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Wednesday Short Takes: Medical Parole, Drugs & IQ, and New Crime Theories

November 16th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



ONE OF THE FIRST 24 INMATES RELEASED ON SO-CALLED MEDICAL PAROLE MAY HAVE PAROLE REVOKED DUE TO LEWD GESTURING

Three-striker Peter Post was a burglar who unwisely kept burgling and kept getting caught. After convictions in 1992 and 2000, his conviction in 2002 got him a third strike and 31 years to life.

He would have remained locked up for at least those 31 years, but earlier this year Post was found to be eligible for parole under California’s brand new medical parole law. Consequently, he was released from prison and into a state medical facility.

Last week, however, Mr. Post likely blew his parole status when he reportedly brandished at nurses parts of his person that are generally best kept out of site in polite company. (He then made matters worse by becoming inappropriately amorous with himself.)

To be eligible for consideration for the medical parole program which began on January 1, 2011, an inmate must be so medically incapacitated that he or she is rendered “permanently unable to perform activities of basic daily living,” and thus needs 24-hour care.

The idea behind the program is that if an inmate is so incapacitated and/or ill that he or she is longer a threat to public safety, why not give him a “medical parole,”—and allow the California taxpayers save a pile of costs that keeping such an inmate in prison would require?

Why not indeed?

Since January 1 of this year, twenty-four such medical parolees have been approved and released into outside care. “But they are still on parole,” said the CDCR’s Terry Thornton. “And if the situation changes and they pose a risk, their parole can be revoked.”

That is nearly certain to happen to Mr. Post. He will have a medical exam to determine whether all this brandishing means that his condition has changed to the extent that he no longer qualifies as in incapacitated and/or a non-threat. The Board of Parole Hearings will make the final decision as to Mr. Post’s fate.

“But what’s important to note with this whole thing, is that the system is working,” said Thornton. “If you pose a risk, you’ll go back to prison. But if you don’t, there’s no reason the tax payers need to keep paying your hotel bill.”

Thornton could not tell me why Post was incapacitated, because of California’s medical privacy laws. But she said he needed 24-hour care—or at least he did, up until recently.


IS INTELLIGENCE A GATEWAY DRUG?

A new study links high IQs—and actually being female— to drug use. CNN has the story. Here’s how it opens:

The “Just Say No” generation was often told by parents and teachers that intelligent people didn’t use drugs. Turns out, the adults may have been wrong.

A new British study finds children with high IQs are more likely to use drugs as adults than people who score low on IQ tests as children. The data come from the 1970 British Cohort Study, which has been following thousands of people over decades. The kids’ IQs were tested at the ages of 5, 10 and 16. The study also asked about drug use and looked at education and other socioeconomic factors. Then when participants turned 30, they were asked whether they had used drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin in the past year.

Researchers discovered men with high childhood IQs were up to two times more likely to use illegal drugs than their lower-scoring counterparts. Girls with high IQs were up to three times more likely to use drugs as adults. [My ital.] A high IQ is defined as a score between 107 and 158. An average IQ is 100.


CONTROLLING CRIME: HOW TO DO MORE WITH LESS

A story about an outstanding new study is posted at The Crime Report. Here’s a clip:

The unprecedented surge in incarceration since 1980 has stimulated a national debate between those who claim that locking up over 2 million people is necessitated by public safety concerns, and those who say the human and financial burden of imprisoning so many of our citizens is intolerable.

Recent declines in some state prison populations do not reflect a “win” for prison-reduction advocates so much as the extraordinary stringency of state budgets resulting from the Great Recession. The issue will remain after the recession finally recedes and state revenues pick up.

Then what? How should we determine how large a prison population is “right”?

One danger is that we may all get drawn into a debate that is much too narrow. The question of more versus less imprisonment emphasizes the division between those who worry about crime and those who worry about the costs of controlling crime; and it distracts from areas of potential agreement that arise when the focus instead is on the full range of policy choices that affect the crime rate.

If the primary purpose of imprisonment is indeed crime control, then what are the alternatives and what are their social costs? Are there ways to re-allocate our society’s resources to reduce the burden on society from both crime and crime control?

Then authors Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig go on to present some very smart answers to some of these very thorny questions.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Must Reads, Sentencing | 3 Comments »

OCCUPY! Zuccotti Park Raided by NYPD, Top Aid to Oakland Mayor Resigns…..and I Talk Occupy on NBC’s The Filter

November 15th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


NYPD CLEARED ZUCCOTTI PARK OF OWS PROTESTERS AND TENTS AROUND 1 AM TUESDAY MORNING…PROTESTERS DID NOT GO HOME, AT 4 AM EVERYBODY WAS STILL IN THE STREET

The New York Times reports:

Hundreds of New York City police officers began clearing Zuccotti Park of the Occupy Wall Street protesters early Tuesday, telling the people there that the nearly two-month-old camp would be “cleared and restored” before the morning and that any demonstrator who did not leave would be arrested….

The best coverage was on Twitter and the several live feeds coming from the moving sites of the protest.

Once among many disturbing notes as the early morning wore on, was the report that press covering the situation were told they would lose NYPD press passes if they didn’t vacate the area, according to a videographer who told what he witnessed on the UStream live feed that was on the Reuter’s site.

WBAI, the Pacifica station, has been broadcasting calls from the park.

Twitter was also full of reports of press being turned away. Mother Jones reporter @JoshHarkinson was one of those who was able to slip in and was tweeting actively, but said that he was one of the few.

