On Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and a cluster of other LA law enforcement figures got together with around two dozen local religious leaders for a two-hour, no-press-allowed post-Ferguson chat in the hope that everyone might speak candidly about the tensions between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
The meeting, which took place on the 8th floor of the newly renovated Hall of Justice, on Temple Street in downtown LA, was the inaugural event for the historic building.
Judging by what WitnessLA was able to gather as everyone was dispersing, most came away with the feeling that some real and relevant things had been said. Moreover, everybody wanted to do it again.
“We don’t want to have this be one-and-done,” said Sheriff McDonnell when we spoke after the event. The idea was to build ongoing relationships, he said.
The gathering was billed as being co-hosted by McDonnell, Beck and CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. District Attorney Jackie Lacy, LA City Attorney Mike Feurer, and Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura were also on hand.
But, it was clearly an LASD-organized affair. Still everyone had reportedly had things to say—a lot of it straight talking from both the faith leaders and the cops. “It was not a booster club,” said McDonnell.
Interestingly, the faith leaders didn’t just raise issues with law enforcement, they also spoke frankly to each other. One issue in particular that reportedly caused discussion, according to those present, was the necessity of the clergy to engage when there is a police/community problem “not Just read about it.”
On this topic, one pastor reportedly said, ‘It breaks my heart that [when something happens] we close the doors of he churches.”
Another subject that caused much discussion was the religious leaders’ acknowledgement that affluent communities tend to view—and experience—the police very differently than do lower income communities
McDonnell and Beck both talked about interaction with the clergy as a being “critical piece of community policing.” They also spoke of the need to bring what occurred on Tuesday, “to the station level,” said McDonnell, for the LASD and the LAPD.
Community oriented policing is not something law enforcement agencies should do on the side or merely to appease critics,” he said. “Rather, a focus on community oriented policing ensures law enforcement is viewed by the community as legitimate.”
“We are very fortunate in this community to have law enforcement leadership that recognizes and understands the importance of strengthening community relations,” said Reverend Chip Murray, in a pre-meeting statement. “This timely event will help us build upon the strong foundations that already exist and enable us to do even more, working together.”
A pastor from Compton, who was leaving just as WLA arrived, pronounced the meeting, “Good. Very good.” Things were said that needed to be said, he told me. “And that’s a very good thing.”
LA, NY, AND CHICAGO TELL THE DEPT. OF EDUCATION KIDS AREN’T RESTRAINED IN THEIR SCHOOLS…BUT IT DOES HAPPEN
It is required that every school district in the US reports how many times kids were restrained in school to the Department of Education. The requirement came about after a 2009 government report revealed that these restraints—mostly of kids with disabilities—resulted in tons of unnecessary injuries (and even deaths).
ProPublica’s Annie Waldman analyzed the data, and found that two-thirds of school districts said there were no instances of kids being restrained or held in isolation rooms. Big districts like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago fell into this category.
LA Unified School District said there were no restraints, but does tally “behavior emergency interventions,” which can involve pinning down a child.
The Department of Education declined to say whether they have penalized any districts for failing to report.
But underreporting appears to be rampant. Our analysis found that more than two-thirds of all school systems reported zero instances of restraining a student or isolating them in so-called “seclusion” rooms.
Many districts are not taking the reporting process seriously, said Claudia Center, a senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I think there needs to be a real cultural shift on restraints,” Center said. “It has been a really common practice in schools for decades. If [schools] had to write down how many times they actually do it, they would have to change what they’re doing.”
A spokesman for the federal Department of Education said if school districts fail to collect data on restraints, the government works with them to construct a plan to improve and could ultimately compel them to report by suspending federal aid until they do.
Huffman, the spokeswoman from Chicago’s public school system, said federal officials haven’t contacted school officials there about their missing data.
Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry, said that although the district reported zero instances of restraints, it keeps its own tally of incidents involving disabled children. Advocates say such actions, which are called “behavioral emergency inventions,” often come in the form of restraints. The Los Angeles Unified School District reported 103 interventions during the 2012 school year.
FUNDING THE CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE FOR INCOMING PROP 47 MISDEMEANOR CASES
Because Prop 47 downgraded a number of low-level felonies to misdemeanors, the City Attorney’s Office anticipates an influx of 13,500 new misdemeanor cases per year. (Before Prop 47, these cases would have been handled by the District Attorney’s Office.)
City Attorney Mike Feuer asked the city for $510,482 to hire more attorneys and staff to deal with the workload, as well as about $875,000 more per year, moving forward.
An LA Times editorial makes a really compelling argument in favor of City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approving that money request. Here’s a clip (but definitely read the whole thing, as it clarifies a number of things about Prop 47):
Many observers brush off misdemeanor convictions as unimportant because shorter sentences are too often not served at all due to jail crowding. But that’s part of what Proposition 47 is meant to fix. Thousands of inmates who formerly would have served multiyear terms in state prison are now serving that time in county jail cells because of the 2011 realignment law. Some of those will now see their sentences shortened, freeing up cells to allow each inmate to serve closer to his or her full sentence, while also relieving crowding in state prisons.
There is a discussion to be had about whether possession of some drugs should even be a misdemeanor, rather than an infraction such as marijuana possession, or even a crime at all — but Proposition 47 was not that discussion.
In the meantime, if misdemeanors — especially property crimes — are to be dealt with effectively, city attorneys in Los Angeles and elsewhere must have the resources to prosecute them. The crimes will continue to be committed and the police will continue to make their arrests. Prosecutors must continue to prosecute if the ballot measure is to work as intended.
