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California budget

California Budget Highlights: Prop. 47 Savings, $$ for Combatting Homelessness, and More

May 19th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


California Governor Jerry Brown has increased the estimated savings from Proposition 47 by $10 million—from $29.4 million to $39.4 million—in the latest budget revision for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

If you’ll remember, voter-approved Prop. 47 reduced six non-serious property and drug-related felonies to misdemeanors, and was supposed to save the state more than $100 million each year.

That savings is earmarked for mental health and drug rehab programs for criminal justice system-involved people, efforts to reduce truancy and help at-risk students, and for victims services.

The governor’s January budget calculated those Prop. 47 savings to be $29.3 million. A report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that Brown’s budget under-counted the dollar amount Proposition 47 saved the state by about $100 million, overestimated costs, and diverted money from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund—where all the Prop. 47 savings is supposed to end up—to send it back into the prison system. The ACLU and other advocates have also criticized Gov. Brown for trying to put Prop. 47 money back into prisons by subtracting certain supervision and court costs from the Prop. 47 savings total.

This latest budget draft now heads to the California Legislature, where it will go through a period of negotiations, during which time lawmakers will have to step in and decide what savings Prop. 47 is actually responsible for producing.

The LA Times editorial board says that Gov. Brown may still be undercounting the savings. The Times board points out that the LA City Council, LA County Board of Supervisors, and others have urged Gov. Brown to go with the savings calculated by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and calls on lawmakers to hold the governor’s bureaucrats accountable, and make sure the dollars go to the rehabilitation and anti-recidivism efforts, as voters intended. Here’s a clip:

…Proposition 47 is right on schedule, and local leaders know it. The state calculates prison savings on an annual basis, and the first full year under the ballot measure does not end until June 30. Counties and cities will then submit their requests, and funds will begin flowing later this year.

The problem is not that the money is late — it’s not — but rather that Gov. Jerry Brown may be lowballing the actual savings figure. Instead of the $150 million that the state legislative analyst projected would be saved, the governor identified only a small fraction of that in his January spending plan. In the revised budget he released last week, he upped the figure — but only to $40 million, well short of the mark.

There are many ways to crunch numbers. Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, for example, used to be an L.A. City Hall bureaucrat and learned to cover up savings in order to keep it on hand for other projects.

“I know how to hide money,” he told a gathering of residents and activists at the Community Coalition in South Los Angeles recently. “I know how to block budgets.”

Jones-Sawyer promised to use that savvy to press the governor’s bureaucrats for a larger, more realistic savings figure to be distributed under Proposition 47.

We take him at his word — and hold him to it. The same goes for other members of the Legislature, whose home counties and cities need the funding guaranteed under the ballot measure. It falls to them, in the few weeks before the budget is finalized, to go to bat for California voters who have demanded a fundamental shift in criminal justice spending from prison expansions to locally based crime prevention and anti-recidivism programs.


In the May budget revision, Gov. Brown has also endorsed a $2 billion bond plan to tackle chronic homelessness among California’s mentally ill population.

“Homelessness plagues communities across our state so I’m very pleased Governor Brown has embraced the Senate’s bipartisan ‘No Place Like Home’ proposal to direct $2 billion from the Prop 63 bond to bolster local efforts to tackle this crisis,” said California Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

The plan would have to win a two-thirds majority vote in the state Legislature to pass. Then, the state would use money from the bonds to fund affordable housing and homelessness services—via a Mental Health Services Act Supportive Housing Program and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program. Brown’s May budget revision calculates a first year funding for these programs of $267 million in bond revenue.


Gov. Brown also wants to add $2 billion to the state’s rainy day fund, with an eye toward an expected economic slowdown in California’s future. “The surging tide of revenue has begun to turn,” Brown said. “Quoting Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper: ‘It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.’”

Instead of putting that $2 billion toward the rainy day fund, Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California, says that money should be spent on important programs for children and families that suffered during the recession.

“During the recession, Governor Brown and the California Legislature balanced the budget on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable children and families, by cutting basic needs CalWORKs grants for families, eliminating child care slots, and ending successful children’s health programs,” said Johnson. “Now is the time to use the state’s budget surplus to protect and invest in essential programs to level the playing field for California’s children…”

The revised budget does a disservice to poor communities of color by not increasing funding for “prevention-based services and early education,” according to the Advancement Project.

“The May Revise proposes to abolish transitional kindergarten, thereby eliminating early learning opportunities – rather than expanding them,” the Advancement Project said in a statement. “This is especially wrong headed in the light of the growing science supporting early learning as well as the recent polling showing that Californians overwhelming support greater early learning spending, not less.”

Posted in California budget, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Miscalculated $$ From Prop. 47, OpenJustice, and “Mariposa and the Saint”

February 18th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


Governor Jerry Brown has undercounted the dollar amount Proposition 47 is saving the state by about $100 million, according to a report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Gov. Brown’s January budget tallied net savings from Prop. 47, which reduced six non-serious felonies to misdemeanors, at $29.3 million—$62.7 million in savings from smaller caseloads, fewer hospital stays, and fewer prisoners, minus $33.4 million in extra parole and resentencing costs. The budget allocated the net savings of $29.3 million for mental health and rehabilitation, truancy and dropout prevention efforts, and victims services (via the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund).

There are a few problems with those figures, according to the Legislative Analyst’s report: Brown’s budget underestimates savings, overestimates costs, and diverts money from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund—where all the Prop. 47 savings is supposed to end up—and sends it back into the prison system.

The Legislative Analyst report estimates another $100 million in savings should be funneled into the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund, and says legislators could earmark more money for SNSF programs and services even if the official Prop. 47 savings calculations do not change.


On Wednesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the launch of the second phase of the state’s open data website in an effort to bring transparency to the state’s criminal justice system by publishing crime and policing statistics.

The new version of the OpenJustice website shows city, county, and state crime and arrest rates, deaths during arrest, deaths in custody, and the number of law enforcement officers killed or assaulted. Users can view data on interactive maps and graphs, and sort data groups by race, gender, and age.

“This data helps clarify a simple truth: too many boys and young men of color are being arrested and killed by police,” said AG Harris. “By releasing vast amounts of criminal justice data, OpenJustice v1.1 adds numbers and facts to the national debate on police-community relations.”