This is one of several videos of police and protesters that look alarming


OAKLAND MAYOR JEAN QUAN’S LEGAL ADVISER AND OLD FRIEND RESIGNS MONDAY OVER HER HANDLING OF OCCUPY

The San Francisco Chron has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s chief legal adviser, a longtime friend, resigned Monday after what he called a “tragically unnecessary” police raid of the Occupy Oakland camp.

Dan Siegel was one of two aides to defect from Quan’s administration Monday. Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu also quit, but said her resignation had nothing to do with the police sweep.

Siegel, a civil rights attorney and one of Oakland’s most active and vocal police critics, said the city should have done more to work with campers before sending in police.

“The city sent police to evict this camp, arrest people and potentially hurt them,” Siegel said. “Obviously, we’re not on the same page. It’s an amazing show of force to move tents from a public place.”

Siegel strongly opposed any plan by the city to take down the month-old camp in the days leading up the police raid.

Oakland has become “the most hostile city to the Occupy movement,” he said Monday. “Where else are they having 600 police officers take down some tents?”

By the way, putting those 600 cops on the street–many of which were borrowed from 13 outside law enforcement agencies—cost the city $500,000.


I WAS NBC’S THE FILTER WITH FRED ROGGIN ON FRIDAY…TALKING ABOUT OCCUPY

The Filter with Fred Roggin is always an enjoyable show for me to do, and I was happy to get to talk about the Occupy movement. However, be forewarned that, when we taped, I chatted quite volubly, thus the final segment required some substantial snipping which left most of my lighter comments, so I may sound as though I was trivializing Occupy, which wasn’t the case. But perhaps not. Watch and you tell me.

At the very least, you will get to hear me fearlessly mangle the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man.


OCCUPY LA TO BRING IN SOCIAL WORKERS TO HELP HOMELESS WHO HAVE JOINED ENCAMPMENT

This is a very smart idea. The AP has the story.

Occupy Los Angeles is taking a new tack in trying to grapple with the nettlesome issue of the homeless people who have moved into the tent village—social workers.

Volunteer social workers are scheduled to visit the camp surrounding City Hall on Saturday in a bid to help some of the more troubled residents, possibly moving them to facilities better equipped to deal with their problems, said organizer Darren Danks.

“We love their support, but there’s a percentage who need social services,” he said Monday.

The Occupy movement, formed as a protest of government economic policies perceived to favor the rich, operates with an all-are-welcome policy, and organizers will even try to find a tent for those who lack one. But they admit the homeless have been an unanticipated challenge that has diverted the focus from political activities to keeping internal order.

“It’s created disorder in the encampment,” said organizer Clark Davis. “It’s sort of weakened our stance.”

An influx of mentally ill and drug addicted homeless moved into the 485-tent camp soon after it sprang up six weeks ago, drawn by its free meals, toilets and showers, and a largely tranquil community free of police harassment and the strict rules of shelters that many homeless people dislike.

The camp’s location at City Hall is only blocks away from Skid Row, where some 800 people bed down on sidewalks nightly and 1,000 others sleep in shelters.


JEFFREY SACHS SAYS THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT AIN’T GOING AWAY BUT MAY USHER IN A NEW ERA OF PROGRESSIVE POLITICS

From the NY Times over the weekend, a very intriguing read. Here’s a clip:

OCCUPY WALL STREET and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent…..


MATT TAIBBI DIDN’T GET OCCUPY, NOW HE DOES

Here’s a clip from the middle of the essay by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi , but read the whole thing.

….There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. Or maybe you wake up one morning and your car is gone, legally repossessed by Vulture Inc., the debt-buying firm that bought your loan on the Internet from Chase for two cents on the dollar. This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.

That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

There was a lot of snickering in media circles, even by me, when I heard the protesters talking about how Liberty Square
was offering a model for a new society, with free food and health care and so on. Obviously, a bunch of kids taking donations and giving away free food is not a long-term model for a new economic system.

But now, I get it. People want to go someplace for at least five minutes where no one is trying to bleed you or sell you something…


Photo by Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency, Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

Posted in Occupy | 3 Comments »

A New Study Shows Why AB 12—Set to Begin Jan 2012— is So Urgently Needed

November 14th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Last year, California legislature passed AB 12, the bill that gives another three years of aid
to the young men and women who “mature out” of foster care.

The measure hopes to fix one of the largest problems in California’s foster care system—namely the fact that foster care kids are cut off from nearly all help or support the minute they turn 18. This occurs with very little preparation or help in getting an apartment, a car, a job, health care….and all the other elements of adult life. They are given a few referrals and a bag holding their possessions. That’s it.

As a consequence, sixty-five percent of those who “age out” do so with nowhere to live, and 51 percent are unemployed.

When combined with whatever abuse and/or neglect brought a kid into the system, the effects of this sudden abandonment are stark. One in four former foster kids who matured in the system will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care. One in five will become homeless before they turn 20-years old.

Although the bill was passed more than a year ago, AB 12 is not set to kick in until January 1, 2012.


NEW STUDY SHOWS HUMUNGOUS PROBLEMS THAT AB 12 WILL (HOPEFULLY) HELP TO CURE

A unique study focusing on LA County’s Foster Care youth was released last week. Its brand new set of disturbing findings put a spotlight on the fact that the extra three years of help that AB 12 is scheduled to provide is desperately needed—like yesterday.

The research, which was funded by the Conrad Hilton foundation and conducted by University of Pennsylvania professor Dennis Culhane, with help from the LA County CEO’s Office, looked at how well or poorly kids did 3-7 years after exiting foster care and/or LA’s juvenile probation system.

The results were predictably disturbing.

Yet the numbers were by far the grimmest for kids who had been in the possession for both county agencies—the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and LA County’s extremely troubled juvenile probation.

