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children and adolescents


Scorecard Ranks CA Counties by Kids’ Well-Being

November 22nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

A report from the advocacy group Children Now takes a county-by-county look at children’s well-being in California through 28 health, education, child welfare, and economic indicators.

According to the scorecard, approximately 81% of children exited to permanent homes within three years of entering the child welfare system in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Clara Counties. For all five counties, this was a drop in permanent placements from the previous year, and 3% lower than the state average.

Alameda County came in 52nd place with 77% of kids exiting to permanency. In Alameda, San Berardino, Los Angeles, and Santa Clara, African American kids found permanent homes less often than kids of other races.

Statewide, just over three quarters of foster kids between the ages of 12-17 are living in “family-like settings.” Nearly a quarter of kids in the child welfare system are in group homes, transitional housing, and shelters.

Other data collected by Children Now paints a bleak picture of kids’ educational well-being in the state. For example, only 12% of California kids from low-income households have access to state-funded after-school programs.

Just 27% of black third graders and 31% of Latino third graders can read at grade level, compared with 60% and 67% of their white and Asian peers.

One bit of good news is that California’s school districts have made progress toward eliminating harsh school punishment. Sixty-nine percent of suspensions were limited to serious offenses, rather than willful defiance—up from 57% of suspensions the prior year.

“Leaders across California need to take a hard look at the Scorecard data and work together on policy solutions to improve the well-being of children,” Children Now President Ted Lempert said. “We need to invest more in quality early childhood programs, increase access to the health screenings and quality mental, oral and physical health supports that children need, and make sure that all kids, especially kids of color, have access to excellent schools and teachers from the very start.”

Head over to the scorecard for more county-by-county rankings, which can be sorted by county or by any of the individual well-being indicators which include “Three- and four-year-olds who attend preschools,” “Twelfth graders who graduate on time,” “Children who have health insurance for the entire year,” “Schools that have a health center,” and, “Students who are low income and eat free or reduced price meals.”

Posted in children and adolescents, Community Health, Foster Care, health care, race, race and class | No Comments »

Chief Says LAPD Won’t Work with Trump on Mass Deportations, Texting Probation Officers, and LA’s Still Short on Foster Care Beds

November 15th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LAPD CHIEF, LA MAYOR SAY THE CITY WILL NOT HELP DONALD TRUMP DEPORT UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

The LAPD will not change its immigration policies to help fulfill President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Monday.

The police chief told the LA Times that his department will not “engage in law enforcement activities solely based on someone’s immigration status,” or work with Homeland Security on any efforts to ramp up deportations. “That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.”

The LAPD will continue to follow Special Order 40, a 1979 mandate that prevents police from questioning people with the sole intention of determining their immigration status, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. And, if faced with hostility toward the people of Los Angeles, “we will speak up, speak out, act up, and act out,” the mayor said.

Special Order 40 was implemented by then-LAPD Chief Daryl Gates along with the LA City Council, so that undocumented immigrants could feel safe reporting crimes and otherwise engaging with law enforcement without the fear of deportation. Under the mandate, officers are not to arrest or book anyone solely for violating immigration law.

In addition to Donald Trump’s “first 100 days” promise to immediately start deporting more than two million undocumented immigrants is Donald Trump has also vowed to take away US Department of Justice grants from cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco for their “sanctuary city” status.

The LA Times’ Kate Mather and Cindy Chang have the story. Here’s a clip:

During Beck’s tenure as chief, the department stopped turning over people arrested for low-level crimes to federal agents for deportation and moved away from honoring federal requests to detain inmates who might be deportable past their jail terms.

[SNIP]

“Our law enforcement officers and LAPD don’t go around asking people for their papers, nor should they,” [Garcetti] said. “That’s not the role of local law enforcement.”

Capt. Jeff Scroggin, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said it is too soon to say how sheriff’s officials would react to any changes required by the Trump administration. Those changes could be tied to federal funding, he noted.

In the meantime, he said, sheriff’s deputies who patrol the county will continue their longstanding practice of treating all residents the same, regardless of background.

“We just want people to come forward so we have a better community. It doesn’t matter whether they’re an immigrant or going through the process of citizenship,” Scroggin said. “Whatever it is, we want to hear from them. We don’t want them to not cooperate. It’s important to keep the community safe. We never ask about immigration status.”


RIVERSIDE TESTING TEXT MESSAGING PROGRAM FOR PROBATION OFFICERS AND THEIR CLIENTS

The Riverside County Probation Department is testing a unique messaging program that allows probation officers to talk with their clients via text message. Senior Probation Officer Jaime MacLean has been testing the program, which is called CORE (Communicating Openly Requires Engagement), with her 30 clients since March.

Only three of MacLean’s clients have violated their probation in the months since March, compared with an average of around 3 violations per month that usually occur in caseloads of that size in Riverside.

MacLean says it has allowed her to engage with her clients in a way that she hadn’t been able to before that shows probationers that she cares about them and their success. Through the texting program, clients receive important updates, announcements for job fairs and other services, and can quickly communicate with their probation officer if they miss a meeting.

CA Fwd’s Nadine Ono has more on the promising program. Here’s a clip:

Part of building relationships with clients involves texting announcements and reminders for events such as job fairs, sending inspirational messages to lift their spirits in addition, checking-in as part of their probation, or allowing clients to text photos as proof of required activities.

The traditional way of communicating with clients is through phone calls and regular appointments, which is sometimes the only contact. And, if a client misses an appointment, unless he or she can connect by phone, the officer has no way of knowing what happened, which could lead to a violation.

McLean said the extra engagement is paying off. “They’re more willing to be honest via text message.” She explained that it is often hard for clients admit mistakes, such as using drugs or alcohol, over the phone or face-to-face. She added that sometimes clients will meet with her and say everything is OK, but then text her their problem after they leave the office.

“The whole point is trying to figure out how we can work on things together, instead of them feeling like they don’t want to come in and tell their probation officer what’s going on,” said McLain. “If they have a better relationship with me, they’re more willing to figure out what the next steps can be together.”

MacLean said she has one client with bad anxiety who is uncomfortable sitting in the waiting room. With the ability to text, the client can let her know when he has arrived, so that she can meet him at the door and bring him directly to the office. “Otherwise,” she said, “he just wouldn’t show up.” And not showing up could lead to a violation and possibly back in jail.


AS CA MOVES TOWARD ELIMINATING LONG-TERM GROUP HOMES, LA COUNTY STILL STRUGGLES TO BOOST AVAILABLE PLACEMENTS FOR FOSTER KIDS

A recent report from the LA County Department of Children and Family Services reveals that the county continues to struggle to find homes for kids in the foster care system.

While the number of children in foster care decreased by approximately 100, the number of open beds for foster kids also decreased by about the same amount.

DCFS has been working to increase the number of long-term placements with foster families as California moves toward a dramatic overhaul of the group home model slated to go into effect next year.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Christie Renick has more on the report. Here’s a small clip:

The report also showed that there were 1,055 youth in group homes in 2015, a 4.4 percent increase over the year before.

