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LAUSD Adult Ed Director Ed Morris Reportedly Fired by Supt. John Deasy, Tues.

February 29th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

We have heard that Los Angeles Unified School District Adult and Career Education director, Ed Morris
, was fired on Tuesday afternoon.

According to our source, Morris received the news around 4 pm from Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Jaime Aquino, who is Morris’ direct supervisor.

There is no word yet on why Morris was let go.

The news came on the same day that WitnessLA reported statements made by Morris (and to a lessor degree, Deasy) in an interview with an NPR reporter, in the course of which Morris harshly denigrated the value of the GED test.

Adult Ed teachers found the remarks particularly egregious in that GED prep classes have long-been considered an important part of the Adult Ed curriculum—the budget for which is on the chopping block, its fate scheduled to be voted on by the LAUSD board in mid March.

More as we are able to confirm it.

UPDATE: A number of sources yesterday confirmed that Morris was escorted out of the building and put on leave. However, most of those we spoke with on Wednesday who know him personally assured us that Ed Morris is, in fact, very much in support of the Adult Ed program, and that it is Deasy who seems determined to dismantle it.

Posted in LAUSD | 65 Comments »

LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Living With Member of So Cal Burglary Ring

February 29th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Khajana Jones was one of six people arrested
in connection with a string of burglaries in upscale neighborhoods stretching from Ventura County to Orange and Los Angeles Counties and possibly as far away as Las Vegas.

Deputy Jones is not accused of participating in the burglaries, however she was living with Dennis Coleman, who is allegedly part of a burglary ring believed to have robbed 15 homes since December 1, 2011. Investigators believe that Jones had to have known her boyfriend was engaged in extra legal activity since large amounts of cash and other likely stolen items were found in the house they shared.

Moreover, although Coleman was without a job, he and another unemployed member of the alleged burglary ring reportedly “owned or rented BMW’s, Mercedes, and Jaguars,” went on “…extravagant shopping sprees and spent thousands of dollars at high-end nightclubs,” according to a statement from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Based on what investigators know right now, the group was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stolen jewelry, cash and the like —perhaps more.

[The Ventura Star has more on the burglary ring's thieving methodology.]


Jones, who has been with the department six years, according to LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore, was assigned as a custody deputy to the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.

She has been relieved of duty pending further investigation.


Upon hearing the news of Jones’ arrest in connection to the alleged burglary ring, some LASD insiders pointed out that, given her time in the department, Jones would have likely been part of the 2005-2008 classes of recruits that came out of a massive LASD hiring push in which the department was trying raise its ranks of sworn deputies from 8,500 to 10,000—which meant putting 2500 recruits through the academy training in a short order.

The result, say some critics, was a lowering of recruiting standards, and in the taking of shortcuts in the 18-month academy training.

LASD officials have repeatedly disputed the idea of lowered standards, but in the summer of 2007, the state Commission on Peace Officers Standards & Training—POST—which certifies law enforcement academies, issued a report that found among other things, that some instructors gave cadets answers to test questions and allowed others to retake driving tests multiple times in order to pass. [More here.]

Some of the Deputies who have been arrested or relieved of duty because of pending cases—like Deputy Henry Marin, who is charged with smuggling a heroin-crammed burrito into a courthouse jail—were found to come from that same recruiting period.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD, law enforcement | 18 Comments »

LAUSD Sup John Deasy and Adult Ed Chief Morris Slam the Value of the GED

February 28th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

Some adult eduction teachers with whom I’m acquainted sent me a link to this NPR story
that explores whether a GED—or General Education Development test— is a valuable credential for people who have dropped out of school to acquire. In delving into the question, the story cited a study indicating that a high school diploma was better than a GED. (Duh!) NPR reporter Claudio Sanchez also talked to a management official from the GED testing service who told him they are working hard to improve the design of the test, to make it a better tool for both college and career readiness, and that a new and improved version will be out in 2014.

In addition to the above, however, the story had embedded in it interview clips with two Los Angeles educators. One of the interviews is with our own LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy, and the other features the head of LAUSD’s Adult Eduction program, Ed Morris.

Neither man had anything good to say about the GED. In fact, they were both fairly withering in their assessments.

“The GED is a credential. Is it adequate for gainful employment and a living wage in the United States of America today? I do not think so,” said Deasy.