The young adults in this double duty group are known as the “crossover” youth.

Among the study’s key findings:

One-third of former foster youth and one-half of crossover youth experienced a period of extreme poverty during their young adult years. For example, a youth exiting the foster care system had cumulative earnings of just under $30,000 over the first four years. The amount of income earned by crossover youth is far more dismal — less than $14,000 over four years.

Of those leaving foster care, 68 percent accessed public welfare benefits during the first four years after leaving the system—costing the County of Los Angeles an average of $12,532.

As for the crossover kids, a staggering 82 percent applied for and collected some kind of public assistance benefits during the first four years after exiting the system—bringing their average total cost to LA County to $35,171 over four years.

The rates of using public welfare declined for both groups in years 5 to 8 but the numbers are still substantial —41 percent for foster youth and 54 percent for crossover youth.

(By the way, this study is the first ever to look at outcomes for crossover youth, those who are involved in both foster care and juvenile justice systems. This is a population of kids that deserves MUCH more focus in the future. )


A HOPEFUL GLIMMER

Both the researchers and foster care advocates were interested to note that almost half of the former foster youth and crossover youth enrolled in community colleges, despite the fact that they were poor, often jobless, in some cases homeless, and often prone to depression and other emotional conditions.

A dispiriting two percent actually received an Associate Degree, but the researchers felt that the willingness to try was significant.

“This study provides compelling evidence that these young adults, especially the crossover youth, should be targeted with housing support, education, employment services and mentoring, if the county and the state are to avoid a lifetime of public dependence by this highly vulnerable population,” said Dr. Culhane. “The good news is that this is a population that can be easily targeted with assistance and that current costs to the county could be potentially offset by reduced incarceration and public assistance costs.”

In other words, when—through AB 12 and related programs—we spend a little bit of extra money and effort on kids transitioning out of foster care, juvenile probation, and those double whammy crossover kids, a lot of money will be saved over these kids’ lifetimes in the way of public assistance and criminal justice costs.

More importantly, the bleak trajectories of these young men and women’s lives can be redirected toward hope and accomplishment.

“..I understood the incredible challenges foster kids faced as they prepared to enter a world that they were not ready for,” said U.S. Representative Karen Bass in a statement released last week. Bass, who was one of the original sponsors for AB 12, said she hopes it will become a model for the county.

And just one more thing to put all this in perspective: A 2007 report indicated that, nationwide, kids who grow up with their own parents typically don’t become self-sufficient until age 26 — and their parents on average contribute $44,000 after they turn 18 in rent, utilities, food, medical care, college tuition, transportation and other necessities to help them get there.

So, yeah, three extra years of a extra help for our County’s kids whom we’ve taken into our collective care is the only sane or wise thing to do.


MEANWHILE….ELSEWHERE IN FOSTER CARE NEWS: WHILE SACRAMENTO DITHERS OVER WHETHER TO OPEN LA COUNTY’S DEPENDENCY COURTS TO MEDIA SCRUTINY, PRESIDING JUDGE MICHAEL NASH SAYS HE WILL DO IT ANYWAY.

Both the LA Times Garett Therolf and the LA Weekly have the story, but Jill Stewart writing for the Weekly, is in a particularly satisfying state of fury about the delays in opening the courts.

By the way, Jill’s anger has mostly to do with abusive parents who get their kids back and do terrible harm to them, whereas I’ve mostly seen the other side, where kids are terribly traumatized when taken from parents unnecessarily.

As Therolf writes of Judge Nash:

There is a lot that is not good [in the dependency courts], and that’s an understatement,” Nash said earlier this year at a hearing in Sacramento on legislation that would have opened dependency courts. “Too many families do not get reunified … too many children and families languish in the system for far too long. Someone might want to know why this is the case.”

We need sunshine for both sides of this kid-wrecking coin.


AND, FINALLY….MORE ON JAILS:

For those of you following the jails scandal saga (and if you aren’t, why in the world aren’t you?) be sure to read Sunday’s LA Times’ story by Jack Leonard and Robert Faturechi about how jail duty was used to punish certain problem deputies.


NOTE: WE’LL HAVE MORE ON THE JAILS AND THE LASD THIS WEEK

Posted in Courts, DCFS, Foster Care | No Comments »

To All Our Veterans, With Deep, Deep Gratitude

November 11th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


In honor of those who have served—and are serving—in our behalf, a booklist.
Not so much for vets to read, but for those of us who have not been to war, so that we may better appreciate the experience of those who have.

Below are 6 of my favorites in no particular order. If you have your own, please list them.

The Things They Carried by Tim Obrien

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

A Rumor of War by Phillip Caputo

War by Sebastian Junger

Dispatches by Michael Herr

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson


Photo from the excellent feature-length documentary film Restrepo, co-directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington. A remarkably gifted photojournalist who was committed to covering, at the deepest level he could manage, the experience of American service people and others who fight their country’s wars, Hetherington was killed in April of this year while covering the conflict in Libya,

Posted in Life in general | 3 Comments »

Abusive Spousal Support….Realignment Panic…& the GOP on Criminal Justice

November 11th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


CALIFORNIA WOMAN FORCED TO PAY HER ABUSIVE HUSBAND SPOUSAL SUPPORT? REALLY?

What is this judge thinking? ABC news has the report. Here are the details:

She was forced to have sex with him, and now she’s being forced to pay his bills.

Crystal Harris of Carlsbad, Calif., had been financially supporting her unemployed, abusive husband Shawn Harris for years. But after he sexually assaulted her in 2008, she took him to court.

The jury heard a damning audiotape of the attack secretly recorded by Crystal Harris, and her husband was convicted of forced oral copulation.

