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children and adolescents


Kilpatrick Imperiled Sports Program Should be Saved, Says Chief Powers & LA County Supes Agree—& the Research Agrees Too

March 19th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


For nearly two years, the fate of LA County Probation’s
much-lauded Kilpatrick sports program for incarcerated kids looked very grim.

The last few months, in particular, have been filled with dire rumors about about the program’s imminent demise.

On Tuesday, however, the athletic program’s fortunes suddenly reversed when Probation Chief Jerry Powers told the LA County Board of Supervisors that the program will not be shut down after all. There are some problems to be solved, Powers said, but he sounded definitive on the main question.

“The bottom line,’ he said, “We will continue the sports program.”

With that, the program’s coaches, who were sitting in nervous clusters at the back of the supervisors’ hearing room, breathed a tentative sigh of relief.

The sports program in question, which became the basis for the 2006 film, The Gridiron Gang, began in 1986, with a single 12- player basketball team. Now it fields teams in football, basketball, baseball, soccer and track and is the only program in the state of California in which incarcerated kids play against teams from public and private schools in the California Interscholastic Federation or CIF.

The program is housed at Camp Vernon Kilpatrick, a dilapidated all boys facility built in 1962 in the hills above Malibu, which is slated for tear down this month.

Camp Kilpatrick is being bulldozed in order to replace its prison-esque barracks with smaller, homier cabins, family-style dining areas and other rehabilitation-friendly architecture. The inner workings of the place will be rebooted as well. The new Kilpatrick will emphasize mental and emotional health, the acquisition of skills, healing from childhood trauma, relationship-building, and the like. Gone will be the ineffective and damaging command and control methods that have too long held sway in LA’s juvenile facilities.

Kilpatrick’s transformation (which we are following closely) is a vitally important project that has the possibility of fundamentally changing the way Los Angeles treats its lawbreaking kids.

But, up until Tuesday, it looked like the camp’s sports program—which, for many years had been one of the rare bright lights in LA County’s huge and troubled juvenile justice system—might go from source-of-pride to road kill—mainly because nobody seemed to know quite what else to do with it.

Advocates of the program weren’t willing to give up so easily. A mother whose kids attended Viewpoint private school, and whose son had played against the Kilpatrick kids, started a petition to save the camp. It quickly amassed more than 1000 signatures, with the number still rising.

Kilpatrick’s coaches began talking to anybody who would listen. The kids couldn’t lose this program, they said. They just couldn’t.


“EVIDENCE BASED”

Back in the summer of 2012 when the matter first came to the attention of the supervisors, one of the strikes against the athletics program despite its popularity, was the claim that it wasn’t “evidence based”—meaning that there was no study that proved positively that kids in a carcel setting would measurably benefit from playing team sports.

Nevermind that the Kilpatrick coaches could trot out mounds of anecdotal evidence of how this or that kid’s life was changed or saved, or how the coaches helped various players get into college. Moreover, there was plenty of related research, like this 2012 study done at the University of Michigan, that showed “when high schools have strong interscholastic sports participation rates, they report lower levels of crime or violence and fewer suspensions.”

With the idea of possibly remedying the “evidence-based” issue, the board ordered up a year-long study of its own to find out whether the sports program did, in fact, help kids.

After nearly two years, the study will become public toward the end of next week, Powers said. In the meantime, he gave the highlights:

When compared to the 121 probation kids who were used as a control group, when it came to discipline, the sports kids were better behaved than the control kids, he said. They performed equally well educationally and, in many cases, improved their school attendance once they got out of camp. The sports kids were more likely than the control kids to earn early release from camp.

The area that Powers said needed to be “tweaked,” had to do with this: For the first six months after they were released from camp, the control group kids and the sports kids did equally well. However, during the second six months after release, 15 percent more of the sports group reoffended, than the non sport kids.

“So we’ve got to work to find out why that recidivism rate changes after six months,” Powers said.

(The actual details of all these numbers will be found in the study, when it is released.)

The bump in the statistical road didn’t seem to dampen Powers’ newly ignited enthusiasm for rescuing the program.

“When we improve those long term outcomes, why just have [the sports program] with 40 kids, why not spread this to other camps. Why not have a program for the girls?”

Zev Yaroslavsky agreed. “If it’s good for 40 it’s probably good for 400.”

I’ll tell you one thing,” Powers said, “the kids who go through the program rave about their coaches. They rave about the connections they’re able to make with those coaches. They see them as mentors. I would love to see the staff in all my facilities related to these kids, bond with the kids in that way….”

And so it was that Supervisor Don Knabe, long a Kilpatrick sports supporter, put forth a motion to “instruct” Powers to “report back in one week as to the feasibility of retaining the sports program as is at Camp Miller”—which P.S. is right next door to Kilpatrick—”or another location” until such time as a study is completed.

Progress.

Posted in Board of Supervisors, children and adolescents, Probation | No Comments »

Goodnight Pete Seeger….We’ll See You in Our Dreams….& Other News

January 29th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

WITH LOVE & GRATITUDE TO PETE SEEGER, AMERICA’S JOY-FILLED AND FEROCIOUS MUSICAL CONSCIENCE: 1919 -2014

Whether singing his own compositions or American roots songs with provenances long ago lost such as The Worried Man Blues

…or the rescued and reworked gospel that, in his hands, became so indelible, We Shall Overcome, or the songs of others, like Woody Guthrie’s haunting national anthem for the ordinary American, This Land is Your Land, Pete Seeger embodied a pain-informed but miraculously unsullied optimism about his fellow humans that burned the most brightly when he was on stage.

In later years, his banjo was inscribed with the words: This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.

And he meant it.

When he couldn’t sing anymore, he got everyone else to sing it for and with him. And we did, because Seeger’s music felt like it was always there—-in the wind, in the land, in our blood….

Good night, dear Pete, we’ll see you in our dreams.


RACE & SCHOOL DISCIPLINE: 4 WAYS TO START ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

Rolling Stone Magazine has an worthwhile story by Molly Knefel about the persistent problem of racial inequities or, in some cases, just straight up racism, that plague our school discipline systems nationally. Cheeringly, the story doesn’t just describe the problem, it looks at four strategies taken from a new federal report aimed at fixing the problem as well.

Here’s a clip:

When Marlyn Tillman’s family moved from Maryland to Georgia, her oldest son was in middle school. Throughout his eighth grade year, he was told by his school’s administration that his clothing was inappropriate. Even a simple North Carolina t-shirt was targeted – because it was blue, they said, it was flagged as “gang-related.”

Things got worse when Tillman’s son got to high school, where he was in a small minority of black students. While he was in all honors and AP classes, he received frequent disciplinary referrals for his style of dress throughout ninth grade and tenth grade. Frustrated, his mother asked for a list of clothing that was considered gang-related. “They told me they didn’t have a list, they just know it when they see it,” Tillman tells Rolling Stone. “I said, I know it when I see it, too. It’s called racism.”

One day, Tillman’s son went to school wearing a t-shirt that he had designed using letters his mother had bought at the fabric store – spelling out the name of his hometown, his birthday and his nickname. He was again accused of gang involvement and and told that his belongings would be searched. “He’d just been to a camp where they gave out pocket-sized copies of the Constitution,” Tillman recalls. “My son whips out that copy and tells them that they’re violating his rights.”

The administrators accused the teen of disrespect. He was suspended and pulled out of his AP classes. That’s when Tillman – convinced that her son had been targeted because of his race – went to Georgia’s American Civil Liberties Union.

[SNIP]

…Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education released a set of documents detailing how school discipline policies across the country may be violating the civil rights of American elementary and secondary school students.