Proposition 47 is expected to produce substantial savings, and some critics argued that a portion of that should go to cities to pay for exactly the kind of thing Feuer is seeking. It doesn’t. Lacey’s office will be relieved of part of its caseload, so it is arguable that the district attorney ought to relinquish funding to the city. Don’t hold your breath.
But the city may well realize savings from Proposition 47 too. That’s because misdemeanors require far less post-arrest time from police officers, who won’t have to wait at courthouses for hours, often on overtime, in order to testify at preliminary hearings.
Will that savings prove illusory, or will it be real and enough over the years to cover the city attorney’s new costs? Los Angeles residents and taxpayers deserve to know….
$263M FROM PRES. OBAMA FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES’ BODY CAMERAS, TRAINING, AND MORE
On Monday, President Barack Obama announced a plan to provide $263 million in funding to work toward improving relations between law enforcement agencies and communities. That figure includes $75 million for 50,000 body cameras for officers. Obama will also increase oversight of how local police departments use military equipment they receive through federal programs.
The president is also asking his administration to draft an executive order creating a new task force that will examine “how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust,” a White House official said. The panel will be led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson.
The $263 million for cameras and training would be used by the federal government to match up to 50 percent spending by state and local police departments on body-worn cameras and storage for the equipment. The White House estimates that aspect of the program, which would cost $75 million, would help fund the purchase of 50,000 body-worn cameras.
The remainder of the money would be used to underwrite police training and outreach programs targeted at building better trust between law enforcement and their communities.
Helping pay for body-worn cameras is a step in the right direction, but the real test will be whether local law enforcement agencies are willing to use the devices.
…It’s not just about money. A number of local police departments remain hesitant—if not downright skeptical—about body cameras, despite growing public demand and research that suggests positive benefits.
“At this juncture, it doesn’t change anything,” said Mike Puetz, a spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida, when asked about Obama’s funding pledge. “From our perspective, and I think for most agencies, we’re looking at the technology and looking at how it works in the real world regardless of who pays the bill.”
THE REFORM CHALLENGES FACING JIM MCDONNELL AS HE TAKES THE HELM OF THE LASD
LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero has an interesting story about the uphill battle newly sworn-in LA Sheriff Jim McDonnell faces to bring about real reform in the scandal-plagued department. Here’s a clip:
-Reforming the jails. The sheriff’s department runs the largest jail system in the country. One of the biggest problems with the system has been the department’s program of putting first-day rookies on lockup duty for two years before allowing them to hit the streets.
It can seed hatred and violence in budding cops.
McDonnell has said that’s one of the things he’ll change. But it will take some time. He’ll have to recruit people who actually want to work in jails, a different breed of officer.
Nonetheless, Bobb says, “The department on the custody side cannot wait much longer to have the reform.”
There are also widespread calls to reduce or even eliminate the time the some mentally ill inmates spend behind bars. They’re better treated in medical settings, the argument goes, and keeping them out of lockup could save taxpayers a lot of cash.
-Cracking down on beatdowns. Both inside and outside the jail system, the department’s way of dealing with cops accused of excessive force leaves much to be desired.
Eliasburg of the ACLU says that when it comes to “formal reviews of use of force, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
“Deputies should be made to know that if force is used it will be carefully reviewed and there will be consequences,” he said.
Part two of de Sá’s series takes us through the heartbreaking story of D’Anthony Dandy, a foster kid who was moved 29 times to various group homes, foster families, and shelters, and prescribed cocktails of anti-psychotic drugs from the age of 13 to improve his behavior. D’Anthony broke free from the psychotropic fog, graduated high school, and is now living in his own apartment and reconnecting with his family through the help of Tara Beckman, his court-appointed advocate.
Here are some clips, but read the rest (and watch the beautiful videos):
Whisked away from his drug-addicted mother, then rejected by his adoptive mom, D’Anthony Dandy spent his childhood wondering where he fit in. Often, the trauma made him depressed. Sometimes it made him defiant.
At school, he called his teacher “bald-head,” hurled pencils and got suspended twice in the ninth grade.
So California’s foster care system did what it often does with a complicated kid — it moved him.
And, in a futile attempt to control his behavior and dull his pain, it medicated him for years with a risky regimen of mind-altering drugs — lithium, Depakote, even an adult dose of the powerful antipsychotic Risperdal.
D’Anthony’s story, revealed through dozens of interviews over 10 months and an exhaustive review of his juvenile dependency court records, illustrates a disturbing pattern detailed in “Drugging Our Kids,” this newspaper’s yearlong investigation: When it comes to managing challenging childhoods, the nation’s largest child welfare system relies on expedient choices that often don’t work and resists tough ones that do.
It took an extraordinary adult who finally listened to help D’Anthony realize there might be a better path, but his frequent moves and a haze of medication made it difficult for him to settle down.
Until then, “nobody actually told me like, ‘What’s goin’ on?’ ” said D’Anthony, now 19. “ ‘What’s goin’ on in the inside? I know you can be a good kid.’ ”
At least 14 psychiatrists throughout Northern and Central California examined D’Anthony, diagnosing him variously with post-traumatic stress, reactive attachment, major depression, bipolar disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity. They prescribed an ever-changing “cocktail” of medications, including two antipsychotics at once, that experts called dangerous and ineffective after reviewing his case at this newspaper’s request. One even called it “disgusting.”