California’s Continuum of Care Reform, which limits the amount of time a child or youth can be placed in a group home or congregate care facility, will take effect in January and will hasten the department’s efforts to find appropriate homes for older foster youth, who are often placed in residential institutions and small group homes.

Posted in Charlie Beck, children and adolescents, DCFS, Department of Justice, Eric Garcetti, Foster Care, immigration, LAPD | 11 Comments »

Gov. Brown’s Bill-Signing (and Vetoing): The Final Roundup

October 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

Friday was the final day for California Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills passed by state lawmakers this year. This is WLA’s third and final roundup of the fates of justice-related bills we’ve followed in 2016. (Here are parts one and two, in case you missed them.)


VETOED: BILL TO PROTECT VULNERABLE KIDS FROM WAIVING MIRANDA RIGHTS

On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1052, a bill introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) that would have restricted the way law enforcement officers can interrogate kids during a criminal investigation, and would have required juveniles suspected of crimes to consult with an attorney before they can waive their constitutional right to remain silent.

Three days later, on Monday, the US Supreme Court chose not to intervene in the case of Joseph H, a 10-year-old from Riverside who was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for the murder of his abusive neo-Nazi father. Joseph waived his Miranda rights and confessed to the murder. When a police officer asked Joseph, who has developmental issues, if he understood his Miranda rights, the boy said, “Yes, that means I have the right to remain calm.”

In refusing to step in, the high court has effectively said that children as young as Joseph are competent enough to validly waive their right to remain silent. (Back in August WLA ran a story by the Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback about SB 1052 and Joseph H’s plight.)

Back in California, Brown penned a particularly long veto message explaining his difficult decision to reject SB 1052 based on an incomplete understanding of the possible “ramifications” of the bill. Here’s a clip:

“In more cases than not, both adult and juvenile suspects waive these rights and go on to answer an investigator’s questions. Courts uphold these “waivers” of rights as long as the waiver is knowing and voluntary. It is rare for a court to invalidate such a waiver.

Recent studies, however, argue that juveniles are more vulnerable than adults and easily succumb to police pressure to talk instead of remaining silent. Other studies show a much higher percentage of false confessions in the case of juveniles.

On the other hand, in countless cases, police investigators solve very serious crimes through questioning and the resulting admissions or statements that follow.

These competing realities raise difficult and troubling issues and that is why I have consulted widely to gain a better understanding of what is at stake. I have spoken to juvenile judges, police investigators, public defenders, prosecutors and the proponents of this bill. I have also read several research studies cited by the proponents and the most recent cases dealing with juvenile confessions.


FELONIES FOR PROSECUTORS FALSIFYING EVIDENCE

Brown signed AB 1909, a bill to rein in prosecutorial misconduct in California by raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for prosecutors who intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense.

“Those individuals who are willing to win a case at all costs, who abuse their power as officers of the court, must answer for their actions,” said the bill’s author, Assemblymember Patty Lopez (D-San Francisco).


JUVENILE JUSTICE DATA-GATHERING

A bill that aims to standardize the way California’s local probation departments gather and report data on the kids in the juvenile justice system, AB 1998, also made it past Brown’s desk on Friday.

Currently, there’s “no state-level capacity to track recidivism or other important outcomes” like education, mental health, and child welfare status. Nor does the current system capture data on outcomes based on types of probation violations, or by types of facilities in which kids are placed (juvenile hall vs. a camp, for example) and length of stay.

The bill, introduced by Assm. Nora Campos (D-San Jose), will create guidelines for how probation departments collect data and share it with the state. Unfortunately, the guidelines cannot be enforced.

“Racial disparity is perhaps the most important issue facing our juvenile justice system, and we need good data to guide our restorative efforts,” Campos said. “AB 1998 will help state and local governments develop better information on how state funds and local programs are contributing to community safety.”


JUVIE LOCK-UP FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Brown also signed SB 1004, which will launch pilot programs in five counties allowing 18 to 21-year-olds convicted of low-level youthful offenses to be placed in juvenile facilities, rather than adult facilities.

The bill, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), will make it easier for young offenders to have access to the education and support systems unique to juvenile detention centers. SB 1004′s pilot programs will be held in Alameda, Napa, Santa Clara, Nevada, and Butte Counties.

In his signing message, Brown calls the bill a “promising start” but calls on lawmakers to also “explore options such as non-custody based diversion.”


SEXUAL ASSAULT

Also in Brown’s signed pile are AB 2888 and AB 701, bill inspired by the very unpopular six-month jail sentence given to Stanford rapist Brock Turner.

Under current law, many felony sex crimes—rape by force, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and others—disqualify those convicted from receiving a sentence of probation. Prison time must be served.

However, some forms of sexual assault—digital penetration of someone who is unconscious or too intoxicated to consent (a la Brock Turner), for example—does not carry a mandatory prison sentence. AB 2888 and AB 701 intend to bring these other nonconsensual sexual assaults onto the same level as what is currently legally considered rape.

Opponents of AB 2888 argued that the bill creates new mandatory minimum sentences, as justice reformers and lawmakers work to reduce the prevalence of mandatory minimums, which disproportionately affect people of color.

Also signed into law were AB 1744, which requires all counties to use the same standardized rape kit, and AB 2499, which forces the state Department of Justice to improve its database, so that victims of sexual assault can track the status of their kits.

Posted in children and adolescents, juvenile justice, Rape, Rehabilitation, Sentencing, Supreme Court | No Comments »

Bill Roundup—Round 2

September 30th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Wednesday, WLA posted a list of noteworthy bills signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown. As the governor decides the fate of dozens of bills each day this week before his September 31 signing (and vetoing) deadline, WLA has gathered a second roundup of relevant justice-related bills we’ve been following this year.


ASSET FORFEITURE REFORM BILL SIGNED

On Thursday, Governor Brown signed an important bill to rein in police officers’ ability to seize money and/or property that may be tied to a crime (usually a drug crime), without due process.

Law enforcement agencies in California and other states circumvent their own states’ forfeiture laws through the controversial federal Equitable Sharing Program, which creates a loophole allowing police, by bringing feds into an investigation, to use seized money as revenue, with only the suspicion that laws have been broken. Across the nation, local agencies are abusing the tool and using it as a cash cow, taking money and property from people who have not been convicted of a crime.

SB 443, introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), blocks law enforcement from bypassing California’s civil asset forfeiture laws. To take advantage of the controversial Equitable Sharing Program without a conviction, the seized cash must be over $40,000.

“Solutions like SB 443 give communities plagued by injustice some relief,” said Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “Low income people simply do not have the means to hire an attorney to get their lawfully earned cash returned to them. When their money gets taken by law enforcement, it’s a family crisis affecting rent, food, everything.”

Last year, a version of the asset forfeiture reform bill could not survive lobbying from law enforcement groups.

“SB 443 will not only rein in the abuse in California, but also offers a blueprint for workable solutions to other states seeking reforms. We applaud Governor Brown for signing it,” said Mica Doctoroff, a legislative advocate at the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy and Policy.


NO MORE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON RAPE

SB 813, a controversial bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for rape and other sex crimes, also made it past Brown’s desk.

