Potential Partnership Between LA County and Homeboy Industries…Supes Address Foster Care Commission Recommendations…ACLU Sues California for Disenfranchising Probationers…and MoreFebruary 5th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
LA SUPES TO EXPLORE PARTNERSHIP WTIH HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES
The LA County Board of Supervisors agreed to collaborate with the Chief Probation Officer on a potential partnership with Homeboy Industries. (Last week, we pointed to a story by LA Times’ Steve Lopez regarding Father Greg Boyle’s dire shortage of government funds for Homeboy services.)
The last grant given to Homeboy for tattoo removal and other reentry tools expired last summer, according to the motion submitted by Supervisor Don Knabe.
Here’s a clip from Knabe’s motion:
Homeboy Industries has a proven, academically verified model for breaking the cycle of gang violence that impacts families and communities in very direct and tragic ways. Every day, gang members from all over the County are walking in to Homeboy Industries, asking for help to change their lives. These are often the very same young men and women who have been in the County’s foster care system, have been in and out of our juvenile detention facilities and have been the ones that have “graduated” to County jail or state prison, only to continue the endless cycle of violence and trauma…
I, for one, have been convinced for a long time that if we are serious about helping the most challenged people in our communities and if we are serious about reducing violence and recidivism, then we need to look seriously at a strategic partnership with Homeboy Industries.
We hope that they do work out a partnership that allows Father Greg to maintain Homeboy’s vital services.
(The above photo, which was taken by Homeboy photographer Jerry Condit, shows Father Greg bidding farewell to a homeboy who is moving on to a new job.)
SUPES ONLY MOVE FORWARD WITH TWO FOSTER CARE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON CHILD PROTECTION
The Board of Supervisors also discussed the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s preliminary recommendations for reforming a dysfunctional DCFS. The supervisors only agreed on two of the recommendations, and requested a report on the financial feasibility of the other eight recommendations (to be presented to the board in 60 days).
The board did agree on both placing law enforcement officers within DCFS offices to facilitate background checks for potential caregivers, and developing protocols with local law enforcement agencies for reporting alleged child abuse.
The LA Daily News’ Christina Villacorte has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:
The board directed law enforcement agencies to post staff inside offices of the Department of Children and Family Services so background checks for potential foster parents can be completed more quickly during emergency placements.
It also directed them to report all cases of child abuse to other agencies that can help victims.
The board balked when Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas endorsed the commission’s recommendation that nurses accompany social workers investigating allegations of abuse or neglect against infants younger than 1.
By the way, the motion to examine the state of LA County’s juvenile indigent defense system (which we pointed to on Monday) was moved to next Tuesday’s meeting. We’ll keep you updated as we know more.
ACLU SUES CALIFORNIA FOR DENYING REALIGNMENT PROBATIONERS THE RIGHT TO VOTE
The California ACLU filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing California Secretary of State Debra Bowen of illegally disenfranchising thousands of voters serving community probation under realignment (AB 109). In 2011, Bowen told election officials that former state prisoners moved to county supervision through realignment were ineligible to vote until their probation ended. Current state law does not address this new category of people, but bans those in prison or on parole from voting.
Here is a clip from the ACLU’s website:
According to the lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the state’s actions clearly violated state law when the secretary of state issued a directive to local elections officials in December 2011 asserting that people are ineligible to vote if they are on post-release community supervision or mandatory supervision. These are two new and innovative forms of community-based supervision created under California’s Criminal Justice Realignment Act for people recently incarcerated for low-level, non-violent, non-serious crimes.
The Secretary of State should be working to increase voter participation, not to undermine it,” said Michael Risher, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “California has dismal rates of voter registration and participation. The Secretary of State is making this even worse by disenfranchising tens of thousands of California citizens who are trying to re-engage with their communities. With voting rights under attack across the nation, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s disappointing decision striking down a critical law that protected the right to vote for people of color and language minorities, California needs more protection – not less – for voting rights.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three people who have or will soon lose their right to vote, along with the League of Women Voters of California and All of Us Or None, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of formerly and currently incarcerated people and their families.
The law clearly establishes a presumption in favor of the right to vote, with only limited and specific exceptions,” said Meredith Desautels, staff attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The Secretary of State unilaterally expanded these exceptions, without any public comment or input, disenfranchising thousands of members of our community and creating confusion around the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people. This unconstitutional disenfranchisement particularly impacts communities of color, who are too often excluded from the democratic process.”
CALIFORNIA PRISONS’ DISMAL REHABILITATION SITUATION
After receiving proposals from both Gov. Jerry Brown and prisoner advocates, a panel of federal judges is expected to order a solution to California’s prison overcrowding crisis. Gov Brown has until April to lower the prison population by around 6,000 inmates. He has requested a additional deadline extension of two years to meet the population goal through rehabilitation measures (and moving inmates into private prisons), but, as it stands, California has serious issues providing inmates with adequate substance abuse treatment.
In collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Michael Montgomery has the story for KQED’s California Report podcast. Here’s a clip from the transcript, but do go take a listen:
Inside a gleaming white modular building topped with barbed wire, two dozen state inmates are going through a response drill in a class dealing with addiction. Four prisoners lead the session. They’re lifers who earned state certification for substance abuse counseling. This was the scene two years ago at Solano State Prison in Vacaville. The class was part of an innovative program praised for its effectiveness by top corrections officials, treatment experts, and even some Hollywood celebrities…
Hundreds of prisoners got treatment at Solano, and some have been paroled, so it’s not surprising that many people were stunned when officials quietly closed the program last summer…
Solano Prison wasn’t alone. Over the past four years, as state officials talked about the need to expand rehabilitation efforts, enrollment in substance abuse programs plummeted nearly 90%. As of last July, when the Solano program was shut down, just over 1000 inmates were getting treatment—the lowest level in a decade or more.
Shutting down the program at Solano wasn’t just a budget decision. [CDCR Director of Rehabilitation Programs, Millicent] Tidwell says the closure was part of a plan to move many programs to so-called “re-entry hubs,” places within the prison system designed to prepare inmates for release. Tidwell says finding vendors, hiring staff, and developing space for the new centers is slow and disruptive: “There’s a lot of moving parts…to bring up any effective program takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight.” Problem is, only four of a planned 13 hubs have opened, due to contract disputes and other delays…