De Sá’s valuable reporting is already having a considerable legislative impact. In late August, lawmakers called for fast-tracked legislation to curb the rampant drugging of California’s foster kids, and the state medical board began investigating doctors at Sen. Ted Lieu’s request.
Now, de Sá reports that, beginning October 1, California doctors will have to obtain additional authorization by pharmacists to prescribe antipsychotics to kids under 17 who are on Medi-Cal, which includes foster kids. Here’s a clip:
Beginning Oct. 1, a state pharmacist must verify the “medical necessity” of each antipsychotic prescription before the medications can be given to children who are 17 and younger and covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for the poor that also includes foster children.
The tightened restrictions come three years after the federal government called on states to better monitor the use of psychotropic medications on foster children….
Doctors involved in statewide efforts to curb overmedication of foster youth called the new measure a good start — though they say it’s still up for debate whether it will have a widespread impact.
IMPORTANT NEW BOOK ON NORTHERN CALIFORNIA’S NUESTRA FAMILIA GANG
For more than ten years, award-winning journalist Julia Reynolds followed Nuestra Familia, the powerful northern California gang that was born a half century ago in San Quentin State Prison, then spilled its violence outside the prison walls into the farm towns of Monterey County and beyond. The result of Reynolds’ unprecedented access to gang members and their families is an excellent and deeply-sourced new book, Blood in the Fields: Ten Years Inside California’s Nuestra Familia Gang, in which she follows the lives of individual members of Nuestra Familia, and of the local law enforcement who try to combat their influence. Reynolds looks at the decade-long Operation Black Widow, the FBI’s controversial and largely unsuccessful attempt to take down Nuestra Familia, and at the split structure of the gang’s leadership, which now calls shots from inside Pelican Bay State Prison, and from the supermax federal prison in Florence, CO, causing new friction and attendant violence within the gang.
“A lot of young kids were dying,” she recalled. In the farm cities along California’s northern coast, shootings and revenge hits were tearing communities apart.
“I finally decided that as a journalist and living in the area, it was my responsibility to face this issue and see what was going on,” said Reynolds.
So she embarked on a journey that took her inside the lives of the gang’s top leaders, operating from Pelican Bay State Prison, to its foot soldiers and recruits on the streets of Salinas, recording both the mundane and the chilling details of Nuestra Familia. She also explores the law enforcement agents and their battle against the gang.
PILOT PROGRAM TO GIVE LOW-LEVEL OFFENDERS SECOND CHANCE TO SERVE COMMUNITIES INSTEAD OF FACING JAIL
As part of the City Attorney Office’s Community Justice Initiative, the Neighborhood Justice Program will form community courts in South LA, the Valley, and the Harbor area. The program will give low-level offenders—those who have committed quality of life crimes—a chance to repay their communities instead of going to jail. (We previously linked to the city attorney’s Neighborhood School Safety Program, which is part of the same initiative.)
“This is likely to be, if it continues to grow as we anticipate, the largest effort of its kind in the nation,” Feuer said during a meeting with reporters at his office.
The model calls for violators of quality of life offenses to go before a panel of trained community members, who would determine a fitting way for the individual to make it up to the neighborhood.
For example, if an individual is arrested for graffiti, accepts responsibility and his or her case is handled by a community court, he or she could be tasked with repainting the wall that was vandalized. In return, the court would provide the individual with services and the city attorney’s office will not file charges.
Feuer said that is in contrast to the traditional system, in which an individual is arrested, it takes “awhile” for the system to process the charge and, in the end, the neighborhood may or may not notice the intervention of the justice system. With jails being overcrowded, there is very little consequence as a result, he said.
Feuer said his office opted to partner with neighborhood-oriented locations that are the “centers of community life.” The goal is to host one panel per week at each location, he said.
The city attorney said the approach has been used in San Francisco, though they are not exactly alike. He said the community court there handles approximately 600 cases per year, and he expects the L.A. version to exceed that figure. The office hopes to handle four cases per session, and court will be in session in the early evening to ensure access.
PAUL TANAKA TALKS WITH RICK ORLOV ABOUT HIS CAMPAIGN FOR SHERIFF
…[Tanaka] insisted in a telephone interview, he remains in the race and is planning an active effort in the final weeks leading up to the election.
“I am absolutely campaigning,” Tanaka insisted in a telephone interview this past week. “I do have a campaign. It is a different type of campaign. Sometimes you need a change in the team makeup. I felt we needed to make some adjustments, and that’s what we have done.”
The changes are stark.
No campaign manager or aides. No active Web page, relying instead on Facebook. No plans for advertising. There are no debates for the runoff, unlike the series of confrontations held in the primary.
In talking with Tanaka, however, it appears he is still shell shocked over the way the election turned out. He barely managed a second-place finish to McDonnell to force a runoff election. With 49.4 percent of the vote, McDonnell fell just short of avoiding the runoff. Tanaka came in a distant second with 15.1 percent.
“Look, there were six people running against me and they decided to all attack me as if I was the sheriff,” Tanaka said. “I actually had very little to do with all the areas of controversy in the jails. That was outside my area. When I was in charge of the jails, we didn’t have the same problems.”
Tanaka said he has consoled himself over how he was attacked and with the fact that he was able to make the runoff.
“The fact we are still in this has given a lot of people hope, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people were energized by the fact we have made it as far as we did. It is what keeps me going.”
But Raphael Sonenshein, executive director at the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A., said it appears to the public as if the Tanaka campaign has evaporated.
