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Bills About Guns…Kids & Solitary…Boy Scouts… and Foster Care …and More

May 31st, 2013 by Taylor Walker

A bunch of notable bills advanced in the CA legislature this week. Below is a round-up of the ones that most caught our eye.


STATE LAWMAKERS PASS GUN CONTROL BILLS AND MAKE MOVES TO REVOKE BOY SCOUTS TAX EXEMPTION

Twelve gun-control bills advanced through either the senate or the assembly, as did a bill to remove tax-exempt status from the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation or religion all advanced in either once house or the other.

LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy and Chris Megerian have a good run down on the main gun control measures. Here are some clips:

**Californians who want to buy ammunition would have to submit personal information and a $50 fee for a background check by the state, under a bill passed by the Senate. The state Department of Justice would determine whether buyers have a criminal record, severe mental illness or a restraining order that would disqualify them from owning guns.

Ammo shops would check the name on buyers’ driver’s licenses against a state list of qualified purchasers.

The goal of the bill is “to ensure that criminals and other dangerous individuals cannot purchase ammunition in the state of California,” said Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), author of SB 53.

[SNIP]

The Senate also OK’d a bill that would outlaw the sale, purchase and manufacture in California of semiautomatic rifles that can accommodate detachable magazines. The measure, SB 374 by Steinberg, also would require those who own such weapons to register them with the state.

The Assembly joined the action on guns by passing a measure to require the state Department of Justice to notify local law enforcement agencies when someone buys more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition.,,


BOY SCOUTS COULD GET TAX-EXEMPT STATUS YANKED

Here’s a clip from the same story regarding the measure passed by the state senate that would kill the Boy Scouts of America’s tax free status:

Senators on Wednesday voted to strip tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups, including the Boy Scouts of America, that deny participation based on sexual orientation or religion.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said he was glad the Boy Scouts’ national council recently decided to allow openly gay minors to serve as scouts. But he said it was unacceptable that the organization did not also lift its ban on gays serving as adult leaders.

“We’ve given the Boy Scouts ample time to solve their discrimination problem, and they have chosen a path that still leads to discrimination,” Lara told his colleagues.


YOUTH SOLITARY CONFINEMENT BILL PASSES THROUGH CA SENATE

As you may remember, we’ve been tracking SB 61, a bill authored by Sen. Leland Yee ((D-San Francisco/San Mateo) that will both define and limit solitary confinement for kids in state and county lock-ups. The bill made it through the CA Senate on Wednesday.

Here’s a clip from a statement from Yee’s office:

…..While the United Nations has called on all countries to prohibit solitary confinement in juvenile cases, the harsh measure is commonly used in juvenile facilities throughout California. Six states – Connecticut, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Alaska – ban solitary confinement for “punitive reasons.”

“The use of solitary confinement on a child is highly damaging and makes young people more dangerous and anti-social,” said Yee, a child psychologist. “Subjecting juveniles to solitary makes them more likely to reoffend, and more likely to suffer a lifetime mental illness.”

We’ll, of course, continue to track the bill’s progress.


A STRING FOSTER CARE BILLS MAKES IN THROUGH THE STATE SENATE

Several important foster care bills, also authored by Sen. Yee made it through the state Senate on Wednesday. The first bill fills in gaps in prenatal care for pregnant foster youth, gives priority housing, and provides other necessary services to young parents.

Another bill mandates that social workers actually see a foster child in his or her foster home on a regular basis—not just in meetings outside the home. (What a concept!)

Here’re some clips from Yee’s statement on the group of bills:

Young parents in the foster care system face the challenges of being in foster care as well as being a young, usually single, parent. Studies of both groups have found that they will experience higher than average rates of poverty, unemployment and low educational attainment. Senate Bill (SB) 528 seeks to provide assistance to these parents so both they and their child can have a better chance of success.

[SNIP]

“SB 528 will help pregnant youth in foster care prepare for parenthood by requiring local child welfare agencies refer pregnant youth to existing child and maternal health resources, including prenatal care and information about how to prevent subsequent pregnancies. This change is desperately needed,” said Amy Lemley, Policy Director for the John Burton Foundation, SB 528’s sponsor. “Currently, 20 percent of youth in foster care don’t access prenatal care until their sixth month of pregnancy, which has a range of negative outcomes include low birth weight. Los Angeles has started to take this approach and is seeing better birth outcomes among our state’s most vulnerable children.”

[SNIP]

“Parenting and pregnant youth are twice as likely to drop out of high school as to graduate,” said Yee. “It is imperative that we provide basic resources and assistance for pregnant and parenting teens who are in foster care. SB 528 will assist these foster youth and their children at the most critical time in their lives, and will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

And about another of Lee’s foster care bills;

SB 342 will ensure that monthly social worker visits of foster youth happen in the home of the child, ensuring that social workers have a more complete picture of the child’s home life and welfare and are better able to support the child and the family. Data from the Department of Social Services shows that nearly 24 percent of all case worker visits occur outside the child’s home leading to instances where some placements were not been visited by a social worker for an extended period of time.

“Far too often, foster children are being placed in substandard group homes and foster homes because no one has visited the placement home for months,” said Yee. “When the state removes a child from their home, we have a responsibility to ensure that the home in which they are placed meets basic standards.

One would certainly hope so.


IN OTHER NEWS….STUDY SHOWS DISCRIMINATORY SUSPENSION AND ARREST RATES IN NYC SCHOOLS

The shockingly disproportionate application of school discipline to black and learning disabled kids that his been shown to plague states like Texas and Mississippi (and, to some extent, LAUSD) turns out to be very present in NYC according to a new study conducted by the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force.

The Crime Report has the story. Here’s a clip:

Black students account for almost 63 percent of all arrests in New York City schools, even though they make up only 28 percent of the city’s student body, and are more than four times as likely to be suspended than their white peers, according to a report released today.

And the rate at which students are suspended in the city’s public schools has increased by about 40 percent since 2006, according to researchers for The New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force, which was led by former New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

The 45-member task force — which includes city officials, education and justice system experts — spent the last two years examining disciplinary issues in New York City’s public schools.

And Here’s a clip from the report itself:

Most worrisome are patterns of suspensions for students with disabilities and students of color in New York City and across the nation. In New York City alone during SY2012, students receiving special education services were almost four times more likely to be suspended compared to their peers not receiving special education services; Black students were four times more likely and Hispanic students were almost twice as likely to be suspended compared to White students. New York City Black students were also 14 times more likely, and Hispanic students were five times more likely, to be arrested for school-based incidents compared to White students.

Studies have shown that it is not the violent and egregious misbehavior that drives the disparities. For example, the Texas study showed that Black students had a lower rate of mandatory suspensions (suspensions for violence, weapons and other equally serious offenses) than White students. Black students exceeded White students only in the rates of suspensions for discretionary offenses.

Posted in children and adolescents, Foster Care, guns, juvenile justice, LGBT, School to Prison Pipeline | No Comments »

Who has the right to be educated in LA County Jail?…Homeboy Goes to Scotland…Gov’t Sued Over Not Protecting Endangered Species…and More

May 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



YOUNG, LEARNING DISABLED, AND LOCKED-UP—AND IN NEED OF EDUCATION

Michael Garcia, who is about to turn 23 in a California state prison, was sentenced as an adult to 12 years in lock-up for his part in a gang-related crime that occurred in 2006 when he was 15. Garcia will be released in 2016, when he’s 26, at which point he is determined to reboot the trajectory of his life toward a positive—and legal—future. One important step along the way to that new life, Garcia knows, is a high school diploma.