The bill, introduced by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), was propelled by the more than 30 rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, many of which have passed beyond the current 10-year statute of limitations. The new law will not, however, apply retroactively.


ENSURING VOTING RIGHTS FOR AB 109ERS

Brown also signed a bill that will clarify and affirm the voting rights of individuals who are locked-up for non-serious felonies serving time in county jails because of California’s prison realignment (AB 109). The bill, AB 2466 by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), also applies to eligible AB 109ers under county supervision.


ANOTHER WINNER FROM ASSM. WEBER: CALGANG DATABASE OVERHAUL

Thanks to the governor’s signature on AB 2298, people will be notified of their impending inclusion on California’s gang database, CalGang, and will have the opportunity to challenge the designation.

People who admit to law enforcement officers that they are gang members or who have gang-related tattoos are added to the database, but associating with known gang members and wearing clothing that might be gang-related also sends people into the CalGang database. Advocates say the vague criteria often have the effect of penalizing people of color for living in the wrong neighborhood.

A recent audit from State Auditor Elain M. Howle found serious errors in the database, which the audit shows lacks necessary state oversight and does not adequately protect the rights of the more than 150,000 people listed in the database.


SIGNED: RESTORATIVE JUSTICE ACT

The Restorative Justice Act, also by Assm. Weber, aims to increase rehabilitation and education programs and make them available for all inmates, not just non-violent offenders.

The bill changes language in a section of the penal code, removing references to punishment as the purpose of incarceration. Now, according to the changes, public safety—which is carried out through rehabilitation, restorative justice practices, and accountability—is the purpose of incarceration.


PROP. 47 DEADLINE EXTENDED

Brown signed another bill introduced by Assm. Weber, AB 2765, , which will extend the deadline for Proposition 47-eligible Californians to get their low-level felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors. The will give Prop. 47ers seeking to reduce their felony convictions—upon a showing of good cause—an extra five years to apply beyond the current November 2017 deadline.


BILLS TO PROTECT VULNERABLE FOSTER CHILDREN FROM DOCTORS WHO PRESCRIBE PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATIONS AT ALARMING RATES

The newly signed SB 1174 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will trigger regular reports on physicians and their prescribing patterns of psychotropic medications, making it easier for the Medical Board of California to confidentially identify, conduct investigations of, and hold accountable doctors who over-prescribe psychotropic drugs to foster children. (For backstory, read Karen de Sá’s five-part investigative series for the San Jose Mercury News, “Drugging Our Kids,” which inspired SB 1174 and a number of other reform bills and policy changes.)

Governor Brown vetoed another bill that would have increased the requirements for juvenile court authorization of psychotropic meds for child welfare system or probation-involved kids. SB 253 by Senator William W. Monning (D-Carmel) would have required, among other safeguards, second medical opinions for prescriptions to foster kids under five, or in cases of multiple prescriptions. Brown called the bill “premature” in a veto message, and said he wants to wait to see the impact of new juvenile court medication authorization rules from a bill signed last year.


VETOED: BILL TO BAN CONTRACTING WITH FOR-PROFIT PRISONS

Governor Brown vetoed SB 1289, a bill introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), which would have banned cities and counties from contracting with (scandal-plagued) for-profit prison companies to run immigrant detention centers in California. All-told, four municipalities, including cash-strapped city of Adelanto, are currently contracting with private detention centers.

“I have been troubled by recent reports detailing unsatisfactory conditions and limited access to counsel in private immigration detention facilities,” Brown wrote in a veto message. “The Department of Homeland Security, however, is now considering whether private contracting should continue for immigrant detention, and if so under what conditions…These actions indicate that a more permanent solution to this issue may be at hand.”


RECORDING INTERROGATIONS

Under current law, officers must record interrogations of minors suspected of committing murder. SB 1389, a bill from Sen. Steven Glazer (D-Orinda), will expand the rule to include adults accused of murder.

The recording of police interrogations is an important safeguard against false confessions, which land innocent people behind bars, sometimes for decades.


UNCORRUPTED AUTOPSIES

SB 1189, signed by Brown on Wednesday, aims to reduce the political pressure leveraged against forensic pathologists, and would require all autopsies to be carried out by a licensed physician and surgeon. Introduced by Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the bill will also force law enforcement agencies to hand over all information about a death to those conducting an autopsy prior to the close of an investigation. This KQED story by Julie Small gives some alarming context as to why this bill is such an important reform.


“YES” TO COMPASSIONATE RELEASE

SB 955, a bill from Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), will give state hospitals the power to grant compassionate releases for terminally ill or incapacitated patients who are charged with a crime but found unfit to stand trial.

Posted in children and adolescents, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Foster Care, Gangs, Restorative Justice, Sentencing, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Better Serving Kids with Locked-up Parents, two LAPD Shootings, and Judge Michael Nash Remembers Ed Edelman

September 21st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

SAN FRANCISCO TAKES STEPS TO HELP KIDS WITH INCARCERATED PARENTS IN SCHOOL AND BEYOND

The San Francisco Chronicle has an excellent series focused on the people who arguably suffer the worst consequences of mass incarceration: the children of incarcerated parents (often shortened to CIPS).

Around 10 million kids in the US have parents who are currently locked up, or who have previously been incarcerated. Many of those kids have watched a parent get arrested. Having an parent behind bars increases the likelihood that a kid will come into contact with the justice system too.

In 2014, a UC Irvine study found that having a parent behind bars can be more damaging to a kid’s well-being than divorce or even the death of a parent. There are around 1,300 kids on any given day with a parent in jail or prison in San Francisco.

Students with incarcerated mothers and fathers are more likely to receive suspensions in school, and are more likely to drop out than their peers. CIPS need extra support at school, and often don’t receive it. Only 2% of kids with a locked-up mother graduate from college, compared with 40 of their peers without incarcerated parents, says report from Pew Charitable Trusts.

The SF Chron’s Jill Tucker takes a look at what San Francisco is doing to help kids heal trauma, cast off stigma, and have better educational outcomes.

San Francisco Unified’s school board members voted in March to create an updated curriculum and specific training for teachers, counselors, and other school staff in order to to support students with locked-up parents. Under the new curriculum, teachers may show videos and assign books with characters whose parents are incarcerated. The SFUSD will also hire a liaison between SF County Jail inmates and their children.

Through a group called Project WHAT!, kids with locked up parents actually helped the San Francisco school district develop the new policy. Project WHAT! pays kids an hourly wage to speak about their experiences with local officials, law enforcement, and lawmakers, to raise awareness and push for change.

Here’s a clip from the first story in the series:

For some, a parent’s imprisonment has more severe impacts. Researchers compare the trauma experienced to that associated with child abuse, domestic violence and divorce, and say it can lead to behavioral problems, low self-esteem and drug or alcohol abuse.

Though research is mixed, some studies indicate children of incarcerated parents are up to three times more likely to enter the criminal justice system themselves.

Children of color are disproportionately affected. One in 9 black children in this country has had an incarcerated parent, compared with 1 in 28 Latino children and 1 in 57 white children, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Yet instead of finding support in school, these children are often stigmatized. And many educators are ill-equipped to understand and deal with their situation, said Rachel Davis, managing director of the Prevention Institute in Oakland, which focuses on health equity and prevention of violence, trauma and chronic disease.