“You see this in other elections where an incumbent faces a light challenge, but in this one, he had a lot of money and an identified base of support that he was counting on,” Sonenshein said. “When he did so badly in the primary, I think the rationale for his candidacy collapsed. After that, he had to keep a low profile.”
After the primary, Tanaka closed down his main campaign office in Torrance and didn’t even inform his staff members.
Tanaka said he simply moved the operation to El Monte and has continued to speak to groups that invite him. His most recent campaign reports show him with a deficit of $18,000.
CITY ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO REDUCE TRUANCY BY HELPING KIDS GET TO SCHOOL SAFELY
Earlier this week, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced an extensive new LAUSD pilot program to combat truancy by ensuring kids have “safe passage” to school.
Often, kids in high-violence neighborhoods don’t feel safe getting to school, so they just don’t go. The Neighborhood School Safety Program (NSSP), launching at four middle schools across the district, will create a “neighborhood school safety attorney” for each school. These attorneys will collaborate with parents and LAUSD administrators to keep kids safe by reducing gun violence and negative environmental factors. A number of parents from each school will also be trained to keep students safe on their walks to and from school.
A designated “neighborhood school safety attorney” will work with parents and Los Angeles Unified School District administrators to develop plans for improving safety for children who walk to school, reducing truancy, preventing gun violence and reducing environmental threats near schools.
One component of the program includes “safe passage to schools” – a partnership between the City Attorney’s Office, Casa Esperanza and school administrators. Feuer said they are recruiting and training 15 Vista parents to make sure children make it to and from school safely.
A number of other programs have been implemented, including the City Attorney’s Truancy Prevention Program which combats truancy through educational letters, parent and community meetings and enforcement hearings.
“Kids need to know they can be safe in school so they will go to school,” Feuer said. “School truancy issues are very important to all of us. We need our kids to stay in school.”
The neighborhood school safety attorney also organizes a “parent safety cadre” which educates parents how to address safety issues near schools. Following a recent meeting on tobacco enforcement, a parent contacted a local store which was selling e-cigarettes to minors, and the store’s owners agreed to stop the illegal practice immediately, according to Feuer.
A gun violence prevention coordinator will work with the Los Angeles Police Department to check that people who live near the schools and are not allowed to own or possess guns do not have firearms or ammunition. A multi-agency task force called “Los Angeles Strategy Against Violent Environments near Schools” began conducting compliance checks on parolees, probationers and registered sex offenders who reside near schools. On Aug. 12, nine felony arrests were made in an operation near Vista, while five children were removed from unsafe environments.
BILL WOULD ALLOW JUDGES TO GIVE SECOND CHANCES ON FIRST-TIME MISDEMEANOR OFFENSES
A new pilot program awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, AB 2124, would give judges the ability to defer sentencing for certain first misdemeanors, allowing defendants to meet certain criteria to have the case against them dismissed. The defendant would have a year to complete restitution, participate in any required programs, and fulfill any other conditions. If the defendant meets all requirements, they will walk away free of a criminal conviction.
Many people convicted of misdemeanors are sentenced directly to probation, especially in counties such as Los Angeles, where jails are crowded and cells are generally held for the most serious criminals. For the offenders, that means they don’t have to lose their jobs or school placements while they sit in jail. But they still end up with criminal records that could hinder their full reintegration into society as law-abiding members.
Some states have recognized that they can do even better by putting probation on the front end. The defendant pleads guilty and complies with various conditions, including monetary restitution, and the judge can opt not to enter the plea or the conviction. At the end of the year, presuming the offender has made amends, he or she is on a better track and winds up with no criminal conviction. If the conditions aren’t met, the conviction is entered and the offender is sentenced.
Hawaii has had a great deal of success with a version of the program. Virginia has its own twist, with some good results.
So how about California? Lawmakers here have slowly — very slowly — come to realize that we convict and lock up too many people for less serious crimes and in so doing put people on a path that limits their chances to move on with a crime-free life.
WHERE’S THE NATIONAL DATA ON OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING NUMBERS?
The federal government does not have keep a comprehensive record of the number of fatal (and non-fatal) shootings by law enforcement officers. Instead, the Department of Justice lets police agencies “self-report” officer-involved shootings. Advocates say the uncollected data keeps law enforcement agencies from creating better policies and practices to lower the number of avoidable deaths.
Police unions and some law-and-order conservatives insist that shootings by officers are rare and even more rarely unjustified. Civil rights groups and some on the left have just as quickly prescribed racial motives to the shootings, declaring that black and brown men are being “executed” by officers.
And, like all previous incarnations of the clash over police force, the debate remains absent access to a crucial, fundamental fact.
Criminal justice experts note that, while the federal government and national research groups keep scads of data and statistics— on topics ranging from how many people were victims of unprovoked shark attacks (53 in 2013) to the number of hogs and pigs living on farms in the U.S. (upwards of 64,000,000 according to 2010 numbers) — there is no reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year.
The government does, however, keep a database of how many officers are killed in the line of duty. In 2012, the most recent year for which FBI data is available, it was 48 – 44 of them killed with firearms.
But how many people in the United States were shot, or killed, by law enforcement officers during that year? No one knows.
Officials with the Justice Department keep no comprehensive database or record of police shootings, instead allowing the nation’s more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies to self-report officer-involved shootings as part of the FBI’s annual data on “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement.
That number – which only includes self-reported information from about 750 law enforcement agencies – hovers around 400 “justifiable homicides” by police officers each year. The DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics also tracks “arrest-related deaths.” But the department stopped releasing those numbers after 2009, because, like the FBI data, they were widely regarded as unreliable.