Garcia, however, has a learning disability meaning that he does not fit well into conventional classes or instruction. Nevertheless, until he turned 22 years old, the state of California is legally required to provide him with the rest of his high school education, if he desires it, even if he’s incarcerated.

But once Garcia was moved from a juvenile facility to the LA County jail, no state or county educational agency seemed to want to be the ones to provide him with that education—although everyone seemed to cheerily agree that it was in the best interest of society, and all that good stuff, for someone to do it. The question was: who?

Joanna Lin, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, has the story about Garcia and the growing number of young, learning disabled inmates like him who are falling through a yawning gap in the special education laws, never mind that education is one of the biggest predictors when it comes to determining how well or poorly a person does when he or she gets out of prison and attempts to reenter the legal, working world.

Here’s a clip from Lin’s story:

School ended for Michael Garcia with a routine transfer from juvenile hall to adult county jail. There was no fanfare, diploma or cap and gown. He hadn’t graduated or dropped out.

He’d simply turned 18.

For the next 19 months, he was in limbo, unable to receive the high school diploma that he’ll need for most jobs and to attend college. Despite being eligible for special education under state and federal laws – Garcia has a learning disability, an auditory processing disorder and a speech and language impairment – in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, he was a student that no one wanted to teach.

California and federal laws allow students with disabilities to receive special education services until age 22. But the laws are vague enough that deciding who should provide that education is unclear.

Garcia has spent nearly five years in legal battles trying to hold someone accountable. This year, the California Supreme Court is expected to hear Garcia’s case to determine whether an incarcerated student’s local school district – the one in which his or her parents reside – is responsible for his or her special education.

The case has implications for county inmates with disabilities and school districts across the state that could be required to send teachers into jails to instruct special education students. In L.A. County jails alone, attorneys for Garcia estimate, between 400 and 700 young adults are eligible for special education on any given day.

The court’s decision will come too late for Garcia, who is incarcerated at a state prison – a system beyond the scope of his petition. Still, said Garcia, who turns 23 in June, “it’s the least I can do.”

“I know other people are struggling to get education too but don’t have the courage to keep pushing,” he said. “I already went through that struggle. Why not keep going to help everyone else?”

NOTE: just to be clear, it is not the job of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to educate people like Garcia. It’s LAUSD and/or the state of California that is dropping the ball with young inmates with learning disabilities. (The LASD’s Education-Based Incarceration program is an entirely different kind of program.)


HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES GOES TO SCOTLAND

Father Greg Boyle and former prison lifer, James Horton (who now works for Boyle’s Homeboy Industries) were asked to visit Scotland in order to consult with local law enforcement about the uptick in crime and violence that is plaguing the country’s poorest urban areas.

Now Boyle and Horton—plus my pal, UCLA violence reduction expert, Jorja Leap—are on the ground in the land of kilts and poets, and the local media has been reporting on their peregrinations. Here’s a clip from the BBC’s coverage by Huw Williams :

Former gang member James Horton spent 12 years on death row in the US but was later cleared of a murder charge. He now works with Homeboy Industries.

“Joining a gang was like a rite of passage, and you did it because you wanted to be accepted by those in your community,” he said.

“I was drug dealer too. I was a criminal. Every opportunity that I had to do something to make some money I was most likely involved in doing that.

“You have to deal with the issue as a whole. You can tell someone ‘come join us, be with us’ but if you don’t give them no hope, or no job, then the gang will always have access to them.

“Father Greg teaches us that you can never take away a person’s hope.”

[BIG SNIP]

Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) said one of the biggest challenges for ex gang members and those recently out of prison was finding a meaningful job, so they could contribute economically and socially.

Father Greg Boyle and former gang member James Horton are in Glasgow working with the VRU
The VRU said Braveheart Industries, a social enterprise based on the Los Angeles experience, could improve public safety, make communities healthier and safer, and break the cycle of gang violence.

VRU director Karyn McCluskey added: “Giving people an opportunity and a job has a huge impact on their life and it has a halo effect on their family, it affects the lives of their children and their partners, and I think we can use that experience here.

“We’ve had great policing, Stephen House has driven down violence in Scotland, but the thing that really stops reoffending is giving people a positive destination and I think we can really take some of the experience from Father Greg and Homeboy Industries and use it in Scotland.”

Meetings are to be held in Glasgow, with similar sessions planned in Edinburgh and Kilmarnock later in the week, to see if the work can be replicated across Scotland.


FOSTER CARE YOUTH COVERED FOR HEALTH CARE UNTIL AGE 26 (UNLESS THEY HAVE MOVED STATES IN WHICH CASE THEY’RE OUT OF LUCK)

This is one of those bureaucratic gaps that needs to be fixed immediately.

The California Report has an podcast on the topic.

Anna Challet of New America Media has still more on the issue. Here’s a clip from her story:

There are over 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system, and almost all of them are enrolled in Medicaid. Brooke Lehmann, the founder of Childworks, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., says that 80 percent of foster youth have one or more chronic medical conditions that must continue to be treated after they age out of care.

“There’s simply a cliff where they were once provided for,” she says.

To qualify for the extended coverage [to age 26], youths must have been in foster care at the time of their 18th birthday or have aged out of foster care based on their states’ age limits, and have been enrolled in Medicaid. Until now, states had an option (known as the Chafee Option), but not a mandate, to extend Medicaid coverage to former foster youths, and only until age 21. Only 33 states had adopted the Chafee Option. Now all states will be required to cover eligible youth through age 26.

But, under the extended eligibility provision, there is not currently a requirement that states must cover former foster youth who aged out of care in a different state.


DOJ FAILS TO GUARD AGAINST KILLING OF ENDANGERED SPECIES, SAYS NEW LAWSUIT

The US Department of Justice, which is not exactly having a good month (what with their poorly received new habit of spying on journalists and all), is now rightfully being sued by environmental advocacy groups for their weak-kneed enforcement of protections against killing endangered species.

Julie Cart of the LA Times has the story. Hee’s a clip:

Environmental groups are taking the Justice Department to court over a policy that prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be proved that they knew they were targeting a protected animal.

Critics charge that the 15-year-old McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors and whooping cranes as well as 48 federally protected Mexican wolves.

The policy stems from a Montana case in which Chad McKittrick was convicted under the Endangered Species Act for killing a wolf near Yellowstone National Park in 1995. He argued that he was not guilty because he thought he was shooting a wild dog.

McKittrick appealed the conviction and lost, but the Justice Department nonetheless adopted a policy that became the threshold for taking on similar cases: prosecutors must prove that the individual knowingly killed a protected species.

The lawsuit charges that the policy sets a higher burden of proof than previously required, arguing, “The DOJ’s McKittrick policy is a policy that is so extreme that it amounts to a conscious and express abdication of DOJ’s statutory responsibility to prosecute criminal violations of the ESA as general intent crimes.”