[SNIP]

So what can we do to make our schools fairer? The federal guidance recommends a number of best practices to ensure that schools recognize, reduce and eliminate disproportionate treatment of students of color and students with disabilities, while fostering a safe and supportive educational environment…..

Read on for the solutions.


JUDGE NASH TO LEAVE THE BENCH???? UM…THIS DOESN’T WORK FOR US

The Metropolitan News reported this week that Judge Michael Nash will leave his position as presiding judge of the juvenile court by next January or (ulp) sooner. Among other acts of bravery and sane thinking, Nash, if you remember, in 2011 opened the LA County Dependency Court to reporters….and some desperately needed outside scrutiny.

Here’s a short clip from the Met News story:

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of the Juvenile Court for more than 16 years, said Friday he will not seek re-election.

Nash, who previously told the MetNews he was undecided whether to file for a new six-year term, said that after nearly 29 years on the court, it was time to search out “whatever other opportunities may come my way.” He said he had no specific plan, but that “life has just always worked out” for him.

Today is the first day that judicial candidates can file declarations of intent to run in the June primary. Deputy District Attorney Dayan Mathai Thursday became the first candidate to take out papers to run for Nash’s seat.

Nash said he had made no decision on whether to retire, or to serve out his term, which expires in January of next year. “It was enough of a hump to get to this point,” he said…

Okay, sure, we understand that Judge Nash has to do what’s right for his life, but still…


.

Posted in American artists, American voices, children and adolescents, Courts, DCFS, Foster Care, Life in general, race, racial justice, School to Prison Pipeline, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

Crisis in LA Foster Care Placements……Jerry Brown’s For-Profit Prison Plan…. Another “Right on Crime” Surprise

August 26th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



KIDS TAKEN INTO FOSTER CARE OFTEN PUT IN OFFICE CONFERENCE ROOMS WHILE AWAITING PLACEMENT

In an increasingly nightmarish situation that youth advocates say has been building over some years, due to a chronic lack of adequate foster care beds, LA children taken into the county’s care are languishing in what amount to holding rooms for longer than state regulations allow, after they are already struggling with the trauma of being yanked from their homes.

The LA Times’ Garrett Therolf reports. Here are some clips:

…Between May 28 and July 5, nearly 600 children were diverted to holding rooms as social workers scrambled unsuccessfully to find them homes, according to data obtained under the California Public Records Act.

Stays exceeded a state-imposed 24-hour legal limit in 117 cases, and dozens of children spent multiple nights in the holding centers before being placed in foster homes. By comparison, last August only one child remained in a holding room longer than 24 hours, and overall about a third fewer children were diverted to the centers.

Typically, children who become stuck in the government-run way stations are the hardest to place: infants, large groups of siblings, children returning from failed placements and the mentally ill or those afflicted with lice, ringworm, chickenpox, respiratory problems and other infectious diseases. Placing a child often requires more than 100 calls by social workers, records showed.

California regulators have given the county until Wednesday to fix the problem or face possible daily financial penalties.

[SNIP]

Children younger than 12 typically go to the Children’s Welcome Center on the campus of the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. A large open space with cribs for infants and cots for other children, it can have as many as 29 children sleeping over on some nights.

Officials acknowledged they don’t always have enough personnel to promptly feed children or change diapers. The department recently issued an emergency plea for community volunteers to help in the holding rooms.

Older children who can’t be quickly placed in foster homes typically are sent to a conference room in a high-rise building south of downtown Los Angeles, where they sleep on the floor or cots, according to social workers staffing the facility.


JERRY BROWN PLANS BIG BUCKS DEAL WITH COMMERCIAL PRISON INDUSTRY & CCPOA POPULATION REDUCTION

Yes, yes, we all understand that the governor’s in a bind because he has to somehow lower the state’s prison population by another 9400 inmates by the end of the year.

And for the moment we will forgo harping on the fact that Jerry and the state legislature had every opportunity to engage in intelligent sentencing reform, say, 4 years ago, when everyone knew this crisis was looming and could have taken additional steps to address it, thus avoiding the mess we’re in now.

But, of the various options open to Brown at this juncture, does he really want to choose getting in bed with the for-profit prison business, at the same time, expanding the state’s already massive system—particularly when it is so costly? And how much of this for-profit prison partnership is being done to placate the CCPOA, the prison guards’ union? We know the union will be facing layoffs if the governor puts into place some of the suggested formulas involving a certain number of early releases, and some additional prisoners sent out of state. But surely those concerns, while understandable, cannot be allowed to drive decisions here.

Saki Knafo from the Huffington Post reports on the issue. Here’s a clip:

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has no intention of releasing state prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, despite a federal court order requiring the state to reduce its prison population by the end of the year, sources told HuffPost.

Instead, Brown and legislative leaders are discussing a proposal to create an unconventional partnership between the state’s powerful prison guard union and the nation’s largest private prison corporation — an alliance that may permanently expand California’s prison system while curbing nascent efforts to reduce the state’s mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders.

Under the plan, one of several the governor has proposed in conversations with legislative leaders in recent weeks, the for-profit prison giant Corrections Corporation of America would lease one or more of its prisons to the state, which would in turn use California prison guards and other public employees to staff the company’s facilities.

By transferring state prisoners to these privately owned structures, the state would have enough space to comply with an order by a panel of federal judges in 2009 that said overcrowded state prisons were jeopardizing the health and safety of inmates. The order, which the U.S. Supreme Court this month refused to review, requires the state to reduce the population of state prisons by about 10,000 inmates by Dec. 31.

Critics of Brown’s proposal include prison reform advocates and champions of the state’s beleaguered social safety net programs, who may lose funding as state payments for the prison expansion rise. The governor’s proposals, which also include sending California inmates to out-of-state prisons and county jails, could cost the state $300 million to $800 million each year, by various estimates.

“We’re gonna basically blow our whole reserve fund in the budget on fixing the prison problem,” said Mike Herald, a legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a California group. “It just seems like the numbers keep getting bigger and bigger, and the bigger that number gets, the more difficult it is going to be for us to get money for people who are on welfare, childcare for working moms and things like that.”

About those exorbitant costs: We spent quite a while on the phone last week with a CDCR spokeswoman, doing the math on the cost of sending prisoners out of state—which, as it turns out, is about the same price or less than the cost of keeping inmates where they are. So why are we planning to do something that will cost, to quote the governor, “hundreds of millions of dollars” extra? What’s the deal?

Naturally, we’re going to continue to track this issue.


RIGHT ON CRIME SUPPORTS CALIFORNIA’S PROPOSED BILL TO GIVE JUVIE’S WITH BIG SENTENCES A CHANCE AT PAROLE

While many of California’s legislative Democrats again dither over whether or not to do the right thing on sentencing reform, the high profile and very effective Right on Crime movement weighs in with clarity and facts on an issue that their fellow conservatives would traditionally oppose.

In this case the weigh-in comes in the form of an op ed by Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan for the Fresno Bee on the topic of SB 260, the bill [tk]

(Gingrich was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999 and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Pat Nolan was Republican leader of the California Assembly from 1984 to 1988 and was president of Justice Fellowship from 1996-2012.)

Here’s a clip from their essay:

…Scientific studies show that teenagers’ abilities to understand the consequences of their actions are not fully developed until they are young adults. Parents don’t need studies to understand this; and our laws take this into account. We don’t let young people drink until they are 21; they can’t sign contracts, marry without their parents’ permission, vote or serve on juries until they are 18.