Law enforcement watchdog groups and think tanks say that the lack of comprehensive data on police shootings hampers the ability of departments to develop best practices and cut down on unnecessary shootings.
DCFS HONORS PARENTS WHO TURNED THEIR LIVES AROUND TO GET THEIR KIDS BACK
The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services has faced intense scrutiny since the horrific and preventable death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez. But the department does have triumphs, including many successful and safe family reunifications.
On Tuesday, DCFS held its fifth annual Family Reunification Heroes ceremony to celebrate reunited families and honor the parents who turned their lives around to win their children back.
On a clear night four years ago, Angel Ramirez got ready to sleep in a parking lot again. Homeless, strung out from years of heroin use, he thought this — after years of hitting bottom — was, in fact, rock-bottom.
He was alone. Broke and broken. His sister didn’t talk to him anymore, his children hardly knew him sober, and the weight of shame he carried on that patch of hard asphalt in East Los Angeles seemed to prove it was the lowest point in his life.
Ramirez said he just looked up into the dark sky and cried out.
The memory was fresh Tuesday when he recalled the gang ties, the jail time and the hopelessness. He stood up — sober since 2010 — and thanked Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services officials who helped him start to get his life back.
And his children back.
Ramirez, 49, of Los Angeles, joined three other parents honored at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting as DCFS officials marked the fifth annual celebration called Family Reunification Heroes. Each parent, who had been chosen from a board member’s district, received a scroll and a picture with a board member.
(NOTE: The videos that were posted here and here, suddenly vanished during the day on Monday after this story ran, and more reporters began inquiring. They showed Baca as a keynote speaker addressing thousands of Yor Life devotees and sales people at the company’s 2010 annual conference. ABC 7 also reports on Baca’s most recent go round at the company’s September 2013 sales conference earlier this month. Videos from that conference, that had been posted on Yor Health’s site, have also been blocked from public view.)
We understand that ABC 7 has been digging deeply into various aspects of the sheriff’s pitchman activities at Yor Health,—including the question of what if any financial arrangements may have been made in return for Baca’s hawking of the company’s products.
We suspect that the report will also look into the ethics of an elected official pitching for a profit making concern such as Yor Health.
We’ll link to the network’s online report after the segment with Marc Brown airs.
In the meantime, it is interesting to note that the Yor Life sales strategy is described by its founder Dennis Wong as “network marketing.”
Yet, according to other reports, like this one by Bradley Cooper for the NY Sun, Wong has displayed a liking for multilevel marketing and that, around ten years ago, Wong was charged by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly engaging in an illegal pyramid scheme. Wong and his partner settled with the FTC, and the settlement, among other strictures, “bars them from participating in any prohibited marketing scheme, including any business that operates as a pyramid scheme.”
While we’ve seen no indication that Wong and Yor Life’s business strategy is in any way illegal, complaints about the company’s multi-level marketing efforts have surfaced on various sites the web (such as this one and this one).
In any case, be sure to tune in at 11 pm for ABC 7′s full story on Sheriff Lee Baca as pitchman.
California must act to reduce rampant truancy that saw an estimated 1 million elementary students absent in the last school year and may cost the state billions of dollars through increased crime and poverty, according to a study released Monday by the state attorney general’s office.
“The empty desks in our public elementary school classrooms come at a great cost to California,” the report said.
The report, scheduled for release at an anti-truancy symposium in Los Angeles, said children have unexcused absences from school for a number of reasons, including family issues, neighborhood safety concerns and bullying. It called for a sweeping battle against absenteeism that brings together parents, educators, lawmakers, law enforcement and community groups.
“The findings are stark. We are failing our children,” the report’s executive summary concluded….
LA’S CITY ATTORNEY GOES AHEAD WITH ECHO PARK GANG INJUNCTION
There has been strong advocacy pro and con about the new gang injunction in Echo Park that has just received court approval.
A Los Angeles County court last week granted a permanent injunction against six gangs in Echo Park and its surrounding neighborhoods, according to the city attorney’s office.
The injunction prohibits known members of the gangs from associating with each other in public, possessing firearms or narcotics, or possessing alcohol in public, officials said. It also prohibits gang members from possessing aerosol paint containers, felt-tip markers and other items that can be used to apply graffiti.
The gangs named in the injunction are the Big Top Locos, Crazys, Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtowns and Head Hunters.
“We’ve got to be tough on violent gang activity, and gang injunctions such as this one … are an important step,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.
The city has 45 other active gang injunctions, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The city’s lawyers filed the Echo Park injunction in June. It creates a 3.8-square-mile “safety zone” in Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Historic Filipinotown and portions of Silver Lake, court documents say.
The injunction — a civil suit that seeks a court ruling declaring a gang a public nuisance — also includes Echo Park Lake and Dodger Stadium
AND MORE ON THE STATE’S PRISON OVERCROWDING CRISIS
We didn’t want you to miss the LA Times editorial on the latest wrinkle in the state’s prison overcrowding crisis and what to do about it. Here’s a clip:
The three federal judges who have ordered California to dramatically reduce its prison population have now pushed back their deadline by 30 days. The delay is both less and more than it seems.
It’s less, because it’s nothing close to the three extra years that Gov. Jerry Brown said he would need to reduce overcrowding and to keep the number of inmates capped. Instead of facing a Dec. 31 compliance date, the governor and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now have until late January. That’s not enough time to reduce crowding by attrition, or even by assigning newly convicted felons to leased cells in and outside of California.
