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Will Brown Sign the Gun Restraining Order Bill?…New Study Shows Most Juvie Offenders Have High Childhood Trauma….LAPD IG Calls for Ford Shooting Witnesses….

September 3rd, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



NOW THAT THE GUN RESTRAINING ORDER BILL HAS LANDED ON JERRY BROWN’S DESK, WILL HE SIGN IT?

On Friday, state lawmakers passed a piece of legislation called the California Gun Restraining Order bill, or AB 1014, which would allow family members to petition a court to remove firearms from a loved one temporarily if the family believes there is a serious risk involved.

The question is: Will Governor Jerry Brown sign the bill?

Brown is not all that fond of any legislation having to do with gun regulation.

The measure was introduced in response to the Isla Vista killing rampage that occurred in May of this year and resulted in six dead students and many more wounded before 22-year-old Elliot killed himself. In the days prior to the tragedy, Roger’s parents became so concerned about their son’s scarily erratic behavior that they called the police, who could do nothing because he didn’t meet the existing criteria for intervention.

Getting the bill passed and, now signed, has been a priority for a diverse group of advocates and officials like the Brady Campaign, the California State Sheriffs Association, Disability Rights California, the City of Los Angeles, Attorney General Kamala Harris, the California Psychiatric Association….and more.

Gun rights advocates opposed the bill as unnecessary and open to abuse.

Now the LA Times editorial board is urging the governor to sign the bill, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s board strongly favors it too.

Here’s a clip from the SF Chron’s essay (written just before the bill cleared the state assembly):

Sacramento’s rush toward an end-of-session deadline doesn’t always produce the best results, but the Legislature is close to producing a gun measure that deserves support and praise. It’s a marked contrast to Washington, still cowed by gun rights extremists.

The bill allows families of mentally troubled individuals to petition courts to take away firearms, a direct response to the Isla Vista that left six dead in May.

Present law allows law enforcement to confiscate guns from people who have court convictions, domestic violence restraining orders or a record of mental instability. But as the Isla Vista killings showed, there’s a gap: a troubled person – in this case 22-year old Elliot Rodger – easily obtained guns that he ended up using in the rampage….

And here’s a clip from the LAT editorial:

AB 1014 empowers a judge to issue a “gun violence restraining order” after being presented with reasonable cause to believe a gun owner could “in the near future” harm himself or others. Under its authority, police would be allowed to search the subject’s residence and remove weapons. Guns owned by another resident of the home could also be confiscated unless they are secured beyond the reach of the restrained person, such as in a locked gun case.

The legislation arose after it was discovered that Rodger, despite a history of mental illness, legally bought all three of the guns he used. Notably, they were only part of his arsenal: Rodger killed his first three victims with knives, and he injured several others by striking them with his car.

That has prompted some critics of this legislation to argue that it would not have prevented the rampage that inspired it. That may be true — or at least partly true — but it misses the larger point that mentally ill people with violent tendencies should not possess firearms….


FLA STUDY LOOKS AT JUVENILE JUSTICE & TRAUMA AND THE RESULTS ARE STARK

A recent study conducted by Florida’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the University of Florida found a significant correlation between a high degree of childhood trauma and kids who end up in the juvenile justice system. Kids who run afoul of the law have starkly higher amounts of adverse childhood experiences—or ACES—than the general population.

Interestingly, the Florida study found a much stronger link between childhood trauma and juvenile offenders than was originally found in the groundbreaking 1998 epidemiological study done by the Center of Disease Control, which mapped out the relationship between early trauma and poor outcomes later in life like cognitive impairments, high risk behavior, social/emotional problems and so on.

The Florida project, which surveyed 64,329 Florida juvenile offenders, found that only 2.8 percent reported no childhood adversity, compared with 34 percent from the original 1998 CDC study.

Cecilia Bianco at Reclaim our Futures has more on the significance of the Florida study. Here’s a clip:

The 10 adverse childhood experiences measured in the Florida research and the CDC’s ACE Study were the same:

*Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse
*Emotional and physical neglect
*Witnessing a mother being abused
*Household substance abuse
*Household mental illness
*Losing a parent to separation or divorce
*Having an incarcerated household member

Half of the Florida juveniles reported four or more ACEs, compared with 13 percent of those in the CDC’s ACE Study. Young people with four ACEs are twice as likely to be smokers, 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, seven times more likely to be alcoholic, and 10 times more likely to inject street drugs.

