Kids, Weapons, and Trauma…Ezell Ford…”Breaking Barriers”…and SF Sheriff Lets More Kids Visit Jailed ParentsJune 10th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
STUDY: EXPOSURE TO WEAPONS, VIOLENCE LINKED TO TRAUMA, NEGATIVE OUTCOMES
In the US, one-in-four kids between the ages of 2-17–a “disturbingly” high number—have been exposed, either as a victim or a witness, to weapon-related violence, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers collected data from 2011 on 4114 kids from the Second National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence.
One in 33 kids have been personally assaulted with a gun or a knife. Children who had experienced weapon-involved violence were more likely to have more than one instance of victimization in the past year. Kids were also faced with more adversity in that year, and severe symptoms of trauma in just the past month.
The study calls for more rigorous data research on the effects of weapon exposure on kids, including the role it plays in kids’ mental health and wellbeing:
…there is still much we do not know about youth weapon exposure and firearm exposure in particular. For example, firearm factors may play into the victimization accumulation cycle in various, yet undetermined, ways. Negative firearm exposures, for example, may make particularly salient or traumatizing contributions to the cycle. Firearm fascination, acquisition, and carrying may be a response among highly exposed children and youth, which may in turn aggravate the cycle. Positive firearm experiences, on the other hand, for some youth may moderate or buffer the effects of victimization exposure. Findings from the current study suggest the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the range of firearm exposures for youth and the contexts that increase risk of harm and victimization.
LAPD COMMISSION ISSUES DECISION ON EZELL FORD FATAL SHOOTING
On Tuesday the Los Angeles Police Commission determined that one officer acted outside of department policy throughout the confrontation that ended in the death of Ezell Ford last August. The other officer involved acted improperly by drawing his weapon the first time (the second was deemed justified), according to the commission.
For backstory, Ford, a mentally ill and unarmed man, allegedly grabbed for one of the officers’ guns during an “investigative stop” in South LA, and was shot three times by the two officers.
The commission used two reports—one from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who found the officers to have acted within department policy, and one from the Inspector General, who said the shooting was justified, but that the officers should have approached Ford differently.
The commissioners made their decision after hearing emotional, and sometimes heated, public testimony, including from Ford’s mother, who begged for the cops to be disciplined in the name of justice.
Now, Chief Beck will have to decide how, and whether, to punish the officers.
The New York Times’ Jennifer Medina has the story. Here’s a clip:
The decision by the committee, known as the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, was initially met with confusion, as angry observers yelled “murderers, murderers” at the commissioners. Steve Soboroff, the commission’s president, said the panel’s findings would be sent to the district attorney, who is conducting a separate investigation and would ultimately decide if charges against the officers were warranted.
Los Angeles has a long history of tense relations between the police and the black and Latino communities, and many community leaders worried that a ruling absolving the officers would set off unrest. Occurring last summer, just two days after the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., Mr. Ford’s death set off a wave of protests here.
“Today the system worked the way it is supposed to with an impartial civilian review board,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a news conference at City Hall on Tuesday. While he praised the changes the city has made since the riots of 1965 and 1992, he acknowledged that deep divides remain in the city. “I know it is a painful moment to be a young Angeleno,” he said. “You should always feel safe, you should always feel strong here as well.”
“Ezell Ford’s life mattered, black lives matter,” Mr. Garcetti continued. “We have a system that can work. Every life matters but due process matters, too.”
NEW LA COUNTY PROGRAM AIMS TO BREAK RECIDIVISM CYCLE FOR HOMELESS OFFENDERS
Through the LA County Department of Health Services, 300 people who are homeless and on probation for a felony will receive housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, employment services, and a personal caseworker.
Approximately 1,400 probationers are homeless out of the 8,000 who are under LA County supervision due to AB 109 (the 2011 legislation that shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders away from the state to the 58 counties). The program, Breaking Barriers, will provide full or partial rent for up to two years, by which time, the program will have hopefully helped participants find employment and become independent.
A combined $6.2 million from the county probation department and the Hilton Foundation will fund the program, which may be the first of its kind, nationwide. If the RAND Corporation determines the program to be successful, probation will likely increase funding and expand to serve more homeless probationers.
KPCC’s Rina Palta has more on the program. Here are some clips:
The program will target high and medium risk offenders recently out of state prison. Under 2011′s AB 109 realignment law, those offenders are supervised by county probation departments, as are offenders on felony probation. Of the 8,000 AB 109-ers under supervision in L.A. County, about 1,400 are homeless.
Previously, such offenders were steered into 90-day transitional housing with services, and were then expected to move on. Perez said that wasn’t working.
“Especially for some of these folks who have significant substance abuse issues or mental health issues, or significant medical issues,” she said. “Ninety days isn’t sufficient time to enable anybody, really, to address all of the issues needed to stabilize these folks.”
Tyler Fong, program manager with Brilliant Corners, a nonprofit hired to find housing for the participants, said people who work in social services have known for years that being homeless is essentially a full-time job.
“That takes up a huge percentage of someone’s time, and stress, and effort, that they aren’t able to focus on improving their lives,” he said.
Fong also works on Housing for Health, a county health department program up and running for about two years. It gives longterm rental support to patients who frequent the public health system.
That approach attracted the attention of the Probation Department, which asked to make use of the same structure to work with its own population. DHS Director Mitch Katz has said he wants to eventually make 10,000 rental subsidy vouchers available to homeless Angelenos who are frequent users of county services.
IN AN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE, SF SHERIFF, CHANGES POLICY SO 16-YEAR-OLDS CAN VISIT INCARCERATED PARENTS ALONE
On Monday, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi lowered the minimum age to sixteen-years-old for kids visiting parents in jail. No other California county allows jail visitors under the age of eighteen, unless accompanied by an adult. Mirkarimi says his goal is to make it easier for SF kids who don’t have a loved one who can take them to see their incarcerated parents, and to hopefully make family reunification easier when parents are released back into their communities. There are approximately 1,000 children in San Francisco with a parent locked up in county jail.
The sheriff is also establishing “goodbye visits” for kids whose parents are being transferred to state prisons.
SF Gate’s Vivian Ho has more on the policy changes. Here’s a clip:
“We think it’s time that the U.S. criminal justice system from the municipal, state and federal level stops punishing the children of incarcerated parents and guardians,” Mirkarimi said. “The effect has been well-studied and proven, but not well-acted upon — children of the incarcerated have a higher probability of running afoul of the law later on, and also suffer and struggle in ways that I don’t think our society fully understands.”
A systemwide study by the Bridging Group, a consulting organization that studies the effects of incarceration, found that of the 907 San Francisco County Jail inmates it surveyed, 536 were parents or primary caregivers for children under the age of 25.
There are currently about 1,200 inmates in San Francisco County’s jails, according to the sheriff’s department.
However, of the 536 inmates with children, only 34 percent of them reported having jail visits from their kids. Many blamed that on travel and other costs they couldn’t afford, and conflict with caregivers.
Mirkarimi’s new policy will also establish what are known as “goodbye visits” — in-person meetings for children whose parents will be transferred to state prison. The meetings give the children and parents more time to bond while they strategize on how to communicate while the parent is farther away.
“This allows kids to really understand what is happening, and also allows people to make plans for how to stay connected,” said Sarah Carson, a manager with One Family, which advocates for incarcerated parents and their families. “Because when you get out of prison, the most important thing is that you have family to come home to. That is what makes recidivism rates go down — when there is something there that holds you.”