But it’s also more, or at least it could be. It’s a signal from the judges that they believe, perhaps for the first time since the reduction order was handed down four years ago, that California may be ready to devote considerable thought and resources to reducing the flow of felons into the system….
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.
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.
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.
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.
ASSET FORFEITURE—ORIGINALLY INTENDED AS A CRIME DETERRENT IN THE 70′S, NOW A GOLDEN GOOSE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
Tuesday, we posted a story about innocent people losing their homes through asset forfeiture in Philadelphia, but this controversial law enforcement tactic has become a problem all over the US, and perhaps most notably, in a tiny town called Tenaha, Texas.
In Tenaha, police officers reportedly regularly stopped out-of-town cars for minor traffic violations and proceeded to seize valuables, from gold necklaces to thousands of dollars, threatening alternatives like arrest, felony charges, and turning children in to Child Protective Services.
On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with big Potential!”
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.
He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.
No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.
Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.
The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)
The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.
“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.
Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country. “Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband.
David Guillory [attorney for Boatright and Henderson] started his research by driving his cluttered red Volkswagen Jetta to the Shelby County courthouse, in Center, Texas, where he examined the ledgers that listed the past two years of the county’s legal cases. He wanted to see “any case styled ‘The State of Texas versus’ anything that sounds like a piece of property.” The clerk began hauling out one bulging accordion file after another.
“The eye-opening event was pulling those files,” Guillory told me. One of the first cases that caught his attention was titled State of Texas vs. One Gold Crucifix. The police had confiscated a simple gold cross that a woman wore around her neck after pulling her over for a minor traffic violation. No contraband was reported, no criminal charges were filed, and no traffic ticket was issued. That’s how it went in dozens more cases involving cash, cars, and jewelry. A number of files contained slips of paper of a sort he’d never seen before. These were roadside property waivers, improvised by the district attorney, which threatened criminal charges unless drivers agreed to hand over valuables.
Guillory eventually found the deal threatening to take Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson’s children unless the couple signed away their money to Shelby County. “It’s like they were memorializing the fact that they were abdicating their responsibility to fight crime,” Guillory said. “If you believe children are in sufficient danger that they should be removed from their parents—don’t trade that for money!” Usually, police and prosecutors are careful about how they broker such exchanges. But Shelby County officials were so brazen about their swap-meet approach to law enforcement, he says, “they put it in the damn document!”
Patterns began to emerge. Nearly all the targets had been pulled over for routine traffic stops. Many drove rental cars and came from out of state. None appeared to have been issued tickets. And the targets were disproportionately black or Latino. A finding of discrimination could bring judicial scrutiny. “It was a highway-piracy operation,” Guillory said, and, he thought, material for a class-action lawsuit.
Forfeiture in its modern form began with federal statutes enacted in the nineteen-seventies and aimed not at waitresses and janitors but at organized-crime bosses and drug lords. Law-enforcement officers were empowered to seize money and goods tied to the production of illegal drugs. Later amendments allowed the seizure of anything thought to have been purchased with tainted funds, whether or not it was connected to the commission of a crime. Even then, forfeiture remained an infrequent resort until 1984, when Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. It established a special fund that turned over proceeds from forfeitures to the law-enforcement agencies responsible for them. Local police who provided federal assistance were rewarded with a large percentage of the proceeds, through a program called Equitable Sharing. Soon states were crafting their own forfeiture laws.
Revenue gains were staggering. At the Justice Department, proceeds from forfeiture soared from twenty-seven million dollars in 1985 to five hundred and fifty-six million in 1993. (Last year, the department took in nearly $4.2 billion in forfeitures, a record.) The strategy helped reconcile President Reagan’s call for government action in fighting crime with his call to reduce public spending. In 1989, Attorney General Richard Thornburgh boasted, “It’s now possible for a drug dealer to serve time in a forfeiture-financed prison after being arrested by agents driving a forfeiture-provided automobile while working in a forfeiture-funded sting operation.”
THANKS TO LA CITY ATTORNEY MIKE FEUER, 91 OFFENSES “WOBBLING” BETWEEN INFRACTION AND MISDEMEANOR, NOW ONLY INFRACTIONS
LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, in an attempt to save taxpayer dollars and make the system in the City Attorney’s office more efficient, revised filing guidelines so that 91 offenses that could be treated as either an infraction or a misdemeanor, known as “wobblers,” would be treated only as infractions.
The Associated Press’ Tami Abdollah has the story. Here’s a clip:
An internal LAPD memo dated July 25 that was sent to commanding officers detailed 91 violations that are now considered infractions instead of misdemeanors. That means the violations won’t appear in U.S. Department of Justice criminal records, and they no longer figure into department crime statistics tracking misdemeanors and felonies.
The memo was sent out in response to the city attorney’s office revision of its filing guidelines in May. The change is an effort to make the system more efficient and save taxpayer dollars, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the newly seated city attorney, Mike Feuer. Such offenses, which number in the thousands each year, were usually downgraded to infractions anyway upon review by the city attorney’s office, Wilcox said.
“These were already treated as infractions, it’s just flipping how they were reviewed so there is not another review process here,” Wilcox said. “They’d be written up as infractions by the police officer.”
The department said the changes create penalties that actually reflect reality, especially when budgets are tight. Misdemeanors, however, can bring a year-long sentence in jail, but it rarely happens.