The Department of Juvenile Justice incorporates trauma-informed practices into many of its programs due to the higher rates of certain individual types of trauma among juvenile justice-involved youth.

This study provides further evidence to support these practices that create safe environments for young people to avoid re-traumatizing them and to facilitate participation of trauma survivors in the planning of services and programs. Released in the Spring 2014 issue of the Journal of Juvenile Justice, the Florida study has sparked the interest of state government, and academic and child advocacy communities….


LAPD INSPECTOR GENERAL HAVING TROUBLE FINDING WITNESSES IN THE EZELL FORD SHOOTING

On Tuesday, LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante pleaded in a statement asking for anyone who witnessed the Ezell Ford shooting to please contact his office.

Ford was the mentally ill 25-year-old who was shot and killed by LAPD officers in South LA, on August 11, touching off a string of peaceful demonstrations.

Originally, there were said to be several community witnesses to the shooting, but only one has turned up, Bustamante said in a statement.

Frank Stoltze of KPCC has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

Bustamante’s investigation is one of three into the shooting: the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division and LA County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division also are conducting inquiries.

The inspector general said he remains hamstrung by the lack of first-person accounts of what happened in a neighborhood where distrust of police can run deep.

“I need witnesses to come forward,” he said “I remain powerless without witness accounts of the incident to shed additional light on what occurred.”

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith has said gang officers were making an “investigative stop” in the 200 block of West 65th Street around 8pm August 11 when Ford “tackled” one of the officers and tried to grab his gun. The department has refused to provide a more complete explanation of why officers stopped Ford….


Posted in children and adolescents, guns, Inspector General, juvenile justice, LAPD, PTSD, Trauma | No Comments »

Los Angeles School Police Announce Important Reforms to Decriminalize School Discipline….& More

August 20th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



TELLING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STUDENT MISBEHAVIOR AND CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

In a drastic change in approach when compared to the policies and protocols that ruled the day in the Los Angeles Unified School District as recently as three years ago, the head of the district’s school police, Chief Steven Zipperman, announced on Tuesday that his force will no longer criminalize the less serious forms of school rule breaking—a move that is expected to significantly reduce student contact with the criminal justice system.

Instead, multiple categories of student actions that previously would have led to citations or arrests, will be now be handled by referring the student to rehabilitative forms of intervention by school officials.

These newly re-classified behaviors include such infractions as tobacco possession, alcohol possession, possession of small amounts of marijuana, minor damage to school property (under $400), trespassing on school property, and most fights between students, which usually account for 20 percent of school arrests.

The policy of treating non-serious student misbehavior as criminal behavior was part of the zero-tolerance mania that came into fashion 25 years ago when fear about youth gang violence was hitting its apex, then continued to ramp up further in the panic after school shootings like Columbine in 1999.

The new policy, said Zipperman, “contains clear guidelines” that will help LASP officers “in distinguishing school discipline responses to student conduct from criminal responses.”


HARD WON CHANGES

Tuesday’s reforms are the latest in a series of hard-won changes that began to gain traction after national reports showed that the broad-brush of zero-tolerance did not, in fact, make schools safer, and that contact with police was a strong predictor of school performance and whether a kid would graduate from high school or drop out. (A single arrest doubles a student’s chances of dropping out of school.)

Significant progress was made in Los Angeles in 2012, when police agreed to dial back much of the disastrously punitive policy of truancy ticketing, in which thousands of students per year were issued $250 tickets, often resulting court fees on top of them, for being late or absent from school. Instead, students with chronic absences began being referred to school counselors, rather than courts.


CONCERN OVER RACIAL INEQUITIES

The urgency for reform was further recognized after data surfaced showing that school arrests and school suspensions in California consistently cut disproportionately against students of color and those with disabilities. In 2013, in Los Angeles, for example, LA School Police made nearly 1,100 arrests, 94.5 percent of those arrests involved students of color.

That same year, black students represented just 10 percent of the student population, but accounted for 31 percent of the LASP arrests.

Manuel Criollo, Director of Organizing for the Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign, called Tuesday’s announcement a “civil rights breakthrough” that would help “curb the school to prison pipeline in Los Angeles.”