WLA agrees

And to validate the casualness with which the feds seem to view the protection of endangered species, there is this story from early last month regarding the “mistaken” killing of a highly endangered Mexican Gray wolf by a USDA Wildlife Services employee, who said he thought he was killing a coyote.


Posted in bears and alligators, Education, environment, Foster Care, Gangs, health care, Homeboy Industries, LA County Jail, LAUSD, wolves | 5 Comments »

LAPD Before and After Federal Oversight, Shakespeare at San Quentin…and More

May 29th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

LAPD AFTER 12 YEARS OF FED. OVERSIGHT

Earlier this month, the LAPD completed its twelve years of DOJ-mandated federal oversight. At the LA Times, in his weekly column, Jim Newton explains how significantly those twelve years of oversight benefited a department that was once plagued by a culture of misconduct and abuse.

Here’s a clip (but be sure to read the whole thing):

…the LAPD, sometimes grudgingly but with increasing determination, gradually embraced the reforms it once resented. The department’s audits now are widely respected. Gang units are more closely monitored. The department has revamped its systems for investigating allegations of excessive force.

But for longtime observers of the LAPD (I count as one, having covered the department from 1992 to 1997), what’s most notable is the rank-and-file attitude toward outside scrutiny. Officers who once balked at such oversight now accept it as essential to maintaining public confidence in their work.

The decree also pushed City Hall to respond. Council members approved money for auditors and invested in a computerized officer-tracking system first recommended after the King beating but unfinished until after the decree made it a priority. “What the consent decree created,” Beck said, “was universal support for those reforms.”


PRISONERS AT SAN QUENTIN PERFORM SHAKESPEARE

Prisoners at San Quentin State Prison have the opportunity to perform Shakespeare, an activity that inmates and observers agree helps the participants garner communication skills and self respect. Last year, inmates performed Hamlet with help from the Marin Shakespeare Company, this year it was the Merchant of Venice.

Marin Independent Journal’s Megan Hansen has the story. Here’s how it opens:

There’s a scene in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” where Shylock argues that people share the similarity of being human, and thus should be treated with respect despite their differences: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”

A Friday performance of the Bard’s play by San Quentin State Prison inmates elicited laughter here and there, but ultimately drove home the notion that inmates are human beings and desire to be treated as more than just a number.

The inmate actors said it’s difficult for people outside the prison gates to understand them, their emotions and the lives that led them to incarceration. Acting gives them an outlet to express those feelings and grow as individuals.

Inmate Joey Mason, who played Salario, said acting has allowed him to get in touch with a side of himself he previously avoided.

“It’s been an opportunity to be transparent, honest and open,” Mason said. “It’s a challenge. I used to run from these types of challenges because then I had to feel.”

By the way, there was an outstanding 2002 This American Life broadcast about a production of Hamlet done by mostly lifers in a max security prison in Missouri. Go listen, if you haven’t.


SCOTUS LOOSENS APPEAL DEADLINES FOR SOME INMATES

Tuesday, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that a one-year deadline for inmates trying to challenge their convictions could be relaxed if there was compelling evidence of innocence. In a second decision, also issued on Tuesday, the court allowed prisoners to better bring claims of ineffective counsel.

The NY Times Adam Liptak has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a pair of 5-to-4 decisions that divided along ideological lines, the Supreme Court on Tuesday made it easier for inmates to challenge their convictions.

In McQuiggin v. Perkins, No. 12-126, the majority said that a one-year filing deadline for prisoners seeking federal review of their state court convictions under a 1996 law may be relaxed if they present compelling evidence of their innocence. The new “miscarriage of justice exception” to the deadline, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority, “applies to a severely confined category” — cases in which no reasonable juror aware of the new evidence would have voted to convict the defendant.

The decision did not seem likely to help the prisoner whose case was under review, but the exception it announced drew a barbed dissent from Justice Antonin Scalia, who called the majority opinion “a series of transparent non sequiturs” and “a flagrant breach of the separation of powers.”

[BIG SNIP]

In the second decision issued Tuesday, in Trevino v. Thaler, No. 11-10189, the same five-justice majority extended a ruling last year that had allowed prisoners to challenge their state convictions in federal courts based on the argument that their trial lawyers had been ineffective, even though the prisoners had not raised the issue in earlier proceedings.

Posted in arts, Death Penalty, LAPD, prison | No Comments »

Why “The Hangover” Producer Goes to Prison…..Santa Clara’s Juvie Facility Gamble Pays Off….More on LA Archdiocese’s Secret Files

May 28th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


One of California’s most committed, practical, gets-his-hands-dirty, knowledgable and impassioned advocates
for locked-up kids is Scott Budnick—who in his day job is the executive producer for all three of the insanely successful Hangover movies.

Yeah, that Scott Budnick.

(The above videos give glimpses into Budnick’s two worlds.)

Michael Mechanic interviews Budnick for Mother Jones Magazine.

We think you’ll find the whole interview quite interesting, but to start you off, here’s a clip from the intro, and another from the interview itself:

“I was very skeptical when I first met him,” recalls Julio Marcial, who oversees violence prevention programs for the California Wellness Foundation, one of Budnick’s primary funders. That introduction took place at the Sylmar branch of LA County’s juvenile hall, circa 2003. Budnick was volunteering at the time (and still does) with InsideOUT Writers, a Hollywood nonprofit that brings journalists and creative types into juvie to help incarcerated kids find positive ways to express themselves. “I’ve seen Hollywood folks come and go. I’ve seen people do this to make themselves feel better,” Marcial says. “But when I asked the kids why this program was so important to them, they said Scott was the consistent adult in their lives. He became a fatherlike figure to them.”

“He’s the real deal,” confirms my friend Alex Busansky, a former prosecutor who has served on the Los Angeles County Commission on Jail Violence and now runs the National Council on Crime & Delinquency.

And now here’s a snipped from the Q & A:

SB:when I moved out here, I spent my first few years working in Hollywood and kind of staying within the bubble, going out to nice restaurants and bars and hanging out with other assistants and talking about the business. After three or four years, I just found that so incredibly boring. And luckily Matthew Mizell, a friend of mine who works for another filmmaker, said—it was 2003 at this point—”Come down to Sylmar, I teach this creative writing class.” So I went. It was truly one of the most humbling, mind-blowing mornings of my life. And that kind of started my journey.

MJ: What was so striking about it?

SB: It opens your eyes to what’s really happening in our cities. I sat at a table with 12 kids, 14 to 17 years old, who were all facing life in prison. None of them had fathers and they’d all been physically or sexually or emotionally abused, and very poor schools and poor peers and very loose family structure—not enough discipline and not enough love. Most of them came from the foster care system. Then one day they decide not to be victims anymore and they commit a crime and they hurt somebody, and to me it’s like society threw them away and forget about them. The idea that intrigued me the most was, “They go from the kids that we pour our hearts out to to the kids we are terrified of because of one action?” I thought, you know what, I think I can have an effect here. I can understand these kids’ stories. I tried to just go in and be there for them.

[BIG SNIP]

MJ: What do the kids think about this rich guy coming in and spending time with them?