However, there is one area in which we don’t consider teens’ youth and impulsiveness: our criminal laws. Our laws often ignore the difference between adults and teens, and some youngsters commit serious crimes and are sent to prison for so many years that they end up serving what are, in effect, life sentences. Currently, if a juvenile commits a serious crime and is prosecuted as an adult, he or she has no opportunity for judicial review outside of the ordinary appeals. This provides no opportunity for rehabilitation.

The California Assembly will soon vote on SB 260, a bill that takes the potential for change into account by providing the opportunity for review hearings.

In order to be eligible for such a hearing, offenders must pay their debt to their victims by serving 15-25 years of their sentence (depending on the gravity of the offense). That is no “easy stretch.” In fact, it is more than half of their lives….

Go, Right on Crime!


Posted in children and adolescents, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Foster Care, juvenile justice, prison, prison policy, Realignment, Right on Crime | No Comments »

Judge Says Force-feeding Striking Inmates OK…..Does LA Really Need Another Gang Injunction?….Muppets Go To Prison…Sheriff’s Challengers Gear Up

August 20th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



CDCR OFFICIALS GET PERMISSION TO FORCE-FEED HUNGER STRIKING INMATES IF CONDITIONS BECOME LIFE-THREATENING

Even if inmates have signed “Do not resuscitate” orders, prison officials now have permission to force-feed them if their conditions become too dire, ruled federal judge Thelton Henderson on Monday.

CDCR officials say that some of the strikers are being coerced into participating.

But advocates and attorneys working with the strikers deny coercion.

(For the record, based on our conversations with inmates, and family members of inmates, at the strike’s beginning, there was plenty of pressure for certain groups to participate. But, after the first week or so, the pressure seemed to vanish. Those who are participating now seem to be doing so of their own volition with an understanding of the consequences. Admittedly, ours is an unscientific survey. But this is what we’ve heard, without variation.)

Sharon Bernstein of Reuters has more. Here’s a clip:

Some 136 California inmates are currently taking part in a hunger strike that began July 8 in prisons statewide to demand an end to a policy of housing inmates believed to be associated with gangs in near-isolation for years. Some 69 of the striking inmates have refused food continuously since the strike began.

This is the second time prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest the state’s practice of housing some inmates for years in its four Security Housing Units.

About 4,500 prisoners were housed in the units when the strike began, officials said. State officials say the units are needed to stem the influence of prison gangs – and in fact, administrators have repeatedly characterized the hunger strike as a power grab by gang leaders.

But the state’s policy of housing prisoners for years in these units has been condemned by a number of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International. And at least one prisoner on the hunger strike has said that he is willing to die to make his point that the detentions are inhumane.


DOES LA REALLY NEED THE PROPOSED ECHO PARK GANG INJUCTION?

A new LA Times editorial doesn’t come right out and nix the idea of a new gang injunction for the Glendale Boulevard Corridor in Echo Park—an injunction that, if it is put into place, would be LA’s 46th. But the editorial board’s essay does diplomatically suggest that “more constructive ways of dealing with destructive behavior” would be better.

We agree.

As the Times points out, new City Attorney Mike Feuer is not rushing pell mell to embrace the injunction that was proposed by Feuer’s predecessor, Carmen Trutanich, during his final days in office. (Trutanich, if you’ll remember, was extremely fond of injunctions and even tried to gin up the notion of gang injunctions for taggers.)

And we are not saying that gang injunctions aren’t sometimes useful tools. They can be helpful in instituting a legal “time out” of sorts, when a community is in crisis. But when used carelessly or unnecessarily, their cost can greatly outweigh their benefits.

For all these reasons we, like the Times, are glad that our new city attorney is taking time to consider the cost/benefit ratio.

Here’s a clip from the editorial that lays out a few more of the issues. But read the whole thing.

Backers of an injunction in a “safe zone” in Echo Park known as the Glendale Boulevard Corridor argue that the injunction is needed to consolidate gains and to nip out the remaining problems, and to prevent the area’s relapse into chaos as imprisoned gang members complete their terms and return to their old neighborhood and, perhaps, their old ways. They argue that new City Atty. Mike Feuer is right to continue the court process, begun by his predecessor in the waning days of his term, to put an Echo Park gang injunction in place.

Critics point out that Echo Park is well past its gang emergency days and argue that an injunction, if it was ever appropriate, would be 15 years too late. Some assert that an injunction would serve to harass longtime residents, preventing, for example, two brothers who may have tenuous connections to a gang and haven’t been charged with any specific crime from sitting together on their own front steps.

In pursuing the injunction, Feuer has a more complete and more enlightened approach than did previous city attorneys. He seems to recognize that although they are intended to protect neighborhoods, gang injunctions also ensnare thousands of the city’s young men and their families in a cycle of failure. For example, in addition to barring two or more members of a designated street gang from gathering in public, and in addition to allowing city lawyers to seek civil penalties for illegal behavior (with evidence that can fall short of the strict criminal law standard of proof), injunctions flag people — often for life — as gang members and make it harder for most to get decent jobs with advancement opportunities or to seek higher education. And, some assert, they don’t do it all that accurately, occasionally including a person who fits a demographic profile or who may be friends with or related to gang members without being one.


MUPPET KIDS WITH LOCKED UP MUPPET DADS

This summer Sesame Street added a new Muppet named Alex who has a dad in prison.

It is an important addition. According to a 2010 Pew Report, 1 in 28 American children have an incarcerated parent. (Just 25 years ago, the number was 1-in-125.)

A 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that half of the mothers (52%) and fathers (54%) in state prison reported that they were the primary provider for their children before their incarceration.

With all this in mind, the Sesame Street folks designed the muppet Alex and his dilemma to give adults tools to help the children of prisoners to better cope with their feelings of loss, shame and grief over their parents’ absence.

Cara Tabachnick writes about the issue for The Crime Report. Here’s a clip:

Alex has blue hair, wears a big hoodie, and has a father in jail.

Say hello to Sesame Street’s newest Muppet.

The United States is frequently cited for having the world’s highest documented incarceration rate, with over two million inmates in federal and state prisons. But few people are aware that those numbers are matched by the children who inmates leave behind: more than 2.7 million youngsters have an incarcerated parent, according to a 2010 Pew Center study.

That number climbs even higher when you add the approximately 10 million children who have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives, the study says.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street and other media programming for children, has found a way to address the experiences of such kids, who otherwise have few ways to communicate feelings ranging from shame and embarrassment to defiance.

Alex the Muppet with a jailed father, doesn’t mince words.

“I don’t want people to know about my dad,” he says in a video produced by the workshop for the toolkit.

Together with experts in the correctional field, workshop staff members developed a tool kit, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration,” featuring a DVD, a guide for parents and caregivers, and a children’s storybook…


LA COUNTY SHERIFF CANDIDATES PAUL TANAKA AND BOB OLMSTED ON KABC WITH DOUG MC INTYRE

The newest challengers to Sheriff Lee Baca are off and running. In the last week, both Paul Tanaka and Bob Olmsted have been making the rounds of various media outlets and community groups. Here, for example, are links to the interviews each man did with KABC radio’s Doug McIntyre.

Go here for the Tanaka interview, which took place last Thursday. (Fast forward to 20:00 for the interview.)

Then McIntyre interviewed Bob Olmsted on Monday morning. (You can find it here. Fast forward to about 6:45 for the interview’s beginning.

McIntyre said that he would have LA County Sheriff candidates Lou Vince and Patrick Gomez in the future.

Tanaka was also on KABC Larry Elder’s show on Monday afternoon. (Irritatingly enough, to hear it Elder makes you pay for the podcast!)