Morris went still further.

“If I were prepared today with a GED,” he told NPR’s Sanchez, “and that’s what I had as an 18-year-old, I’d be scared to death of the future.”

My! What a helpful outlook.

The adult ed teachers with whom I spoke, and their colleagues who had also heard the interviews,- (some of whom have even taught those poor deluded adult students who still want GEDs)—-were utterly incensed to hear their two top bosses say publicly they saw little or no value in something they—the teachers—had seen hundreds of adult students sweat to achieve.

“Morris says he’d be ‘scared to death’ if all he had was a GED,” one adult ed instructor wrote in an email. “How he would feel armed with nothing at all? How ironic that the NPR reporter interviewed the very men who [are] working to dismantle LAUSD’s once thriving adult education division.”

(It should be noted that since, every ten minutes, some official is carving yet another ghastly chunk out of the LAUSD adult ed budget, with near fatal cuts now immanently threatened, these teachers are not, by and large, in a good mood.)

As someone who has reported for two decades on populations for whom the GED is often a hugely important milestone, I too was stunned at the dismissive tone both these men used.

Of course a high school diploma is better than a GED, and a college education is much, much better still. (Despite what the ever more bizarre Mr. Santorum might opine.)

But for many of the men and women I have known who dropped out of high school because of gang membership, or pregnancy, or incarceration, or a family crisis, or any one of a number of other education-interrupting reasons, going back to high school in one’s 20′s or 30s no longer felt like a reasonable option. However, a GED felt doable, and the process of getting one did not feel humiliating.

Moreover, for many of those men and women, and others like them, while the acquisition of a GED doesn’t guarantee employment (far from it, but then neither does a Master’s degree in this employment climate), it is nonetheless often the psychological gateway that allows them the confidence to pound on doors until they find the decent job they might not otherwise have found, and then, from there, they are able to reach for the decent life that previously seemed to elude them. Even better, for a surprising number, a GED is the first step on the path to belatedly go to college.

Really, right off the top of my head, I can give you a dozen such examples of late college goers I have known—few of whom would have gotten on the college path were it not for the GED.

Sure, for some the certificate doesn’t count for a lot, but for many it does.

Thus it is more than a little dismaying to find that the two men who have the most power over GED prep programs in LA County, don’t appear to understand their value.

Or maybe they do. And this is just some creepily disingenuous way to rationalize the gutting of them.

The GED prep classes are, of course, only one of many reasons why Deasy and Morris must not to slash and burn Adult Education. There are all the job training programs, which have successfully helped thousands get back to work, and the English learner classes…. the list goes on and on.

Let us hope that Deasy and Morris hold the rest of the Adult Ed programs in higher regard than they hold the GED.

Posted in Education, LAUSD | 6 Comments »

Fighting the Pull of LA’s Gangs by Strengthening Families

February 28th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

When it comes to trying to keep kids out of gangs
(or grabbing kids as they’re slipping perilously in the direction of the streets), Deputy Mayor Guillermo Cespedes says he’s switching the emphasis of the city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development program—GRYD—from individuals to families.

Cespedes, who was named by the mayor to head GRYD in 2009, has a background in social work, and is a strong believer in family systems theory—the idea that an individual can’t be best understood in isolation, but rather as a part of a multigenerational family or a “system.”

Since he came to the job, Cespedes has been working steadily to make better use of the family systems model in the design of the city’s gang prevention programs.

LA Times columnist Jim Newton takes a look at how Cespedes and GYRD are doing: Here’s a clip:

….Gripped by the sense that they were losing control, the parents [in a particular family whose kids were drifting toward trouble] called for help. It came in the form of a local organization, whose counselor dove into the life of this young family, escorting the kids to school, arranging for tutors, counseling the parents. Slowly, life settled down. The son got glasses, started doing his homework and brought up his grades; the younger daughter joined a program for future executives and thrived.

Asked to explain what got his attention and turned him around, the boy responded, “Jesus,” then quickly added, “and the ladies.”

The counselor for this session was Harry Aponte, a nationally recognized gang-intervention expert from Philadelphia, and he patiently waded through the family history as the audience of intervention workers listened, many taking notes.