SB: I think at first I was looked at as this rich guy from Hollywood who probably wears cool tennis shoes or something that’s intriguing to them. But after a while that goes away, and they’re wondering if this is really a guy who will fight for them. So it takes time. Once they realize what I’ll do if they show that they are serious about changing their lives and really doing the right thing, then I think that ends up defining our relationship. By the way, when I go into prisons, inmates are coming up to me literally every five seconds going, “Aren’t you the Hangover guy? Aren’t you the Hangover guy?” It definitely is an interesting identity….

Read on to find out how Budnick (who—full disclosure—is a pal of WLA’s) got into the “Hangover” business, and his next goal in helping to reform the state’s lock-up policies.



SANTA CLARA’S GRAND GAMBLE ON A NON-PUNITIVE YOUTH RANCH HELPS TRIGGER NEW BILL

In 2006, Santa Clara County Probation Chief Sheila Mitchell took a leap of faith and invested in some of her most visionary juvenile probation supervisors and got the necessary $3 million to turn the county’s main juvenile lock-up—the William F. James Boys Ranch—into a facility that emphasized helping lawbreaking kids change their lives, rather than simply trying to force them to correct their behaviors. Since the latter strategy had been notably ineffective judging by juvenile recidivism rates in Santa Clara and around the state, Mitchell decided it was time to try something different.

Brian Goldstein, a policy analyst with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, writes for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange about how Santa Clara’s gamble paid off, in lives and in statistical outcomes, and how a new California bill—AB915—aims to incentivize the creation of similar youth facilities by other California counties.

Here’s a clip:

…Increasingly, experts are recognizing that the best way to improve public safety is to rely less on state correctional institutions for treating youth offenders, and more on the dynamic therapeutic approach delivered at the county level.

In late April, the staff of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) toured a facility that exemplified this trend, the William F. James Boys Ranch in California’s Santa Clara County.

James Ranch is a co-ed, 96-bed residential facility for young people between the ages of 15 ½ and 18, situated in the rolling foothills south of San Jose. The facility and staff are not only driven by a passion for improving the lives of local justice-involved youth, but challenge the conventional thinking by showing that they can receive successful, positive treatments locally. The facility has adopted many components of what is now recognized as a model system, including small dorm facilities, staff focused on youth wellness, and therapeutic programming that is gender-specific and culturally competent.

The ranch wasn’t always this way. Previously, the facility operated under a model focused more on behavioral regulation, which the county’s probation department now recognizes as antithetical to successful outcomes. The correctional approach was expensive, yet resulted in many escapes, numerous violent incidents and high recidivism rates.

Read the rest for details on AB 915, which basically takes a percentage of the $$ savings realized when the counties send fewer high risk kids to the state juvie facilities, and uses those savings to create “a funding stream for developing the model practices and leadership such as those found at James Ranch.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: WLA has also visited the James Ranch as part of a series on California’s juvenile facilites that we have planned for the fall. We too were extremely impressed by what we saw.


MORE ON LA ARCHDIOCESE’S SECRET FILES ON ALLEGED MOLESTATION CASES

The LA Times’ Victoria Kim has an interesting article in Tuesday’s paper about the Catholic Church’s tradition of keeping a second set of books on sensitive subjects within the church, things like a priest’s history of child sexual abuse allegations. In other words, rather than destroying any problematic documents, the church simply tucked them away in confidential files or C-files, that were only for church higher-ups to see.

The docu-dump of clergy abuse files that occurred earlier this year was largely from this cache.

Here’s an explanatory clip from Kim’s story:

Since the time of the Enlightenment, the Catholic Church has maintained two sets of records: one for the mundane and a second “secret archive” for matters of a sensitive nature. The cache — known as sub secreto files, Canon 489 files, confidential files or C-files — was to be kept under lock and key, only for the eyes of the bishop and his trusted few.

After the files became known to prosecutors and plaintiff’s lawyers, the American justice system has pried open the doors to an archive long kept sealed. Thousands of additional pages are set to become public in coming months, as more than a dozen Catholic orders — Salesians, Claretians, Vincentians and others — prepare to bare their own secrets pursuant to agreements with victims. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias could set the date for their release at a hearing Tuesday.

It was, however, at the very end of the article that Kim noted the reason that this whole C-file business should be of special interest to Los Angeles:

Terry McKiernan, founder of BishopAccountability.org which collects clergy sex-abuse related documents from across the U.S., said [retired Cardinal Roger] Mahony was clearly a far more meticulous keeper of records than his predecessors and that may have hurt him when the archive was made public.

“I don’t know of any other diocesan archive where scheming to manipulate reporting laws and access of law enforcement to these cases is as explicit as in these L.A. documents,” he said.

That last sentence is interesting. How exactly, one wonders, did Mahoney limit access of law enforcement to cases of child molestation that were actually reported? Were there instances that members of LA law enforcement allowed themselves to be persuaded by Mahoney not to aggressively pursue certain cases? Or were they as much in the dark as everybody else?

Posted in CDCR, Child sexual abuse, crime and punishment, criminal justice, juvenile justice, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, law enforcement, prison, prison policy, Reentry | No Comments »

Solitary Kids, Leimart Park Stop (Finally!), Gangs and Immigration, and Gay Scouts

May 24th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

UPDATE ON REFORM BILL FOR KIDS IN SOLITARY

A bill that would define and limit the use of solitary confinement for kids in juvenile facilities—SB 61, authored by Sen. Leland Yee—made it through the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday and is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate next week.

Here’s a clip from the update from Sen. Yee’s office:

In 2011, a CDCR internal audit found that youth were often locked up in their cells for over 21 hours a day. In one 15-week period, there were 249 incidents of solitary confinement, and in one case, a youth received only one hour out of his cell in a 10-day period. In local juvenile facilities, there have been reports of youth locked up in isolation for 23 hours a day.

“I felt completely unwanted and unnoticed” said Tanisha Denard, who was held in solitary confinement as a juvenile. “It is by far the worst feeling I have ever experienced.”

“The mission of the juvenile justice system is to offer youth an opportunity for rehabilitation while also promoting public safety” said Dr. Laura Abrams of UCLA. “The use of solitary confinement is counter to these goals. Not only does solitary confinement undermine rehabilitation efforts, but also as the potential to return a young person to society with exacerbated trauma and mental illness that can manifest in violence toward self or others.”

FYI, here are some of the provisions of SB 61:

- Define solitary confinement as the involuntary placement in a room or cell in isolation from persons other than staff and attorneys.

- Provide that solitary confinement shall only be used when a minor poses an immediate and substantial risk of harm to others or the security of the facility, and all other less restrictive options have been
exhausted.

- Provide that a minor or ward shall only be held in solitary confinement for the minimum time necessary to address the safety risk.

- Empower existing county juvenile justice commissions to report on the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.

(For more recommended reading, Sen. Yee has an excellent editorial on the bill over at U-T San Diego.)


METRO STOP AT CULTURALLY IMPORTANT LEIMART PARK

The LA Metro board finally approved funding for an underground metro station in historic Leimart Park, an significant addition to the Crenshaw line that LA Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas has been pushing hard for since 2011, along with outgoing LA Mayor Villaraigosa.

KPCC’s Corey Moore has the story. Here’s a clip:

The action comes a day after the L.A. City Council committed $40 million in Measure R funds for the station in the culturally historic African American community. And now, the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will fund the rest, which in total, amounts to $120 million.

Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pushed to make this happen, along with L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sponsored the motion. MTA members voted in favor, 10 to 1. Metro plans to choose a contractor for the project next month.