Olmsted, however, is slated to be on Larry Elder’s show on Tuesday at 5:00 PM. (Obviously, you have to listen to it in real time, what with the pay-to-play, podcast situation and all.)

Lou Vince will be on at 5:14.

It should be noted the Olmsted now has a Facebook page, and Tanaka (or his surrogate) is now madly tweeting as is Lou Vince.

Posted in children and adolescents, City Attorney, Gangs, LASD, prison, Sheriff Lee Baca | 11 Comments »

Victims of Bullying More Likely to End Up In Criminal Justice System…Child Abuse in Army Families Up 40%…and “Orange is the New Black”

August 5th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

VICTIMS—NOT JUST THE BULLIES—HAVE A HIGHER RATE OF CRIMINAL INVOLVEMENT LATER

Victims of chronic childhood bullying (especially women) have significantly higher rates of substance abuse, arrest, incarceration, and more, according to a new report by University of North Carolina associate professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology Michael G. Turner.

Here’s a clip from the Crime Report’s story on the study:

For the analysis, researchers broke respondents into four groups: non-victims, those who were bullied before the age of 12, those who were bullied after the age of 12 and those who were bullied throughout their youth.

Of the 7,335 youths surveyed, almost 14 percent of those who reported being bullied throughout their childhood and teen years were incarcerated as adults. Just 6 percent of non-bullying victims, 9 percent of childhood-only victims and 7 percent of teen-only victims spent time in prison.

The analysis also notes that women bullied throughout their youth are more likely to be arrested and convicted than men who experienced regular bullying.

And here’s a clip from the report itself:

Despite sustained decreases in rates of violent offending, scientific attention remains focused on understanding the causes and consequences of violence, as well as evaluating efforts to prevent such behaviors. One violent-related behavior that continues to receive significant attention is bullying and bully victimization.

Identified as the persistent harassment (physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological) of one individual over another, accompanied by a power imbalance, bullying has been documented as affecting approximately 30 percent of youth in the US population. Empirical evidence related to the impact of bullying indicates those who bully and/or experience a bully victimization reportdisproportionately higher levels of adverse social, psychological, legal, and mental health outcomes.

[SNIP]

Compared to non-victims, subjects who were repeatedly victimized by a bully reported significantly higher rates of involvement in each of the legal outcomes(i.e., substance use, delinquency, arrest, conviction, incarceration).


ARMY CHILD ABUSE SKYROCKETED 40% IN 3 YEARS

Reported cases of child abuse in active duty Army families were 40% higher in 2012 than in 2009, according to a recent Army Times investigation. The Army Times suggests that the spike may be attributed, in part, to the return of thousands of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan (a number of whom suffer from PTSD), but that spouses of deployed Army soldiers left to take care of the household are often the culprit in child abuse cases.

The Huffington Post’s Eleanor Goldberg has more on the child abuse upsurge. Here’s a clip:

While the military has not drawn any concrete conclusions as to why such crimes are on the rise, some experts say that abusers may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which could lead to their taking their frustrations out on their children. Others cited in the report were quick to note that this type of maltreatment doesn’t always come at the hands of the spouse wearing a uniform.

A 2007 Pentagon study concluded that mothers were three times more likely to mistreat their children while their soldier husbands were away, than when they were home.

Whatever the cause, the disturbing spike raises questions about how the Army investigates such cases of child abuse and the effectiveness of its advocacy programs.

And here are a couple of clips from the Army Times investigation:

The causes are not fully explained or understood anywhere, but the spike in abuse and neglect cases dovetails with the grind of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a policy of allowing people with criminal backgrounds into the ranks.

The Army offers a number of programs providing support resources to Army parents under stress, but officials concede difficulties in preventing abuse cases.

“We have problems identifying them before it becomes a tragedy,” Robichaux said.

[SNIP]

The 2009-12 spike coincides with the end of combat in Iraq, a drawdown in Afghanistan and the return of tens of thousands of troops to their homes. Some soldiers who harmed children may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress.

But child abuse cases plagued the Army even as the wars were at their peaks and stateside posts were practically ghost towns. The stress on spouses left to deal alone with domestic issues often was at the root of child abuse cases.


“ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK” A GLIMPSE INTO WOMEN’S PRISON

Recently released Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black” follows yuppie (and one-time drug money smuggler) Piper Chapman’s fifteen month incarceration in a low-security women’s prison. While still maintaining a healthy amount of humor, “Orange” effectively portrays real issues US prison inmates face and makes the locked-up women relatable through the eyes of Piper.

Aimee Lee Ball has an interesting comparison of “Orange” the show, with the realities of women’s prison experienced by the real Piper (Piper Kerman) whose memoir the show is based on. Here’s a clip:

Most treasured are photographs of the women with whom she served, women who, despite the counsel of her lawyer to remain aloof, became friends. As she reviewed them, she mentioned sad details: one who was bipolar, another who got pregnant shortly after being released. “The backgrounds of women in prison include physical abuse, addiction and mental health issues, to a much larger extent than male prisoners,” she said. “Larry was phenomenal, but there were plenty of women in Danbury whose husbands were locked up in other prisons. One of the heartbreaking things I saw was the envelopes in the mailbox with kiss marks on them, addressed to another federal penitentiary.”

Much of “Orange” presents what she calls the astonishingly low standard of living for prisoners: rats in the dorms, mold in the showers, inedible food. (She developed a recipe for prison cheesecake, using confiscated margarine, vanilla pudding and powdered coffee creamer.) But she’s well aware that many people do not care about the quality of life for prisoners.

“As one warden said, we’re throwing people in jail that we’re mad at instead of people we’re scared of,” said Ms. Kerman, who serves on the board of the Women’s Prison Association, an advocacy group founded in 1845. “Most women are not there for violent offenses. Like almost all the women in that place, I endured things like groping from the guards, but no prisoner ever laid a hand on me, and I didn’t witness any physical violence.”

Posted in children and adolescents, prison, PTSD, social justice | No Comments »

Youth Literacy Pilot Program in LA Probation Camps a Winner…Juvie Attorneys Drastically Underpaid, Justice Suffers….Foster Care Commission Meets

July 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


NEW PILOT PROGRAM TO PROMOTE READING AND SELF ESTEEM IS HUGE HIT WITH KIDS LOCKED-UP IN PROBATION CAMPS

We’re going to do a longer story on this pilot program next month, as we think it points beyond itself to a host of important issues. But in the meantime, read Theresa Watanabe’s excellent story for the LA Times on “Freedom School.”

Here’s a clip from the opening:

At 8 a.m., the energy was already rising at a gathering in the affluent community of La Verne, nestled beneath the San Gabriel Valley foothills. Nearly 80 boys sang, cheered and chanted as participants shared inspirational readings, gave selected shout-outs and led a visualization to “breathe in love.”

The feel-good assembly was Los Angeles County’s latest initiative to improve the literacy skills of its juvenile offenders — in this case, teenagers convicted of robbery, assault, rape and other crimes who are serving time at Camp Afflerbaugh probation camp.

After years of damning reports and a class-action lawsuit alleging educational neglect of juvenile offenders, the county has launched a wide-ranging effort to remedy failing practices and boost the quality of teaching.

Under new county schools chief Arturo Delgado, the Office of Education and the Probation Department are teaming up to bring the students better instructors, more rigorous academics and a broader array of job opportunities, such as sewing and construction programs.

At Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster, which was targeted in the 2010 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, students allegedly received diplomas they couldn’t read. But under a legal settlement that prompted new programs to improve reading, math, student behavior and teacher skills, test scores have begun to increase and discipline problems have sharply declined.

“It was a wasteland for education,” said David Sapp, an ACLU staff attorney. “But things have improved dramatically.”