WWLA? TALKS LA TIMES EDITORIAL ASKING SHERIFF BACA NOT TO RUN AGAIN
Monday evening, KCRW’s Warren Olney, on his show Which Way, LA? hosted a discussion about issues raised by Sunday’s LAT editorial asking Sheriff Lee Baca not to run for reelection in 2014. Guests were Sandra Hernandez speaking for the LA Times editorial board, and LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore.
The entire segment is worth listening to, but here’s Hernandez’s answer to Steve Whitmore’s list of the Sheriff’s accomplishments and his assertion that the Sheriff is doing all he can to implement reforms recommended by the jails commission:
“First of all, we’re glad that the county’s crime rate is down, and that the county isn’t bucking a national trend that’s been going on for a decade—we’re glad to see that. …Second of all…it’s great that he’s implementing these reforms, but these reforms were necessary only because these problems occurred on his watch.”
SHERIFF BACA: “DEAR LA TIMES, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE”
Then, Tuesday Morning, Sheriff Lee Baca responded to the Sunday LA Times editorial. In his letter, Sheriff Baca stated, among other things, his objections to and concerns about what he felt was the LA Times’ attempt to subvert the democratic process via their editorial:
I find it disconcerting that The Times has decided it should deprive voters of the right to select whomever they please as the next sheriff. Democracy is about giving voters choices, not denying them.
Overall, over the last decade, blacks and whites use marijuana at around the same rates, with blacks edging out whites by a few percentage points, except among the 18-25 year olds, where the ratio flips and young whites smoke a few percentage points more weed than young blacks.
It likely won’t be a surprise for most of you to find out that blacks are arrested for marijuana possession more often than whites, despite the similar usage numbers of the two racial groups.
But how much more often? Take a look.
The ACLU report (and the diagrams at WaPo) also looked at cities and counties that had the greatest descrepancy. (Yes, in LA County the ratio is out of whack, but it’s nothing when compared to, say, Cook County, IL or New York, NY, or Clark County, NV.
Click here to see the rest of WaPo’s startling charts and here for the underlying ACLU report.
The New York Times’ Ian Urbina also reports well on the ACLU report. Here are some clips from Urbina’s story:
Black Americans were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates, according to new federal data.
This disparity had grown steadily from a decade before, and in some states, including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were around eight times as likely to be arrested.
During the same period, public attitudes toward marijuana softened and a number of states decriminalized its use. But about half of all drug arrests in 2011 were on marijuana-related charges, roughly the same portion as in 2010.
Advocates for the legalization of marijuana have criticized the Obama administration for having vocally opposed state legalization efforts and for taking a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration in closing medical marijuana dispensaries and prosecuting their owners in some states, especially Montana and California.
Time to legalize, people!
CITY ATTORNEY-ELECT MIKE FEUER PICKS AN ALLSTAR TRANSITION TEAM
Here are some quick examples of the kind of folks who’re on the team (three of whom were part of the Citizens Commission on Jails Violence):
Lourdes Baird, who served as U.S. District Court Judge and U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (and was on the Jails Commission). Erwin Chemerinsky, who is the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law at University of California, Irvine School of Law and formerly served as Chair of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission. Miriam Krinsky, The executive director of the Jails Commission, who is also a lecturer at the UCLA School of Public Policy and is the former President of the Los Angeles County Bar and former President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Stewart Kwoh, who is the founding President and Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and is a past President of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission. Jorja Leap is a Professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and also serves as the Director of the UCLA Health and Social Justice Partnership; known for her research and writing focuses on gangs, community health and social justice Carlos Moreno, (another Jails Commission member) who served as California Supreme Court Justice and Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney. Ira Reiner, who served as Los Angeles City Attorney and Los Angeles County District Attorney. Connie Rice, who co-founded the Advancement Project and was the Co-Director of the Los Angeles office of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. John Van de Kamp, who served as California Attorney General, Los Angeles County District Attorney and Federal Public Defender.
THE DWP’S BRIAN D’ARCY TALKS TO LA TIMES’ PATT MORRISON ABOUT WHY HE FLIPPED OFF LA WEEKLY’S GENE MADDAUS AND OTHER WAYS THAT EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG & HE’S RIGHT
Interviews with utilities union guys aren’t usually part of our mission, but this one in which the stellar Patt Morrison corrals and questions DWP union powerbroker, Brian D’Arcy, is…. irresistible.
Here are two clips—one from the very beginning of the interview and one from the very end—to give you an idea of why you need to read the whole fabulous thing:
Sometimes L.A. politics seem like patty-cake, but when Brian D’Arcy gets in the game, the game gets serious. He’s a third-generation union man, and the union he heads, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, is the DWP’s biggest and a huge player at City Hall. In some quarters, the IBEW’s DWP contracts — worth as much as six figures — are a symbol of overweening union power. The political action committee he co-chairs and the IBEW supports, Working Californians, cobbled together the largest amount spent on behalf of Wendy Greuel’s mayoral bid, about $4 million. The IBEW isn’t crying “uncle.” D’Arcy has zest for the fray and one gear: forward.
First things first: John Shallman, Wendy Greuel’s campaign consultant, has said your union’s support became “damaging to the campaign.”
That doesn’t surprise me — the guy who’s directly responsible for the tone-deaf campaign she ran. What else would he say? The hit on her was, somehow, she was the DWP candidate. [Voters] merged the employer and the union. It could have been deflected. They never did, and they ran a crappy campaign. The larger message is that some people will do anything to get elected — the same people [Garcetti's camp] who wanted our endorsement all of a sudden turn it into a pejorative.
Why the antipathy toward public unions like yours?
