. His murderers overheard what was meant to be a private joke. [Police accounts agree that Luis Santos and his friends were unarmed.]

When the attackers were arrested a couple of months after the killing, did you know who Fabian Nuñez was?

Fred: Fabian Nuñez was one of the most powerful politicians in the state, and apparently he still is. As soon as they told us [Esteban Nuñez was involved], in the back of my mind all along the way, I had to make sure that there was no politics involved in the [legal] decisions. So I kept asking, was there any political pressure? [Law enforcement] put together a solid case.

What do you make of the suggestion that Esteban Nuñez’s high profile as a politician’s son might have made things go harder for him, not easier.

Fred: Until Fabian Nuñez had Arnold Schwarzenegger commute the sentence of his son, this case was never about the Nuñez family. Esteban Nuñez was sentenced for what he [did], regardless of who his father is. Fabian Nuñez made this case about who he is when he went to his political crony Arnold Schwarzenegger and fixed the sentence, just as Esteban bragged his dad would.


For backstory on the case see Christine Pelisek’s
excellent 2009 feature in the LA Weekly.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice | 2 Comments »

Will the Gardena Gun Kid Be Tried As an Adult?

January 21st, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


If the prosecutors get their way, the student
who is charged with bringing his grandfather’s gun to school in his backpack with tragic results will be tried as an adult.

The boy was reportedly already on probation.

Here’s what ABC reported:

The 17-year-old student accused of carrying a loaded gun to Gardena High School was charged Thursday with two felonies.

Prosecutors charged him with one count of possessing a firearm in a school zone and one count of discharging a firearm in a school zone.

Officials said the gun went off from inside a backpack, critically injuring two students on Tuesday.

The suspect is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday. Prosecutors also filed a motion to have the minor tried as an adult.

The teenager faces stiff penalties if convicted on the two felony charges. He could get as many as seven years in state prison if he is tried as an adult.

(Gee, that would be the same sentence that Estaban Nunez now has for stabbing two people and taking part in a murder, then covering it up.)

PS: The DA’s office has determined that no charges will be brought against two Gardena High School students who were accused of helping the suspected gun kid.

The Washington Post has a lot more.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, juvenile justice | 1 Comment »

Friday Fresh Picks

January 21st, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD TELLS WHY HER COMMUNITY NEEDS MLK JR. HOSPITAL

LA Youth gives a voice to LA kids in an important way that no one else does, as illustrated by this personal tale from Ronsanise Johnson, a 16-year-old from Locke High School, who writes about the need for Martin Luther King Jr—AKA King/Drew— to reopen.

Here’s a clip:

The hospital near my house was shut down in 2007 because of poor care. I didn’t know this until last year when I got hit by a car and really needed the hospital, King/Drew. Having to go farther away to treat my broken leg made things hard on me and my family.

Last December after school me and three of my friends were walking on 108th Street to catch the bus from Watts to my house in Inglewood. Near the corner of San Pedro Street, we decided to cross the street. Looking both ways, we saw that there were no cars coming. Two of my friends started crossing the street and I followed right behind them. Out of nowhere a black car came rushing down the street and hit me.

I was hit so hard that I flew several feet into the air. Coming down, the back of my head hit the windshield. I remember thinking, “Oh my god I can’t believe this is happening to me!” It hurt at first, then the pain went away. I rolled off the car and landed in the street. My body was numb and I had a nasty taste in my mouth. I looked down and saw my left leg bleeding.

About 25 minutes later the fire department came and wrapped my leg in an inflated orange brace. After a few minutes the ambulance came. After we were driving for about 30 minutes, the siren stopped, but the lights were still on. I asked, “Why are we still driving?”


OHIO DEATH ROW INMATES END HUNGER STRIKE AFTER MOST DEMANDS MET

The Columbus Post-Dispatch reports. Here’s a clip:

TThe three inmates – Siddique Abdullah Hasan, known as Carlos Sanders at the time of the 1993 Lucasville riot; Bomani Shakur, formerly known as Keith Lamar; and Jason Robb, all of whom are serving death sentences for their part in the riot – began a liquid-only hunger strike Jan. 3.

The inmates complained that they were being singled out for unfair restrictions compared with others on Death Row because of their actions during the April 1993 riot. In audio messages distributed via the Internet, Hasan complained they had no outdoor recreation or contact visits with family members, can’t buy winter-weight clothing and lack access to LexisNexis, a legal and news Internet search engine.

The riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville cost 10 lives, including Corrections Officer Robert Vallandingham. Sanders was considered the ringleader of the rioters.

“This is a big deal for them to be able to touch a loved one after 18 years,” said the group’s attorney, Alice Lind.

“Semi-contact” visits typically mean the visitor is separated from the inmate by a plate of glass that has a small gap so they can touch or hold hands.


CA ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS ANNOUNCES AMICUS BRIEF FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

Six Attorneys General from across the country will announce the filing a friend-of-the-court brief on Friday defending the constitutionality of the federal Affordable Care Act in one of several legal challenges to the federal legislation.

Other state attorneys general joining in the filing are from New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and Oregon.


GOVERNOR EGB JR ANNOUNCES HIS “STAY IN SHAPE” STRATEGY

Jerry Brown tweeted the following on Thursday night:

Installed the pull-up bar in the office today. Staying in shape for all the heavy lifting to come. http://yfrog.com/h7ljeitj

(The link takes you to a photo of the pull-up bar in question.)

Brown also tweets wants you to try your hand at balancing the state budget.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, health care, prison, prison policy | 4 Comments »

The Hot Spot Strategy for Cutting Health Care Costs

January 20th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


This week, while Republican congress-members posture irritatingly about repealing health care reform,
the New Yorker has an excellent new article by Atul Gawande in which Gawande that contends that one of the main ways to lower the ever-rising health care costs is not by cutting back on services, but by providing more intensive services to the, say, 10 percent of chronically ill patients who incur the hugest costs with long stays in hospital rooms and intensive care units.

(Gawande, is a surgeon who teaches at the Harvard Med School and at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is also a staff writer for the New Yorker.)

Unfortunately, the article is hidden behind the New Yorker’s usual paywall, but Gawande is interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air on Thursday and the interview is definitely worth your time.

The concept is akin to the practice among the LAPD and other modern law enforcement agencies of throwing a big chunk of police resources at the ten percent of lawbreakers who cause most of the crime.

One of the physicians he profiles, Jeff Brenner, is a family practitioner working in Camden, N.J. In 2007, Brenner started treating chronically sick people who accounted for a significant percentage of the health care costs in Camden.

Brenner was operating under a hypothesis: He figured that the people who had the highest costs in the health care system were also getting the worst care. By helping them, he could also lower the health care costs — not just for them but for the entire city of Camden.

After three years, Brenner and his team appear to be having a major impact. Gawande writes that his patients “averaged 62 hospital and E.R. visits per month before joining the program and 37 visits afterwards — a 40 percent reduction. Their hospital bills averaged $1.2 million per month before and just over half a million after — a 56 percent reduction.”

That net savings, Gawande tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies, is absolutely “revolutionary.”

Listen to and/or read the rest.

Posted in health care | 5 Comments »

Shooter on the Loose & Homeboy Salsas, Other Pressing Issues

January 20th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


BY WED EVENING THE EL CAMINO COP SHOOTER WAS STILL ON THE LOOSE, SOME NEIGHBORHOODS LOCKED DOWN

The suspect who shot 30-year-old LAUSD police officer Jeffrey Stenroos just outside of El Camino High School near Valley Circle and Burbank Blvd. was still at large at 6 pm on Wednesday night. The man reportedly fired at the officer multiple times, hitting him once in the chest. Fortunately Stenroos had on a protective vest, which saved him from more serious injury or worse, although he was hospitalized.

After locking down nine schools in the area for much of the day, police began lifting the lock downs gradually, still keeping the El Camino kids.

(The Daily News has more of the story.)

Since the area is just down the hill and slightly north of where I live in Topanga Canyon, I got bulletins in the afternoon and into the night from friends who live in the area who heard that they might have to stay in a hotel Wednesday night if the suspect was not found and arrested.

One high schooler at El Camino texted his sister at 3:30 pm on Wednesday to say that he was going nuts because there had been no bathroom breaks since the 11:30 am, and kids were peeing in class trash cans. Finally at around 5 pm, the El Camino students were escorted by officers to a nearby McDonalds restaurant, where parents were told could come to pick up their hungry offspring. The same teenager later texted his sister that he’d managed to sneak home into the family’s police-blockaded neighborhood in order to let out his family’s dogs, who were stuck inside without their own bathroom breaks.