The county’s latest educational initiative is called Freedom School, a summer literacy program that includes the high-energy morning gathering — known as “Harambee,” which means “Let’s pull together” in Swahili….


JUVENILE ATTORNEYS PAID DISASTROUSLY LOW FEES, JUSTICE SUFFERS

This LA Times Op Ed by Cyn Yamashiro lays out what is going on in the world of court appointed attorneys for kids charged with a crime who can’t afford a lawyer. It is a must read.

Yamashiro is the director of the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy at Loyola Law School, and he knows this issue cold. It’s a matter that we too plan to be keeping an eye on, because it’s so crucial that the system be fixed.

Here’s a clip from his essay:

Three hundred fifty dollars. That’s the amount Los Angeles County pays a private attorney to represent a child charged with crimes when the public defender has a conflict of interest and can’t handle the case. That $350 has to cover all legal work, even when the child is charged with a serious crime such as murder or rape. About 11,000 kids a year end up being represented by such appointed counsel.

Here’s how it commonly works. Let’s say two 15-year-olds are caught with a six-pack of beer and charged with illegal possession of alcohol. Because they may have incentives to testify against each other, the rules of legal ethics require that different law firms represent them. So, typically, one would be represented by the public defender while the other’s case would be contracted out to an attorney earning a total fee of $350.

This compensation system has created profound inequalities in the legal services provided to children.

Public defenders are hired through a highly selective national recruiting process. They are trained by senior attorneys and work in an office that rewards zealous advocacy with promotions and raises.

The county requires no vetting of appointed attorneys, nor does it have requirements for special training or experience. They are not held to meaningful performance standards. The public defender, unlike an appointed attorney, has access to a staff of investigators, support attorneys and social workers to assist in preparing a case. Although both a public defender and an appointed attorney may request that experts be appointed by the court, clients of the public defender are twice as likely to have those experts appointed. The courts rarely if ever appoint investigators, so kids without public defenders are out of luck on that front.

There’s lots more, so we strongly recommend reading it all.


BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON CHILD PROTECTION MEETS, PLUS YAROSLAVSKY AND KNABE PICK THEIR COMMISSIONERS

The first meeting for the county’s new Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, in the Board Supervisors’ Hearing Room. The agenda for this initial meeting is short, but it is the first outing for the 10-member commission, which is tasked with coming up with a strategy to straighten out LA County’s reform-resistant foster care system.

The commission, which was voted into being in late June, is made of up two former judges, some long-time juvenile advocates, a couple of former Board of Education members, a well-liked former head of DCFS who fled the place, a special victims expert from the LA County Sheriff’s Department, a former foster kid turned school superintendent, the former head of LACMA and the Dean of USC’s School of Social Work. In other words a varied list of reasonably heavy hitters, whom it should be intriguing to observe.


ZEV YAROSLAVSKY AND DON KNABE ARE THE NEWEST TO MAKE THIER CHOICES

Each of the Supes picked two of the commission members.

The most recent to be announced are those chosen by Zev Yaroslavsky–Terry Friedman and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie—and by Don Knabe: Janet Teague and Gabriella Holt.

Friedman is a former Supervising Judge for the Juvenile Dependency Court and former Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court. Plus he’s a former state assemblyman, and served as the Executive Director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a highly respected non-profit agency offering legal assistance to LA’s low-income residents.

Gilbert-Lurie is an attorney, author, educator, the past Chair of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, and a former entertainment industry executive, plus she served for 14 years on the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

Teague served for more than a decade on the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families and has also served on the board for the Alliance for Children’s Rights.

Gabriella Holt is a past member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Board of Education. She currently serves as a Probation Commissioner, and “has diverse
knowledge of issues impacting at-risk children.”

Rundowns on the other six, appointed by Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas, Gloria Molina, and Mike Antonovich, may be found here and here.

Posted in Board of Supervisors, children and adolescents, Foster Care | No Comments »

DOMA Unconstitutional! ….Prop. 8 Dismissed for Lack of Standing……Also The Supremes on Voting Rights…..A Young Father’s Parental Rights.

June 26th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

The New Yorker has a photo of Edie Windsor learning of the decision.

MAIN PART OF DOMA IS STRUCK DOWN, RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL IN 5/4 RULING…..PROP 8 APPEAL SENT BACK TO STATE FOR LACK OF STANDING

DOMA is found unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled ot recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages,” writes Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority.

Here’s a link to the DOMA opinion.

And this is from the live blogging at SCOTUSBlog:

“What this means, in plain terms,” writes Amy Howe of SCOTUSBLOG, which has been live-blogging the rulings, “is that same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.”

Adam Liptak of the NY Times writes this:

Married gay and lesbian couples are entitled to federal benefits, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a major victory for the gay rights movement.

In a second decision, the court declined to say whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Instead, the justices said that a case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, was not properly before them. Because officials in California had declined to appeal a trial court’s decision against them and because the proponents of Proposition 8 were not entitled to step into the state’s shoes to appeal from the decision, the court said, it was powerless to issue a decision.

The ruling leaves in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation. Its consequences for California were not immediately clear, but many legal analysts say that same-sex marriages there are likely to resume in a matter of weeks.


SUPREMES SEND PROP 8 CASE, HOLLINGSWORTH V. PERRY, BACK TO STATE FOR LACK OF STANDING

Here’s the Prop 8 ruling.

Here’s the plain English version from the NY Times:

In the California case, the court ruled that opponents of same-sex marriage did not have standing to appeal a a lower-court ruling that overturned California’s ban. The Supreme Court’s ruling appears to remove legal obstacles to same-sex couples marrying in the state, but the court did not issue a broad ruling likely to affect other states.

Here’s Greg Stohr at Bloomberg:

A divided U.S. Supreme Court gave a victory to the gay-rights movement, striking down a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex married couples and potentially clearing the way for weddings to resume in California.

The court stopped short of declaring a constitutional right for gays to marry, or even ruling directly on California’s voter-approved ban, as the justices considered the issue for the first time.

The decisions in the two cases sustain the momentum that has grown behind same-sex marriage over the past decade. With a 5-4 procedural ruling in the California case, the court reinstated a trial judge’s order allowing at least some gay marriages there. And by invalidating part of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act by a different 5-4 majority, the court rejected many of the justifications for treating same-sex and heterosexual couples differently.

Interestingly, the decision on Prop 8 features a different 5/4 configuration with Roberts writing for the majority.

Here’s David Savage of the LA Times:

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” he said. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan joined [Roberts] to form the majority.

The court’s action, while not a sweeping ruling, sends the case back to California, where state and federal judges and the state’s top officials have said same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights.

Okay, that’s it for the moment. Lots of good national coverage. This is an excellent day for equal rights in the nation.




PROVISION OF VOTING RIGHTS ACT GUTTED BY SUPRIME COURT DECISION

The web and my email box are loaded with angry expert opinions and cries of anguish over Tuesday morning’s Supreme Court ruling on a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Garrett Epps from the Atlantic writes about the dispiriting decision in appropriately blistering terms:

“Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the [Voting Rights Act],” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent from the 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, announced Monday.

She nailed it.

The decision invalidated the requirement of “preclearance” of voting changes by states and jurisdictions with particularly bad records of racial discrimination. (My colleague Andrew Cohen looks at the practical effect of this decision on voting rights.) But beyond that, it illustrates the absolute contempt that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority harbors toward what is, after all, the central branch of our federal government: Congress, elected by the people and charged with exercising “all legislative powers” granted by the Constitution.

