CA Cuts Prison Guard Training Time, a San Quentin Lawsuit, Graduating LA Foster Students Honored, and an Award for “Drugging Our Kids”June 25th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
STARTING NEXT MONTH, CALIFORNIA PRISON GUARDS TRAINING WILL BE SHORTENED BY A MONTH—FROM 16 WEEKS TO 12 WEEKS
Through an agreement between California Correctional Peace Officers Association and Gov. Jerry Brown, the training academy for California prison guards will be shortened from 16 weeks to 12 weeks starting in July.
The shortened training will allow for the CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation to graduate an additional class of around 250 each year, to help the department reach its three-year goal of hiring 7,000 new prison guards.
Some classes will be cut and some will be merged to account for the lost four weeks.
Concerned about their already maligned profession, CCPOA agreed to the shorter training on the condition that a training standards oversight commission be relaunched and funded.
The Sacramento Bee’s Jon Oritz has more on the issue. Here are some a clips:
CCPOA under founding President Don Novey, for years fought for a 16-week academy as part of an agenda to elevate the professionalism and safety of front-line prison staff. Part of the calculus was money: The more training and expertise required for the job, the stronger the argument for higher compensation.
So the union was well-positioned in the 1980s when lock-’em-up laws in California sparked a boom in prison construction and a demand for officers to staff those facilities. By the early 2000s, the confluence of politics and policy made California’s prison officers among the highest-paid in the nation.
Today, California state correctional officers earn from $3,172 per month at entry level to $6,644 per month for the most senior employees. The figures do not include officers’ overtime, which has climbed as the state has run short of staff.
Over the last several years, however, court orders to cut the state’s prison population and a shift to incarcerating more offenders in local jails reduced the number of inmates in state prisons. The state also shut down its cadet academy in Galt, effectively choking off the pipeline of new employees to replace hundreds who retired each month. Overtime among prison officers soared.
The union agreed to the shorter academy in exchange for reviving and reconstituting the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which lost funding during the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration.
The new six-member board will be comprised of three seats appointed by the governor and three rank-and-file seats. Before the board went dormant, the department appointed three members and the governor appointed three – essentially making the panel an extension of the executive branch.
SAN QUENTIN DEATH ROW INMATES SUE OVER SOLITARY CONFINEMENT CONDITIONS
Six San Quentin death row inmates held in “extreme isolation” have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jerry Brown, CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard and San Quentin Prison Warden Ronald Davis alleging cruel and unusual punishment.
The inmates, who are classified as gang-affiliated, are held between 21-24 hours per day, receive three showers per week, and say they don’t get enough sleep they are subjected to frequent suicide checks.
Courthouse News Service’s Nick Cahill has more on the issue, including the controversial gang-affiliation designation. Here’s a clip:
All are classified “Grade B” prisoners, subjecting them to “stark and cruel deprivations,” including 21 to 24 hours per day in their cell, just three showers per week and lack of sleep due to constant suicide checks by jailers.
Lopez claims that all condemned prisoners deemed to have gang affiliations are classified Grade B, whether they were in a gang or not. He claims the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation violates their constitutional rights by making them Grade B prisoners though they have not participated in gang activity at San Quentin.
“The condemned unit has no process or quality control measures for assessing whether plaintiffs and the class remain active participants in prison gangs,” the complaint states. “As a result, plaintiffs and the class are often assessed as having gang allegiances because of their ethnicity and the region in which they grew up.”
Though prison regulations require review of Grade B classification every 90 days, Lopez calls it a “meaningless and perfunctory process.” Though several plaintiffs have no disciplinary infractions at San Quentin, they are subjected to Class B restrictions anyway.
STUDENTS IN FOSTER CARE MOVING ON TO HIGHER ED RECEIVE RECOGNITION, SCHOLARSHIPS AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
More than 170 high-achieving students in foster care received scholarships and were honored at the Walt Disney Concert Hall late last week. In California, only 58% of foster kids graduate high school. Beating the odds, all students honored graduated high school with a 2.8 or higher, and are heading off to college or a vocational school.
KPCC’s Rina Palta and Chronicle of Social Change’s Holden Slattery reported on the event and some of the incredible challenges overcome by the students honored.
Palta has the story of quadruplets who were shuffled around in foster care before reuniting and completing high school together. Here’s a clip:
“People definitely look down on us and think you’re not going to make it out of college and stuff – we’re going to end up in jail, we’re going to end up homeless,” said Bianca Lucci, the fraternal sister amongst the quadruplets. “But I believe that’s not true. As long as you have determination and you work hard in school, you’ll achieve your goals.”
The quadruplets are among 175 high-achieving foster children who were honored with scholarships at an event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Thursday.
They entered the foster care system after abuse and abandonment.
Madison Lucci remembers the exact moment — on Christmas Eve — when the police showed up to take the girls from their home, where they had been left alone.
“Christmas is supposed to be when you’re with your family,” she said. But that day, the sisters were split up and spent the next few years in and out of foster homes and group homes. In 2011, they all finally settled in Rancho Palos Verdes, where they all graduated from high school this month.
Slattery follows the story of Destinee Ballesteros, a straight A student with dreams of becoming Chief Supreme Court Justice whose life was turned upside down when she entered foster care. Here’s a clip:
Destinee was accepted into the competitive magnet program at AV Soar High School, located right on the Antelope Valley College campus in Los Angeles County, where she could challenge herself with college classes.
But during those high school years, her mother began using methamphetamines, which made her hallucinate, Destinee explained in a recent interview. Destinee’s mother would take her and her brother away from their home to escape from “unsafe people.”
“Even though we had a house, she thought it was unsafe,” Destinee said. “So we would bounce from hotels to shelters.” Destinee started missing school because she had no way to get there, and because caring for her younger brother became her top priority.
After a hotel clerk called the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), a social worker determined that the two siblings had been neglected. Destinee and her brother entered foster care, and Destinee was transferred to a different school. There, during her junior year, she got her first F.
“It [getting an F] was really hard,” Destinee said. “It really broke my heart, but then again, I realized that sometimes you’ve got to fail in order to appreciate the success.”
POWERFUL “DRUGGING OUR KIDS” DOCUMENTARY RECEIVES NATIONAL AWARD
San Jose Mercury reporter Karen de Sá and photojournalist Dai Sugano have won a well-deserved Edward R. Murrow Award for the country’s best news documentary video by a large online organization, for their series “Drugging Our Kids,”—a powerful investigation into the excessive use of psychotropic medications to treat California kids in the foster care system.
De Sá and Sugano’s five-part series (which won three other national awards) sparked important legislative change and reforms. Read the series and watch the documentary: here.