After meeting in a California prison, Sara “Mariposa” Fonseca and activist/artist Julia Steele Allen corresponded while Mariposa was locked in solitary confinement for fifteen months for possessing a pair of tweezers. Allen turned the letters from Mariposa into “Mariposa and the Saint,” a powerful play about the havoc prolonged isolation wreaks on a person.

The play caught the attention of law-makers, was performed at the 2015 Ninth Circuit Corrections Summit, and is currently on a national tour.

The Marshall Project’s Alysia Santo has more on the play. Here’s a clip:

Fonseca was sentenced to 15 months in solitary confinement after she was found in possession of tweezers, considered a weapon by prison officials. She then served additional time in solitary — more than two years all together. Fonseca is still incarcerated and is now in a psych unit.

Through Mariposa’s story, the play advocates for an end to solitary confinement. It has inspired hundreds of petition signatures, letters to elected officials, and calls to wardens. Audience members are also encouraged to write to Mariposa with pre-addressed postcards handed out at the end of the show, and Allen said she now receives one or two postcards a day.

Posted in California budget | No Comments »

Governor’s Budget Proposal Banks on a Postponed Overcrowding Deadline…New Federal Guidelines on School Discipline…Must Read LASD Editorials

January 9th, 2014 by Taylor Walker


Counting on a two-year reprieve on a looming deadline from federal judges to reduce the prison population by about 9,000 inmates, Gov. Jerry Brown’s new budget proposal designates more than $23M for substance abuse treatment and mentally ill parolees, $40M for re-entry programs, $62M for prison guard training, and another $500M for new prison facilities. Brown also calls for, among other reforms, split sentencing and expanded parole eligibility for the elderly, mentally ill, and those with serious medical issues. (Go here and here for previous WLA posts on this issue.)

The Sacramento Bee has the story on their Capitol Alert blog. Here are some clips:

The imperative to depopulate prisons led Brown to ask the Legislature last year for $315 million to spend on housing inmates.

But California will spend only $228 million of that in the current fiscal year, the new budget blueprint predicts. The reason for not needing to spend it all?

“The Administration has assumed the court will grant a two-year extension to meet the cap,” the budget document states.

If true, that would buy Brown a substantial amount of breathing room as he seeks to mollify federal judges. If not, the budget proposal states, California will need to spend the full $315 million.


Brown’s proposal would spend $11.8 million on substance abuse treatment and $11.3 million on mentally ill parolees while directing $40 million from the state’s Recidivism Reduction Fund to re-entry programs.

That’s not to say Brown is done pouring money into incarceration capacity. Despite spending $1.7 billion in jail construction, the administration argues there remains a significant need to house offenders. To that end, Brown proposes another $500 million for more facilities with a 10 percent county match requirement.

The LA Times’ Paige St. John, who has been following the Gov. Brown prison-overcrowding saga from the start, also reported on the new proposal. Here’s a clip:

Under the new program, prisoners over 60 years old who have served at least 25 years would be eligible to be considered for parole. So, too, would inmates who suffer severe medical conditions or who are mentally impaired.

Brown’s budget says inmates serving doubled sentences under the state’s Three Strikes law, but whose second offense was not violent, will now be able to shave off a third of their time. Previously, they were limited by law to a 20% reduction.

Brown uses his spending plan to also announce support for split sentences, requiring judges to reduce local jail terms for felons but adding time for community probation. Judges would be able to sentence a felon to jail alone only if they identified a reason. Brown’s budget document says the change will help offenders get access to community services while helping jails reduce crowding.


On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education released meaningful new federal guidelines addressing zero-tolerance school discipline. The guideline package includes resources for training school police and staff on constructive alternatives to kicking kids out of school.

The Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferriss (who has done some excellent reporting on harsh school discipline, here and here) has more on the new guidelines. Here are some clips:

The ideas are a response to mounting concerns that overly punitive discipline is pushing too many low-income and minority students out of schools and toward failure rather than helping them engage academically. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice teamed up in a two-year effort to develop lists of resources and principles that educators have found effective at keeping campuses orderly without resorting to kicking out kids.

The package is intended to help schools chart new practices. Federal officials also emphasize that educators are obliged not to violate students’ civil rights when punishing them. The package also provides resources for school police training and employee training in discipline techniques considered more productive than ejecting kids.


The U.S. departments of Education and Justice both have civil rights offices that have stepped up investigations into complaints of disparate and harsh disciplinary practices affecting special-education students and ethnic-minority children. Complaints have included excessive suspensions of black children compared to white children accused of the same cell phone use violations.

“Everyone understands that school leaders need to have effective policies in place to make their campuses safe havens where learning can actually flourish,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in an announcement Wednesday. “Yet most exclusionary and disciplinary actions are for non-violent student behaviors, many of which once meant a phone call home.”

In his own statement, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder said: “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.”


Al Jazeera America has a worthwhile piece by Molly Knefel about the damage done by still-prevalent policies of dumping kids into the juvenile or criminal justice system for minor offenses and what activists are trying to do to change these counter-productive systems. Here are some clips:

When Marvin Bing Jr. was 12 years old, he was living in a foster home in central Pennsylvania.

One day he decided to take a kitchen knife to school in his book bag. He didn’t have any intention to use it, but he thought it would seem cool to classmates. When the teacher noticed kids gathered around Bing’s desk, oohing and ahhing, he was sent to the principal’s office.

But that was just the beginning. Bing was arrested, taken away in a police car and sent to a juvenile holding facility to await a court date. “It was lockup,” he said. “I had a cell. It was all blue. I had a little bed and a steel locked door. The whole thing, at 12 years old.”

In a single moment, something that happened in school changed Bing’s life, yanking him into the justice system — all before even becoming a teenager. But he is far from alone.

On any given day in the United States, about 70,000 children are held in residential juvenile centers like the one Bing was sent to, and at least two thirds of them are charged with nonviolent offenses. Another 10,000 are detained in adult prisons and jails. Each year, as many as 250,000 youths under 18 are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults.

In both the juvenile and adult systems, some critics say, young people are at a high risk of physical and sexual abuse, educational disruption and psychological trauma as they deal with institutions that might be unsuited to dealing with their problems and are focused more on punishment than on rehabilitation. “The more you treat people as criminals at younger and younger ages, the more damage you’re likely to do to their psyche,” said Niaz Kasravi, director of the criminal-justice program at the NAACP.