“They’re dealing with that day in and day out, and then we expect them to come into a classroom and learn,” she said.

The rate of failure for such students stunned San Francisco school district leaders when they began to examine the issue earlier this year.

In March, the school board took action. It adopted one of the first resolutions in the nation requiring its staff to address the impact of incarceration on children by, among other things, increasing training for counselors, teachers and staff.

The district also will develop curriculum that addresses the impact of incarceration, perhaps in health or civics classes. And it is adding questions about incarcerated parents to its annual anonymous student survey, which has been used to assess the presence of other risk factors, like violence, drugs and sex. School enrollment forms don’t identify which students are CIPs, and officials want to know where help and support are needed most.

Board President Matt Haney, who sponsored the measure, said these children are often “invisible victims.”

“Without their schools on their side,” he said, “things can be even worse.”

The second story in the series about CIPS highlights a program in San Francisco that allows inmates and their kids to have physical contact, read books, play games, and just hang out together for an hour and a half. Here are some clips:

County jails across the country restrict visits to opposite sides of a glass partition. Only a handful, including San Francisco’s main facility in San Bruno, allow contact visits between locked-up parents and their sons and daughters.

These kinds of visits cost more and raise security concerns, but research suggests they may benefit both the child and parent. Nonetheless, even as awareness grows about an overall lack of support for children of incarcerated parents, many jails are moving in the opposite direction, pushing for video-only visitation similar to Skype or FaceTime to save money.

Maintaining contact with a locked-up parent reduces anxiety and mental health issues among the children while reducing recidivism among the parents, according to “Shared Sentence,” a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore organization focused on child health and welfare.

For inmates, just one family visit of any kind can reduce recidivism by 13 percent, according to a 2011 Minnesota Department of Corrections study of 16,000 inmates.

[SNIP]

San Francisco Sheriff Vicky Hennessy is a fan of the program.

Any extra costs are worth it, she said, because the visits keep inmates connected to their children and the outside world.

“When they eventually get out — and we have to understand, these people get out — this contributes to public safety,” Hennessy said. “It’s not a silver bullet, but what we can say is we’re trying to build better people.”


LAPD COMMISSION SAYS THREE OFFICERS WERE UNJUSTIFIED IN TWO CONTROVERSIAL SHOOTINGS

On Tuesday, the LA Police Commission found three officers involved in the fatal shootings of two mentally ill people to be in violation of use-of-force policy.

Last year, in September, two officers shot Norma Guzman, after she walked toward officers brandishing a knife, and yelled “shoot me.”

The first officer, who was closest to Guzman, was equipped with neither his Taser (which he left in the radio car), or his side handle baton or Hobble Restraint Device.

Because the officer was in danger of serious bodily injury or death, Chief Charlie Beck found both officers’ actions to be justified, but the Inspector General found fault with the actions of the first officer. (The second officer was in training, and did not make the tactical mistakes of his training officer, the OIG found.)

The OIG faulted the officer for failing to establish a plan that involved less-than-lethal force options, and for failing to “redeploy” from the vulnerable position in which the officer had placed himself as the woman advanced on him. The police commission agreed with the OIG decision on Tuesday, finding fault with the officer’s use of deadly force.

A week after the death of Guzman, two LAPD officers shot James Joseph Byrd, a schizophrenic homeless man, after the man threw a 40 ounce beer bottle through the rear window of their patrol car in Van Nuys.

The officers said they believed they were being ambushed and shot at when their window shattered. Byrd was not found to have a gun. The LAPD commission faulted both officers involved for shooting Byrd. Chief Beck found the shooting to be within policy, but not the 11 additional rounds the officers shot at Byrd.

Now Chief Beck must decide if (and what) disciplinary action will be taken against the three officers.


LA’S CHILD WELFARE CZAR LOOKS BACK ON THE LEGACY OF ICONIC LA SUPERVISOR ED EDELMAN

Last Monday, former LA County Supervisor Ed Edelman passed away. He was 85 years old. Edelman served as a member of the board of supervisors from 1975 to 1994. During his 20 years on the board, Edelman focused his attention on issues like homelessness, law enforcement accountability, and child welfare, and successfully pushed for the creation of a children’s dependency court tailored to the needs of abused and neglected kids. Edelman also established the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as we know it.

LA County’s child welfare czar, Judge Michael Nash, served in the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court for more than two decades. Nash was appointed LA County’s first director of LA County’s Office of Child Protection after 20 years of presiding over the Los Angeles Juvenile Court and supervising the Juvenile Dependency Court.

Writing for the Chronicle of Social Change, Nash explains the importance of the children’s court—”the most unique court of its kind”—and the well-loved Edelman’s legacy. Here’s a clip:

The Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court opened in Monterey Park, Calif., in July 1992. I served there from the day it opened until my retirement from the bench in January 2015. The Children’s Court was built because of Ed’s advocacy. He said that it was important for Los Angeles County to have a courthouse that was friendly and sensitive to the needs of abused and neglected children whose cases are heard in our juvenile dependency courts. The Children’s Court was then and still is today the most unique court of its kind in the world.

With its 25 courtrooms, the Children’s Court sits at the top of a hill with a panoramic view of the San Gabriel Mountains. Except for a small satellite court in the Antelope Valley, it hears all of L.A. County’s cases of abuse and neglect of children. Currently, there are approximately 30,000 children under the court’s jurisdiction compared to close to 60,000 in 1992.

Ed’s vision for a child-sensitive facility was accomplished in three ways. First, everything about the court — from its title to its design, décor and services — sends the message that this is a facility that is about and for children and families. Second, these same features, which include the courtrooms, the children’s waiting area known as shelter care and the open, spacious and bright public waiting area, make the courthouse comfortable and friendly to the children, families and others who must be there. Third, recognizing that every child who comes to the court is a victim of abuse and/or neglect, a child-friendly courthouse that values them, welcomes then and listens to them, can contribute to the healing process that they all must go through.

An hour long PBS documentary narrated by Tom Brokaw, “The Passions and Politics of Ed Edelman,” aired in 2013. (You can watch the whole thing here.)

Posted in children and adolescents | 1 Comment »

California Bill Says a 10-Year-Old Cannot Waive Miranda Rights – by Jeremy Loudenback

August 3rd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

THE PUSH TO PROTECT KIDS FROM UNWITTINGLY WAIVING THEIR MIRANDA RIGHTS

by Jeremy Loudenback


Early one morning in 2011, a 10-year-old Riverside boy named Joseph woke up, went downstairs and grabbed a .357 revolver from his parents’ bedroom closet.

He walked over to the living-room couch where his white supremacist father was sleeping off a night of drinking and shot him in the head.

“I shot dad,” the boy told his stepmother minutes later.

Alone in a patrol car later, Joseph again admitted to the grisly killing. He told the officer that he had been physically and emotionally abused by his father, a leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. The night before, he said, Joseph’s father had threatened to take out all the smoke detectors in the home and burn the house down while the family slept.