HARMFUL IMMIGRATION REFORM AMENDMENTS DISCARDED

Several discriminatory immigration reforms were shot down earlier this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, including an amendment authored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have banned undocumented immigrants suspected of gang affiliation from becoming legal citizens, even if they had no criminal record. Another rejected amendment by Sen. Grassley would have allowed law enforcement officers to profile based on nation of origin.

Here’s a clip from gang intervention non-profit Homies Unidos Director Alex Sanchez’s letter to supporters:

Thank you for standing up for justice and dignity. Your calls to the Senate Judiciary Committee members helped to defeat three dangerous amendments to the immigration reform bill: Sessions 32, Grassley 43 and Grassley 49. These amendments sought to increase and normalize the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement in our communities. Session’s amendment would have mandated 287(g) nationwide, while Grassley’s amendments would have penalized young people accused of gang membership and allowed profiling based on national origin. Thank you for pushing back against these harmful amendments. We could not have won this without you.

Despite the good news, Graham 3 passed. The amendment requires additional screening for individuals applying for “registered provisional immigration” (RPI) status who are from certain regions or countries deemed national security threats by the Department of Homeland Security. This will likely target individuals from predominantly Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Middle Eastern countries and is a setback against the fight to end racial profiling.

LA Times’ Sandra Hernandez has more on the defeat of Grassley’s amendment targeting suspected gang members. Here’s a clip:

Deporting immigrants who have serious criminal records makes sense as a matter of public safety. The Times’ editorial page has supported such policies. But Grassley’s amendment wouldn’t have furthered that goal. Instead, it sought to exclude immigrants who are suspected of gang membership from legalizing simply because their names appeared on a gang database or on an injunction.

Los Angeles pioneered the use of gang injunctions and databases as a way to help neighborhoods plagued by violence regain control of their streets. But these lists and civil restraining orders aren’t perfect tools. Individuals can find themselves on such lists because of factors like tattoos, style of dress or identification by an informant.


BOY SCOUTS END EXCLUSION OF GAY YOUTH

The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to end their policy banning gay youth from participating in the program. There is still a ban on openly gay adults acting as leaders, and gay youth can still be forced out of the group when they turn eighteen, but this is a welcomed step in the right direction.

NY Times’ Erik Eckholm has the story. Here’s a clip:

The decision, which followed years of resistance and wrenching internal debate, was widely seen as a milestone for the Boy Scouts, a symbol of traditional America. More than 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the country voted, with more than 60 percent approving a measure that said no youth may be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

The top national leaders of the Boy Scouts had urged the change in the face of vehement opposition from conservative parents and volunteers, some of whom said they would quit the organization. But the decision also put the scouts more in tune with the swift rise in public acceptance of homosexuality, especially among younger parents who are essential to the future of an institution that has been losing members for decades.

The decision is unlikely to bring peace to the Boy Scouts as they struggle to keep a foothold in a swirling cultural landscape, ensuring continued lobbying and debate in the months and year to come. The group put off the even more divisive question of whether to allow openly gay adults and leaders, and those on both sides of the debate predicted that, with the resolution’s passage, the Boy Scouts would soon be forced to start allowing gay adults, whether by lawsuits or embarrassment at the twisted logic of forcing an Eagle Scout who turns 18 to quit.

Posted in Board of Supervisors, immigration, juvenile justice, social justice, solitary, transportation | 2 Comments »

THE COMMUTER-IN-CHIEF: Do We Care That Probation Chief Jerry Powers Commutes 330-Miles on the County’s Dime?

May 23rd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



CBS 2 NEWS QUESTIONS PROBATION CHIEF ABOUT HIS TAXPAYER-FUNDED COMMUTER HABITS

Probation Chief Jerry Powers still hasn’t moved to Los Angeles from his home in Northern California after being on the job since December 5, 2011.

The fact that Powers received a $25,000 moving allowance along with his $255,000 yearly salary, plus benefits, but still hasn’t packed up and relocated in a southerly direction has been a growing source of irritation to many of the rank and file who work under him.

“It makes us feel like he isn’t really committed to LA, that he doesn’t have a personal investment,” said one probation veteran.

It is a sentiment we’ve heard from many department members in the last six months, inevitably accompanied by speculation as to who was paying Powers’ hotel bill during the work week.

Now CBS 2 News investigative reporter David Goldstein, has looked into issue of Powers’ non-So-Cal residence, including who is paying for what, when it comes to the various costs of the chief’s No Cal commute.

Goldstein’s report was broadcast at 11 pm Wednesday night (and promo’d for a full day before.)

In addition, WitnessLA has done its own poking around on the subject.

So, here’s the deal:

Yes, when he’s not at home, Powers has been staying in a hotel during his nearly 18 months on the job, and the county’s been picking up the tab.

BUT, that tab has been a drawdown from the $25,000 move-in allowance that was a part of his contract. Thus far he has used nearly $23,000 of that $25K. When the allowance is gone, Powers says, he’ll pick up his own hotel bill.

As for the cost of driving his county-issued SUV (for the use of which he reportedly pays $575 a month) the taxpayer has indeed been paying the gasoline tab for Powers’ 660-mile round trip, a cost that, it seems, has been approved by the County CEO and the Board of Supes.

Goldstein also reported that Powers often leaves the office at midday on Friday and doesn’t come back to his office in Downey until Monday.

So, is the county taxpayer getting a raw deal?

Well, by all accounts, Powers isn’t a slacker when it comes to work hours, and we hear that his labors don’t stop just because he’s not at the office.

Plus, if he wants to use his move-in allowance on a hotel, do we really care, now that we know he’s not double-dipping?

The cost of the gasoline might be arguable. But he’s hardly the only county manager with such an arrangement.

(And frankly, some of us are a lot more vexed about the fact that undersheriff Paul Tanaka is no longer actually doing any work whatsoever for the county, but still drives a county car and draws his full salary until his magical retirement date of August 1. But that’s another subject altogether.)

So is this whole commute thang a non-issue? Or is there something here that matters?


WHEN THE IMAGE IS THE MESSAGE

After talking to an array of those inside and close to the department, the real problem, as we see it, is the message that the paid commute sends.

When Bill Bratton took over the LAPD, it was no secret to anyone that he would eventually move back to the east coast. Bratton’s an east coast guy. He ooozes Boston and Manhattan from his pores.

But while he was here, he and his wife genuinely made LA their home. They joined the social scene. They found favorite restaurants, favorite cultural events, favorite LA authors. They made friends. Bratton was present.

Powers already has a reputation of being aloof from his rank and file, which in any organization can be a problem. In law enforcement—and probation is law enforcement—it’s potentially a disaster in terms of morale.

The men and women of law enforcement don’t need to be coddled, but they do need to know that if they work hard and follow their chief’s leadership, that he or she will respect them, and have their backs.

Certainly, it’s not impossible to have one’s back from 330 miles away.

But it’s harder.

___________

POST SCRIPT: Here’s the memo that Powers sent Wednesday to the members of the department regarding the CBS 2 broadcast: Jerry Powers Commuter email 5-22-2013

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors, Probation | 8 Comments »

The Trouble with Turning Deportees into Criminals….an Upsetting Foster Care Probe….and Election Extras

May 23rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker

BIG ISSUES WITH ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

A new report from Human Rights Watch examines the consequences of prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry and reentry into the U.S. (a misdemeanor and felony respectively, and the most prosecuted federal crimes).