When the sister and his mother got his latest text they tried to get an officer at the barricades to let the mother in to get her son (plus the dogs). He refused. Finally the mom talked the cop into going in and ferrying both teenager and canines out, and everyone’s nerves began to calm, just a little.


MEANWHILE SOMEONE SHOT A BELL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT

KTLA reports that a 16-year-old Bell High School student was shot shot at around 3:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday at a popular burger restaurant a block away from the high school. The shooter was reportedly driving a black truck. The boy is expected to survive.

By evening a Gardena High School student tweeted this (in an extended tweet):

Alright so yesterday some kid had a gun at my school (Gardena High School) today some kid had a gun at Bell High School and some 40 year old shot a cop near El Camino Real High School and now somebody got shot down my street. WTF is happening Cali?


ON A HAPPIER NOTE: HOMEBOY SALSAS INTRODUCED AT ALL RALPH’S MARKETS IN SO CAL

On Wednesday, Homeboy industries launched a line of salsas and tortilla strips at all Southern California Ralphs Grocery Stores. Those of us who have ever lunched at Homegirl Cafe have tasted Chef Pati Zarate’s kick ass salsas.

Now we can bring Pati’s Mango, Pico de Gallo, and Chile Verde Salsas home with us—which is a very, very happy development indeed.

Proceeds from the sales of the salsas et al will help support the various programs at Homeboy Industries.


JP MORGAN ADMITS TO “ACCIDENTALLY” OVERCHARGING 4000 TROOPS ON THEIR MORTGAGES

A string of military-related news and advocacy sites are, well, up in arms about this issue today, wondering if it is the tip of the troop/mortgage iceberg.

Here’s the basics of the issue according to AllGov.com:

Americans serving their country in the armed forces are supposed to catch a break from banks when it comes to mortgage rates. But JPMorgan Chase somehow lost sight of this federal requirement, and not only overcharged thousands of military personnel and their families, but also foreclosed on some and kicked them out of their homes.

Bank officials have admitted their error, and begun mailing out $2 million in refund checks to active-duty personnel who were told to pay more than 6% interest on their home loans (the maximum allowed under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act).

JPMorgan only realized its “mistake” after Captain Jonathan Rowles of the U.S. Marines sued the bank for improperly charging his family too much on their mortgage. The bank committed the same mistake with as many as 4,000 troops, including some fighting in Afghanistan, and improperly foreclosed on the homes of 14 military families.

Here is more at The Consumerist.


Photo by Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Posted in crime and punishment, LAPD | 2 Comments »

Shooting at Gardena High School – UPDATED

January 18th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



At 10:41 am, Tuesday morning,
a shooter dressed in black reportedly pulled a gun out of his backback at Gardena High School and fired—possibly accidentally. The bullet hit two students, one in the head, one in the neck, conditions unknown according to the LA Times.

He has since surrendered to police. The alleged shooter is reportedly a student.

Parents with children at Gardena High have been advised to text 90247 to the number 888777, and they would receive a text message back providing them with information about when they could pick up their children.

ABC7 says that one student is in serious condition, one critical.

It is now sounding increasingly likely that the gun went off unintentionally when the student dropped the back pack.

Other students identified the student who allegedly had the gun, reportedly a 15 year old, making it easier for the police to take him into custody.


UPDATE: The LA Times has an eyewitness account by a student. Here’s the opening:

A Gardena High senior who was sitting next to students who were shot described a scene of chaos and fear inside the classroom when gunfire erupted Tuesday morning.

Miguel Lopez, 17, said he was in his health class when a gun went off as a male classmate was reaching into his backpack. The student, whose name Lopez did not know, was not pointing the gun at anyone, he said.

Two students sitting next to him in the rear corner of the room were shot, Lopez said. A boy was grazed in the shoulder. [Note: he was actually shot in the neck.] A 15-year-old girl next to him was shot in the temple.

“I’m scared and I don’t know what’s going on,” Lopez told the Los Angeles Times by cellphone. Lopez was sitting with classmates inside the dean’s office, where they had been escorted by security after the shooting.

In a 1 pm update, Andrew Blankstein and Victoria Kim write that the alleged shooter apologized to the kids his gun hit then ran from the classroom.