Even so, in 2010, the year their divorce became finalized, he requested spousal support. The judge awarded him $1,000 a month, and also asked Crystal Harris to pay $47,000 of her ex-husband’s legal fees from the divorce proceedings.


JAIL OVERCROWDING PLUS REALIGNMENT MAY FORCE INCARCERATION ALTERNATIVES

Sheriff Baca says the County’s Jails could be full in a month, so some prisoners may serve half sentences. He also said he will look at community-based alternatives to incarceration for some offenders (a strategy that other states have employed successfully, and CA should have embraced years ago).

The LA Times Andrew Blankstein and Robert Faturechi have the story.

Here’s a clip:

The state’s new prison law, which establishes a practice known as realignment, is expected to send as many as 8,000 offenders who would normally go to state prisons into the L.A. County Jail system in the next year.

Currently, defendants awaiting trial account for 70% of the jail population, but Sheriff Lee Baca said that might need to drop to 50%. The department is studying a major expansion of its electronic monitoring and home detention programs to keep track of inmates who are released.

Baca said the department is also developing a new risk-assessment system designed to better identify which inmates are the best candidates to leave the jails.

Additionally, the department is looking at ways to channel more offenders into education and substance abuse programs rather than jail.

In the panic over releasing inmates, did anyone notice the small, interesting fact embedded in this story: namely that 70 percent of those in jail are not there because of convictions, but because they are awaiting trial. And a big chunk of the folks who make up that 70 percent are locked up, not because they’re a hideous threat to public safety or a ghastly flight risk, but simply because they don’t have the money or the collateral to make bail. In other words, the issue isn’t so much criminogenic as it is fiscal.

So-o-oooo, instead, of keeping all those economically-challenged folks in the county lock-up, for those who qualify, we could use electronic monitoring or some related ATI (alternatives to incarceration) system, which other jurisdictions have been employing with good results. (But, hell, why be logical and forward thinking when hysteria is SO much more fun!)


WHERE ARE REPUBLICANS ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Steve Yoder writing for the Crime Report suggests that some Republicans have come farther on sentencing reform and other criminal justice reforms than Democrats.

Here’s a clip:

To understand the distance that the Republican Party has traveled on criminal justice, observe the record of Texas’ longest-serving governor.

In 2001, just after Rick Perry assumed the job, he vetoed a bill that would have ended the practice of arresting those suspected of class C misdemeanors—fine-only crimes that don’t require jail time, such as traffic offenses.

But fast-forward to 2007. That year, he signed a law allowing police officers to issue citations instead of making arrests for certain class A and B misdemeanors, including marijuana possession. Perry’s reversal came about in part because the state faced a projected shortfall of 17,000 inmate beds.

In Texas and other red states, formerly law-and-order GOP lawmakers are taking the lead in reforming criminal justice systems.

In other words, yes, California’s Democratic legislature does lag behind Rick Perry’s Texas (among other states) in terms of many criminal justice reforms. Explain that one, Sacramento!

Not that the public, the press and the local officials are any better: Just notice the ongoing freakout that realignment is causing. (See above.) I mean, realignment may force us to have to back into some much-needed sentencing and pre-trial systems reform. OMG!!! The horror!!!


Posted in Courts, criminal justice, families, gender, LA County Jail, Sentencing, Sheriff Lee Baca | No Comments »

Laurie Winer on Sam Zell and the Dismantling of the LA Times

November 11th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Former LA Times theater critic, Laurie Winer, has ostensibly written a review of James O’Shea’s book,
The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers, in which he chronicles real estate tycoon Sam Zell’s raping and pillaging of the Tribune Corp. in general and of the Los Angeles Times in specific.

But really, Winer has done something that is far better and more informative than a mere review: She has recapitulated for us—in a releavingly graspable way— the catastrophe for newspapers that was/is Sam Zell, and the events leading up to his wrecking ball tenure that made Zell’s takeover possible. Into all of this, Winer has interwoven her own front row remembrances and observations. We get to feel what it was like to watch the madness close up.

Winer’s essay/review appears in the Los Angeles Review of Books. For any of us who care about journalism, it’s a BIG must read.

Here’s an emblematic clip:

…Zell addressed the staff of the Orlando Sentinel, one of the Tribune newspapers, on January 31, 2008, which was the first time most of the journalists in the Tribune family got to see the man himself. As part of a whistle-stop tour of his new properties, Zell took visible delight in showing off his iconoclastic style to a new industry that, before now, had not had the pleasure. He was primed and ready for his close-up. He took the stage and stood at a lectern, a leprechaun-sized, wizened, bald man with a white goatee and gravelly voice.

According to Zell, “the eleventh commandment is Thou shalt not take oneself seriously.” His public posture was combative but laced with impish mischief; the gleam in his eye suggested he enjoyed being challenged. This may have misled Orlando Sentinel photographer Sara Fajardo, or perhaps she had seen the new employee handbook rewritten on orders of Zell. One of its entries read: “Question authority and push back if you do not like the answer. You will earn respect, and not get into trouble for asking tough questions.”

In any event, there Zell is in Orlando, telling his staff about the necessity of making money, how that would be our top priority going forward. Fajardo did what none of us attempted with Mark Willes; she stood up and asked her new boss about his view on “the role journalism plays in the community, because we’re not the Pennysaver, we’re a newspaper.” Zell placed both hands on the podium and bent his elbows, as if he wanted to push it forward. “I want to make enough money so that I can afford you,” he said, his irritation mounting. “It’s really that simple. You need to in effect help me by being a journalist that focuses on what our readers want and that therefore generates more revenue.” Fajardo immediately broke in, “But what readers want are puppy dogs,” she said, as the courage drains from her voice. “We also need to inform the community.” Zell cut her off, his right hand gesticulating forcefully. “I’m sorry but you’re giving me the classic, what I would call, journalistic arrogance, by deciding that puppies don’t count. … What I’m interested in is how can we generate additional interest in our products and additional revenue so we can make our product better and better and hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq. Okay?”