This family-centered approach represents a new tack in Los Angeles’ long quest to divert young people from gangs. The philosophy behind it is that focusing on a single troubled child isn’t enough. Schools and neighborhoods surround children, but their families are their core of support and thus the most natural people to help them.

“We’re shifting the focus from the individual to the family,” Deputy Mayor Guillermo Cespedes explained. “Every family has a problem-solving mechanism that gets jammed. We’re trying to address that.”

Newton also reports that, at a meeting last week with the Times editorial board, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is so sold on what Cespedes is doing that, “… he’s judging the field of mayoral candidates in part by which ones would keep the office structured as part of the mayor’s staff. That configuration is useful, Beck explained, because gang crime is not spread evenly throughout the city, and giving the council oversight of the efforts means that there are pressures to spread its resources across 15 districts, rather than concentrate them where they are needed. ‘If [the program] becomes a council department again,’ he said, ‘it’s not going to have the focus it has now.’”

Posted in Charlie Beck, City Government, Gangs | No Comments »

Tasers, Pregnant Women & SCOTUS….Opening Prosecutors’ Files and More

February 27th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


If the LA County Police Chiefs Association has any say in the matter, the Supremes will hear an appeal brought by three Seattle police officers who repeatedly used a Taser on a pregnant woman during a 2004 traffic stop, reports the Seattle Times.

Here’s a little of the back story, as reported a year ago by the Seattle Weekly.

Malaika Brooks was driving her 12-year-old son Jahrod to the African American Academy on Beacon Hill one morning in 2004 when a Seattle cop pulled her over. It was the beginning of a traffic infraction that has so far cost city taxpayers $345,000 in legal fees, and which left the then-pregnant Brooks with Taser scars and the determination to pursue an alleged police-brutality case for what appears to be a record seven years and counting.

Officer Juan Ornelas, who’d caught Brooks on radar, came to her window and said she’d been doing 32 in a 20-mph school zone. Brooks denied it, explaining he must have mistaken her vehicle for the black Honda that had been racing along in front of her. Brooks, then 34, handed her license to Ornelas as her son got out and walked on to school. Ornelas wrote the ticket and handed it to Brooks for her signature. She declined. Signing it, she mistakenly thought, would be an admission of guilt. Ornelas told her that if she didn’t sign the traffic ticket, he would issue a criminal citation for refusing. She could then be arrested and taken to jail.

Brooks said she wasn’t signing anything, but would accept the ticket otherwise. Ornelas then called Sgt. Steve Daman to the scene. Officer Donald Jones also showed up. When Brooks told the sergeant she wouldn’t sign, Daman told Ornelas and Jones to “book her.” Brooks was asked to step from the car. She refused. Jones then displayed a Taser stun gun and asked if she knew what it could do to her. Brooks told the officers she was pregnant. “How pregnant?” one asked. Her baby was due in two months, she said. She refused to step out.

After a discussion among the officers, Ornelas opened the driver’s door, reached in and grabbed Brooks by the left arm as Jones put the device to Brooks’ thigh in touch-stun mode and shocked her with 50,000 volts. She began honking her horn, screaming for help as she resisted. Jones quickly administered another shock to Brooks’ arm, and she stopped blowing the horn. Then he shocked her a third time, in the neck, and Brooks fell over, unable to move.

The case eventually worked its way up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which then decided that the tasing was the use of excessive force—meaning that the way was cleared for Malaika Brooks to sue the officers in state civil court (but not in federal court).

It’s this ruling that the LA Police Chiefs—a group that includes both Chief Beck and Sheriff Baca—and the National Tactical Officers Association both found unpalatable, hence their push for an appeal, reports the Seattle Times.

The national and Los Angeles police organizations, in their brief, argued that the 9th Circuit ruling creates an “inflexible” and “unworkable” rule, “because it ignores the infinite variety of situations police officers confront on a daily basis.


The meeting with KFI 640 station management and John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of the “John and Ken Show” to discuss their calling of Whitney Houston a “crack ho,” and making other creepily disparaging remarks after her death, will take place at 2 pm Monday, with a press conference afterward.