Once a child is arrested, access to education may be limited or nonexistent, depending on the detention center. Wendy Greene, director of North Carolina Prison and Legal Services’ incarcerated-youth advocacy project, represents young people and is familiar with confinement conditions in the state. One of her clients — whom she declined to name — is a special-education student awaiting a court date in a North Carolina county jail. Though he has not been convicted of a crime, he has been there for months.

According to Greene, law-enforcement officials have refused to allow the local public school to send in a teacher to work one on one with the child, claiming there’s no space for such an arrangement. As a result, he has been receiving assignment packets from school but no instruction. She says his work comes back with scores of zero. Regardless of whether he is found guilty, she pointed out, his experience with detention has significantly set back his education.


The LA Times and the LA Daily News each had two particularly good editorials regarding the unexpected resignation of current LA County Sheriff Lee Baca. (The backstory can be found here and here, if you missed it.)

In the first LAT editorial, Robert Greene says that the current sheriff election process and methods of oversight are “untenable” and need to be revamped. Here’s a clip:

…In this county, sheriffs simply don’t get bounced from office by voters. We have 10 million people, more than any other county in the nation, more than 42 states. Of those, close to half live in cities with their own police departments, so those voters don’t really have much reason to care who gets elected sheriff or whether the incumbent is doing a good job. Getting the attention of those voters is nearly impossible. Actual political and democratic oversight of the Los Angeles County sheriff has crumbled while the form — the veneer — of democracy persists.

Baca is the only Los Angeles County sheriff in modern times to get the job by defeating the incumbent, and he managed that in large part because the incumbent was dead (Sherman Block died in the final days of his 1998 campaign for reelection). Other than that instance, voters in this county haven’t removed a sheriff in living memory. The last time an L.A. County sheriff was ousted was in 1921 — and that wasn’t by the voters but by the spork, the Board of Supervisors. History records that the sheriff resigned.

Baca’s resignation follows at least the first part of the more common practice for sheriffs. For the pattern to be complete, he would have to name his own successor and the Board of Supervisors would have to rubber-stamp it, leaving voters with an incumbent to return to office.

Perhaps the sheriff should be elected but subject to removal by the board; or appointed by the board but subject to periodic approval by the voters, as with Superior Court judges; or appointed by the board but with carefully designed oversight. Like an inspector general. And a commission. Any of those moves would require a statewide vote.

And here’s a clip from what the Times’ editorial board had to say about Baca’s exit (also well worth a full read-through):

Even the most honorable deputies in a department struggling with a corrupted culture need to know that the old ways will not be tolerated. They must see persistent attention to the department’s problems, not the intermittent public focus that comes with elections or verdicts, or the occasional critique or initiative offered by the Board of Supervisors. Deputies must know they are working under a sheriff with the highest integrity, subject to a workable system of oversight.

Baca’s departure will allow for a more sweeping revamp of the department. But county leaders and the public should not view a change at the top, by itself, as sufficient. Baca was a problem, but he was not the only problem. He may not have been up to the task of balancing politics and law enforcement, and he may have been too flawed or tired or incompetent to imbue his entire force of deputies with his stated vision, but for any Los Angeles County sheriff to do better in a strange job that combines elected politics with jail management, mental health care, inmate rehabilitation and law enforcement, there must be a system of oversight that doesn’t rely merely on federal probes and periodic elections.

Exactly who the new sheriff will be and just how an effective oversight system will be structured should become the central debate of the sheriff’s race over the coming year. Candidates should make clear not merely how they would eliminate inmate abuse and misconduct by deputies but how and where they would draw the line between their own independence as sheriff and their accountability for reform.

The LA Daily News’ editorial board calls for a strong candidate for sheriff and permanent civilian oversight of the department. Here’s a small clip from the opening:

Lee Baca’s sudden resignation comes as a pleasant surprise. Now, with the old sheriff out of the way, Los Angeles County can get on with choosing new leadership for the nation’s largest sheriff’s department and cleaning up the scandals in its law-enforcement force and jail staff.

But let’s be clear: This cleanup is a huge task. As Baca departs, the culture of violence and corruption that developed in his 15 years in charge remains. It will take both a strong successor and forceful oversight to repair the damage…

And, in an op-ed for the Daily News, Long Beach city prosecutor Doug Haubert throws his weight behind Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who is expected to announce soon whether he will join the race. Here’s a clip:

Sometimes, police get blamed for everything, and rarely do they get the credit they deserve. I watched as Chief McDonnell slowly built up a confidence level within the department and the community. That’s the kind of thing the county could use right now.

Also, the chief came in at the worst budget time imaginable. His first days on the job, he saw his department’s budget cut from under him, like a carpet ripped out from under his feet. I know because I came into my office under the same circumstances, one-third of my prosecutors have been cut from my department.

The chief showed grace under pressure, and that’s the kind of mettle needed in the next sheriff. I don’t envy the current sheriff, nor the next one. However, we will need someone with the courage to make tough decisions and take responsibility for those decisions. I can’t think of a better person to do this than Chief McDonnell.

Posted in California budget, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, juvenile justice, LASD, prison, School to Prison Pipeline, Sheriff Lee Baca, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 34 Comments »

The State of the State…Innovative School Strategy in Oxnard,

January 25th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Governor Jerry Brown’s state of the state speech, delivered Thursday morning was inspired and inspiring, quirky, literary, with Old Testament flourishes, and mostly policy-free, but it set the tone for a clear direction. “A political speech like no other,” wrote Steven Harmon of the Oakland Tribune, ” “delivered by perhaps the one politician who could pull it off.”

The speech has been analyzed by every newspaper around the state, so rather than add to that stack I’ve simply reproduced a few of my favorite snippets, all of them pertaining to education.

We seem to think that education is a thing–like a vaccine–that can be designed from afar and simply injected into our children. But as the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”

This year, as you consider new education laws, I ask you to consider the principle of Subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level……Subsidiarity is offended when distant authorities prescribe in minute detail what is taught, how it is taught and how it is to be measured. I would prefer to trust our teachers who are in the classroom each day, doing the real work – lighting fires in young minds.

With regard to higher education:

….tuition increases are not the answer. I will not let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities.

About giving schools and school districts extra funds based need.

This formula recognizes the fact that a child in a family making $20,000 a year or speaking a language different from English or living in a foster home requires more helpEqual treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice.

In case you didn’t see or hear Jerry’s speech, here’s the full text.


Jason Formanek at the Ventura County Reporter has the story. Here are some clips:

The recent tragedy in Newtown has sparked heated debates about gun control and school-related violence. There is a lot of talk, but what’s actually being done?