The audience, some of whom applauded, might have been momentarily perplexed by Zell’s concept: That, like a kid who must endure being “grounded” before he can go to parties again, a newspaper would have to sell its very soul so that, at some undetermined point in the future, it might be allowed to go back to being a newspaper again. If anyone was busy contemplating the conundrum of Zell’s argument, he might have missed the day’s dramatic high point, which occurred when Fajardo turned around to sit back down. Zell had two more words for her. They were: “Fuck you.”

Fortunately, it lives on YouTube.

I watched the video of this event over and over. What mesmerized me was the sight of a man so unprepared for his come-to-Jesus moment that he had no idea it had arrived. Where Murdoch had his ducks in place in a formation that any dictator might envy, Zell had only his anger at everyone who had ever criticized him, who had ever doubted that accumulating wealth, by itself, was proof of ethics, intelligence, or general marvelousness.

Now read the rest. Immediately, if possible.

Posted in American voices, Future of Journalism, Los Angeles Times, writers and writing | No Comments »

Former Men’s Central Jail Captain Dan Cruz Relieved of Duty

November 10th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


The former commanding officer of Men’s Central Jail, Captain Daniel Cruz,
was relieved of duty. He was reportedly told on Tuesday night, according to sources close to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Word of the action surfaced in the department early Wednesday morning.

The leave and the attendant investigation was triggered primarily by Cruz’s performance as the commanding officer of Men’s Central Jail, which he oversaw from April 2008 to December 2010—in other words, during many of the years that produced a bulk of the incidents that have come to light in the widening jail abuse scandal. (There were other bad years, but Cruz assuredly presided over a troubling period where previous attempts at reform went by the wayside.)

According to two insider sources, Cruz has been on the radar for other incidents—one being being his actions on the night of December 9, 2010 at the now infamous Men’s Central Jail 3000 Boys Christmas Party at the Quiet Cannon banquet hall in Montebello, where a brawl broke out that resulted in the firing of 6 deputies the following spring.


CODE 4

Evidently, Cruz was one of two captains present when the fight broke out, and acted as the supervisor on the scene, according to sources. When the Montebello police got the call that there was a fight at the Quiet Cannon, and went to investigate, it was Cruz who reportedly told the Montebello cops that it was a “Code 4,” no big deal, nothing to see here, and that the sheriff’s would handle it.

“He’s a Sheriff’s Department Captain,” said Lt. Michael Bergman of the Montebello PD. “So when our sergeant saw no obvious victims, and the supervising officer says, ‘We’ve got a handle on this,’ we took his word for it.”

But a few days later, Bergman said, they found it was a big deal after all when two LASD deputies contacted the Montebello PD. “They said, ‘We were at the party, we were the victims, we want to file a crime report, and we want to fully cooperate.’”

Sources said that Cruz’s bigfooting of the Montebello cops and minimizing the seriousness of the Christmas party fight, was illustrative of a pattern that also played out during his tenure running Men’s Central Jail. (Cruz’s term as CJ’s commanding officer was just ending around the time of the notorious Christmas party.)

Reportedly Cruz had long been seen as being “too buddy, buddy” with deputies in the jails and not enough of a commanding officer wishing to run a tight ship. As a consequence, he reportedly had a habit of being glacier-like when processing complaints against the deputies, and/or failing to turn in “force packages”—meaning reports of use of force—in a timely fashion.

“Complaints and force packages have a year time clock on them,” explained a former LASD higher up, who was one of those who suggested that Cruz let force packages languish. “So if you sit on force packages, and the year runs out, we can’t do anything about investigating those complaints even if we want to.”


A SCANDAL BREAKS OPEN

For a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Captain to be relieved of duty, is rare. However, Cruz is the 2nd LASD captain in three months. In April,** Captain Bernice Abram, who was, at the time, the commanding officer in charge of the department’s Carson station, was put on leave after federal authorities notified LASD higher ups, that Abrams voice may have been heard on an FBI narcotics wiretap.

Then, a few months after the news on Abram broke, the jails abuse scandal began to unfold in earnest.

In mid September, WitnessLA’s Matt Fleischer reported a culture of abuse in the jail system, and how when attempts were made to address the abuse, certain members of LASD command staff actively blocked reform. To illustrate the severity of the abuse, WLA told of the case of jail inmate Juan Pablo Reyes, who said he was beaten so badly by deputies that it fractured his orbital bone, then was tossed in a cell with gang members who sexually assaulted him throughout the night without any deputy intervention.

Two weeks later, the ACLU released a scathing report on inmate abuse, with 72 sworn affidavits by both inmates and civilian witnesses, highlighting the Reyes case.

The LA Times followed with its own series of excellent reports about the growing jails scandal.

While the reporting, the FBI had been widening its investigation to include multiple alleged instances of abuse of inmates by deputies inside the LA County Jail system, subpoenaing, among other things, tons of discipline records detailing years of use of force incidents by deputies.

As the fall wore on, in rapid succession, Mike Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review issued a harsh report on the jail abuse situation, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to appoint a special commission to dig into the matter, and Sheriff Baca, who had for years denied the existence of any but the most isolated of problems, finally snapped awake and announced the appointment of his own two task forces to investigate, saying that he’d been insulated by his command staff from seeing the severity of the jails abuse problem.