Tragic, tragic, tragic—all the way around.


UPDATE: 3:10 PM

It looks like the alleged shooter brought the gun to school on at least one other occasion because he was fearful about his safety.

Of course. I guessed as much. (I’m sure many others did too.)

Many are asking why the school’s metal detector failed to pick up the presence of a gun in a backpack. (Why in the world have a metal detector if it cannot manage that most primary function?)

The 15 year old girl who was shot in the head is said to be in “grave” condition.


FURTHER UPDATES ON THE FEMALE STUDENT’S CONDITION

From the LA Times

Dr. James Ausman, who heads a team of surgeons at the hospital, said the extent of the girl’s injuries likely would not be known until Wednesday, when doctors can determine whether she can speak or move her arms and legs. The left side of the brain controls speech and motor movement on the right side of the body.

Dr. Gail Anderson Jr., the chief medical officer at the Torrance medical center, said the bullet fractured but did not puncture the girl’s skull and that the energy from the bullet caused trauma to the brain. The girl remains in critical condition.

Posted in crime and punishment, Education | 9 Comments »

Schwarzenegger, Estaban Nunez, Michael Duc Ta and the Double Standard

January 18th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Now that we have had some time to reflect further
on outgoing governor Arnold Schwarznegger’s reduced sentence for Estaban Nunez, the son of his business ally, former Assembly Speaker, Fabian Nunez, the whole thing looks far worse, not better.

On Sunday, the LA Times’ Jack Nolan examined the issue in a story about the 29 inmates in the last year alone who had served lengthy prison sentences, who were deemed appropriately punished and rehabilitated by the notoriously hard core California parole board that they were granted parole.

However, none of those 29 inmates were actually released because Arnold spiked their parole, countermanding the decision by the board (a group that has never been known for its warm and fuzzy liberalism).

Here’s a clip:

They, like former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez’s son Esteban, participated in crimes that left a victim dead but did not deliver the fatal blows.

And like the younger Nuñez, 11 of those inmates had no previous criminal record, according to orders from the governor’s office in 2009, the most recent year for which records are publicly available.

Among the reasons Schwarzenegger frequently gave for reversing the parole board — a panel appointed by his office and dominated by former police and corrections officers — was that the victim had been killed over something “trivial.”

In addition, the offender had demonstrated “callous disregard for human suffering,” often by fleeing the scene and leaving the victim to die, as Nuñez did after he and his friends drunkenly attacked a group of strangers on a San Diego street in 2008 after being denied entrance to a fraternity party.

Schwarzenegger laid out circumstances strikingly similar to those of the Nuñez case in a June 2009 order overturning the parole board’s decision to free Sieu Ngo, who had served 16 years for his role in a gang assault at Fullerton High School.

Like Nuñez , Ngo was 19 at the time of his crime. It was September 1992 when he and four friends chased and beat a rival gang member, Angel Gonzalez. During the attack, one of Ngo’s accomplices pulled a gun and shot Gonzalez once in the back, killing him. And like Nuñez, Ngo then hopped in a car with the others and hit the road.

In the Nuñez case, the politician’s son had stabbed one victim in the stomach while a friend fatally stabbed another in the heart. Then they drove to Sacramento and threw their knives in a river. Ngo’s group drove to Washington state, where they were arrested a month and a half later, according to Schwarzenegger’s order.

Schwarzenegger acknowledged that Ngo, who is serving 16 years to life, had maintained “supportive relationships with family and friends” during his time in prison and had a job offer waiting for him if he got out. But the former governor argued that Ngo still failed to take full responsibility for his actions, a trait he had demonstrated after the attack by fleeing to another state, Schwarzenegger wrote.

Eighteen months after ordering Ngo to stay in prison, Schwarzenegger cut Nuñez’s sentence by more than half, from 16 years to seven. Nuñez had served six months at the time and would not have been eligible for parole until roughly 2023….

(Read the rest here.)

The people in Dolan’s story suggest a stark inconsistency in Schwarzenneger’s policy.

Yet in all the cases he mentioned someone was murdered.

But what about the California kids tried as adults and given lengthy sentences for crimes in which no one died, no one was seriously hurt, and in which they were not the prime participant in the first place? What about those cases?

Why were those young inmates not as deserving as Estaban Nunez?