“In light of what happened in Connecticut, everybody’s talking about security,” said Anna Thomas, principal of Marina West Elementary School in Oxnard. “We have to be proactive and look at how we’re preventing those sorts of things.”

To do this, Marina West has incorporated an educational program created by Lesson One, a Boston-based nonprofit foundation, into its daily curricula. The program teaches students accountability, self-control and resiliency.

“Each of these skills is equally important, they’re sequential,” said Jon Oliver, program founder and author of Lesson One: the ABCs of Life. “It’s like saying any letter in the alphabet is more important than the others. We need all the skills together.”


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently recognized the program on its list of evidence-based practices for mental health.

Locally, McKinna Elementary has seen an 80 percent reduction in suspensions and a 13 percent increase in standardized test scores since implementing the program. As a result, the Oxnard School District Educational Foundation hopes to bring the program to additional schools.


Posted in California budget, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 4 Comments »

Democrats and Republicans on Criminal Justice Policy, CA Corrections Spending Vs. Higher Education…and More

September 7th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


While the Democratic and Republican parties have an especially large divide on most issues this election year, there are heartening parallels in the realm of criminal justice policy. With both conventions at an end, the Sentencing Project has released a report including a side-by-side comparison of what both parties have to say. Here’s a clip from their report:

Though the United States remains the world’s leader in incarceration — with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — and maintains harsh penalties with intolerable racial disparities, the recently approved Democratic and Republican party platforms indicate ways to make progress on criminal justice reform while increasing public safety. In a number of areas, from reducing recidivism, to enhancing reentry program and drug treatment alternatives to incarceration, the two major parties have taken positions that offer hope for bipartisan reform. Though there is much more progress to be made, we welcome this opportunity to compare each party’s position on criminal justice policy. We hope this memo is helpful for voters and policymakers alike as we forge a path to bipartisan criminal justice reform.

(You can check out the full report here. Also, be sure to check out WitnessLA’s previous post on the GOP platform’s call for better inmate rehabilitation.)


According to a new report by California Common Sense, CA spends about 1,370% more on prisons now than was spent in 1980 due to a soaring inmate population and prison guard salary hikes. In contrast to the steady growth of the prison budget, spending on higher education has dropped consistently over the last 30 years. If the Democratic and Republican parties don’t get their respective acts together to repair our criminal justice system, we will continue to see the prison budget eat away at the education budget.

NBC’s Stephanie Chuang has the story. Here’s a clip:

It’s the first time a group has looked at 30 years worth of data and crunched the numbers to show a long-term trend between state spending on prisons and on higher education, according to Director of Research Mike Polyakov.

California spent $592 million on corrections in 1980, Polyakov said. That spending has jumped to $9.2 billion in 2011.

Meanwhile, higher education spending has decreased. Researchers found that there is a trend to pay University of California and California State University faculty less money than in the past.

“What we found is faculty salaries have decreased about 10 percent since 1990,” Polyakov said.

At the same time, Polyakov said prison guard salaries reached a record high in 2006.

“The average salary we calculated was somewhere in area of $100,000,” he said. “Today, it’s closer to $75,000.”

So even though the officers’ pay has come down in the last few years, CACS researchers found that correctional officers are still making anywhere from 50 to 90 percent above market rate compared to the rest of the country.

Here’s a clip of some of the report‘s key points:

Corrections’ growing slice of the State budget, High Education’s shrinking slice. As CDCR’s share of the State General Fund budget increased steadily through most of the last three decades, higher education’s share declined consistently.

Corrections inmate population explosion driving higher costs. Over the last 30 years, the number of people California incarcerates grew more than eight times faster than the general population. Our calculations show that 55% of the increase in the cost of the state prison system between 1980 and 2012 (after adjusting for inflation) can be traced to this rapid growth.


The second story in an ongoing series by crime author Sue Russell exploring the hows, whys, and solutions to the issue of wrongful convictions takes a look at investigators’ use of misleading specialized knowledge to coerce a confession. (You can find our post about the first story in Sue’s series here.) Here’s a clip:

… ‘Contamination,’ takes place when investigators feed a suspect ‘misleading specialized knowledge’: non-public details of a crime. Later, for a suspect or defendant to merely possess such “insider” information can be misread as highly incriminating.

Presuming the innocent guilty, says Drizin, often stems from flawed interrogation training. Much of law enforcement personnel’s training convinces them that they are tantamount to human lie detectors (see more on this in this series’ next installment) with superior abilities to “read” guilt or innocence from a suspect’s emotional affect or body language. Deception research by social scientists like Bella DePaulo, however, show otherwise.

If detectives lock in on a suspect too early, cautions Itiel Dror of the University College of London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, tunnel vision kicks in along with “escalation of commitment” to their conclusions. And through confirmation bias, the brain seeks facts that confirm existing beliefs while it discounts or disregards information that conflicts.

Meanwhile, many errors in an investigation are effectively buried before a case goes to trial, says Drizin [co-founder of Northwestern University of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth]. They’re simply invisible to the types and level of scrutiny a case typically receives as it works its way through the system.

“Trial prosecutors,” he says, “who are often different than the ones who screen the cases, believe that somebody would not be innocent if they had gotten this far in the system.”

And once a suspect falsely confesses after a coercive interrogation, they’re in deep because post-confession any presumption of innocence simply dies.

When studying DNA exonerations involving false confessions, University of Virginia School of Law professor Brandon L. Garrett, author of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, looked at 32 cases that went to trial and found that ‘misleading specialized knowledge’ was used to help convict innocents in 31 cases.


CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom died Wednesday evening following a Tuesday shootout during a routine traffic stop. It is a painful reminder that law officers risk their lives daily to protect and serve the rest of us.

San Jose Mercury’s Catherine Bowen details the bell-ringing ceremony held for the fallen CHP officer. Here’s a clip:

As part of the statewide flood of support for slain California Highway Patrol Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered Thursday in West Sacramento for a bell-ringing ceremony to honor their fallen brother.

Youngstrom died at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday after being taken off life support at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where he had been listed in critical condition following a Tuesday morning shooting on Interstate 680 in Alamo, according to CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.

Flanked by hundreds of uniformed CHP officers, cadets and other employees, Youngstrom’s wife, parents and children looked on at the CHP Academy as his name was read and the knelling of a memorial bell rang out across the quad.