But heads had yet to roll—or even wobble-–in the upper echelon of the Sheriff’s Department.

Until Dan Cruz.


WHO IS TO BLAME?

For the past few weeks, our sources in and around the LASD have been taking bets as to who would mostly likely be held responsible for the jail abuse mess. Put another way, who at command staff level would be selected by higher ups to take one for the team.

The name we heard most often was that of Captain Daniel Cruz.

Thus when word came down on Wednesday that he’d been put on leave, the gossip mill went into overdrive.

The collective conclusion: Cruz meet bus.

Of course, the investigation is at its very beginning, and cynical gossip is only cynical gossip. Captain Cruz may very well be found to have handled things just fine–(or not). Perhaps attention will eventually focus farther up the department ladder.

Whatever the case, we would like to respectfully suggest that one does not acquire a culture of abuse in the nation’s largest jail system through the mismanagement of a single captain.

There’s more to come.

Stay tuned.


MEANWHILE, FROM THE SHERIFF….

Sheriff’s Bulletin #587 November 4, 2011
ATTENTIVENESS TO INPUT AND CRITIQUE

As a leader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, I am always open to input and critique, and value recommendations that strengthen the effectiveness of our Department. Recently, I accepted responsibility for alleged deficiencies in the jails, where it was later revealed that input from a variety of sources, including Department members, was not adequately addressed or possibly ignored. This is unfortunate and unacceptable.

As leaders on the Sheriff’s Department, regardless of rank, we have a positive duty to remain open and attentive to all input. If deficiencies are observed, we have an obligation to take a leadership role in working toward a solution and following up on input from everyone.

I expect all complaints, suggestions, recommendations or input to be handled to conclusion and channeled through the chain of command consistent with Department policy and common sense. I am not afraid of criticism and have an “open door” policy. Therefore, any questions regarding who should be notified about any matter can be resolved by simply contacting me directly.

Our Core Values require each of us to “do right and fight wrongs.” I admire the strong leadership throughout our Department and know we will continue to uphold and strengthen our outstanding Tradition of Service.


**NOTE: I originally reported that Bernice Abram was put on leave in August, which is incorrect. Although news of her leave broke in August, she was actually put on leave in April.

Posted in jail, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 4 Comments »

SCOTUS Takes 2 Juvenile LWOP Case… & OC Boy Gets Life Sentence

November 8th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



SCOTUS WILL HEAR TWO CASES OF JUVENILE LWOP TO DETERMINE IF THEY’RE CRUEL & UNUSUAL

The Supremes dithered and dithered over whether to take these cases, “relisting” them four times—meaning they didn’t say yes, but didn’t say no, but said to come back again.

Then on Monday SCOTUS surprised court watchers by agreeing to hear a matched pair of juvenile LWOP** cases, both involving young men who were 14 when the murders were committed. The question they will address is whether on whether sentencing young teenagers to die in prison violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

This is a very big deal.

The New York Times’ Adam Liptak has a good rundown on what these cases mean. Here’s a clip:

Last year, in Graham v. Florida, the court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional — but only for crimes that did not involve killings. The decision affected about 130 prisoners convicted of committing crimes like rape, armed robbery and kidnapping before they turned 18.

Human rights groups say there are more than 2,000 juvenile offenders serving sentences of life without parole. Writing for the majority in Graham, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that only the United States and perhaps Israel imposed the punishment even for homicides committed by juveniles.

The follow-up cases the court agreed to hear on Monday concern a subcategory of the remaining group, those who were 14 or younger when they were involved in murders. There are about 70 such prisoners, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law firm in Alabama that represents the two inmates in the new cases.

Focusing on very young offenders may be good strategy for opponents of harsh punishment, and it has worked before. The Supreme Court eliminated the juvenile death penalty in stages, first ruling it unconstitutional as applied to offenders younger than 16 in Thompson v. Oklahoma in 1988 and then those younger than 18 in Roper v. Simmons in 2005.

The two cases the court agreed to hear Monday might also allow the court to draw a further distinction — between offenders who participated in crimes that led to killings and those who actually committed the killings….

Read the rest for a description of the actual cases.

Or read the filing for the cases here: Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs.

**LWOP means Life Without the possibility of Parole


OC BOY GETS LIFE FOR FATAL SHOOTING COMMITTED WHEN HE WAS 14


And…..while we’re on the topic of sending ridiculously young teenagers to prison for life:
Fifteen-year-old Andrew Cervantes was 14-years old when he shot and killed a 17-year-old “enemy” gang member on a Santa Ana street. On Friday, a visibly irritated Superior Court Judge sentenced Cervantes to 40 years to life for the murder.

The OC Register has the story. Here’s a clip:

Rejecting a defense request for a more-lenient sentence, an Orange County judge on Friday sent a 15-year-old to state prison for 40 years to life for killing a rival 17-year-old gang member.

The boy was one of the youngest in Orange County to be tried and convicted as an adult – if not the youngest.

Andrew Cervantes was 14 at the time of the June 22, 2010, incident when he rode the bus from Buena Park, taking a loaded weapon with him to Santa Ana, where he shot and killed an unarmed Manuel Orozco following an encounter that began with staring at each other.

An Orange County jury convicted Cervantes in September of second-degree murder and street terrorism, with a sentencing enhancement for gang activity and use of a firearm. Use of a firearm brings a mandatory 25-years-to-life sentence and, combined with 15 years to life for second-degree murder, Cervantes faced 40 years to life.

Senior Deputy Alternate Defender Ken Morrison said Cervantes fired the gun in self defense when Orozco reached for his waist and he had no “specific intent” to kill…..