Those meeting with Kobylt and Chiampou include:

Blair Taylor, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League
L. C. “Chris” Strudwick-Turner, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Los Angeles Urban League
Jasmyne Cannick, public affairs and communications strategist
Najee Ali, community activist
Kevin Ross, host of the syndicated television program ‘America’s Court with Judge Ross’, former KABC and KFI host
Kevin Ross, 20-year radio veteran and the editor of Radio Facts
Lee Bailey, 30-year radio broadcasting pioneer, founder and CEO of the Electronic Urban Report
Isidra Person Lynn, former morning show host of KACE
Dominique DiPrima, talk radio veteran and on-air personality

May some raised consciousness and a better calibrated sense of decency come out of the meeting.


And we agree.

To explain, here’s how the NY Times Sunday editorial opens:

Prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose significant evidence favorable to a criminal defendant. But too often that duty, as laid out by the 1963 Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, is violated.

To help ensure compliance, some prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers and legal scholars have sensibly concluded that prosecutors’ files, as a general rule, should be made open to defendants. In cases where turning over evidence might endanger a witness, for example, a judge could allow an exception.

A small number of state and local governments have adopted open-file policies that require prosecutors to make available well before trial all information favorable to the defense, without regard to whether such information is likely to affect the outcome of the case. North Carolina and Ohio and places like Milwaukee have found that such policies make prosecutions fairer and convictions less prone to error. The Justice Department should join this movement and set a national example. But instead, it continues to take half-measures in response to its own failures to meet disclosure requirements.

When it is left up to prosecutors to determine what evidence is material, in too many instances Brady is violated—in what has become a highly adversarial justice system. We know this because of the frequent discoveries over the past few years of evidence withheld by prosecutors, the withheld material only coming to light after aggressive investigative work in the course of innocence cases.

Since, unlike the defense, the first obligation of the prosecution is to seek justice—not to win at all costs—the feds should have no problem fully supporting a no-holds barred embrace of the 1963 Brady decision.

it is, as the NY Times said, an important standard to uphold.


The then Indiana 6th grader participated in a ghastly crime—specifically the murder of the step-father of a 15-year old friend, who was reportedly being abused by the step-dad. In any case, the two boys shot the man dead, with a third 12-year-old waiting outside the house.

He was sentenced to 25 years in adult prison-–an outcome that a number of attorneys and supporters hope to eventually manage to change.

USA Today has the story, which originally ran in the Indianapolis Star:

Paul Henry Gingerich awoke on the morning of his 14th birthday to the sound of a voice — his prison guard. “Happy birthday,” she said.

It was 6 o’clock. Paul would just as soon been given a few more minutes to sleep. But in a place where he must ask permission to go to the bathroom, where he eats every meal under close surveillance and where birthdays aren’t much different from any other day, it was a nice gesture for one of the state’s most controversial inmates.

Paul Gingerich is believed to be the youngest person in Indiana ever sentenced to prison as an adult. He was still 12 years old when he arrived here at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, the state’s maximum security prison for children. He had such a small frame and such a baby face that one of his new teachers — the prison has a school — asked: “What is a 7-year-old doing in our facility?”

Yet Paul was also a killer. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder after he and a friend fired four bullets into the friend’s stepdad. Each boy received 25 years, with the possibility that, for good behavior, they could get out in about half that time. They would still be young men, but young men who had grown up in prison.

In Paul’s case, that means living in a cell with a steel door and bare block walls in a remote corner of Pendleton. Home consists of a mattress on a concrete slab, a small desk and a chair and a window spliced with thick bars. Paul’s view is of a small patch of grass, a tall fence and rolling wave of razor sharp concertina wire.

Here, in this place, Paul has grown nearly 3 inches to about 5-foot-8, sprouted peach fuzz, popped his first pimples, had his voice change and — now — marked two birthdays. It is also a place that — should his lawyer pull off an epic reversal — Paul hopes to soon leave.

If you’re thinking that the photo of Meryl Streep backstage at the Oscars, by Al Seib of the Los Angeles Times, has exactly zero to do with any of the criminal justice stories….you’re quite right of course. But it was, after all, Academy Awards night, Sunday night, and Streep’s win was one of the few surprises of an otherwise predictable evening, since equally stellar and deserving Viola Davis was considered the frontrunner.