Here’s a clip from the HRW press release:

The 82-page report, “Turning Migrants Into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions,” documents the negative impact of illegal entry and reentry prosecutions, which have increased 1,400 and 300 percent, respectively, over the past 10 years and now outnumber prosecutions for all other federal crimes. Over 80,000 people were convicted of these crimes in 2012, many in rapid-fire mass prosecutions that violate due process rights. Many are separated from their US families, and a large number end up in costly and overcrowded federal prisons, some for months or years.

“The US government is turning migrants into criminals by prosecuting many who could just be deported,” said Grace Meng, US researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Many of these migrants aren’t threats to public safety, but people trying to be with their families.”

The Senate immigration reform bill, proposed by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” calls for an additional US$250 million for increased prosecutions of these cases in Tucson, Arizona, and increasing the maximum penalties for many categories of people charged with illegal entry and reentry. The US government should instead end unnecessary prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry.

The report is based on a thorough analysis of US government data and interviews with more than 180 people, including migrants and their families, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.


LA TIMES ASKS IF THE LA COUNTY SUPERVISORS ARE TOO SLOW TO PULL THE PLUG ON A TROUBLED FOSTER CARE PROVIDER

LA Times’ Garrett Therolf has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Gloria Molina were unable to win majority support for their push to sever all ties to a foster care contractor with a history of substantiated child abuse and financial malfeasance.

Under the supervisors’ proposal, the county board had been scheduled to take a public vote Tuesday on the county’s relationship with Teens Happy Homes, a contractor that has received up to $3.6 million per year and cared for more than 1,100 foster children in recent years.

But Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas moved the item to a closed-door session where the proposal died, at least temporarily. A spokeswoman for Ridley-Thomas declined to say why he removed the item from the public schedule.

In closed session, the item was referred back to the offices of its sponsors who are free to bring back the proposal at a subsequent meeting.

Molina was on vacation Tuesday and not due to return until May 30. Antonovich’s spokesman said his office will be discussing the matter with Molina’s aides to decide how to proceed….

EDITOR’S NOTE: In several investigative stories on the LA County Foster Care provider known as Teens Happy Homes, which is responsible for the care and well being of hundreds of the county’s foster children, LA Times reporter Garrett Therolf paints a picture of an agency rife with financial malfeasance and perhaps a lot worse.

Here, for example, is a clip from Therolf’s April 29 story:

The routine audit of Teens in 2003 faced problems from the beginning. Shortly before auditors arrived, a sewage backup destroyed many financial records. The remaining documents painted a picture of financial chaos.

There were canceled checks showing the agency repeatedly bought cigarettes and beer with foster care money — in one instance, 30 cases’ worth. There was $46,000 in unpaid federal payroll taxes. The agency’s bookkeeper wrote $13,000 in checks to herself. “The agency was unable to explain the nature of these expenditures,” auditors wrote.

The bookkeeper, fearing criminal prosecution, wrote to county auditors, saying Robinson had ordered two workers to “come up with receipts” to help keep staff “out of jail.”

He was not going to get caught up in falsifying any documents.”
— Teens Happy Homes bookkeeper, in a letter.

The plan fell apart when one manager refused. “He was not going to get caught up in falsifying any documents,” the bookkeeper wrote in her letter, which was obtained by The Times.

After the 2003 audit, Therolf reports, the Supes expanded the Teens Happy Homes contract rather than canceling it.

Now in the light of further allegations surfaced by the Times, people like Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of L.A. County’s Juvenile Court (and WLA’s hero for opening the courts to reporters) and Leslie Starr Heimov, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, have called for the county to yank its contractual support and transition the good foster families under its umbrella to other agencies.

So why hasn’t that happened? Two sources close to the Supes offices plus DCFS spokesman, Armand Montiel, told WLA that there is a set process for determining whether or not a contract requires severing, and that the process is…well…in process.

“We have the ability to remove a child or children from a location if we think that child is in danger,” added Montiel, “and we won’t hesitate to do so.”

In the meantime, with regard to Teens Happy Homes, the “process” has to be completed, explained one of our sources. “If we don’t do something like this properly, we can wind up with a lawsuit.”

Okay. We get that. But when it comes to the well being of children, a little more communication from the board would help.

C.F.


GARCETTI ON SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES

We thought you’d be interested in this interview with Eric Garcetti by Youth Justice Coalition in which he discusses some of the issues that matter most to WitnessLA like juvenile justice, gun violence, and education reform.

[YJC]: Los Angeles locks up more youth than any other city in the world. Given that this is in part due to policing, but also due to court and Probation systems outside your direct control, what would you do to improve the justice system for youth from arrest through detention and incarceration?

Eric Garcetti: I would make sure that the reforms I have proposed for our job training system specifically include initiatives to train and employ formerly incarcerated individuals. Unfortunately, AB109 provides little to no resources for community-­‐based solutions. As Mayor, I will use my office and partner with the Council to develop and advocate for the implementation of legislative actions that reduce the recidivism rate and improve public safety and social justice. I want to stop the prison system’s revolving door to get people on the right path, to reduce crime and to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers. Prison is more expensive than prevention, job training and counseling.

[YJC]: Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, local law enforcement have increased their presence at schools and Senator Boxer is calling for the National Guard and armed police at schools across the nation. Do you agree with these policies to address school-­based violence? What are your school safety strategies?

Eric Garcetti: Gun violence takes the lives of more than 30,000 nationwide each year. It is time to act. I am proud to have led on the issue of reducing gun violence for years. I helped pass and write laws here in L.A. to get illegal guns off the streets, to ban the open carrying of guns, and to get rid of large caliber weapons and ammunition. I also created At the Park After Dark (now Summer Night Lights), which provides a safe place to go until midnight for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles youth during the summer months. As Mayor, I am going to continue to take this fight nationally in order to keep our schools safe and keep guns off our streets.


ELECTED OFFICIALS OPINE ON ELECTION RESULTS

For more worthwhile after-election reading, LA Mag’s Shayna Rose Arnold has LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Council President Herb Wesson, and City Councilwoman (and primary mayoral candidate) Jan Perry’s thoughts on Tuesday’s election results.

Posted in DCFS, Human rights, immigration, LA County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor | No Comments »

Election Night Memories & Morning Must Reads

May 22nd, 2013 by Taylor Walker


FIRST OF ALL: CONGRATULATIONS TO ERIC, MIKE AND RON!!!

(AND TO WENDY, WE SEND OUR WARMTH AND RESPECT FOR A BATTLE HARD FOUGHT.)


NOW…..SOME SNAPSHOTS OF ELECTION NIGHT FEVER

While waiting for elections results on Tuesday night that seemed to take forever, LA journalists found lots of ways to amuse themselves:

For instance, the folks over at Zócalo posted two Q&A sessions with Garcetti and Greuel that asked all the right questions. We highly recommend reading them both in their entirety, but here are a few notable exchanges—first from the Garcetti interview:

Q: Obama said he has only two colors of suits, gray and blue, in order to eliminate choices. What suit colors do you have?
A:Oh my gosh. I’ve got blue suits, I have gray suits, I have black suits. And I believe I have, like, a brown suit. Twice as many choices but half as many suits.