A brief reading of the Constitution reveals how seriously the Framers took the idea of congressional centrality. An even briefer glance at the Fifteenth Amendment shows that the Framers of that measure trusted Congress, not courts, with setting national policy against racial discrimination in voting.

Not this Court, which Monday invalidated Section Four of the Voting Rights Act — not on the grounds that it hasn’t worked; not even on the grounds that it won’t work; but on the grounds that the Court didn’t think Congress did as good a job as it could have.

In an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, the five conservatives (Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito) brushed aside a measure they explicitly agreed was (1) needed when originally enacted (2) dramatically successful since enacted and (3) reauthorized by Congress four times over 40 years, each time with a detailed legislative process and with careful adjustment to its terms.

To understand the success of the VRA, we must briefly review how it works. The act as a whole forbids certain kinds of manipulation of voting laws to exclude or dilute minority votes. The “coverage formula” provision in sections 4 designate certain sections of the country, on the basis of history, as being the most flagrant offenders of the Fifteenth Amendment’s command that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Under Section 5, those jurisdictions had to get preapproval from the Justice Department or from a federal court before they could change their voting procedures at all. The reason was that previous voting-rights laws had been neutralized when the Deep South jurisdictions invented new ways not covered by the laws of blocking black voters. This time, the state would have to justify its restrictions, rather than forcing the government and citizens to go to court each time a new stratagem appeared.

[BIG SNIP]

The Fifteenth Amendment makes clear that states have no “reserved power” over violations of the right to vote “by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” These are transferred from state authority to federal prohibition. And Congress, not the courts, is to enforce that prohibition “by appropriate legislation.”

In other words, the majority’s limits on Congress’s power do not flow from the text, history, or structure of the Constitution; as Ginsburg’s dissent persuasively shows, they do not flow from the Court’s earlier precedent either. They flow from a sense by five justices (none of whom has ever served a day in legislative office) that Congress, on the whole, can’t do as good a job at anything as they can.

This is hubris indeed. Today it has damaged the ability of citizens to use the ballot to call their rulers to account. But that damage is only a part of a hole slowly widening in the fabric of constitutional congressional authority. There’s no reason to believe that this majority does not intend further unraveling in the near future.


SUPREMES RULE FOR BABY VERONICA’S ADOPTIVE FAMILY NOT NATIVE AMERICAN FATHER AND FAMILY

This Solomonic/halving-the-baby decision is a heartbreaker however you look at it.

Dan Frosch and Timothy Williams write about the ruling for the New York Times. Here’s a clip:

An American Indian child being raised by her biological father should not have been taken from her adoptive parents, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, saying that a federal law devised to keep Indian families together did not apply in the case.

The 5-to-4 decision, which reversed a ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court, found that the case represented an exception to the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that made it more difficult for American Indian children to be removed from their families. That landmark legislation effectively ended the practice of taking Indian children from their homes and placing them in boarding schools and foster care.

The court’s majority held Tuesday that the case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, No. 12-399, did not involve removing a child from an Indian home because the girl’s father had relinquished his parental rights before the girl’s birth and her biological mother had agreed to allow the South Carolina couple to adopt the girl.

Four months after the child’s birth, the father, Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee tribe, changed his mind and sought custody of his daughter. He said he had not realized that his former fiancée was going to put the child up for adoption.

The girl was in the process of being legally adopted by Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a white couple who raised her for 27 months before South Carolina courts ruled in favor of Mr. Brown. The child, now nearly 4, has been living with Mr. Brown in Oklahoma for the past year and a half. The state courts found that both the Capobianco family and Mr. Brown had provided the girl with safe, loving homes.

The Baby Veronica case, named for the girl at the center of the dispute, has stirred powerful emotional responses from child welfare groups, adoptive parents and Indian tribes, all of whom have sought a clearer legal standard of how the Indian Child Welfare Act should be applied when it appears to conflict with state law.


Posted in children and adolescents, How Appealing, LGBT, race, race and class, racial justice, Supreme Court | 1 Comment »

Racially Biased Justice in the News: Weed Arrests, NYC’s Stop & Frisk….and a Happy Dad’s Day Story

June 17th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



It’s been three and a half years since Michelle Alexander’s essential book, The New Jim Crow, appeared in book stores
and laid out, with an avalanche of unignorable facts, her thesis that Jim Crow and racial segregation have been replaced by a racially biased justice system where discrimination masquerades as public safety with shattering effects.

The following stories that hit the news recently are examples of the problem that Alexander pointed out, each with their own complexities.


WEED AND RACE

Earlier this month we wrote about the ACLU’s report showing the racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession.

Following up on that report, the NY Times ran an editorial over the weekend urging law enforcement, both on a state and local level, to do away with the kind of arrest policies that are the most likely to produce these disasterously biased outcomes that the report outlines.

Here’s a clip:

Researchers have long known that African-Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though studies have repeatedly shown that the two groups use the drug at similar rates.

Of the more than eight million marijuana arrests made between 2001 and 2010, nearly 90 percent were for possession. There were nearly 900,000 marijuana arrests in 2010 — 300,000 more than for all violent crimes combined.

Nationally, African-Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites. The disparity is even more pronounced in some states, including Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, where African-Americans are about eight times as likely to be arrested. And in some counties around the country, blacks are 10, 15 or even 30 times as likely to be arrested.

This nationwide pattern is evident in all kinds of communities — urban and rural, wealthy and low income, in places where the African-American populations are large and in places where they are small.

As the report notes, police officers who are targeting black citizens and black neighborhoods are turning “a comparatively blind eye to the same conduct occurring at the same rates in many white communities.”


FEDS MAY STEP IN TO FORCE CHANGE IN NYC’S STOP-AND-FRISK POLICY

As the more than five-year-old lawsuit challenging New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy finally comes to a close, the Department of Justice has told the federal judge overseeing the case she has the DOJ’s permission (read: encouragement) to slap the city with federal oversight if she rules its actions violate the Constitution.

Should that come about, it will be met with much resistance by such people as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who both say that the policy has made the city safer and has lowered the kind of serious crime that affects minorities in the city disproportionately.

Delvin Barrett and Sean Gardiner of the Wall Street Journal, among others, have the story that will continue to unfold this week. Here’s a clip:

The New York Police Department faces the prospect of a federal monitor for the first time in its history, after the Justice Department issued an opinion in a civil-rights trial concerning the city’s policy of conducting street stops.

The tactic, known as stop-and-frisk, has received intense scrutiny in New York, where officers have conducted more than five million such stops in the past decade. While 52% of the city’s population is black or Hispanic, those groups make up 85% of those stopped, according to NYPD data.

Officers can stop, question and sometimes frisk people on the street when they have reasonable suspicion of a crime. But three federal class-action lawsuits have questioned whether New York’s execution of the tactic violates the U.S. Constitution.

In an opinion filed Wednesday night, the Justice Department said U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin could impose an outside monitor on the NYPD if she finds that officers violated the law in conducting stops. The opinion is tied to the first of the three cases to go to trial. Judge Scheindlin hasn’t yet ruled.


AND NOW ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AND MUCH CHEERIER TOPIC…

NICKERSON GARDENS STARTS BRAND NEW FATHER’S DAY TRADITION TO FOCUS ON UNDERAPPRECIATED DADS

Nickerson Gardens is a community where, in the past, too many kids have been wounded by the lack of adequate fathering. Now, however, a growing number of men in Nickerson are working hard to be the kind of fathers to their own kids that they never had. Sunday, on Father’s Day, the community acknowledged those dads with what organizers hope will be a yearly celebration.

KPCC’s Erica Aguilar has the story.