As they drove to the police station, Joseph was worried that his sisters would be angry with him.

In 2013, then 12-year-old Joseph was found guilty of second-degree murder. At the end of a high-profile case that attracted lots of media attention, he was sentenced to seven years in juvenile prison.

But during interrogation, Joseph was permitted to waive his Miranda rights and to confess to the murder, despite a history of abuse at the hands of his parents as well as pronounced developmental issues.

When a police detective asked Joseph if he understood his right to remain silent, the 10-year-old replied that he did.

“Yes, that means I have the right to remain calm,” Joseph said.

Because no lawyer was present during the interrogation, the case sparked a legal appeal to the California Supreme Court.

In a four-to-three decision, California’s Supreme Court denied Joseph’s petition for review, leading Human Rights Watch, the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and the Juvenile Law Center to file petitions to the United States Supreme Court to review the case.


PROPOSED LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM

In the wake of the Joseph H. case, as it is known, the California legislature is considering a bill that would place restrictions on how law enforcement officers can interrogate children and youth during a criminal investigation.

Under Senate Bill (SB) 1052, minors interrogated by the police would be required to speak with a lawyer before they could to waive their Miranda rights. Currently minors like Joseph are allowed to waive these rights even if they are too young or don’t understand what they mean. The bill would also provide guidance to courts about assessing statements given to the police by minors.

This is an auspicious year for Miranda rights. Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Miranda v. Arizona required police to inform suspects in custody that they have the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a lawyer before submitting to police interrogation. In 2011’s J.D.B v North Carolina case, the Supreme Court found that juveniles should receive expanded Miranda rights. But many now wonder if this was enough, and if there should be special provisions for children as young as Joseph.

Over the past decade, the Supreme Court has often ruled that children should be regarded differently under the law, in large part because of research on the socio-emotional and cognitive capacities of the adolescent brain. A developing brain, experts say, prevents youth from understanding the consequences of their actions and makes them susceptible to peer pressure and other forms of coercion.

But in the Joseph H. case, California courts deemed Joseph’s waiver of his Miranda rights was “knowing, intelligent and voluntary,” a legal standard that must be met for confessions to be admissible in court. This is the first time the state’s courts have upheld the waiver of Miranda rights for a child as young as age 10.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law who has followed the Joseph H. case, feels the California court missed an opportunity to decide the age at which a child should be able to speak to a police officer without a lawyer or other friendly adult being present, such as a parent.

“You don’t let a 10-year-old make any legal decision, let alone one with potentially enormous consequences in waiving a constitutional right,” Chemerinsky said.

Introduced by California State Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), SB 1052 would address the difference between adults and children by mandating that any child or youth have a conversation with a lawyer before a law enforcement officer would be able to question them. The attorney would be charged with making sure the minor understood their Miranda rights and the potential consequences of waiving them.

The bill has made it through the state Senate and is now moving through the Assembly. If it passes a vote before the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, it could soon land on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in children and adolescents, juvenile justice | No Comments »

LASD Heroes Find Baby Allegedly Kidnapped by Pimp

July 21st, 2015 by Taylor Walker

LA SHERIFF’S DEPT. MEMBERS FIND AMBER ALERT BABY THROUGH INTER-BUREAU COLLABORATION & A TRAUMA-INFORMED INVESTIGATION

At 6:30a.m., this past Saturday, LA County sheriff’s deputies from the Lancaster station responded to a call that a woman had been kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and tortured near Lake LA in the hi-desert. The 40-year-old victim reportedly ran naked between 1-3 miles, and begged for help from residents in the first house she found.

When the deputies arrived on the scene, they were told that the suspect, an alleged pimp later ID’ed as 34-year-old Brandon Wynn, had also abducted the woman’s 13-month-old daughter. The woman, in an effort to protect her pimp (a symptom of what is called “trauma bonding”), gave the deputies false information about the suspect’s identity and his vehicle, that the officers then used in an Amber Alert.

The Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau – Metro Detail received crucial help from the department’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit and the Special Victims Bureau to identify and understand the brutalized victim’s reasons for covering for her pimp.

In a press conference on Monday, LASD Major Crimes Captain Merrill Ladenheim described trauma bonding as an abuser’s isolation and manipulation of a vulnerable victim in order to control them, usually under the pretext of love or companionship. “Those bonds lead us to see, today, the lengths to which a victim will go to to protect her abuser.” said Captain Ladenheim.

Despite the false information, a confidential informant responded to the Amber Alert with valuable tips that helped investigating officers identify Wynn.

At 2:50p.m., patrolling deputies spotted Wynn and his car in Palmdale. During his arrest, Wynn told the officers of a shed where he had left the baby girl.

And by 3:00p.m., Sergeants Steven Owen and Gregory Kelly, and Deputy Daniel Gore, who raced to the identified location, found and rescued the 13-month-old, who had been left alone, strapped into a carseat, and was crying in the empty shed.

The baby has since been released from the Antelope Valley hospital where she was receiving treatment for dehydration, and is now safe and in the custody of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, and “in good spirits.”

LA County’s historic rainy weekend likely kept the baby alive, until officers found her. If the Antelope Valley had been experiencing its usual triple digit weather, the baby would have almost certainly died in a hot shed.

The mother, described in the LASD press conference as “truly a victim in every facet,” had been severely beaten and was transported to Palmdale Regional Hospital, and will receive wrap-around services for victims of sex-trafficking through the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit.

Wynn and a 16-year-old boy who was with him were arrested on attempted murder charges.

“This case really showcases the impact of human trafficking within Los Angeles County,” Ladenheim continued. “And it’s really important to realize that many of these victims are children.”

According to the US Department of Justice the average victim is first trafficked between ages 12 and 14.

Ladenheim stressed the importance of having a “collaborative, victim-centered approach…led by a dedicated multi-jurisdictional force” of law enforcement agencies, social services, and community and faith-based groups.

Posted in children and adolescents, DCFS, Rape, Trauma | 1 Comment »

Alleged Abuse at a Boot Camp for LA-Area Kids….Disclosing LA County’s Legal Bills….LAUSD Program Re-Enrolls Kids Exiting Juvie Detention….Fight in Men’s Central Jail

June 4th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

SEVEN KIDS SAY THEY WERE ABUSED DURING A BOOT CAMP PUT ON BY HUNTINGTON PARK AND SOUTH GATE POLICE DEPARTMENTS

Out of 36 kids who attended the Leadership Empowerment and Discipline (LEAD) boot camp program in May, seven say they were punched, slapped, stepped on, and beaten by officers running the program. LEAD is sponsored by the Huntington Park and South Gate Police Departments.

The program, which purportedly teaches discipline and leadership to 12 to 16-year-olds, ran for 20 weeks, seven days of which were spent at Camp San Luis Obispo, an Army National Guard base. The kids said that officers, especially two men known as “the Gomez brothers,” verbally and physically abused them, stepping on them as they did push-ups.

The program leaders would take them into a “dark room,” where the they would hold kids against the wall by their necks, and punch them in the sides, stomach, ribs, and face, according to Gregory Owen, the attorney representing the children’s families. One boy allegedly suffered broken fingers from an officer stepping on his hand.