The 5 p.m. ceremony was part of a tradition that began several years ago in which the bell is tolled at the end of the first business day after an officer is killed in the line of duty, and is a way for employees to honor the officer’s sacrifice and pay their respects, said Fran Clader, CHP director of communications.

Posted in 2012 Election, California budget | No Comments »

Cougar-Killing Head of Dept. of Fish and Game Replaced, State Parks Audit Accelerated…and More

August 10th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


The Dept. of Fish and Game Commission voted Wednesday to replace the department’s current president, Dan Richards, seven months after he shot and killed a mountain lion on a hunting trip in Idaho.

KPCC’s Julie Small has the story. Here’s a clip:

California banned the practice decades ago, but Idaho and other states allow it. Richards has defended his actions as “legal” and proper.

But animal activists and dozens of state lawmakers said as head of the agency that enforces California’s wildlife laws Richards showed “poor judgment.”

Pictures of Richards crouched over his kill that circulated on the Internet didn’t help his case. He further incensed critics when he told KFI’s John and Ken Show the mountain lion tasted “like pork loin.”


Richard’s actions are a sharp contrast to last week’s happier news: two mountain lion cubs were found in the Santa Monica Mountains. They were tagged by the National Park Service and released near their den in Malibu. You can read more about the cubs on the NPS website here.


Last month’s discovery of a hidden $54M surplus in the supposedly cash-strapped CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation caused CA officials to order an expedited audit of the department, Wednesday.

LA Times’ Chris Megerian and Christine Mai-Duc have the story. Here’s a clip:

The review, to be conducted by the state auditor, will examine a hidden $54-million surplus discovered in parks accounts last month and an unauthorized program allowing employees to trade in unused vacation time for more than $271,000 in cash.

“It’s a victory for transparency in state government,” said Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Rocklin), part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who had pushed for the audit.

The parks money, which had been stashed away for at least a dozen years, was found as the state was soliciting donations to keep as many as 70 parks open amid a budget crisis. Some local governments that forked over money to keep parks open have demanded it back, and lawmakers are concerned that the accounting scandal will create a rift between the state and a community of parks supporters.


The intersection of Carlos and Gower in Hollywood will be officially renamed after fallen LAPD Officer Ian Campbell, 49 years after his tragic murder, which became the basis for Joseph Wambaugh’s novel The Onion Field and the subsequent movie.

Here’s a clip from the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s press release:

A dedication ceremony to unveil the sign will be held at Carlos Street and Gower Street in Hollywood at 1:30 p.m. [Friday]. The case known as “The Onion Field” remains one of the great tragedies in LAPD history. On Friday, Officer Ian Campbell will be formally honored, while we keep his partner, Karl Hettinger, in our thoughts.


Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger were assigned to a detail from Hollywood station known as a felony car. On March 9, 1963, both officers were in plainclothes and driving an unmarked police car. Their task was to identify and apprehend persons involved in street felonies such as car burglaries and liquor store robberies. The officers stopped a car containing two ex-convicts, Gregory Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. The suspects “got the drop” on the officers and held them at gunpoint. The suspects demanded the officers to surrender their revolvers and that was done.

The officers were then taken by gunpoint and forced to drive out of town. When the foursome reached southern Kern County, they proceeded off the road to the middle of field where onions were being grown. The two felons believed they had violated the “Lindbergh Law” and thought they would be facing the death penalty when captured. As such, when all four were out of the car, Powell shot Campbell in the face. His own weapon malfunctioned, so Powell used one of the officer’s own handguns to kill Campbell while he was lying defenseless on the ground.


Ian Campbell was a bagpiper. Bagpipes were played at his funeral, and have been at the funerals for all LAPD officers killed in the line of duty since then. Out of this horrible murder was born a lasting LAPD tradition.


Tuesday night the two LA County district attorney candidates, Jackie Lacey and Alan Jackson, squared off in their first debate. Thursday, Lacey announced that she had received the endorsement of Kamala Harris.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the debate.

First photo from Western Outdoor News. Cub photo credited to the National Park Service.

Posted in California budget, District Attorney, LAPD, LAPPL | 8 Comments »

A Brighter Perspective on Realignment, 69 Parolees Arrested Under Operation Guardian, CDCR’s Open Forum on Rehabilitation…and More

July 26th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


According to a new report from the Chief Probation Officers of California, realignment is actually faring better than has been previously reported by news media sources (and even local officials). CPOC collected probation data from all 58 CA counties and found that, in many ways, realignment has statistically eclipsed the old parole system.

AP has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Fewer felons are skipping out on probation under California’s new criminal justice realignment than under the state’s old parole system, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report obtained by The Associated Press [and also by WitnessLA] is the first six-month snapshot of trends in all 58 counties.

It found that less than 4 percent of felons failed to report to their county probation officers after their release from state prison, compared to 14 percent who faced fugitive arrest warrants for failing to report to their parole officers under the old system.

More than 23,000 ex-convicts are supervised at the county level instead of by state parole agents after a law took effect in October to save the state money and reduce prison crowding.

The report by the Chief Probation Officers of California said early concerns that many felons might go unsupervised under the new law appear to be overstated.

Take a look at the Chief Probation Officers of California’s report, as it has more great data (and graphs!).


Meanwhile, the state officials have gotten busy: the CDCR, along with local law enforcement officers, conducted a compliance sweep on 340 parolees with known gang ties. The sweep, called “Operation Guardian” resulted in 69 arrests and large quantities of seized weapons, drugs, and paraphernalia.

The CDCR Star has the press release. Here’s how it opens:

Agents from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and their local law enforcement partners have just concluded Operation Guardian, one of the largest and most comprehensive sweeps in recent years focusing on parolees who have known ties to criminal gangs.

So far, Operation Guardian has resulted in the arrests of more than 69 parolees in Los Angeles County with known gang ties. One compliance check prompted an investigation after a naked parolee was found in bed with three children. There were 59 instances of guns, a shotgun, semi-automatic handguns and ammunition seized. More than 35 knives, four swords and a machete were also confiscated. CDCR agents and their law enforcement partners also confiscated 20 fully grown marijuana plants, 156 grams of marijuana, 30 grams of cocaine, a possible meth lab, drug paraphernalia and hundreds of dollars of suspected illegal drug money. Sixty out of 340 compliance checks are still being tabulated.