Supervising Juvenile Court Judge Donna Groman put it another way.. “Juvenile court should be the last resort for youth who commit minor school-based offenses,” she said in a statement. “The education system is better equipped to address behaviors displayed at the school level through restorative justice and other alternative means.”

Groman, along with presiding judge of the LA Juvenile Courts Michael Nash, was among the prominent players who actively supported California-based pro-bono law firm, Public Counsel, and the Community Rights Campaign, in their two years of negotiation for Tuesday’s changes.

“There are enough studies that show bringing them into the justice system is really more of a slippery slope that leads to negative outcomes and poor futures,” Judge Nash told the New York Times this week. “The people who are in these schools need to deal with these issues, not use the courts as an outlet. We have to change our attitude and realize that the punitive approach clearly hasn’t worked.”


A NATIONAL MODEL?

The LA School Police joined Oakland, San Francisco and Pasadena in enacting these much-needed reforms.

However, with more than 640,000 students and nearly 1,100 schools, the LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation. (New York’s system is the largest.) And its school police force is America’s largest, As a consequence advocates hope that Tuesday’s reforms will lead the way for similar reforms statewide and elsewhere in the U.S.

“If fully implemented,”said Laura Faer, Statewide Education Rights Director for Public Counsel, “this policy will move Los Angeles in the right direction to becoming a nationwide leader in putting intervention and support for struggling students before arrests and juvenile court time.”

May it be so.



AND IN OTHER NEWS:

NEW U.C. IRVINE STUDY SAYS HAVING A FATHER OR MOTHER LOCKED UP CAN BE MORE DETRIMENTAL TO A CHILD’S HEALTH THAN DIVORCE OR THE DEATH OF A PARENT

In a startling new study just released by UC Irvine, Assistant Professor of Sociology Kristin Turney finds that children’s emotional and health disadvantages are an overlooked and unintended consequence of mass incarceration. “In addition,” says Turney, “given its unequal distribution across the population, incarceration may have implications for racial and social class inequalities in children’s health.”

The study will appear in the September edition of the Journal of Health & Social Behavior, a publication of the American Sociological Association.

Here’s a clip from the ASA’s pre-publication write-up:

With more than 2 million people behind bars, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This mass incarceration has serious implications for not only the inmates, but their children, finds a new University of California-Irvine study. The study found significant health problems, including behavioral issues, in children of incarcerated parents and also that, for some types of health outcomes, parental incarceration can be more detrimental to a child’s well-being than divorce or the death of a parent.

“We know that poor people and racial minorities are incarcerated at higher rates than the rest of the population, and incarceration adversely affects the health and development of children who are already experiencing significant challenges,” said study author Kristin Turney…

[SNIP]

The likelihood of having an incarcerated parent is especially high in certain groups. “Among black children with fathers without a high school diploma, about 50 percent will experience parental incarceration by age 14, compared with 7 percent of white children with similarly educated fathers,” Turney said.

Compared to divorce, parental incarceration is more strongly associated with both ADD/ADHD and behavioral problems in children; compared to the death of a parent, parental incarceration is more strongly associated with ADD/ADHD….


IN THE JOURNALISTIC COMMUNITY WE ARE REELING FROM THE MURDER OF JAMES FOLEY

A veteran war reporter, American freelance journalist, James Foley repeatedly went deep into conflict zones to bring back stories of the suffering and hardship of people most affected by the conflicts. He went to bear witness. Then he disappeared into Syria nearly two years ago on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

On Tuesday, the Islamic extremist group ISIS released a video appearing to show Foley’s execution.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) at least 69 other journalists have been killed in Syria since the fighting there began.

Posted in American voices, campus violence, children and adolescents, Civil Rights, Education, juvenile justice, LAUSD, School to Prison Pipeline, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 12 Comments »

Interim Sheriff Wants OIG Bound to LASD in Attorney-Client Relationship…the Center for Youth Wellness…and the LASD’s Emerging Leaders Academy

July 11th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

SHERIFF SCOTT PUSHES FOR INSPECTOR GENERAL AND LASD TO HAVE ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE

Back in November, the LA County Board of Supervisors selected Max Huntsman to fill the newly established role of Inspector General for the Sheriff’s Department. County officials are still trying to establish what kind of access Huntsman will have to sensitive department data.