Q: What animal fills you with terror?
A:I think it’s the chupacabra. I don’t know if it’s out there, but if it is, that frightens the heck out of me.

…and then, from the Greuel interview:

Q: What weapon would you choose if a zombie apocalypse came to L.A.?
A:I have no idea! [An aide says she doesn’t have to answer the question.] I think if a zombie apocalypse came to L.A., I’d probably run. That’d be my weapon. I’m not sure there’d be anything I could do to defend myself.

Q: When did you last laugh?
A: Just now. When you asked about the apocalypse.


Among the most entertaining election commentaries of the evening, not surprisingly, were from Twitter. Here are some of our favorites:

‏Gene Maddaus (LA Weekly) @GeneMaddaus
Well I’d say this mayor’s race is about complete. IBEW boss Brian D’Arcy just gave me the middle finger from his 2nd floor office window.

‏Gene Maddaus (LA Weekly) @GeneMaddaus
D’Arcy’s staff said they were calling the cops 20 minutes ago. Where are they?

Gene Maddaus (LA Weekly) @GeneMaddaus
Well I did my best. Here’s video of me shouting a question at Brian D’Arcy’s rolled-up car window as he drives away.

Frank Stoltze (KPPC) ‏@StoltzeFrankly
@ericgarcetti supporters gather outside the Hollywood Palladium for his election night party. #lamayor pic.twitter.com/MdcpLC1DDO

Frank Stoltze (KPPC) ‏@StoltzeFrankly
@ericgarcetti father Gil feeling optimistic at the Hollywood Palladium. #LAMayor. pic.twitter.com/Fy23jp7d4d

Steve Lopez (LA Times) @LATstevelopez
Vote-counting systems that are more efficient: pigeons fly votes downtown, Mr. Ed scratches hoof once for Greuel, twice for Garcetti

Steve Lopez (LA Times) @LATstevelopez
can anyone take a picture of the vote-counting abacus city clerk uses?

Steve Lopez (LA Times) ‏@LATstevelopez
i’m watching kcal 9. the bear stealing garbage is very efficient. can we get him to count votes in the l.a. city election?

Alice Walton (KPPC) ‏@TheCityMaven
The @Wendy_Greuel DJ is now playing the Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back” … which I think means @Villaraigosa has taken over the playlist.

David Zahniser (LA Times) ‏@DavidZahniser
MT @TheCityMaven reports that the @Wendy_Greuel party just put on Journey



AND IN OTHER NEWS…THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SEIZES FOX NEWS REPORTER’S PHONE RECORDS

While LA was in the throes of election obsession, there was a new development in the matter of the DOJ spying on journalists. It is a still unfolding tale that WLA finds chilling.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza has the story. Here are some clips:

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that, as part of the investigation of [an alleged leak by a former State Department contractor named Stephen Jin-Woo Kim], Obama’s Department of Justice seized e-mails from [Fox News' reporter James Rosen's] personal Gmail account. In the search warrant for that request, the government described Rosen as “an aider, and abettor, and / or co-conspirator” in violating the Espionage Act, noting that the crime can be punished by ten years in prison. Rosen was not indicted in the case, but the suggestion in a government document that a reporter could be guilty of espionage for engaging in routine reporting is unprecedented and has alarmed many journalists and civil libertarians.

The document uncovered today suggests the government seized “call detail” records from Rosen’s work and cell phones, which would show whom he called, who called him, how long they spoke, and the times of the calls. The document suggests that the government was seeking only the subscriber records for the two White House numbers targeted, information that a government source said would include the name of the official who used the specific line.

[BIG SNIP]

Rosen declined to comment on the case. Asked if the phone numbers of any reporters had been targeted in the Kim investigation, a spokesperson for Fox News said they were not familiar with the new information regarding Fox’s phone records and directed The New Yorker to a statement released yesterday by Michael Clemente, the executive vice-president for News at the cable channel: “We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”


A SACRAMENTO GROUP FINDS A NEW WAY TO CONFRONT “ZERO TOLERANCE”

In her excellent blog, ACEs Too High, journalist/child advocate, Jane Stevens brings to our attention an innovative community play titled ZERO that dramatizes the affects of zero tolerance policies in schools. Stevens takes in-depth look at the process of creating ZERO (which was put on by the Black Parallel School Board and funded by the California Endowment), and the surprising effect it has had on viewers—many of them state lawmakers and their staffs.

Here’s a clip (but go read the whole thing):

The first time they performed the play, it was for legislators and their staff members in the State Capitol. “I thought only 20 people would show up,” said Pinkston. “The room was packed — 70 people watched.” And the buzz began.

“I know that a lot of the people were taken aback,” said Bradley. “People don’t realize how bad it can get. It was touching to me because people seemed to really care about the situation, because that gave us hope for change.”

In August 2012, by the time they presented the play at the Guild Theater, so many people had heard about the play that tickets were sold out.

“The play shows how the teachers and administrators are under constant pressure to perform,” said Pinkston. “They’re under siege. They’re forced to get rid of the kids they don’t want to teach. Parents don’t have a lot of time and attention to work with kids, because they’re working two or three jobs. So, the community has to take some ownership about what’s going on.”

At the end, the students, teachers, parents and community members in the audience were gripped with sadness and frustration at the heavy odds against James, the main character. “This whole experience has been humanizing,” said White. “The play’s a microcosm that what actually happens in schools.”

Half of the 200 people in the audience filled out comment cards. More than half felt the play had challenged or changed their opinion. Some of the comments:

*We must come up with a different way to deal with discipline in school. Suspension is the not the answer.”

*I plan to push harder to start this conversation within my school community and advocate for a shift toward supporting each other and developing strengths-based schools.”

*I am willing to challenge the rate of suspensions at my school.”

*I will support legislation to fund schools & change school discipline to provide restorative practices & social-emotional learning for school community.”

*I am a middle school teacher (34 years)…. I have “James” in my classes. James deserves every bit of help; however, standing in front of the class looking out, I see 34 other students waiting for me to do something with disruptive students. The school do not have the personnel to work “deeply” with James. I talk to parents after school for hours, but during class, I have to educate the non-James.”

Posted in Foster Care, LA County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 1 Comment »

HOUSE OF CARDS: Undersheriff Paul Tanaka Slams Sheriff Lee Baca, Round 2

May 21st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was featured in a special KABC 7 News segment Monday night
in which the once-powerful second-in-command to Sheriff Lee Baca painted his former boss as a disengaged, incompetent leader who frequently gave orders that ranged from impractical to illegal, including an instance of possible obstruction of justice when he allegedly ordered staffers to hide and secretly debrief a federal informant.

It is the second such slash-and-burn interview from Tanaka who, for years, was rarely seen on camera, despite his influential position.

Then, last month, he unexpectedly sat down with the LA Times’ Robert Faturechi and blasted the sheriff to a degree that shocked most LASD watchers.

Tanaka launched a similar attack through the medium of KABC’s David Ono in a lengthy and reportedly quote-rich video interview taped earlier, that had producers working until the last moment choosing the best clips for the not-quite-five minute segment that aired Monday night.