“This morning, while many of the potential suspects were still asleep, more than 400 CDCR agents and local law enforcement partners fanned out across Los Angeles County and searched the homes of parolees who are affiliated with criminal street gangs,” CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said. “The number of parolees who were arrested and the number of guns, ammunition and drugs taken off the streets show how important these proactive searches in cooperation with our local law enforcement partners are to public safety.”


On a more upbeat note, the CDCR held a much-needed public forum for suggestions on improving inmate and parolee rehabilitation programs on Tuesday.

Mercury News’ Scott Johnson has the story. Here’s a clip:

The CDCR has tried to reform in years past, but those efforts were stymied, most recently by problems of prison overcrowding and statewide budget shortfalls. But over the past two years, as part of the realignment effort, some 40,000 inmates have been transferred from state prisons to county jails, freeing up space and resources for more aggressive rehabilitation efforts. At the same time, California has set aside $190 million this year alone to improve resources for inmates at all stages of their re-entrance to society. The goal, said Sessa, is ultimately to provide wrap-around re-entry services for at least 70 percent of the current prison population, starting the moment they enter to the first 12 months of their release.

As part of this effort, CDCR plans to build special facilities at three prisons within the next three years where outgoing inmates will receive special attention. Other services will be rolled out once CDCR has heard from the criminologists, community members, ex-offenders and members of the faith-based community who spoke Tuesday.

“We’ve waited so many years, literally prayed, and I wasn’t sure I would still be alive to see this day,” said Leslie Arroyo, 62, the director of the “Open Arms” Transitional Care Facility, speaking of the CDCR’s realignment initiative. Arroyo has worked in prisons across California and says the biggest problem is the inability of inmates to build and sustain lasting relationships with the people who want to help them the most.

“I think this is a beginning, but unfortunately every initiative we’ve seen in the past has gotten lost in the bureaucracy,” Arroyo said. “We are begging you at this point in time, please listen to us; we’re all trying to go in the right direction.”

Kyle Dunson, 44, a supervisor at a Richmond homeless shelter, spent 13 years behind bars for various crimes, including burglary and petty theft. Speaking at the panel Tuesday, he urged CDCR staff members to consider re-implementing programs that once worked, but were cut due to budget issues. He cited one such initiative, the Alternative Sentencing Program, a kind of bootcamp for inmates, which he said resulted in a drastically reduced recidivism rate for participants — 13 percent versus 83 percent for the San Quentin general population. “I think they should reinstate it,” he said. “Until that point, it was the hardest thing in my life.”

Other speakers repeatedly urged the CDCR to implement re-entry classes and programs long before inmates were released.

“We’re releasing men and women into crisis situations,” said Randy Haskins, who runs a ministry for ex-offenders. “Time has stopped for that inmate; it has kept going for everybody else, and that’s a burden we need to help fix.”


The CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation has been threatening closure of 70 CA state parks for quite some time now. Recently, (and after much fund-raising by concerned Californians) it has come to light that Parks and Rec. have been hiding almost $54M from the governor’s budget office.

LA Times has an excellent op-ed on the matter. Here’s how it opens:

Californians are feeling betrayed after learning that the Department of Parks and Recreation, while pleading abject poverty and begging for donors to keep 70 state parks from closing, was hoarding nearly $54 million in special accounts, underreporting its holdings to the state. Much of the money was earmarked for specific purposes, but even the remainder is enough to keep the 70 parks open for close to two years. Some of the donors who generously stepped forward to form nonprofits to run parks complain that they were duped. We on the editorial board were misled into calling for Gov. Jerry Brown to provide more money to keep most of the parks open. Taxpayers feel they were put through the wringer with baseless threats about the closures. (As it turned out, with various deals and fundraising, all but one of the parks are still open.)

The department appears to have concealed the money in two accounts for 12 years, reporting accurate figures to the state controller and inaccurate information to the governor’s budget office, an indication that this was intentional and not just incredibly bad bookkeeping. One account was funded by park fees, the other by fees assessed on off-road vehicles, which must be used for facilities or services for off-roaders. Traditionally, special funds have not undergone the same level of state scrutiny as money from the general fund. But that clearly has to end.


And, more hoopla for Sheriff Baca to address prior to testifying before the jails commission this Friday: LASD Sgt. Bonnie Bryant was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of heisting thousands of dollars from drug investigations.

LA Times has the story. Here’s a clip:

Sgt. Bonnie Bryant III, a 28-year department veteran, allegedly was stealing the cash during investigations, not from evidence lockers, said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The arrest of Bryant on Wednesday afternoon came after a two-week probe by the sheriff’s internal criminal investigators. Whitmore declined to say what stoked suspicions into Bryant, saying the investigation is ongoing.

“This department is bringing people that break the law, that are supposed to represent the law, to justice,” he said.

Posted in California budget, CDCR, criminal justice, LASD, Realignment | 5 Comments »

Edie & Thea v. DOMA…SF Does Smart Realignment…and More LAPD/Chalk Walk News

July 16th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


Edie Windsor, who is now 83, was with the same partner, Thea Spyer, for 44 years. The two women met in 1963, got engaged with a circular diamond broach in 1967. Yet it took until 2007 before they were able to finally get married in Toronto.

It was a bitter-sweet celebration. Thea had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and for 30 years the couple had struggled with the debilitating effects of the progressive disease. By 2007 an increasingly incapacitated Thea was told she likely had no more than a year and a half to live.

She died two years later, in 2009. Not surprisingly, she left her her wife and life-long love, Edie, everything.

New York State, where the women were residents, recognized their marriage, meaning Thea’s estate should have passed unencumbered to Edie.

But the federal government does not recognize gay marriage, in fact it has legislated against it, in the form of the Defense of Marriage Act – DOMA.

As a consequence, Edie had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes.

Octogenarian Edie has not taken this issue sitting down. She sued the feds for the tax money and won. Naturally, the case has been appealed, specifically to the 2nd Circuit, however Edie isn’t waiting around for the appellate decision.

Instead, on Monday, with the backing of the NY ACLU and a long list of amicus briefs, she and her attorneys asked the Supremes to hear her case, which is considered the 3rd major challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.

(It remains to be seen if SCOTUS will take the case.)

Lots of people have the story, but this Village Voice piece by Steven Thrasher has some good side information that other media outlets have missed. (Plus I notice Thrasher’s facts are more….you know….factual than some of the other outlets.)