Interim Sheriff John Scott is urging the Supes to bind Huntsman to the LASD in an attorney-client relationship to protect confidential department information.

Aides to the Supes and other officials say the attorney-client privilege is not necessary, and would only impede the Inspector General’s ability to independently oversee the department. (We at WLA strongly agree, and would also rather the new sheriff make these recommendations, rather than the interim sheriff.)

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

Interim Sheriff John Scott wants the inspector general to be bound by an attorney-client relationship with his department, so that confidential information shared with Huntsman as part of his investigations can’t be subpoenaed or released to the public.

“Absent an Attorney-Client relationship my desire to cooperate with the OIG will remain consistently high, but my actual ability to share information will be impaired and will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis,” Scott said in a statement Wednesday.

Past civilian monitors of the Sheriff’s Department have functioned under an attorney-client relationship. Sheriff’s officials said attorneys from outside the county had advised Scott to set up a similar relationship with the inspector general, although the county’s top attorney advised that such an arrangement wasn’t necessary.

At a public meeting Wednesday, aides to the supervisors opposed the sheriff’s proposal, saying it would impede Huntsman’s independence.

“The [inspector general] is being put into place to be a monitor, oversight, and distant from your organization,” Joseph Charney, a deputy to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, told sheriff’s officials. “We’re concerned about that.”

Some county officials argued that attorney-client privilege would not apply, in any case, since the inspector general would not be giving legal advice to the sheriff. They said other state laws already protect the confidentiality of sensitive information.

The Supervisors are also in the midst of deciding whether to create a civilian oversight commission to watch over the department. On Thursday, Long Beach Police Chief and Sheriff candidate frontrunner Jim McDonnell released a statement in support of forming a citizen’s commission. McDonnell seems to be far more in favor of independent oversight than what we’ve seen from Sheriff Scott. Here is a clip:

“Later this month, the Board of Supervisors will consider whether to create a civilian commission to oversee the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I support this concept and believe that there is great value in creating an independent civilian oversight body that would enable the voice of the community to be part of the LASD’s pathway forward. A civilian commission can provide an invaluable forum for transparency and accountability, while also restoring and rebuilding community trust in the constitutional operation of the LASD.

The Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, on which I served, underscored the need for comprehensive and independent monitoring of the LASD and its jails and recommended the creation of an Office of Inspector General (the “OIG”) – an entity that is now in the process of formation. While our Commission opted not to express any view regarding a civilian commission, I believe that the time has come for the creation of an empowered and independent citizens’ commission to oversee and guide the work of the OIG and help move the Department beyond past problems.

Though a civilian oversight commission may be a new concept for LASD, it is not new to me or to law enforcement in general. Indeed, I spent many of my 29 years at the LAPD working with its citizens’ Police Commission. I have also worked with a citizens’ commission as Chief of Police in Long Beach. I have seen first-hand the value of empowering the community’s voice and welcome the opportunity to work with the Board of Supervisors, legal experts and community groups in developing the best possible model of civilian oversight for the LASD.

[SNIP]

While I encourage the Board of Supervisors, for all of these reasons, to move forward now with the approval of this concept, I believe that it is important to take the necessary time, and obtain expert guidance, to ensure that a newly created citizens’ commission has the structure, independence and resources to function effectively. In particular, I would urge serious consideration of a structure that would include not simply individuals appointed by the Board of Supervisors, but also other appointing authorities (that might include justice system partners and community stakeholders). To ensure their full independence and autonomy, serious consideration should be given to having commission members serve a set term of years and be empowered to select their own staff and leadership. The OIG, in carrying out the commission’s work, should have full access to LASD facilities, records and personnel, as allowed by existing law. These issues should be worked out in tandem with the development of the OIG, so that both entities can be part of a cohesive new civilian oversight structure. As noted above, it is my view that the commission should oversee and guide the work of the OIG, while also acting as a bridge to the community and a vehicle for the transparent airing of markers of progress in regard to moving LASD beyond past problems.