The kids said those responsible threatened physical harm if the kids broke their silence.

The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department says it is investigating the allegations. The Gomez brothers have been suspended from the kids’ program, but are still on patrol, according to lawyers.

KTLA’s Ashley Soley-Cerro, Eric Spillman, Christina Pascucci, and Melissa Palmer have the story. Here are some clips:

Bridget Salazar said her 13-year-old son was punched, slammed up against a wall and choked.

“He just couldn’t stop crying,” Salazar said. “Right there, I knew something happened.”

Araceli Pulido said her daughters, aged 12 and 14, were among the seven alleging abuse. There are more campers who were hurt but they are too scared to come forward, Pulido said.

The children were allegedly told they were worthless and their parents did not love or want them, and that the camp was three months long rather than a week, according to Owen.

The “Gomez brothers” were primarily responsible for the mistreatment, the children reported.

“Many of the children are suffering from nightmares and other emotional trauma because the Gomez brothers are out on the streets. They are afraid the Gomez brothers will come after them,” Owen’s news release stated.


EDITORIAL: COUNTY SHOULD DISCLOSE TO TAXPAYERS $$ AMOUNTS SPENT ON PRIVATE LAW FIRMS FOR LAWSUITS AGAINST LASD

Last June, a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of civilian watchdog Eric Preven and the SoCal ACLU in a lawsuit demanding the Los Angeles Office of County Counsel release information on the exact dollar amounts paid to private law firms in lawsuits filed against the LASD and its personnel (particularly the ones alleging LASD misconduct, abuse, and excessive use of force that typically drag on for a year, or three, presumably while the meter is running).

But this April, an appeals court agreed with the county that any information between lawyer and client, including invoices, is confidential. Last week, Preven and the ACLU petitioned the CA Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision.

An LA Times editorial says the Supes answer to the public, and should be forthcoming with how much taxpayers are forking over for these lawsuits, and preferably before the Supreme Court has to deal with it. Here’s a clip:

Eric Preven is one such county resident, and he sought the invoices for a handful of cases under the California Public Records Act. When the county rejected much of his request, he and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sued. A judge ruled in Preven’s favor a year ago, but in April an appeals court sided with the county, accepting its argument that billing records — indeed, anything at all that passes between a lawyer and client — are protected from disclosure.

That’s an unduly expansive reading of the attorney-client privilege, which is widely understood to apply to a lawyer’s advice, a client’s directives and other substantive communications made in the scope of the lawyer’s representation, but not to billing records of the type sought by Preven and the ACLU, cleansed of sensitive information. In the case of Los Angeles County, where voters or residents might understandably believe they are collectively the clients and ought to have access to relevant information, the privilege protects not them but their elected representatives, the Board of Supervisors.

The public should be pleased that Preven and the ACLU are not taking the ruling lying down. Last week, they petitioned the state Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

As intriguing as the legal issue is, however, it should not obscure the basic fact that the supervisors, as the client, have the authority to waive the privilege and release the documents right now — but have opted instead to fight.


PROGRAM RE-ENROLLS AND RE-ENGAGES LAUSD HIGH SCHOOLERS WHEN THEY ARE RELEASED FROM JUVENILE DENTENTION FACILITIES

As of last year, California law mandates juvenile justice systems connect with school systems to keep kids who are released from juvenile detention facilities from slipping through the cracks. According to the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, more than 80% of kids leaving lock-up are not enrolled in school within the first month of their release.

An LA Unified School District counseling program works to catch those kids and help them re-enroll in school and keep up with classes, and also to direct them to other important services.

More than 100 LAUSD kids are released from lock-up every month. In fact, there are more LAUSD kids cycling in and out of the detention centers than in any other school district. But because of budget cuts, the program cannot sustain enough counselors to meet the needs of every justice system-involved kid.

And when the counselors do reach out, those kids have to be receptive to the idea of returning to (and completing) high school. Some are not.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson has more on the program.

Gilbertson’s story follows two formerly incarcerated high school kids, one who completes high school and moves on to community college while working for Homeboy Industries, the other who, unfortunately, does not triumph over the statistics. Here are some clips:

When 19-year-old Liliana Flores was in fifth grade, her parents immigrated into the United States from El Salvador. Her family was fleeing gang violence, but it only followed them to Los Angeles.

“I never had a happy home,” she said.

Social workers thought Flores would be safer in foster care. She was tossed from group home to group home packed with troubled teens.

“I started doing the same things they were doing,” Flores said.

She got into drugs, and it led to a series of stints in juvenile detention centers scattered throughout Los Angeles County. In between her time away, she attended continuation high schools filled with other at-risk students struggling to stay within the law.

[SNIP]

Even after her incarceration, Flores wears a uniform: a long-sleeve, button-down shirt with a neat collar.

It conceals the tattoos climbing her arms, inked across her chest and spread around her scalp. On her neck, a tattoo she got when she was 14 years old says “f— love” in swirling letters.

Valli Cohen, a nurse practitioner, is taking a laser to Flores’ tattoo at the Homeboy Industries medical office, which specializes in gang tattoo removal…

It’s hard to tell if the attempt to track students exiting juvenile detention is having an impact. LAUSD declined to provide the numbers of students who re-enroll and go on to graduate.

But Flores said it is working for her…

“Right now, I’m taking Criminal Justice I, and I’m taking Criminal Justice II,” she said.

Flores plans to transfer to University of California, Santa Cruz, and eventually become a probation officer. Her report card is full of Bs and she said the fact that she’s undocumented is her motivation.


FIGHT BETWEEN 80 INMATES AT MEN’S CENTRAL JAIL

At 12:30p.m. on Wednesday, a fight broke out between around 80 inmates in Men’s Central Jail in downtown LA. Deputies succeeded in quelling the disturbance in about ten minutes. One inmate was stabbed and three others were wounded in the fight. There were no serious injuries. Both Men’s Central and Twin Towers jails, which are across the street from each other, were placed on lockdown.

CBS has more on the incident.

Posted in ACLU, California Supreme Court, children and adolescents, Education, jail, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, LAUSD, law enforcement | 2 Comments »

Crime, Justice & Pulitzers….& the LA Times Books Prizes

April 20th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon



LA TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER TELLS HAUNTING STORY OF A COMPLEX LIFE THAT WAS MUCH MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS

The winners of the LA Times Book Awards were announced Saturday night on the USC campus. It was a grand and glorious night devoted to the celebration of good literature.

(You can find the complete list of winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize here.)

But for those of you who, like me, are criminal justice junkies, (and also reading junkies) the Current Interest nonfiction list of finalists for the LAT prize is one that you should definitely check out.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I was one of the judges for the Current Interest prize.)

We found all five of the books we chose as finalists to be stellar, which meant we struggled to settle on a winner, with several of the books holding the top spot at one point in the judging or other.

The five were:

Atul Gawande,Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End”

Jeff Hobbs, “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

Bryan Stevenson, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap”

Héctor Tobar, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

These are all important books that each read with the narrative urgency of a novel. Yet, obviously, not all deal with justice issues:

Atul Gwande’s essential “Being Mortal,” is about the limits of medicine and how well or poorly we deal with aging and dying.