Here’s a clip:

Last month, the Voice reported about Windsor’s victory in a federal district court here in New York. Although the Obama Administration has stopped defending DOMA, believing parts are unconstitutional, House Speaker John Boehner has directed the Bipartian Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to keep defending it in federal court.

Asked by the Voice what she’d say to Speaker Boehner for seemingly wanting her to be the only person in America he wants to pay more taxes, she replied, ” I think I’d rather not talk to him.”

Some case regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage should be on the docket of the Supreme Court next year, although any such ruling could be limited enough in nature that the issue will go on for years. But both advocates of same-sex marriage, as well as opponents in BLAG, seem to want the Supremes to weigh in, come what may.

The stakes are getting higher, and the effects are getting felt on a broader basis, almost daily with the schizophrenic gap between same-sex marriages being legally performed at the state level which are not recognized by the federal government. Today, Windsor’s estate taxes and her relationship would be treated the same in New York State as if she were heterosexual; but the United States government wouldn’t recognize them at all.

This crisis is growing the fastest here in New York. As NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman wrote in the press release, “The impact of DOMA is felt most dramatically today here in New York,” because, “At least 10,000 same-sex couples have been married in New York since our marriage law went into effect.”

It’s great that they could wed here. But, as Lieberman notes, the Marriage Equality Act is also inadvertently allowing tens of thousands of Americans to enter into a perverse, more acutely obvious state of “second-class citizenship” in the eyes of the federal government.

And speaking of gay marriage and SCOTUS, this fall the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether or not they will take on California’s Prop 8 case.


Now granted, San Francisco has much fewer realignment inmates to deal with than LA does.

But the No Cal county appears to be taking on the realignment challenge with creative fervor, while in many other counties, probation and sheriff’s department officials mostly talk mournfully about the need for more law enforcement and more jails—with LA often appearing to lead the latter uninspiring charge.

Damian Bulwa of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the specific ways that SF is ahead of the curve. Here are some clips:

Under realignment, lower-level state prisoners are released to the supervision of county probation officers rather than state parole agents. San Francisco wants its jails to take custody of these inmates two months before their discharge date.

That way, said acting Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, the county could help them obtain such necessities as housing, job training and driver’s licenses before they hit the streets – “the things they are going to need to be successful.”

Nine months into realignment, San Francisco’s criminal justice leaders are united in embracing the change. They’re seeking to show that traditional incarceration is not the solution for lower-level crime.

“The realignment sky is not falling in San Francisco,” said Wendy Still, who as head of the city’s adult probation department has taken the lead in realignment. She spoke while displaying a blueprint for a $1.3 million, one-stop service center the city plans to open to connect convicts to social services.

Still said the changes would ultimately result in 100 to 200 additional convicts on the streets at any given time rather than behind bars. She acknowledged that there are “bad guys in there” with a history of backsliding, “and they’re going to do some bad things.”

But, she said, San Francisco is managing offenders better than the state had, in part by giving them services they need. She predicted a big drop from a past recidivism rate of nearly 80 percent for state parolees in San Francisco


Public Defender Jeff Adachi and others set up a re-entry council in 2005 to coordinate support for inmates awaiting release. Four years later, the state began giving grants to counties based on their ability to keep people on felony probation from returning to prison.

San Francisco’s adult probation department reduced such transfers by 48 percent [my italics] over two years, earning $2.1 million while overhauling the way it assesses the needs of probationers and links them to services.

Now, the city is moving even more aggressively.

For example, while some counties used state realignment funding to bring in more prosecutors, District Attorney George Gascón [who incidentally used to the the Assistant Chief of Police of the LAPD] hired an “alternative sentencing planner” to help prosecutors steer convicts to job training and drug treatment.

The state gave San Francisco $5.8 million for the first nine months of the program. This year’s award was bumped to more than $17 million.

Anyway, read the rest. As you do, it helps to remember that the majority of the people we put in prison eventually come out and return to our communities—a fact that law-and-order hardliners seem conveniently to forget.

One of the ideas behind realignment is the notion that the counties can do better than the state in enabling people to exit custody better prepared to lead stable and legal lives, instead of dumping them back on the streets far more broken than when they went in (which is what our resoundingly non-rehabilitative state prisons seem to do).

It also should be mentioned that Sheriff Baca’s Education Based Incarceration program is a step in the right direction. However, many, many more steps are needed.


Although not saying that officers did anything wrong, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told the LA Times Joel Rubin that he’s reviewing what happened, and what could have been done better.

Here’s a clip:

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that after an initial review of last week’s skirmish between officers and protesters during downtown’s monthly Art Walk event he believes the department “overall responded appropriately.”

He added that department officials are in the midst of conducting a more thorough review of the night’s events, in which they will look into whether the “hard line enforcement” approach that police took was necessary. “I would much prefer to resolve these things through negotiation and cooperation, rather than hard line enforcement,” he said.

“We will look to see if there were opportunities we missed,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know if this incident could have been handled any better or differently.”

Over at LA Weekly, Dennis Romero talked to LAPD Commander Andy Smith about the issue and Smith pointed out that when the protesters rushed into the streets and blocked the sidewalks forcing other pedestrians into the street, then police have to step in.

Here’s a clip from that coverage.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told the Weekly:

One thing that’s getting lost is, from my understanding, we had people writing on the sidewalks and, because so many were doing it, they were blocking the sidewalk and forcing pedestrians to walk in the roadway.

There were lots of people amassing at Fifth and Spring streets for Art Walk on the warm summer night. So what?

Well, at the July Art Walk one year ago a 2-month-old boy was killed near Fourth and Spring streets after a Cadillac jumped a curb accidentally and hit the infant. Although the child was in his stroller on a sidewalk, some pointed to sidewalk overcrowding and called for streets to be closed for the event.

Cops, then, have been sensitive about keeping people off the streets.

But Smith says the Chalk Walk participants took it further by allegedly ignoring officers’ orders to get out of the way and by then purposely taking over the intersection of Fifth and Spring to start drawing in the street:

They refused to leave, were arrested, and then a whole bunch of people ran out and took over the intersection at 5th and Spring then unlawfully assembled, chalking in the intersection as well. They were rushing out en masse into the street.

Smith said people were given “an opportunity” to walk away without arrest, but many chose to challenge the cops.