Here’s a clip:

For the first time, families from Nickerson Gardens housing development gave a formal ‘Thank You’ to the dads in the community at Sunday’s inaugural Father’s Day luncheon.

“In these communities, the fathers, they just feel nobody kind of care about them,” said Donny Joubert, who organized the event.

Joubert works for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, which manages the development. When you talk to guys at Nickerson Gardens, they refer to him as “Uncle Donny.” Joubert said he relates to the young fathers; he grew up there and is a dad himself.

“We got a bunch of young men that we know that is struggling, job to job, dealing with situations at home, but still trying to be there for their kid,” he said.

The event was called “Honor Thy Father.” About two-dozen dads were showered with ‘man bags,’ as one father called it. The gift bags were filled with some dad essentials like shiny silver watches, shaving kits, and of course white socks.

“Nobody never do nothing for the fathers, so this is a great,’ said Kevin White, a single father, whose sons are 17 and 18 years old.

White said he and his ex-girlfriend share custody of their teenage sons after they decided a long time ago that their relationship just wasn’t working. The towering man behind a dark pair of sunglasses twists a long silver chain hanging around his neck. White said that his 18-year old son starts his first year at Virginia Tech in August…..


PROJECT FATHERHOOD

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 24 million kids in America-–one out of every three—grow up with their biological fathers absent from thier homes.

That’s why fledgling events like the one above, and programs like Jordan Downs’ Project Fatherhood, are so very important—-and are indeed a cause for celebration.

NOTE: Project Fatherhood (which we reported on here) was featured at the Fatherhood Solutions conference held Friday and sponsored by the Children’s Institute.


Posted in children and adolescents, Community Health, law enforcement, race, race and class, racial justice | No Comments »

Bills About Guns…Kids & Solitary…Boy Scouts… and Foster Care …and More

May 31st, 2013 by Taylor Walker

A bunch of notable bills advanced in the CA legislature this week. Below is a round-up of the ones that most caught our eye.


STATE LAWMAKERS PASS GUN CONTROL BILLS AND MAKE MOVES TO REVOKE BOY SCOUTS TAX EXEMPTION

Twelve gun-control bills advanced through either the senate or the assembly, as did a bill to remove tax-exempt status from the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation or religion all advanced in either once house or the other.

LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy and Chris Megerian have a good run down on the main gun control measures. Here are some clips:

**Californians who want to buy ammunition would have to submit personal information and a $50 fee for a background check by the state, under a bill passed by the Senate. The state Department of Justice would determine whether buyers have a criminal record, severe mental illness or a restraining order that would disqualify them from owning guns.

Ammo shops would check the name on buyers’ driver’s licenses against a state list of qualified purchasers.

The goal of the bill is “to ensure that criminals and other dangerous individuals cannot purchase ammunition in the state of California,” said Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), author of SB 53.

[SNIP]

The Senate also OK’d a bill that would outlaw the sale, purchase and manufacture in California of semiautomatic rifles that can accommodate detachable magazines. The measure, SB 374 by Steinberg, also would require those who own such weapons to register them with the state.

The Assembly joined the action on guns by passing a measure to require the state Department of Justice to notify local law enforcement agencies when someone buys more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition.,,


BOY SCOUTS COULD GET TAX-EXEMPT STATUS YANKED

Here’s a clip from the same story regarding the measure passed by the state senate that would kill the Boy Scouts of America’s tax free status:

Senators on Wednesday voted to strip tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups, including the Boy Scouts of America, that deny participation based on sexual orientation or religion.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said he was glad the Boy Scouts’ national council recently decided to allow openly gay minors to serve as scouts. But he said it was unacceptable that the organization did not also lift its ban on gays serving as adult leaders.

“We’ve given the Boy Scouts ample time to solve their discrimination problem, and they have chosen a path that still leads to discrimination,” Lara told his colleagues.


YOUTH SOLITARY CONFINEMENT BILL PASSES THROUGH CA SENATE

As you may remember, we’ve been tracking SB 61, a bill authored by Sen. Leland Yee ((D-San Francisco/San Mateo) that will both define and limit solitary confinement for kids in state and county lock-ups. The bill made it through the CA Senate on Wednesday.

Here’s a clip from a statement from Yee’s office:

…..While the United Nations has called on all countries to prohibit solitary confinement in juvenile cases, the harsh measure is commonly used in juvenile facilities throughout California. Six states – Connecticut, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Alaska – ban solitary confinement for “punitive reasons.”

“The use of solitary confinement on a child is highly damaging and makes young people more dangerous and anti-social,” said Yee, a child psychologist. “Subjecting juveniles to solitary makes them more likely to reoffend, and more likely to suffer a lifetime mental illness.”

We’ll, of course, continue to track the bill’s progress.


A STRING FOSTER CARE BILLS MAKES IN THROUGH THE STATE SENATE

Several important foster care bills, also authored by Sen. Yee made it through the state Senate on Wednesday. The first bill fills in gaps in prenatal care for pregnant foster youth, gives priority housing, and provides other necessary services to young parents.

Another bill mandates that social workers actually see a foster child in his or her foster home on a regular basis—not just in meetings outside the home. (What a concept!)

Here’re some clips from Yee’s statement on the group of bills:

Young parents in the foster care system face the challenges of being in foster care as well as being a young, usually single, parent. Studies of both groups have found that they will experience higher than average rates of poverty, unemployment and low educational attainment. Senate Bill (SB) 528 seeks to provide assistance to these parents so both they and their child can have a better chance of success.

[SNIP]

“SB 528 will help pregnant youth in foster care prepare for parenthood by requiring local child welfare agencies refer pregnant youth to existing child and maternal health resources, including prenatal care and information about how to prevent subsequent pregnancies. This change is desperately needed,” said Amy Lemley, Policy Director for the John Burton Foundation, SB 528’s sponsor. “Currently, 20 percent of youth in foster care don’t access prenatal care until their sixth month of pregnancy, which has a range of negative outcomes include low birth weight. Los Angeles has started to take this approach and is seeing better birth outcomes among our state’s most vulnerable children.”

[SNIP]

“Parenting and pregnant youth are twice as likely to drop out of high school as to graduate,” said Yee. “It is imperative that we provide basic resources and assistance for pregnant and parenting teens who are in foster care. SB 528 will assist these foster youth and their children at the most critical time in their lives, and will save taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

And about another of Lee’s foster care bills;

SB 342 will ensure that monthly social worker visits of foster youth happen in the home of the child, ensuring that social workers have a more complete picture of the child’s home life and welfare and are better able to support the child and the family. Data from the Department of Social Services shows that nearly 24 percent of all case worker visits occur outside the child’s home leading to instances where some placements were not been visited by a social worker for an extended period of time.

“Far too often, foster children are being placed in substandard group homes and foster homes because no one has visited the placement home for months,” said Yee. “When the state removes a child from their home, we have a responsibility to ensure that the home in which they are placed meets basic standards.

One would certainly hope so.


IN OTHER NEWS….STUDY SHOWS DISCRIMINATORY SUSPENSION AND ARREST RATES IN NYC SCHOOLS

The shockingly disproportionate application of school discipline to black and learning disabled kids that his been shown to plague states like Texas and Mississippi (and, to some extent, LAUSD) turns out to be very present in NYC according to a new study conducted by the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force.

The Crime Report has the story. Here’s a clip:

Black students account for almost 63 percent of all arrests in New York City schools, even though they make up only 28 percent of the city’s student body, and are more than four times as likely to be suspended than their white peers, according to a report released today.

And the rate at which students are suspended in the city’s public schools has increased by about 40 percent since 2006, according to researchers for The New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force, which was led by former New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

The 45-member task force — which includes city officials, education and justice system experts — spent the last two years examining disciplinary issues in New York City’s public schools.