I know I sound like a broken record, but seriously. We understand that 14-year-olds are not emotionally and mentally mature enough to:

1. drive a car
2. sign a contract
3. see an R-rated movie (like The Hangover, Bridesmaids or Saving Private Ryan)
4. drink
5. buy tobacco
6. vote
7. have sex with an adult.
8. get a job

However, if they kill someone (or, as is true in many cases, are present when someone else kills someone), we suddenly throw out everything we know about adolescent cognitive development and decide that kids of that age are more than old enough to know exactly what they are doing and its consequences, that they are not worth rehabilitating, must be treated as adults, and should be remanded ASAP to prison for life.

What is wrong with us?

As of last Spring, an estimated 2,594 juveniles are serving life without parole in the United States. Of those, 71 were 13 or 14 years old when they committed the crime.

Here’s a chart of the numbers for each state. Of course, California’s numbers have just gone up.

And just to remind you, with this juvie LWOP policy the United States is alone in all the world.


AND IN OTHER NEWS….IMMIGRATION DETAINEES MUST BE PROVIDED LAWYERS

The Tuesday LA Times has an editorial that is dead on. Here’s a clip:

In 2009, President Obama vowed to overhaul the nation’s immigration detention system. Since then, his administration has taken some steps to deliver on that promise, such as providing detainees improved access to medical care and closing troubled facilities. But it has yet to provide the most meaningful fix: ensuring that indigent immigrants in detention have access to legal counsel.

Until now, federal courts have held that only criminal defendants are entitled to court-appointed counsel. An immigration case, even if it involves detention, is a civil matter. As a result, the vast majority of detainees, including children and the mentally ill, are forced to represent themselves in immigration court.

This month, however, a federal judge in Los Angeles could help bring some fairness to the system. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee has been asked to decide whether to grant class-action status in a lawsuit brought on behalf of mentally disabled immigrant detainees who don’t have the money to pay for legal representation. If Gee certifies the class under the Rehabilitation Act, which requires the government to accommodate people with disabilities, it could help hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

That would be a great start. But much more is needed to ensure that all detainees are afforded fair treatment under the law.


NOTE: Light blogging today and tomorrow while I finish a project and attend the PEN USA literary awards.

Posted in juvenile justice, LWOP Kids | 3 Comments »

Sup. Ridley-Thomas Adds Cecil Murray to Jails Commission as “Moral Force”

November 7th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has nominated Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray,
the iconic retired long-time pastor of the First AME Church, as his choice for the County’s newly-formed Citizens Commission on Jail Violence in the hope that Rev. Murray’s presence will add an unassailable kind of moral weight to the group that already consists of three august ex-judges and one highly-regarded veteran police chief.

“After the 1992 riots, Reverend Murray, then pastor of First AME Church in South Los Angeles, became the pre-eminent moral force in the local and national conversation about the relationship of minority communities to the law enforcement structure,” Ridley-Thomas said in his statement about the nomination.

“I believe the commission must engage the broader public – not just the law enforcement community – in a moral conversation, and few are as well suited to do this task as Cecil L. Murray.”

When I spoke to the Supervisor privately over the weekend about his choice, I told him that I worried the commission presently leaned too heavily toward august figures, with not enough hard-chargers. He said he understood my concerns but felt that Rev. Murray, at this point in his life, would have no trouble pushing hard, and then some.

“He is aware of the rights of the incarcerated having pastored to their families for 30 years,” said Ridley-Thomas. “He has also an extensive prison ministry. And he’s been a leader in civil rights.”

“For the commission’s findings to be taken seriously, he added, “they will have to bring to bear significant standing. Chip Murray can do that.”

The five commission members just nominated will choose two more members to join them, bringing the number to seven. They will make their selections from a pool of names submitted by the Board of Supes.

Ridley-Thomas rattled off to me some of his additions to the pool of names, which included people like former Santa Monica Police Chief James Butts, who is now the mayor of Inglewood, Joe Dunn, who is the executive Director of the California State Bar, Maria Escutia of the United Farm Workers, Bishop Grant Hagiya, retired judge Candice Cooper, Gary Williams, who holds the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Chair in Civil Rights at Loyola Law School, or John Slaughter, now at USC who also served on the Christopher Commission (which was convened to help reform the LAPD after the Rodney King verdict and the subsequent riots).

Whoever the final two are, will the commission be able to make a difference?

As LA Times Jim Newton noted in an Op Ed on Monday, in that Sheriff Baca is an elected official—and a very popular one at that—it may be too easy for him and his command staff to make a few changes and shrug off any suggestions that would require fundamental reform.

Indeed, department insiders I have been speaking with repeatedly expressed worry that some sacrificial lambs will be tossed under the bus (please ignore the horrible mixed metaphor), a few superficial reforms will be instituted, but that the considerable dysfunction within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department that has allowed a culture of abuse to flourish inside the County’s jails will remain intact.


NOTE: Be sure to read the LA Times’ Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard’s Sunday report about how two inexperienced deputies were assigned to guard some of the toughest inmates, and racked up some of the highest numbers of use-of-force incidents in Men’s Central Jail.

Posted in jail, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD | 2 Comments »

A Report From Occupy London from LA Poet Gail Wronsky

November 7th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


The wonderful poet Gail Wronsky is in London for a semester
and has been tracking the Occupy movement that’s been unfolding in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Over the weekend, around 700 Occupy Londoners marched to Westminster, some British politicians joining them, prompting arrests.

Gail visited the St. Paul’s Occupy camp in the days before the march, after the Mayor of London had given the Occupiers an eviction notice. Then, following a flood of public pressure and some negotiations, the Mayor climbed meekly down from his position and said that Occupy London could stay until just after the New Year. Occupy London organizers, however, have tentative plans to stay until the Olympic Games begin in the summer of 2012.