COMBATTING CHILDHOOD TRAUMA IN A DISADVANTAGED NEIGHBORHOOD

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Brian Rinker has an excellent story about San Francisco’s Bayview District Center for Youth Wellness, and Nadine Burke Harris, the pediatrician who pioneered its progressive, trauma-informed approach to healing kids in a violence-plagued neighborhood. Here are some clips:

San Francisco’s Bayview district is best known for its gun violence, drugs, pollution and poverty, and not much else. But a community health clinic’s radical approach to healing children may change all that by turning the impoverished neighborhood into an epicenter for trauma-informed care.

Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris transformed her Bayview clinic to incorporate a growing body of research linking emotional and physical abuse, neglect and household dysfunction to a long list of poor health and societal outcomes later in life. The stress that arises from chronic exposure to trauma is so severe that it is called toxic stress, which can alter a child’s developing brain and body.

Since Burke Harris began treating patients struggling with toxic stress, she and her wellness center have become a fixture in the childhood trauma world: with glowing descriptions in news articles, and most recently a proposed California resolution to include the science of childhood trauma and toxic stress into the state’s policy vernacular.

“Nadine Burke Harris is a natural leader. She’s just wonderful,” said Esta Soler, president of Futures Without Violence, a organization advocating for trauma-informed policies on a national level. “Center for Youth Wellness is an incredible organization, a laboratory that will help many young people and families living with a lot of adversity.”

Soler said she hopes what Burke Harris is doing in the Bayview will inspire other leaders across the nation to apply child trauma research to their work with children.

[SNIP]

…the wellness center acts like an oasis for traumatized children. The roughly 1,000 children who visit the pediatrics office each year are screened using the Adverse Childhood Experiences scoring system, or ACEs. In 1998, researchers Robert Anda and Vincent Filletti released a blockbuster study linking child trauma to future health problems. The more the trauma the greater the likelihood a person will develop health and behavioral problems as an adult. They created the ACE score to measure instances of adverse experiences, like a child who is sexually abused by a parent, living with an alcoholic family member, a parent diagnosed with a mental health illness or having an incarcerated father are all traumatic instances calculated into a score. The higher the score the more likely that the patient would end up with health problems and even an early death. Patients with an ACE of score of 3 or 4 are sent to the Wellness Center for further help.

[SNIP]

Loftus said she expects to see 300 kids this year. Most kids treated at the center have a 3 or 4 ACEs score, but the range is from 0 to 8. The wellness center works with the child and family to design an individualized response to the toxic stress. The treatment usually involves education about adverse childhood experiences and how toxic stress can alter a child’s brain, therapy for coping with stress, better eating habits, exercise and biofeedback—where sensors are attached the body to identify stress points in an effort to teach the patient to avoid stressful situations.


LA COUNTY PROGRAM HELPS EX-OFFENDERS SUCCESSFULLY REENTER COMMUNITY THROUGH MENTORING AND TRAINING

Emerging Leaders Academy, a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reentry program, empowers former offenders to become self-reliant and successful through mentoring and education and employment services.

Only 11% of 700 participants have been locked up again after graduating the program (in stark contrast to the 75% recidivism rate in California).

The LA Daily News’ Dana Bartholomew has more on the program. Here’s how it opens:

Something strange happened to Carlos Duarte the day he attended an Emerging Leaders Academy eight weeks ago largely to get a glimpse of some pretty ladies.

A gang member slathered head to foot in tattoos, he’d spent the past 18 years in a California prison on an attempted-murder beef. He hated cops. And he’d just been busted for heroin.

What the 34-year-old ex-con stumbled into was an ember of hope in an empowerment program run by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He donned a tie and a sleeveless argyle sweater, and he now beams at being called Mr. Duarte.

“I went in to talk to girls,” said Duarte, now living at Cri-Help, a drug treatment program in North Hollywood. “And instead I found self-worth, self-confidence — and my life became meaningful.”

The Boyle Heights resident was among 48 “emerging leaders” gathering at the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City on Wednesday for their graduation from the sheriff’s celebrated empowerment, learning and jobs program, part of the department’s Education-Based Incarceration Bureau.

They had participated in some very bad things, done drugs, gone to prison, become estranged from decent friends and family. Most of all, all agreed they’d become strangers to their true “right” selves.

In eight weeks’ time — and daily Emerging Leaders Academy classes from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, La Puente to Culver City — the onetime losers were now emboldened winners.