And Here’s a clip from the report itself:

Most worrisome are patterns of suspensions for students with disabilities and students of color in New York City and across the nation. In New York City alone during SY2012, students receiving special education services were almost four times more likely to be suspended compared to their peers not receiving special education services; Black students were four times more likely and Hispanic students were almost twice as likely to be suspended compared to White students. New York City Black students were also 14 times more likely, and Hispanic students were five times more likely, to be arrested for school-based incidents compared to White students.

Studies have shown that it is not the violent and egregious misbehavior that drives the disparities. For example, the Texas study showed that Black students had a lower rate of mandatory suspensions (suspensions for violence, weapons and other equally serious offenses) than White students. Black students exceeded White students only in the rates of suspensions for discretionary offenses.

Posted in children and adolescents, Foster Care, guns, juvenile justice, LGBT, School to Prison Pipeline | No Comments »

Trutanich Confronted by Warren Olney on WWLA….Youth Sexual Victimization in Prison & Jails….Twin Towers Has High Sex Assault Rate….and More

May 17th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


WARREN OLNEY CONFRONTS CARMEN TRUTANICH WITH, YOU KNOW, FACTS REGARDING HIS REALIGNMENT CAMPAIGN ATTACKS AGAINST FEUER

Thursday night’s Which Way LA? with Warren Olney on KCRW featured City Attorney candidates Mike Feuer and incumbent Carmen Trutanich, with each man interviewed for half the show.

More than perhaps any other interviewer or debate moderator during this election season, Olney has consistently asked the most intelligent, probing and illuminating questions of all the candidates who have stepped behind his microphones.

Thursday’s show with the City Attorney candidates was no exception.

However, his segment with Trutanich was a standout, as the ever dignified Olney all but chased “Nuch” around the room (metaphorically speaking), after Trutantich repeated his nonsense about AB109 letting inmates out of prison early, accusing realignment and Mike Feuer of being responsible for putting the Northridge kidnapping suspect on the street so the man could snatch ten-year-old girls….and more.

As we’ve said here, there is a legitimate and important discussion to be had about reforming AB 109 and some of its companion statutes mandating parole and probation reform. But that would require understanding the law in the first place, which Trutanich does not appear to do, and then one would have to deal in…you know, facts.

In the meantime, a hearty thank you to Warren Olney for holding our city attorney’s feet to the factual fire.


NEW STUDY ON PRISON RAPE AND SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION IN LOCK-UPS SHOWS THAT YOUTH ARE 13-21 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED THAN ADULTS WHEN INCARCERATED

A study released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) contained a number of disturbing statistics. But perhaps the most alarming stats have to do with the overall rates of sexual victimization for youth ages 16 and 17 in adult prisons (4.5%) and jails (4.7%), which were significantly higher than those for adults (4.0% in prisons, 3.2% in jails). The report also found that, among kids who reported being sexual victimized by staff, three quarters were victimized more than once, and nearly half said that staff used force or threat of force.

Yet those stats don’t tell the whole story, since kids are much fewer in numbers than adults in lock-up.

According to the highly respected Campaign for Youth Justice, research by BJS shows that 21% and 13% of all substantiated victims of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in jails in 2005 and 2006 respectively, were youth under the age of 18 (surprisingly high since only 1% of jail inmates are juveniles). Put another way, previous BJS research shows that youth in adult facilities were 13 to 21 times as likely to be sexually assaulted while in custody than their representation in the correctional population.

This study tells us that youth face sexual victimization in adult institutions, but due to underreporting by youth in challenging adult facility conditions, we need more research to know more about this problem,” says Liz Ryan, President and CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ). “Previous studies and the experiences of young people in the adult criminal justice system document that youth are at greatest risk of sexual victimization in adult jails and prisons, “The report underscores the urgency for U.S. Attorney General Holder and the nation’s governors to redouble their efforts to fully implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s (PREA) (http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/preac.html) Youthful Inmate Standard by removing youth under 18 from adult jails and prisons.”

Amnesty International also noted that inmates who identify as LGBT in prisons and jails were at least 2.5 times more likely to be sexually victimized by staff than non-LGBT detainees.


LA’S TWIN TOWERS JAIL SHOWS HIGH RATE OF INMATE ON INMATE SEXUAL ASSAULTS ACCORDING TO THE STUDY

In the study, as you might immagine, some prisions and jails had higher frequencies of sexual abuse than others. The report flagged 11 male prisons, 1 female prison, and 9 jails that it identified as high-rate facilities based on the prevalence of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization in 2011-12.

LA’s Twin Towers Jail was one of those 9 Jails with the highest rates of sexual assaults, said the report. (SEE PAGES 11 & 12)


AND NOW BACK TO REALIGNMENT: A NEW STUDY INDICATES THAT ARRESTS AND CONVICTIONS REMAIN ABOUT THE SAME AS PRE-REALIGNMENT

A new study released Thursday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation indicates that, under realignment, post-prison arrests are slightly down, while convictions remain static.

The study followed 37,448 lawbreakers for one year after their release from prison and compared those findings with statistics on 51,910 inmates released in the year immediately prior realignment.

The researchers found that post-Realignment offenders were arrested at a slightly lower rate than pre-Realignment offenders (62 percent pre-Realignment and 58.7 percent post-Realignment).

Key findings include:

* The number of post-Realignment offenders convicted of new crimes is nearly the same as the number of pre-Realignment offenders convicted of new crimes (21.3 percent pre-realignment and 22.5 percent post realignment).

* Post-Realignment offenders returned to prison at a significantly lower rate than pre-Realignment offenders, an intended effect of Realignment as most offenders are ineligible to return to prison on a parole violation. (42 percent pre-Realignment and 7.4 percent post-Realignment)

This last is due to the fact that, prior to realignment, parolees were being returned to prison on technical violations of their parole at a rapid clip. Whereas now, with many parolees, technical violations—things like staying out of their old neighborhoods, testing dirty, and so on—do not result in 9 mos more in prison.

There is additional fine grain stuff in the study itself, so click here, if you want delve deeper into the matter. A lot more study is needed, yet the bottom line take-away from this study is that those who have been shrieking that realignment is causing crime to run rife through the countryside, do not have facts on their side.


FEDERAL OVERSIGHT OF LAPD OFFICIALLY ENDS

The Federal Consent Decrees finally is no more for the LAPD. The AP’s Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:

A judge has officially ended more than a decade of federal oversight of the Los Angeles Police Department that was triggered by a corruption scandal involving abusive officers.
In two short sentences, U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess dismissed the final remnants of a consent decree on Wednesday, releasing the department from a transition agreement put in place in 2009 to ensure reforms that had been made were kept in place.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cheered the formal end to agreement at an afternoon news conference with Police Chief Charlie Beck. Villaraigosa said the department, which was once “an example of how not to police a city, is now a national model.”

Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the union was pleased the department was free of the federal monitoring.

“Now we can begin looking for efficiencies in LAPD processes while at the same time maintaining the transparency the public deserves,” he said. The union represents nearly 10,000 LAPD personnel.

The city was forced into the consent decree in 2001 under the threat of a federal lawsuit. The U.S. government alleged a pattern of civil rights violations committed by police officers that went back decades.

Now that it’s over, it bears remembering that, as odious as the thing was, the Consent Decree was a tool that Bill Bratton used effectively to begin to institute real reform in the department.


Posted in Child sexual abuse, children and adolescents, City Attorney, jail, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, prison, prison policy, Realignment, Youth at Risk | 1 Comment »

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