TAKE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE CASE OF MICHAEL DUC TA

In 2000, Michael Duc Ta was a bright, 16-year-old who tested in the highly gifted range but was also a boy with problems, mostly due to a lousy home life. According to court records, Ta often clashed with his dad, a Vietnamese immigrant who reportedly smacked Ta’s mom around on a regular basis, and then smacked his son whenever Ta tried to intervene. Things got bad enough that Ta ran away several times, and once tried suicide. He also got himself expelled from school on two separate occasions for bouts of acting out—the first time, from elementary school for setting off a stink bomb. The second expulsion, years later, was for fighting, and caused Ta to be transferred to Valle Lindo, a continuation high school in El Monte that was loaded with gang members. As with most continuation schools in LA County, Valle Lindo’s students were an edgy group that tended to Balkanize along racial lines: Latino’s hung with Latino’s, Anglos with Anglos and so on. Ta hung out mostly with other Asian students, many of whom happened to be gang affiliated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, juvenile justice, State government, State politics | 6 Comments »

For Martin Luther King Jr….With Gratitude

January 17th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon

Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Human rights | No Comments »

Friday Criminal Justice Shorts

January 14th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


JERRY BROWN PLANS TO SAVE $500 MILLION BY SENDING MANY NON-VIOLENT, NON-SERIOUS OFFENDERS TO JAIL, NOT PRISON

The East Bay Express says this;

California Governor Jerry Brown outlined plans this week to save $500 million a year by keeping citizens with “non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenses,” and no prior convictions out of state prison. Such felons would have to stay at county jail, Brown is proposing, and that’s a step in the right direction, drug law reformers say.

The Press-Enterprise points out fears of shifting the burden to the counties.

Inland jails are crowded and could become even more so with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal Monday to shift responsibility for low-level offenders and parole violators to county government.

Local officials have expressed concern about housing state inmates, since their own jails are already consistently full.


THE STRANGE CASE OF TWO WOMEN, TWO LIFE SENTENCES, HALEY BARBOUR, AND A KIDNEY

Two sisters were given life sentences as kids for an armed robbery that netted them $11. Now one of the sisters needs a kidney to live. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has let both sisters out on the condition that one donates her kidney to the other (which the kidney-donating planned to do anyway).

AlterNet has the rest of the story. Here’s a clip:

On Friday, the State of Mississippi and Gov. Haley Barbour released two sisters from prison as part of an organ-donor deal done in callous disregard for organ transplant law and transplantation ethics. While no one with a modicum of compassion would object to the suspension of the sisters’ unduly harsh sentence, the suspension demands that one sister trade a bodily organ for her freedom.

But despite major protests by the transplant community, Barbour and the state refused to change the terms of the prisoners’ release. It now remains to be seen if the U.S. attorney general will enforce the law, and whether the United Network for Organ Sharing — the entity responsible for overseeing transplants — will ensure that no hospital violate the provisions of the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act by accepting one of the sisters as donor when there is suspicion that she has received what the law calls “valuable consideration in return for donating her kidney. Lack of compliance with the law could open the door to coercive practices in transplantation where prisoners are concerned….


A PANEL OF FEDERAL JUDGES SAY THAT RUMSFIELD, ET AL CAN’T BE HELD LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR TORTURE

The AP has the story:

A panel of federal appeals court judges expressed doubts Thursday that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and three former military officers can be sued for allegedly allowing torture in U.S. military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In courtroom arguments, two of the three judges were skeptical that Rumsfeld and three U.S. military officials could face damage claims for exercising command responsibility over subordinates accused of torturing prisoners. Nine prisoners have filed suit.


FILE THIS UNDER: WOULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN EASIER TO JUST SERVE THE TIME?

Nearly 32 years ago, in May of 1979, 24-year-old Nancy Garces was serving a 2-year prison sentence for forging a credit card when she escaped from the California Institution for Women (CIW) .

According to a release from the CDCR late Thursday, Garces, now 56, was finally apprehended in Santa Barbara on Tuesday.

CDCR officials will escort the 56-year-old Garces back to CIW this week. She may face additional charges, including escape.

Since 1977, more than 99 percent of escapees from California state prisons have been apprehended.

Posted in California budget, crime and punishment, criminal justice, prison, prison policy | 2 Comments »

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