If you sell the idea that if others are dragged down then somehow you are elevated — I find it offensive. Does it help somebody if my members make less? They are 22% of the [DWP] budget. DWP union workers could take zero [pay] and it isn’t going to fix the city budget. The right-wing apparatchik has decided workers are the enemy, and we represent them….
And our personal favorite of all the Q & A exchanges…
Did you really flip off LA Weekly writer Gene Maddaus from your office window?
[His expression says, "Of course."] My entire staff is out walking precincts, I’m here with the [staff] women downstairs, and he scared them. On most days I’d pick up my bat and walk downstairs and say, “Get out of here,” but that’s what he wanted. My assistant [told him], “You have to leave, this is not a public building.” He refused, like a jackass, so she called the police. I did flip him off — he was jumping up and down like my Labradoodle at the back door.
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.
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.
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.
TRUTANICH “MISLEADING VOTERS” ON REALIGNMENT, SAYS GOVERNOR
With just a few days until the May 21 general election, Gov. Jerry Brown has recorded a message to voters calling out City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for spreading misleading information about prison realignment. Trutanich, who is running a decidedly uphill battle for reelection was originally a supporter of realignment. Now, he has changed his tune, and is bashing opponent Mike Feuer for supporting it, inaccurately pronouncing realignment the “get-out-of-jail early law,” and more.
In a mailer, Trutanich calls the plan “the get-out-of-jail early law.” The mailer describes Tobias Summers, the alleged Northridge kidnapper, as “one of Feuer’s get-out-of-jail free graduates.”
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has disputed that, saying that Summers was not released early.
Brown endorsed Trutanich in his failed D.A. campaign, but is now supporting Feuer for city attorney. In the robocall, Brown faults Trutanich for “misleading voters by suddenly attacking a public safety plan he once supported.”
We’d kind of like a city attorney who bothers to check his facts on legal matters, but that’s just us.
WILLFUL DEFIANCE NO LONGER GROUNDS FOR SUSPENDING L.A. KIDS
Tuesday, the LAUSD school board voted to ban suspensions for the catchall, “willful defiance,” in favor of alternative behavioral disciplines. L.A. is the first district in the state to take this large step toward school disciplinary reform.
The state bill on the same issue is making its way through the legislative process. According to Public Counsel spokesman Michael Soller, “AB 420 passed the Assembly Education Committee, and is headed for an appropriations vote on May 24 or 25. If it gets out of that committee, then it’s on to the Senate.”
The packed board room erupted in cheers after the 5-2 vote to approve the proposal, which made L.A. Unified the first school district in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension. The action comes amid mounting national concern that removing students from school is imperiling their academic achievement and disproportionately harming minority students, particularly African Americans.
“Now we’ll have a better chance to stay in school and become something,” said Luis Quintero, 14, a student at Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. He attended the board meeting, along with dozens of other students and community activists who have been pushing the proposal by board members Monica Garcia and Nury Martinez.
But the vote came after an impassioned discussion over whether the proposal would give a “free pass” to students and shield them from the consequences of misbehavior. Board members Marguerite LaMotte told students that they needed to pay for their mistakes, while Richard Vladovic said no student had the right to disrupt learning opportunities for classmates.
“I’m not going to give you permission to go crazy and think there are no consequences,” LaMotte said.
U.S. KIDS’ HIGH EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA
According to a new report from JAMA Pediatrics, four out of ten kids in the U.S. were exposed to physical violence in the last year. In addition, an alarming 13.7 percent of the 4,500 children surveyed reported repeated mistreatment from their caregivers.
*Physical assault in the past year was reported by 41.2 percent of respondents.
*Assault-related injuries were reported by 10.1 percent of respondents.
*Nearly 11 percent of girls ages 14 to 17 reported sexual assault or abuse.
*Repeated maltreatment by a caregiver was reported by 13.7 percent of respondents; of that group 3.7 percent said they experienced physical abuse.
More than 13 percent of kids reported being physically bullied; one in three said they had been emotionally bullied.
According to Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist in Potomac, Md., these numbers may be low.
“I think, unfortunately, this [violence] is so endemic to our society, it’s overlooked. It is considered like a cold,” Brody, who often works with victims of childhood violence, and who is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, told HealthDay News.
Brody added that witnessing or experiencing violence as a child can result in rage, lack of security, feelings of powerlessness, nightmares and other psychological aftereffects that last long into adulthood.
Of particular concern are children and teens who suffer frequent exposures to violence. Survey results showed that nearly 15 percent of study participants had been exposed to violence six or more times in the past year and about five percent had been exposed to 10 or more violent acts.
A similar study by the National Survey of Children’s Health found that nearly 48 percent of US youth had experienced at least one major childhood trauma.
Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.
Even more concerning, nearly a third of U.S. youth age 12-17 have experienced two or more types of childhood adversity that are likely to affect their physical and mental health as adults. Across the 50 U.S. states, the percentages range from 23 percent for New Jersey to 44.4 percent for Arizona.
The data are clear, says Dr. Christina Bethell: If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness. Not only will their lives be difficult, but the nation’s already high health care costs will soar even higher, she believes. Bethell is director of the National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center, part of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration, sponsors the survey.
Those numbers are already formidable, and they get much higher when looking at kids in the juvenile justice system.
KRIS KRISTOFFERSON CONCERT TO RAISE MONEY FOR HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES
And on a happier note, Kris Kristofferson will be performing a benefit concert for Homeboy Industries’ 25th anniversary, at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater on June 23. (WitnessLA plans to be there.)