Posted in children and adolescents, criminal justice, How Appealing, Innocence, juvenile justice, law enforcement, Supreme Court | No Comments »

Friday Wrap up: Is Decrypting Covered by the 5th? Baca Agrees With Beck about DLs….and More

February 24th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


So, let’s say you’ve been arrested, and you’ve been told by the cops (or the assistant district attorney, or whomever) that you have to decrypt the hard drive of your laptop, which law enforcement has been unable to hack. Let’s also say that you know that the material on said hard drive will not be….um…helpful to your legal situation (not that any of you would ever find yourself in such a nasty dilemma; we’re speaking hypothetically here). Anyway, would you have to do it—legally speaking?

Or does that fall in the category of self incrimination, thus you cannot be made to do the decrypting?

On Thursday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Atlanta, GA, said nope. You cannot be forced into digitally confessing your sins.

Joe Palazzolo of the Wall Street Journal has more.

In a ruling that could have broad ramifications for law enforcement, a federal appeals court has ruled that a man under investigation for child pornography isn’t required to unlock his computer hard drives for the federal government, because that act would amount to the man offering testimony against himself.

The ruling Thursday appears to be the first by a federal appeals court to find that a person can’t be forced to turn over encyption codes or passwords in a criminal investigation, in light of the Fifth Amendment, which holds that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

The Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals of the 11th Circuit ruled that “the Fifth Amendment protects [the man’s] refusal to decrypt and produce the contents of the media devices,” which the government believes contain child pornography.

The ruling could handcuff federal investigators, as more data are secured behind sophisticated encryption software. A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Robert Faturechi, Joel Rubin and Paloma Esquivel report for the LA Times:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said he supports the idea of allowing illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses as long as they have been in the United States for a number of years without committing other crimes.

Baca’s comments Thursday come as Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has also expressed support for driver’s license for illegal immigrants.

Baca said such licenses should only be issued after illegal immigrants fill out comprehensive applications, similar to those for citizenship. The sheriff also said the licenses should be up for renewal annually, and be noticeably different than those issued to citizens.

“There’s enough potential for Chief Beck’s idea for it to be explored,” Baca said Thursday.

The sheriff has expressed openness to illegal immigrants being issued driver’s licenses before. In 2002, he supported a proposal to allow the licenses, but to imprint them with a special marker such as the letter “I” for immigrant so police could determine immediately if they were dealing with someone in the country illegally.

At the time, the sheriff was the head of a task force helping then-Gov. Gray Davis craft a plan to allow certain unlawful immigrants to get licenses, a proposal that eventually was scuttled.

Baca emphasized then that many illegal immigrants were already driving without having passed a driver’s test or buying auto insurance.
“At some point in time, we will allow illegal immigrants to have a driver’s license as long as they are trustworthy and non-criminal people,” Baca said at the time.

Good for the Sheriff. Now if the state legislature would just show some common sense and understand that this is less about immigration policy, than it is about public safety.

The Times editorial board put it well when it wrote:

….critics will argue that granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants condones their presence in this country and makes it easier for them to stay. That makes sense in theory but not in practice. The reality is that undocumented immigrants are already here, and they are already driving to jobs taking care of children, mowing lawns and working in factories, among other things. Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that every driver, regardless of immigration status, is trained, capable and insured?

As Beck wisely points out, California’s push to keep undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses hasn’t reduced the problems on the road


The New York Times’ Adam Liptak has a good summary of what went on in the court when the Supremes heard the Stolen Valor case. Here’s a clip (that includes in back story, in case you’re not up to speed:

Over the course of an hourlong argument on Wednesday, the Supreme Court seemed gradually to accept that it might be able to uphold a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about military honors, notwithstanding the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees. The justices were aided by suggestions from the government about how to limit the scope of a possible ruling in its favor and by significant concessions from a lawyer for the defendant.

The case arose from a lie told in 2007 at a public meeting by Xavier Alvarez, an elected member of the board of directors of a water district in Southern California.

“I’m a retired Marine of 25 years,” he said. “I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy.”

That was all false, and Mr. Alvarez was prosecuted under a 2005 law, the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to say falsely that one has “been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States.” Mr. Alvarez argued that his remarks were protected by the First Amendment.

But for the personality of the SCOTUS discussion go to the report from Slate’s Dalia Lithwick, in which she details the kinds of lies that worry each of the justices.