“Emerging leaders, we don’t give them anything,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Clyde Terry, founder of the leadership academy. “We remind them of who they’ve always been — they’re extraordinary human beings.”

Posted in children and adolescents, Inspector General, LASD, Reentry, Sheriff John Scott, Trauma, Youth at Risk | 38 Comments »

Supes Unaware of DOJ’s Jails Concerns (Really?)…A New Child Protection Czar To Be Created….Adult Interrogation Techniques Not Good for Kids…..and More

June 12th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


SUPES SAID TO BE UNAWARE THAT DOJ WAS REALLY, REALLY UNHAPPY WITH LA COUNTY’S TREATMENT OF MENTALLY ILL JAIL INMATES (SERIOUSLY???)

The LA Times Abby Sewell reports that, on Tuesday, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas expressed that he and his fellow board members were in the dark about the seriousness of Department of Justice officials’ concerns regarding the reported ongoing mistreatment of mentally ill jail inmates.

The supervisor’s remarks were made in reaction to the blisteringly critical assessment of the issue released last Friday by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte and the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.

While we genuinely commend the fact that the supervisor came right out and admitted that the board should have been more aware, we also wonder how exactly the supes managed to blinder themselves so thoroughly.

There were, after all, lots of red flags. For instance, there was the jump in suicides in the jails: In 2012, there were four “completed” suicides. In 2013, there were ten inmate suicides. And, mind you, these stats came after all the much-touted improvements were made in the running of the jails.

Plus, in January of this year there was a suicide that the DOJ especially noted as being emblematic of “systemic deficiencies in the Jails’ suicide prevention practices.” The case in question involved a vocally suicidal inmate with a history of mental illness, who—according to proper protocol—should have been checked on every 15 minutes, but who instead remained unobserved and unchecked in his cell for at least three hours during which time, surprise! he killed himself.

As Hector Villagra, the executive director of the So Cal ACLU wrote on Friday when the DOJ report was released, “…a number of today’s Justice Department findings are eerily similar to those reported by Dr. Terri Kupers, a nationally recognized expert, in a 2008 ACLU of Southern California study – a study that the Board of Supervisors, Department of Mental Health and the Sheriff’s Department ignored.”

Moreover, even after getting the bad news in September that the DOJ had launched a civil-rights investigation into problems in the LA County Jail system (this is on top of the FBI’s ongoing probe into abuse and corruption in the jails), during the discussion of whether or not to approve the county’s hugely expensive new Vanir jail building plan, those advocating for the plan from the LASD and from county mental health claimed that this multi-year jail-building strategy was exactly what the DOJ folks wanted. Without it, the building plan supporters threatened, we’d end up with a federal consent decree or some other equally onerous (and expensive) form of federal oversight.

So….the supes approved the building plan and a month later almost to the day the DOJ sent its letter informing the county that that it had run out of patience, and it was now time for “corrective action in the form of a court-enforceable agreement”—AKA federal oversight.

That certainly worked out well.

Okay, enough of our lecturing. Here’s a clip from Sewell’s story:

….Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said board members and their staffs were not privy to communications sent by the U.S. Justice Department to Sheriff’s Department and county mental health officials regarding ongoing problems until September. That’s when county officials received a letter announcing a federal civil-rights investigation of the jail system.

“That was our notification,” Ridley-Thomas said. “From my point of view, that’s hugely problematic.”

The issue gained urgency last week, when federal officials issued a scathing report on jail conditions for mentally ill inmates, citing a recent surge in jail suicides. The Justice Department said it would seek court oversight of reforms.

In 2002, the county approved an agreement with federal officials requiring improvements in the handling of mentally ill inmates. But unlike a similar — and more recent — agreement with the federal government involving the county’s treatment of juveniles in the probation system, board members neither requested nor received regular updates on efforts to resolve the federal jail issues.

There were conflicting portrayals Tuesday of who was responsible for the communication breakdown. Some county officials and staff — including Ridley-Thomas, who joined the board in 2008 — said they didn’t know until September that the county had entered into a formal agreement with the federal government concerning jail problems.


AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS: SUPES CREATE CHILD PROTECTION CZAR & MORE

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors took an important step when they voted 4-1 to create a “child protection czar” who will head up a new Office of Child Protection. This move was one of the urgent recommendations made by The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection in their final report issued on April 18 of this year.

KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:

The vote, split four to one, came after hours of debate on how to proceed with dozens of recommendations put forward by a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection. In April, the panel declared L.A.’s system in a “state of emergency” and said the only fix would be going outside the county’s current patchwork of law enforcement, health, and foster care officials currently responsible for ensuring child safety in the county.

They recommended establishing a new Office of Child Protection to coordinate the departments and oversee broad changes to the system.

The Board, with the exception of Supervisor Don Knabe, agreed to the proposal.

Knabe said a brand new bureaucracy would hardly solve the issues the child welfare system faces.

“We started out DPSS and then we went Department of Children and Family Services, now we’re going to have an Office of Child Protection, next we’ll have an Office of Child Protection Protection, and another committee and commission,” Knabe said, before voting “no” on the proposal.


SOME OF COPS’ COMMON COERCIVE INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES SHOULD NOT BE USED WITH KIDS, SAYS STUDY

According to an ongoing psychological study at the University of Virginia some of the confrontational and deceptive interrogation techniques commonly used by law enforcement to question subjects are deeply problematic when used with teenagers and their still-developing brains. For one thing, the techniques can result in false confessions.

Fariss Samarrai of Science Daily has the story. Here’s a clip:

Some interrogation techniques commonly used by police departments throughout the United States to obtain confessions from adult suspects may be inappropriate for use on juveniles, according to an ongoing University of Virginia psychology study.

Such techniques purport to detect deception in criminal suspects and use methods to heighten suspects’ anxiety during interviews, with the goal of obtaining an admission of guilt. Such psychologically manipulative interrogation techniques are considered contentious by critics because they can result in false confessions.

The risk of this is heightened for juvenile suspects, whose still-developing brains make them impressionable and vulnerable to interviewing methods in a stress-filled interrogation room.

“Teenagers are good at making bad decisions,” said Todd Warner, a U.Va. Ph.D. candidate in psychology who is conducting the study. “More than 90 percent of juvenile suspects waive their Miranda rights and begin talking after an arrest. Because they are young and the areas of the brain responsible for executive function are undeveloped, they are more likely than adults to make impulsive decisions, are more suggestible to authority figures, and weigh short-term gains, such as leaving the interrogation room, over long-term consequences, [like] remaining in custody.

“These decision-making tendencies can make teenagers more vulnerable to making incriminating statements or even false admissions of guilt when under the pressure of an interrogation.”


SUPREMES REFUSE APPEAL OF RULING REQUIRING STATE OF CALIFORNIA TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR INMATES WITH DISABILITIES EVEN IF IN COUNTY CARE

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment to hear an appeal by the State of California of a court order that holds state officials responsible for making sure that inmates with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations in the various county jails. (PS: These are inmates that, pre-realignment, would have been the responsibility of the state.)

When they appealed the lower court ruling, Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, maintained that the ruling, if allowed to stand, would make the California “liable for alleged ADA violations in the county jails”

Uh, yeah. And your point would be…..?

Reuter’s Jennifer Chaussee has the story.

Here’s a clip:

….The court’s denial highlighted tensions between the most populous U.S. state and federal courts about crowding and conditions in California’s troubled prison system.

The state has been under court orders to reduce its prison population since 2009 and has sought to comply partly by funneling some non-violent offenders to county jurisdiction.

In 2012, a U.S. District Court judge ordered state officials to notify the counties when inmates have disabilities entitling them to accommodations under federal law while in jail. The state must also take complaints from prisoners who say they are not getting assistance they need.

“They were essentially refusing to pass that on to counties,” said Lisa Ells, part of the legal team representing disabled inmates. “So the counties would receive an inmate and have no idea if that person was disabled.”

In her 2012 order, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken required the state to track the roughly 2,000 disabled inmates in its custody and report to county jails when someone was transferred to county jurisdiction who was entitled to accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Those accommodations can include wheelchairs, tapping canes for the blind or accessible beds and toilets. Once the state makes the county aware of an inmate’s needs, it is the county’s legal obligation to provide the necessary accommodations.

After the order was issued, the state complied, but also submitted a series of appeals aimed at overturning the requirement.

Posted in children and adolescents, DCFS, Foster Care, jail, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD | 3 Comments »

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.

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