Hector Tobar’s brilliant “Deep, Down, Dark” tells the remarkable tale of the 33 trapped Chilean miners, their rescue and the aftermath.

But then there is Matt Taibbi’s “The Divide, which lays out, in relentlessly reported detail, stories of investment banks, hedge funds and short-sellers, many of whom commit extravagant crimes without being held to account, juxtaposed with the poor, whom Taibbi shows being locked up on the flimsiest of pretexts.

And there is Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” which recounts-–with stories that come from Stevenson’s own experience as a public interest lawyer—the many different and devastating ways that brutality, unfairness, and racial bias continue to infect criminal law in the United States

And finally there is the winner: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs.

Although the issue of race and justice is one of the many threads that wind through Hobbes’ haunting narrative about his near-genius Yale roommate who is shot to death in a marijuana deal gone bad, it is merely one thread in a complex and unforgettable interweave.

Here’s what we judges wrote when we turned our selection in to the Times.

We know the ending of the story before we open The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, yet when we arrive at the moment foretold by this important book’s title, author Hobbs has engaged us so completely that we wish to reach inside the narrative and roll back time, to make the finale play out differently, to force the spectacularly gifted, charismatic, courageous and painfully conflicted Peace to walk quickly in another direction. Hobbs’ deeply reported and mesmerizing work of literary journalism avoids easy assumptions, while offering us many satisfying gifts and troubling questions.


So read it. Hell, read ‘em all. You won’t be sorry.



REPORTING ON CRIME AND JUSTICE REWARDED AMONG THE 2015 PULITZERS

LA Times book prizes were on Saturday, then the Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday and, among the winners and finalists, there were some works of extraordinarily fine journalism pertaining to the world of crime, justice, and juvenile welfare that you shouldn’t miss. To wit:


‘TILL DEATH DO US PART

The Pulitzer’s top journalism prize for Public Service was awarded to the staff members of the Charleston Post-Courier for their shattering series, Till Death Do Us Part, about South Carolina’s murder rate for women, which is twice that of the nation’s.

Here’s a clip from Part I:

More than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse.

More than three times as many women have died here at the hands of current or former lovers than the number of Palmetto State soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

It’s a staggering toll that for more than 15 years has placed South Carolina among the top 10 states nationally in the rate of women killed by men. The state topped the list on three occasions, including this past year, when it posted a murder rate for women that was more than double the national rate.

Awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered, South Carolina is a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse, a Post and Courier investigation has found.

Couple this with deep-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage and the place of women in the home, and the vows “till death do us part” take on a sinister tone.

Consider 25-year-old Erica Olsen of Anderson, who was two months pregnant when her boyfriend stabbed her 25 times in front of her young daughter in October 2006. Or Andrenna Butler, 72, whose estranged husband drove from Pennsylvania to gun her down in her Newberry home in December. Or 30-year-old Dara Watson, whose fiancé shot her in the head at their Mount Pleasant home and dumped her in a Lowcountry forest in February 2012 before killing himself.

Interviews with more than 100 victims, counselors, police, prosecutors and judges reveal an ingrained, multi-generational problem in South Carolina, where abusive behavior is passed down from parents to their children. Yet the problem essentially remains a silent epidemic, a private matter that is seldom discussed outside the home until someone is seriously hurt.

“We have the notion that what goes on between a couple is just between the couple and is none of our business,” said 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, chief prosecutor for Charleston and Berkeley counties. “Where that analysis goes wrong is we have to remember that couple is training their little boy that this is how he treats women and training their little girl that this is what she should expect from her man. The cycle is just perpetual.”


WHEN THE SUPPOSED RESCUERS MISTREAT KIDS

One of the co-winners of the Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting was Eric Lipton of the New York Times for his very disturbing stories showing how the influence of congressional lobbyists can slant justice toward the wealthy and connected—which is a definite must read.

The other co-winner was the Wall Street Journal staff for “Medicare Unmasked,” a remarkable project “that gave Americans unprecedented access to previously confidential data on the motivations and practices of their health care providers.”

But it is the runner-up for Investigative Reporting that we want to draw to your attention. It is a searing investigative report by Chicago Tribune journalists David Jackson, Gary Marx and Duaa Eldeib, about Illinois residential treatment centers for juveniles where kids are mistreated in ghastly ways.

Here’s a clip:

In residential treatment centers across Illinois, children are assaulted, sexually abused and running away by the thousands — yet state officials fail to act on reports of harm and continue sending waves of youths to the most troubled and violent facilities, a Tribune investigation found.

At a cost to taxpayers of well over $200 million per year, the residential centers promise round-the-clock supervision and therapy to state wards with histories of abuse and neglect, as well as other disadvantaged youths with mental health and behavioral problems. On any given day, about 1,400 wards live in the centers, although far more cycle through each year.

In the best cases, the facilities rebuild and even save young lives. But the Tribune found that many underprivileged youths — most of them African-American — are shuttled for years from one grim institution to another before emerging more damaged than when they went in.

Reports of patient-on-patient sexual assault are commonplace at some of Illinois’ largest and most relied-on facilities. Child prostitution schemes take root. Vulnerable children are terrorized by older ones and taught a life of crime. Some are preyed on sexually by the adults paid to care for them. And staggering numbers of wards, some as young as 10, flee to the streets.


THREE YEARS IN RIKERS WITH NO CONVICTION

In the category of Features, the winner was Diana Marcum of the Los Angeles Times for her compassionate and piercing dispatches from California’s Central Valley as its residents cope with the drought.

But it is the work of finalist Jennifer Gonnerman writing for the New Yorker, that we want to direct you toward. Her story about 16-year-old Kalief Browder who was accused of taking a backpack, a crime he maintained in the face enormous pressure, that he didn’t commit. As a consequence, Browder spent more than a thousand days at Rikers Island—many of them in solitary confinement—with no conviction before the district attorney simply dismissed the case.

With much of his adolescence simply lost to the system, Browder is working to make something of his life as he battles the ever-present emotional wounds of those frightening years inside Rikers.

Here’s a clip:

Browder’s brother…noticed a growing tendency toward despair. When Browder talked about his case, he was “strong, adamant: ‘No, they can’t do this to me!’ ” But, when the conversation turned to life in jail, “it’s a totally different personality, which is depressed. He’s, like, ‘I don’t know how long I can take this.’ ”

Browder got out of the Bing [solitary] in the fall of 2011, but by the end of the year he was back—after yet another fight, he says. On the night of February 8, 2012—his six-hundred-and-thirty-fourth day on Rikers—he said to himself, “I can’t take it anymore. I give up.” That night, he tore his bedsheet into strips, tied them together to make a noose, attached it to the light fixture, and tried to hang himself. He was taken to the clinic, then returned to solitary. Browder told me that his sheets, magazines, and clothes were removed—everything except his white plastic bucket.