Here’s a clip:

Most interesting to me is what judges think people lie about. So, for instance, amid the flurry of opinions written as the 9th Circuit tried to decide whether to review the Stolen Valor decision as a full court came this gem from Judge Alex Kozinski:

So what, exactly, does the dissenters’ ever-truthful utopia look like? In a word: terrifying. If false factual statements are unprotected, then the government can prosecute not only the man who tells tall tales of winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, but also the JDater who falsely claims he’s Jewish or the dentist who assures you it won’t hurt a bit. Phrases such as “I’m working late tonight, hunny [sic],” “I got stuck in traffic” and “I didn’t inhale” could all be made into crimes.

In so doing, Judge Kozinski launched a weird little judicial Rorschach test one might call Lies Federal Judges Worry About. Entries fly fast and furious this morning.

Posted in Charlie Beck, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Free Speech, Freedom of Information, How Appealing, immigration, Sheriff Lee Baca | 7 Comments »

Thursday Short Takes: SCOTUS & Searches, SHUs, Teacher Misconduct & More

February 23rd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


The AP has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Supreme Court said Wednesday that California police officers cannot be sued because they used a warrant that may have been defective to search a woman’s house.

The high court threw out the lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Detective Curt Messerschmidt and other police officials, who were being sued personally by Augusta Millender for the search on her house and confiscation of her shotgun.

Police were looking for her foster son, Jerry Ray Bowen, who had recently shot at his ex-girlfriend Shelly Kelly with a black sawed-off shotgun. Kelly told police that he might be at his foster mother’s house, so Messerschmidt got a warrant to look for any weapons on the property and gang-related material, since Bowen was supposed to be a member of the Mona Park Crips and the Dodge Park Crips. The detective had his supervisors approve the warrant before submitting to the district attorney and a judge, who also approved the warrant.

Bowen and his shotgun were not found at Millender’s house, but police confiscated the 73-year-old Millender’s shotgun.

Millender, who is now deceased, sued saying the warrant was over broad and that the deputies had acted improperly. The 9th Circuit agreed, citing the fourth amendment. The Supremes did not—pointing out that the case did not, in fact, concern the validity of the warrant, but was about was whether a lawsuit against the officers was permitted. The court concluded that it was not, and that the officers acted reasonably, as they had every reason to think the warrant valid.

Read the rest. It’s interesting.

Plus, as David Savage of the LA Times points out the suit made for some unusual allies: The ACLU and the National Rifle Assn. backed plaintiff Millender, and the Obama administration joined in support of the deputies.


IF Governor Pat Quinn orders the closure of the Tamms supermax prison at in southern Illinois, it will be for fiscal reasons, but many experts across the country are applauding the possibility. As with California’s Pelican Bay and the Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility in Florence, Colorado, Tamms utilizes the kind of extreme isolation that many believe constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. What is more, for those who are eventually released from prison, research suggests that supermax isolation causes psychological damage, which makes an individual’s behavior worse, not better. Thus human rights organizations would like to see Tamms and places like it close their doors, sooner rather than later..

Yet shutting down the facility is anything but simple. Prisons have become central to the economy of certain rural areas of the country, so the closure can wreak local havoc.

As the Chicago Tribune puts it:

From the moment it opened in 1998, the super-max Tamms prison has been controversial for its high costs and the harsh treatment of its inmates.

Gov.Pat Quinn’s plan to close Tamms to save millions of dollars did not end the controversy.

Critics say it is long past time to shutter a prison known for conditions that were often compared with those at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Opponents of Quinn’s proposal say closing Tamms would be devastating to the community in far southern Illinois where it is located, a place where jobs are hard to come by.

Other states may soon face similar dilemmas as a dropping crime rate meets tight budgets,

In California, however, the prisons are still so overcrowded, and our recidivism rate still so high, that despite a diving crime rate, closures are not close on the horizon.


He’s doing all this refiling just to be on the safe side, Deasy told David Lazarus on the Patt Morrison Show on KPCC Wednesday.

Interestingly, Deasy also told Lazarus that more than 850 certificated employees had been “separated” from Los Angeles Unified in the 10 months since he took over as superintendent – not only for criminal activity but for failing to meet “standards of conduct.”

“We’re going to work very hard to keep good teachers. But we’re not going to tolerate the other,” Deasy said.

