WOMEN PRISONERS AT CHOWCHILLA AIM TO HELP VICTIMS
The best research (and my own anecdotal observation) suggests that one of the essential components to transforming one’s life away from gangs and/or a similar law-breaking past requires that one face squarely the harm that one has caused and then give back in some way to one’s community.
Here’s a story from the Fresno Bee about women who are taking a step in that direction.
They’ve robbed. They’ve stolen. They’ve murdered.
But despite their past crimes, nearly 100 women gathered in a prison gym Wednesday to hear how they can help victims of serious crimes. Some wanted to know how they could help the very people they hurt.
The inmates are part of a club at Valley State Prison for Women that focuses on raising money for charitable groups and, as they describe it, repay their debt to society. One of the women in the club, called the Long Termers Organization, sent a three-page letter in August to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board — a state agency that distributes about $100 million a year in funds to crime victims in need of health care, therapy or other services as a result of the crimes committed against them. The inmate, Crystal Potter, wanted to know whether the board would be willing to let her club know how they could help.
“We may never gain the trust or the forgiveness of our victims, but to do now what we should have been doing from the very beginning in providing community services would teach us further the morals and values so necessary as a productive member of society,” Potter wrote.
AN EARLY RELEASE ISSUE? OR A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE?
Much was made last week over the early release of a 22-year-old man named Kevin Peterson from Sacramento County Jail. Peterson was supposed to serve a four month sentence for whacking a family member in the face with a broom. Instead he was released 18 days early as part of the budget-cutting measures that California counties have put into place since January 1st. (Many counties, however, most notably Los Angeles County, had been shaving time of short jail sentences for the last several years in order to reduce overcrowding at a county level.)
Anyway, within hours after his release, Petersen allegedly attacked a female counselor and attempted to rape her.
And within minutes of Peterson’s rearrest, commentators and partisans were shrieking about the crime wave to come that he represented.
However one enterprising TV station—FOX40 News—bothered to look a little deeper into the story. Most notably, they interviewed Peterson in jail. And guess what? Even Peterson admitted he should be locked up—but not in a jail. He needs to be in a psychiatric facility, he said..
(On the right side of this page, you’ll find a longer version of the video.)
A confused Peterson says he doesn’t remember attacking anyone. He does however remember hearing voices.
“I’m a paranoid schizophrenic,” he said to the TV reporter.. He was hoping to get taken to the Sacramento Mental Health Evaluation Center so that he could get some help. He should be off the street, he said—but in a mental institution, not in jail.
Bottom line: Peterson’s alleged near rape has everything to do with the inadequate mental health screening and treatment inmates receive in county jails.
…But exactly zero to do with the issue of early release.
PS: On the issue of prison population reduction, the Press-Enterprise had a remarkably sane Op Ed on the matter.
THE FIGHT OVER DE-CLAWING CALIFORNIA’S CATS: IT MAY NOT BE OVER .
Annenberg grad student Chris Pisar of Neon Tommy reports that the much ridiculed rush last year by the LA City Council to pass a cat declawing ordinance wasn’t so ridiculous after all. The rush had to do with getting the damn thing passed before a brand new state law went into effect that would have prevented cities and counties from passing their own such regulations.
The California Veterinary Medical Association, which provided the main opposition to the LA ordinance, still wants to do away with the ban. Critics say the vets opposition to the ban is for monetary reasons not for moral ones. (Declawing is a pricey procedure.)
Here’s the rest.
A LOUSY BANK ROBBER BUT GREAT JAILHOUSE LAWYER
In Tuesday’s New York Times Adam Liptak has a story of a mediocre bank robber who, during his decade in prison, made good use of the prison library and transformed himself into a stellar jail house lawyer.
Here’s how it begins:
Shon R. Hopwood was not a particularly sophisticated bank robber.
“We would walk into a bank with firearms, tell people to get down, take the money and run,” he said the other day, recalling five robberies in rural Nebraska in 1997 and 1998 that yielded some $200,000 and more than a decade in federal prison.
Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars: an accomplished Supreme Court practitioner.
Read the rest.
WANT TO READ SOMETHING REASONED AND SENSIBLE ON THE ISSUE OF TRYING KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED IN NY?
Try Jane Mayer’s excellent article on the controversy in next week’s New Yorker.
Photo of jailhouse lawyer Shon Hopwood by Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times