On February 17th, he was shuttled to the courthouse once again, but this time he was not brought up from the court pen in time to hear his case called. (“I’ll waive his appearance for today’s purposes,” his lawyer told the judge.) For more than a year, he had heard various excuses about why his trial had to be delayed, among them that the prosecutor assigned to the case was on trial elsewhere, was on jury duty, or, as he once told the judge, had “conflicts in my schedule.” If Browder had been in the courtroom on this day, he would have heard a prosecutor offer a new excuse: “Your Honor, the assigned assistant is currently on vacation.” The prosecutor asked for a five-day adjournment; Browder’s lawyer requested March 16th, and the judge scheduled the next court date for then.

The following night, in his solitary cell on Rikers, Browder shattered his plastic bucket by stomping on it, then picked up a piece, sharpened it, and began sawing his wrist. He was stopped after an officer saw him through the cell window and intervened.

Browder was still on Rikers Island in June of 2012, when his high-school classmates collected their diplomas, and in September, when some of them enrolled in college. In the fall, prosecutors offered him a new deal: if he pleaded guilty, he’d get two and a half years in prison, which meant that, with time served, he could go home soon. “Ninety-nine out of a hundred would take the offer that gets you out of jail,” O’Meara told me. “He just said, ‘Nah, I’m not taking it.’ He didn’t flinch. Never talked about it. He was not taking a plea.”


AND IN BREAKING NEWS, FAST AND FINE COVERAGE OF THE ISLA VISTA KILLINGS

And, we don’t want to forget, in the category of Breaking News, the LA Times staff was a finalist for their quick and excellent coverage of the Isla Vista shooting rampage. “The staff mobilized reporters in the middle of the night to cover a deadly spree near the campus of UC Santa Barbara that left seven dead, including the killer, and wounding 13,” said the Times in announcing the honor.

Posted in art and culture, arts, Books, children and adolescents, Civil Rights, criminal justice, journalism, writers and writing | No Comments »

More Bad News Re: Antipsychotics & Medicaid Children….How Should We Compensate the Wrongly Convicted?…..$5.3 Mil Possible Payout for LASD Shooting

April 7th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


NEW STUDY SHOWS ADDED HEALTH RISKS FOR CHILDREN TAKING ANTIPSYCHOTICS

Last week we reported on an alarming new federal report from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General that documented excessive use of antipsychotic drugs to treat poor children (many of them in foster care) on Medicaid.

Now a new study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics by researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab, suggests that prescription antipsychotics may elevate a child’s risk for Type II diabetes by nearly 50 percent.

Among children who are also receiving antidepressants, researchers found the risk may double.

The research newswire NewsWise reports that researchers cautioned against over-reaction to the findings, pointing out that the baseline risk for diabetes among youth not exposed to antipsychotics was 1 in 400, rising to 1 in 260 among those being given antipsychotics.

Newwise also noted “emerging evidence that Medicaid-enrolled children are far more likely than privately insured children to be prescribed antipsychotic medications.”

Overall, over 25 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children receiving prescription medications for behavioral problems were prescribed antipsychotics by 2008, largely for less severe disorders.

“With such vast numbers of children being exposed to these medications, the implications for potential long-lasting harm can be jarring,” said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, the study’s lead author..

To say the least.


HOW WE SHOULD COMPENSATE SOMEONE FOR DECADES OF LOST FREEDOM?

The New Yorker’s Arial Levy writes about John Restivo, who lost 18 years of his freedom after being convicted of rape and murder of a young woman in 1985. DNA evidence set him free in 2003. The story of the $18 million settlement Restivo may or may not get opens the complex discussion about what we owe those who are wrongly convicted.

Here’s a clip:

Restivo had never met the victim and had no criminal record, it became clear that he was a suspect. One of the detectives grabbed him by the throat, he recalled recently. “He starts screaming, right in my face, ‘Is this how you killed her?’ And I’m, like, This is insane.” They kept him at the station for twenty hours, during which he was not allowed to rest or eat or call his girlfriend and let her know where he was. Restivo remembers that when he said he had a right to a lawyer, Volpe told him, “This is un-America: you have no rights here.” Then Volpe’s partner, Robert Dempsey, hit him in the face.

Restivo had grown up thinking of the police as good guys—his father had spent twenty years on the Nassau County force—and he was stunned by his treatment. As soon as he was released, he went to see a lawyer, who took photographs of his bruises and filed a complaint against the detectives. (Dempsey denied hitting Restivo.) But the police did not relinquish the case. “It’s quite possible that the fact that he called a lawyer right away made them think that he was guilty,” Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann, one of Restivo’s current lawyers, said. “Anything is a sign that you’re guilty, once they get a feeling that they don’t like something about somebody.”

Restivo’s phones were tapped. His home was bugged. “Everywhere I went, they started following me around,” he said. “I’m trying to continue running a business, and if I go to somebody’s house to do an estimate or a moving job, I’m afraid the cops are going to show up. Anybody I associated with, they’re starting to snatch off the street—and they’re not just bringing them in for a half-hour chat.”

On the night of the crime, Restivo had been in Wantagh, sanding floors at his new house with a friend; the police brought the friend in and questioned him for ten hours. “They told me, ‘We’re going to turn your life into an effing nightmare,’ ” Restivo said. “ ‘And we’re going to turn your brother’s life into an effing nightmare. We’ll turn your mother’s life into a nightmare. We’ll turn your son’s life into a nightmare.’ And they did.”

[SNIP]

Restivo was convicted and given 33-to-life. He was released after 18 years when DNA evidence proved him innocent. Now Restivo may or may not get $18 million in compensation.
So what do we owe people like Restivo, or the recently released inmate who served 30 years in an Alabama prison?

It’s an interesting question, and an interesting longread story.

Nina Morrison, of the Innocence Project, told me, “I think for a lot of the clients there’s a sense that this is going to be the thing that helps them move on. But then the jury goes home; we all go home. And then, at the end of the day, they are still left with the enormity of what they’ve lost.”


COUNTY MAY PAY $5.3 MILLION TO FAMILY OF UNARMED MAN SHOT BY LA COUNTY DEPUTIES

And while we’re on the topic of damage awards, Jose de la Trinidad was a 36-year-old father of two when he was shot five times in the upper and lower back by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who believed he was reaching for a weapon after a pursuit. A witness to the shooting has always maintained that the unarmed De la Trinidad was complying with deputies and had his hands above his head when he was shot.

The LA County Board of Supervisors are expected to vote on the high ticket payout on Tuesday.

Frank Stolze of KPCC has more. Here’s a clip:

[If the supervisors agree to the payout, this] would settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family that claimed deputies opened fire on Trinidad, even though he had his hands in the air and his back to deputies.

“He had not violated any law and posed no risk to deputies,” the lawsuit said. “He exited a vehicle and obeyed the instructions of deputies to stop and raise his hands.”

He had two daughters — ages 3 and 6 — at the time of his death. Relatives say he held down two jobs to support them and his wife.

In February, the board agreed to pay $1.5 million to the family of Arturo Cabrales, who was also fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy.

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In May, the L.A. County District Attorney’s office concluded the two deputies “acted in lawful self-defense and defense of another when they used deadly force.”

Posted in children and adolescents, crime and punishment, health care, Innocence, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD | 5 Comments »

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