Posted in California budget, CDCR, LA County Jail, LAPD, LGBT, Realignment, Sheriff Lee Baca, Supreme Court | 1 Comment »

Chaka Khan’s Juvenile Reentry Program, Four State Parks Are Safe for Now…and More

July 2nd, 2012 by Taylor Walker


“Queen of Funk” Chaka Khan recently launched the “No Excuses National Initiative” in an effort to fight juvenile recidivism through community business mentors. The program partners with Avis Ridley-Thomas (wife of LA Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas) whose program “Days of Dialogue” helps youth recently released from detention facilities reenter the work force.

You can read about No Excuses on the NC WFJA radio station website. Here’s a clip:

“In Los Angeles County, more than 60 percent of all incarcerated youth return to custody after their release,” Khan says in a statement. “These kids need our help.”

As part of the No Excuses National Initiative, local business leaders mentor youngsters upon their release from juvenile detention. A handful of businesses have stepped up to provide support, so now young people throughout Los Angeles will have an opportunity to learn basic skills that will help them land jobs and move ahead.


Four CA State parks that were expected to be shut down Sunday have gotten a reprieve, although not likely for long.

LA Times’ Chris Megerian has the story. Here’s a clip:

But the revised plan means four sites expected to close on Sunday — Benicia State Recreation Area, the California Mining and Mineral Museum, Gray Whale Cove State Beach and Zmudowski State Beach — will keep operating for the time being.

“We had the time over the last 24 hours to review operations and were able to determine they could stay open in the very short term, likely a few weeks,” said Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency.

Stapler said lawmakers created some breathing room by appropriating an additional $10 million in the budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.


A Maine law student, illegally stopped by an officer for carrying a firearm, videotaped the incident and quoted his rights until he was told he was free to go.

The Police State Journal has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a remarkable exchange that shows exactly why it pays to know your rights, a law student in Portland, Maine backed down a police officer who had stopped him for no reason other than he was carrying a gun.

After clearly stating that he did not consent to any searches or seizures, the student asked the officer what crime he had been suspected of committing.

The officer stated that he had received calls about a man carrying a gun.

“That is not illegal. Can I have my gun back and be on my way?” the student notes during the incident while filming it on his phone. “In order to stop me you have to suspect me of a crime.” the man notes.

As Maine is a traditional open carry state, it is perfectly legal and acceptable to carry a firearm openly.

Photo courtesy: Dwight McCann/Wikimedia Commons

Posted in American artists, California budget, Civil Rights, environment, juvenile justice, Reentry | 3 Comments »

“Walstock” Protest Saturday, Gov. Brown Signs CDCR Blueprint Plan…and More

June 29th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


Saturday’s protest against Chinatown’s new planned Walmart, expected to draw 20,000, has some surprising musical advocates. Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and Ben Harper are said to perform at what LA Weekly is now referring to as “Walstock.”

LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Walmart has been bracing itself for what union organizers are calling the largest ever protest against the big-box chain, scheduled this weekend. The store even hosted a traditional Chinese lion dance to ward off bad luck (really). But can Walmart really prepare for the rage against its non-union machine that is … Tom Morello?

As part of Saturday’s massive protest against the Chinatown Walmart (it’s actually planned as a little baby Walmart and not a fullsized, fill-your-SUV-with-crap-you-don’t-need Walmart)…

…labor leaders say Morello is going to perform. Ben Harper will be there with his blend of mellow anti-capitalism as well. And heck, Steve Earle says he’d be there if he wasn’t working in the studio in Nashville.


Gov. Jerry Brown signed a huge corrections reform plan, called Blueprint, into the California budget Thursday. CDCR Press Secretery Jeffrey Callison told WitnessLA that the drop in prison overcrowding has made room in the budget to increase rehabilitation programs. (We’ll be tracking this to make sure it happens.) Blueprint also calls for the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center–an old, cost-ineffective facility that was once a resort for 1920′s-30′s biggest Hollywood names. Callison said that the CDCR will move those beds at the CRC into “more modern cost-effective facilities.”

You can read the press release on the CDCR’s blog. Here’s how it opens:

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on Wednesday signed into law an historic reform of California’s penal system. Known as the blueprint, the plan will cut billions in spending, comply with multiple federal court orders for inmate medical, mental health and dental care, and significantly improve the operation of California’s prison system. The Governor’s approval of the blueprint follows its release by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in April and its approval by the State Legislature yesterday.

The multi-year plan for CDCR will cut billions in spending, enable the State to comply with multiple federal court orders concerning inmate health care, and significantly improve the operation of California’s prison system.

“We appreciate the confidence of the Legislature in our plan for a safer and more efficient correctional system,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “The passage of our blueprint will show the federal courts that California is serious about ending the long-standing lawsuits overseeing much of our operations.”


Social justice photographer Pete Brook’s “Cruel and Unusual” exhibit–displayed in shipping containers in Brooklyn–has brought together photos depicting juvenile and adult incarceration across the nation.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange’s Daryl Kahn has the story. Here’s a clip:

The geo-physicist turned documentary photographer had never been behind the walls of the juvenile detention facilities that dot the outskirts of Los Angeles along the spine of Interstate 5 in the Central Valley, but the following morning he was going to take his camera, walk in, and take pictures of killers and gangsters.

“I expected the worst,” he said. “The worst of the worst; The ones glaring at you in those orange jumpsuits. You see how they’re portrayed. I expected them to be standoffish, imminently violent, unstable. Ready to do anything.”

What he encountered subverted his anxious expectations. He found a teenager, a piano prodigy before he was tried as an adult and put behind bars. The young inmate was tinkering with an electric piano, and in the grey gloom of the facility echoed the same funereal, haunting sonata he heard in the comfort of his son’s nursery the evening before. The inmate played Beethoven with precision and feeling.

“What I met weren’t monsters,” Oshagan, now 47, said. “They were normal kids. I knew the system wasn’t working — I didn’t know exactly how bad it was until I started talking to these kids and seeing what happens to them.”

The pictures Oshagan took that day and for years after from 2001 to 2005, are part of a exhibition called “Cruel and Unusual” on display inside a massive 40-foot long shipping container stacked on the uplands of Pier 3 along the Waterfront in Brooklyn. The show features a collection of pictures by photographers from across the country chronicling life behind bars, some of which were gathered by co-curator Pete Brook during what he calls the Prison Photography on the Road.

You can take a look at Brook’s fascinating work here.

Photo taken from Tom Morello’s Nightwatchmen site.

Posted in art and culture, California budget, CDCR, criminal justice, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), prison policy | No Comments »

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