Here’s Gail:

“NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCOUNT TENTS”
Freezing outside St. Paul’s with Occupy London

by Gail Wronsky

They’re more literary than we are, the Brits, as the bit of signage I’ve quoted in the title rather deliciously shows. There’s a matchmaking service here for singles who love Shakespeare! And they’re gloomier. In London, The Biography Peter Ackroyd quotes Pierre Jean Grosley’s remark that “melancholy prevails in London in every family, in circles, in assemblies, at public and private entertainments . . .” So clearly I should not have been expecting celebratory scenes from Hair when I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral to check out the Occupy London tent city. Maybe it’s the ubiquitous gray mist, or the cold, or the eating of red meat—

I’m an Angeleno teaching in London for a semester, and trying to pack in as much traveling as I can around my classes. My first encounter with the Occupy Wall Street movement happened to happen in Istanbul. I hadn’t been aware of what was going on in New York, so I was stunned when I got off a trolley in the Sultanamet neighborhood and saw a group of 10-15 people, men and women, mostly young, holding signs that said, “We Support the American Revolutionaries,” “Occupy Wall Street,” “Occupy Istanbul.” It was thrilling, actually, to find out what people were up to. This particular group was terrifically energized, too, the air around them sizzling with life and hope. Memories of the anti-Viet Nam War era cascaded happily through me.

But this isn’t 1973 or Ann Arbor, Michigan. Back in London, there are over 200 tents outside St. Paul’s. And the British, as many have observed, even the young ones, are a fairly melancholy tribe. Signs saying “Stay Calm and Move Forward,” the ultimate slogan of imperialist hauteur, are posted amid signs calling for an end to capitalism. This is a generation (I know because I teach them) that sets up infrastructure before plugging in their guitars and cranking up the amps.

Occupy London has a first aid tent, a legal advice tent, an IT tent, a massage tent, a food compound with an elaborate volunteer schedule, a meditation tent. Where was the ideology tent? The Karl Marx reading group? When I visited, someone with a microphone led a discussion about personal space and not being judgmental. It was cold. It didn’t seem as though anyone was having fun. It reminded me, in fact, of a meeting of the Topanga Elementary P.T.A. with all the talk about “boundaries,” and “non-hierarchical structure.” How could this group possibly have any effect or influence among the marble-encased, ridiculously bewigged legal mucky-mucks of this city, much less among the bullet-proof Lear jet corporate heavyweights? I want desperately for a charismatic leader to rise up among them and give everyone focus and conviction, and yet, as Chuck, my companion on this excursion said, “if someone like that did appear, they wouldn’t accept him or her.” They’re really trying to do it in a new way.

Somehow I think, like many other people do, that in their gentle and respectful ways they will accomplish something. They do, I dearly hope, represent the start of a significant political sea change. They’re there. And maybe that’s all they really need to be for now. May Mahatma Gandhi’s grace light their way.

The truly weird thing about the London occupation so far is the effect it’s had on the Anglican church. Already three clerics, including Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser, have resigned because a group of kids, basically, is camping outside! What a spectacular over-reaction! Kind of unfigurable. It’s like leaving your marriage because the garbage wasn’t collected on Thursday, right? And yet . . . watching these men on the telly, I find myself admiring them. Here are three middle-aged guys with no pensions, no real marketable skills, in a country with epidemic unemployment, quitting their jobs because Christianity means certain non-negotiable things to them, one of which is a commitment to nonviolence. They quit because they refuse to be part of something, the eviction process, which may lead to a violent encounter between protesters and police.

Working at a Catholic school (Loyola Marymount University) I understand that there are complex, and no doubt seriously hierarchical and political issues behind the scenes here at St. Paul’s. Their first reaction to the occupation was to shut the cathedral doors, doing which, they soon realized, made them look bad. Then there’s the issue of losing tourist revenue (over $200,00 a day, they claim). So, as we say in the states, “it’s complicated.” But the resignations can be seen as heroic, as harbingers of things to come, of consciousness being awakened. I’m hopeful.

Finally, we did encounter a political conversation outside one of the tents. Two gray-haired fellows and a young man with one long trademark dread were trying patiently to listen to a woman who had come, rather obviously, to complain about the occupation. “How can you reject the system and still reap its benefits?” she said, reminding me of all those ad hominem attacks leveled at hippies in the old days (“you want to reject the culture and still have good stereo systems . . . “) The young man said, “We’re in the system. We’re part of the system. We pay V.A.T. We just think things could be done more fairly.” The complaining woman was one of those people who talk and don’t listen, so she kept repeating her mantra. The young man eventually walked away. The older guys stepped in, maintaining a remarkable degree of good-spiritedness.

Ken Livingstone, one of the occupiers, has said, “The Mayor of London’s office has wildly misjudged the issue, making the Occupy movement the enemy but failing to act on public concerns about jobs and growth.” Brilliant. And almost Shakespearian in its rhythms. So, yes, there’s hope, I thought as I caught one delightful whiff of patchouli on my way back onto the tube.

POST SCRIPT:

As of now, the tents remain, although city officials are sifting through ancient bits of small print and survey maps in order to find an excuse to have them moved.
Yesterday, some excrement was found inside St. Paul’s, which has brought on new calls for the annihilation of the encampment. From what I can gather in shops and on public transport, the population of London seems unimpressed. Nine out of ten people assume the stuff was planted by the opposition. They weren’t born yesterday. Public support remains pretty strong.

Posted in Occupy, writers and writing | No Comments »

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