A good thing since, for a while there, the allegations of sexual misconduct seemed to keep on coming. After the arrest of Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte Elementary School teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct with children, two more LAUSD teachers have been removed from schools due to charges of sexual misconduct.

Deasy told the LA Times:

“I’m horrified,” said Deasy, regarding recent revelations about the handling of past abuse allegations. “And the rest of my comments can’t be printed in the language that the L.A. Times uses. I don’t think I’m overreacting.”

Posted in Education, LASD, Must Reads, prison, prison policy, Supreme Court | No Comments »

More Discussion on Sup. Molina’s Motion & Undersheriff Paul Tanaka

February 23rd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

The Daily News has both a follow-up story and an editorial on Supervisor Gloria Molina’s Tuesday motion
to forbid county employees from asking subordinates for campaign donations.

First, here’s a clip from the story by Christina Villacorte, which mostly recounts why Molina introduced the motion, then has a denial-filled response from LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Supervisor Gloria Molina said she sought the changes after hearing complaints that Undersheriff Paul Tanaka allegedly sought donations to run for mayor of Gardena.

“This stems from articles that I read about our undersheriff, in which people made accusations that they were solicited for donations, and that those who gave money received consideration,” Molina said.

“I don’t know if the accusations are true or not, but what I’d like to do in a proactive way is to say that we will not permit this,” she added.

Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, categorically denied that Tanaka used his influence over his subordinates to fill his campaign war chest.

“The undersheriff of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is not swayed by people who donate to his Gardena mayoral campaign or those who do not donate,” Whitmore said.


The editorial acknowledges that our reporting on the Tanaka donations has brought up troubling issues, but then it raises some interesting points of its own. Here’s a clip:

….the motion raises (but ignores) another tricky issue about employees contributing to the campaigns of potential bosses: the case of public employee union contributions. How can it be wrong for an individual employee to contribute to a supervisor’s campaign but right for a union?

Molina wrote in the motion: “When managers of supervisors solicit or accept campaign contributions from employees who they supervise, evaluate, and approve for promotions and advancement, there will be, at a minimum, a perception of a conflict of interest.”

Perhaps, but doesn’t the same potential conflict — or perception of — arise when the contributions by a group of public employees help to elect their own boss? By definition, quid pro quo goes both ways.

Those are questions we hope will be asked when county lawyers return next month with a proposed policy — if they can find a way around free speech rules. In the end, they may conclude that the negative publicity surrounding such misdeeds by one manager is enough to extract more-ethical behavior by all the rest.

Still, as futile an exercise as this may be, periodic discussions about how public officials should conduct themselves is always a worthwhile endeavor. For starting that conversation, and bringing the stories about Tanaka to light, Molina deserves credit.

Indeed, when the county lawyers return in a month, the discussion should be interesting.

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD | 22 Comments »

Bravo, Chief Charlie Beck for Supporting DL’s for Undocumented Residents

February 22nd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

The LA Times reports that, Wednesday afternoon, in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board
and reporters, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck expressed what he saw as the need for some kind of driver’s licensing for California’s undocumented residents.

While Beck’s thoughts on the topic are exceedingly practical and steeped in…oh, I don’t know…logic and facts, his stand will likely illicit a firestorm of criticism. Nevermind that undocumented people are driving anyway—to get to work and drive their kids to school—thus licensing our residents, legal or not, will make us all safer.

In any case, here’s what the Times reports about what Beck had to say:

“My personal belief is that they should be able to” have licenses, Beck said in response to a question during a meeting with Times’ reporters and editorial writers. “The reality is that all the things that we’ve done – ‘we’ being the state of California – over the last 14, 16 years have not reduced the problem one iota, haven’t reduced undocumented aliens driving without licenses. So we have to look at what we’re doing. When something doesn’t work over and over and over again, my view is that you should reexamine it to see if there is another way that makes more sense.”

Beck said he does not believe licenses for illegal immigrants should be identical to regular ones. Saying “it could be a provisional license, it could be a nonresident license,” he acknowledged that state officials would have to find ways to address widely held concerns that offering licenses to people in the county illegally could make it easier for terrorists go undetected.