While there were no game-changing revelations among the snippets featured, there were things that could conceivably cause Baca trouble when he faces reelection in 2014.

(Tanaka told both the LA Times and KABC’s Ono that he is considering running for sheriff against Baca, and has reportedly opened an “exploratory committee” for purposes of fundraising.)


MANAGING THE SHERIFF

In much of Monday’s interview, Tanaka painted the sheriff as someone who constantly had to be managed by his underlings.

“We used to have this saying amongst the top executives that our greatest job is to manage the sheriff and make sure that he doesn’t do anything that we can’t clean up,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka also described a sheriff who was unhealthily concerned with politics and “desperate to be reelected.”

“That’s all he talks about.”

When not hyper-focused on reelection, according to Tanaka, Baca is “obsessed” by whimsical fixations like “living to be 100,” and subjects the department’s upper management to lengthy discourses on this and similar topics.

“We sit in command staff meetings, you have very high-paid people, 15-20 of us, and these are the lectures we get for two or three hours….”

Tanaka also admitted that when, in early March of this year, he unexpectedly announced his retirement, in fact, he was forced out when the sheriff became fearful of growing department scandals and “…served my head on a platter to detractors because he thought that would save him.”


BACA DISMISSES TANAKA THROUGH SPOKESMAN

While Baca declined to answer Tanaka’s accusations in person, he sent a message via LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore, who told KABC that “the sheriff is just not going to get into a bickering discussion, if you will, with a soon-to-be, seems-to-be-angry, ex-employee making allegations that seem to be fueled by rumor and innuendo, trying to exact some form of revenge for imagined slights.”


OUTTAKES

One interview tidbit that did not make it into Monday’s broadcast had to do with Tanaka’s past in the deputy clique known as a Vikings. KABC’s Ono asked him about the Viking tattoo that comes along with membership and the undersheriff said he regretted getting the thing.

One wonders, then, why the soon-to-be ex-undersheriff doesn’t simply have the controversial Vikings ink lasered off. (We’re just sayin’)

Posted in jail, LA County Jail, LASD, Los Angeles County, Sheriff Lee Baca | 49 Comments »

Elections….Zev Yaroslavsky on Mentally Ill Inmates…..Merrick Bobb, the LASD & Gangs….and More

May 21st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


ELECTIONS: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE VOTE


MAYOR:

WLA hasn’t made an endorsement in the mayor’s race, and we’re not going to do it now.

We know and like both Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti and can make a strong case for either candidate, both of whom we believe will also grow on the job. We have respected friends and colleagues who are maniacally in favor of one over the other—some choosing Eric, others lining up behind Wendy.

We know the LA Times has endorsed Garcetti. But we hope you’ll take the time to make up your own mind—which ever way you finally lean.

If you’re still trying to decide, LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus “Five Key Differences..” rundown on how the two diverge provides some helpful food for thought.


CITY CONTROLLER

We favor Ron Galperin over Dennis Zine.

We think Zine’s a good guy, personally, and we like that he occasionally rides his Harley to Sturgis for the big bike rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

But we think Galperin has the right skill set and temperament to be a very good, pro-active controller—which is, after all, the point.


CITY ATTORNEY

Mike Feuer not Carmen Trutanichplease!

Feuer is smart, has the chops, and will be good.

Trutanich, while not without talent, is vengeful, mendacious, power-hungry and seems bizarrely unclear on the law when selective dis-clarity happens to serve his personal purposes, all of which we see as….you know… problematic.


PROPOSITIONS C, D, E, & F

These are the propositions that propose different schemes for regulating the sales of medical marijuana, which is long overdue.

Here’s the short form: YES ON D……NO on the rest.

For the long form, read what the LA Times says or the LA Weekly.

Among other things, D has the best shot at passing, and if the voters don’t pass one of these puppies, the City Council may try to shut down all the dispensaries, which is a very bad idea.


AND IN NON-ELECTIONS RELATED NEWS….

ZEV YAROSLAVSKY INTRODUCES A MOTION FOR JAIL RENOVATION TO BETTER HOUSE MENTALLY ILL INMATES

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky will introduce a motion as an “alternative concept for the replacement of Men’s Central Jail,” which would replace one of MCJ’s towers with a facility designed to house mentally ill inmates.

Evidently Zev was fed up with the various billion dollar jail building proposals that the sheriff keeps pushing, so came up with a different angle with the idea of jump starting a fresh conversation about the jails facility issue.

Here’s a clip:

Instead of demolishing all of MCJ and constructing a replacement facility for the general inmate population, a better approach could be to demolish one tower of MCJ and replace it with a medical/mental health/substance abuse Integrated Inmate Treatment Center designed to serve inmates with mental illness, co-occurring substance abuse and specified medical conditions. Initial studies show that by consolidating all relevant inmates in this Center, sufficient beds would be opened up elsewhere in the system to house the County’s remaining inmates. The proposed Integrated Inmate Treatment Center would be designed to meet the needs of this inmate population and could result in better and more humane outcomes for these prisoners as well as a more cost-effective solution to the problem of housing the general jail population.

Initial reviews of this idea show great promise. Studies show that recidivism on
the part of mentally ill/dually-diagnosed inmates can be substantially reduced through intensive treatment programs.

The ACLU responded to Yaroslavsky’s proposal with some suggestions of their own (detailed in their letter here: Yaroslavsky Mental Health Motion). But mostly, as So Cal ACLU Legal Director Peter Eliasberg put it, “…we appreciate the fact that the supervisor has started the conversation.”

We do too.


MERRICK BOBB’S NEWEST REPORT ON THE LASD LOOKS AT THE SHERIFF’S GANG ENFORCEMENT STRATEGY

On Monday, Special Council Merrick Bob introduced his bi-annual report on the Sheriff’s Department. This particular report focuses on gang enforcement since, although crime in general is down, gang violence still remains a pressing problem affecting LA’s communities.

You can find the report here: 32nd Semiannual Report 5-20-13.

We’ll likely return to discuss this report further in the next few days,

But, for now, suffice it to say that we appreciated the report’s analysis of what effective, targeted gang suppression looks like, versus ineffective gang surpression—which only serves to alienate the community, wrongly criminalize some gang members, and, in excess, can actually cause crime to rise. This smart outline will, we hope, be viewed by the department as valuable feedback as they hone their gang policing methods.

Where we differ a bit from Bobb’s report is that we’re not at all that sure about the notion that, in addition to smart, targeted, strategic—and community-respecting—surpression (policing), that the LASD should also be engaged in gang prevention and intervention.

The report is, of course, dead on when it points out that, historically, we’ve learned that gang surpression alone, doesn’t lower gang crime. Every study tells us that we need the prevention/intervention/reentry pieces for violence reduction and community health.

With this in mind, certainly it’s essential for law enforcement to be cooperative with those agencies that provide prevention, intervention and reentry programs, et al —places like Homeboy Industries, Communities in Schools, Homies Unidos, and Aquil Basheer’s BUILD Youth Empowerment Academy, and others. However, it’s not the job of the cops to offer those services themselves.

We’d rather see the County instead carve out some money to help the intervention/reentry folks, since they are the people actually doing—and equipped to do—that work.

All this is a longer discussion. But that’s the short form..

Posted in Board of Supervisors, Gangs, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Mayor | No Comments »

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