For Beck, however, such concerns are outweighed by what he said would be improved safety on California roads and the ability of police to identify the people they encounter. “Why wouldn’t you want to put people through a rigorous testing process? Why wouldn’t you want to better identify people who are going to be here?” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. And we could increase safety on the roads. When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction.”

What he said.

Thank you, Chief Charlie.

Posted in Charlie Beck, immigration, LAPD | 4 Comments »

Molina’s Proposed Ban on Getting Campaign Contributions From Underlings Was Triggered by WLA’s Reporting – UPDATED

February 22nd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

A spokesperson for Supervisor Gloria Molina confirmed that it was WitnessLA’s Dangerous Jails reporting by Matt Fleischer,
“detailing Undersheriff Tanaka’s campaign contributions from subordinates” that stimulated Molina’s decision to craft the motion that was presented at the board meeting on Tuesday, a motion that would prohibit county managers from asking for or accepting such contributions . “It was a cause for great concern,” said said Roxane Marquez, Molina’s spokeswoman, of the matter.

“Sup. Molina is well aware that she can’t stop people from simply giving contributions – that would be a violation of federal free speech rights. But she’s concerned about higher-ups soliciting campaign donations from employees whom they manage. That’s exactly what prompted her motion.”

The motion, which was passed on consent on Tuesday without discussion or public comment, directs the County Counsel to present a “workable policy” to the Board of Supes in 30 days, after which time it will be discussed and brought up for a vote.

We truly thank Supervisor Molina for taking the initiative to make the motion. Like many, we thought it was a bit odd that such a rule wasn’t already in place. Soliciting (or accepting) campaign donations from those to whom one can dispense promotions, choice work assignments, and other work-related favors—particularly donations for a city campaign that in no other appreciable way affects the donor employees’ lives—would seem to us to be, at best, managerial conflict of interest 101.

Thus we thank the supervisor for not only noticing the problem —but doing something about it.

(The reporting that prompted the motion may be found here, here and here.)

UPDATE: The LA Times reporters Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard have a new story on Sup. Molina’s motion and her concerns.

According to the Times:

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore denied that contributions affect personnel decisions. Whitmore, who said he was speaking on behalf of Baca and Tanaka, said the department welcomed Molina’s motion.

The Times also noted that in their own 2006 analysis of donations given by sheriff’s managers to Sheriff Lee Baca’s campaigns, “…73% received promotions, while of those who did not contribute, 26% received promotions.”

We have long hoped the Times might do a similar round of numbers crunching with the donations pattern we have flagged.


The LA City Council will vote Wednesday on whether or not to change the city’s truancy policy to eliminate fines, which are onerously high for low income kids and their families to pay, and have been shown not to improve attendance at all, but rather can lead to additional missed classes.

Advocacy groups such as the Youth Justice Coalition, the So Cal ACLU, Public Counsel and the Children’s Defense Fund are expected to have roused supporters to pack the hall (if the emails I’ve received are any indication).

It should be noted that all of the organizations supporting the change in the law are adamant about school attendance being critical for educational success, but say that LA schools need alternatives to criminalizing truancy, including programs that address the root causes of a kid’s chronically missing school.


Adam Liptak explains the decision in Wednesday’s New York Times. Here’s a clip:

In a busy day at the Supreme Court, the justices on Tuesday issued a decision limiting the circumstances in which prisoners must be told of their rights before they are questioned, added to what had already been a long schedule for arguments in the challenges to the 2010 health care law and made public an internal ethics resolution from 1991.

The question in the case concerning prisoners, Howes v. Fields, No. 10-680, was whether an inmate’s confession to a sex crime should have been suppressed because he did not receive the familiar warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona before he was questioned. The answer turned on whether he was in custody at the time.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 decision, said that “custody” for these purposes “is a term of art that specifies circumstances that are thought generally to present a serious danger of coercion.”


Two journalists—one a legend—the other young, courageous and just beginning to win awards, were killed in Homs, Syria, when rockets hit the house where a group of reporters were staying. This and this report have some of the details.

The news is made sadder, coming as it does on the heels of the death of reporter Anthony Shidid, the two Pulitzer-Prize winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times who died of an asthma attack while traveling between Syria and Turkey.

Photo of Gloria Molina by Irfan Khan for the Los Angeles Times / September 27, 2011)

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, THE LA JUSTICE REPORT | 28 Comments »

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