Isolation’s Effects on Kids…LAPD Motorcycle Officer Christopher Cortijo Has Died…Dismantled LAPD Dash-Cam Update…What’s Really Blocking Child Welfare Reform…and a New Prison Overcrowding Compliance OfficerApril 10th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
CHILD PSYCHIATRIST SAYS LOCKING KIDS IN SOLITARY IS “THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE THAT WE DON’T CARE FOR YOU”
Dr. Bruce Perry is a child psychiatrist and senior fellow at the ChildTrauma Academy, who has consulted on Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, and several other catastrophic events involving children.
In a Q&A with Trey Bundy of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Dr. Perry explains in clear terms why solitary confinement is so psychologically damaging to the kids unlucky enough to get locked inside.
Here’s a clip:
We hear a lot of stories about prolonged isolation, but what are the effects of just a few days of solitary confinement on kids?
They end up getting these very intense doses of dissociative experience, and they get it in an unpredictable way. They’ll get three days in isolation. Then they’ll come back on the unit and get two days in isolation. They’ll come back out and then get one day. They end up with a pattern of activating this dissociative coping mechanism. The result is that when they’re confronted with a stressor later on, they will have this extreme disengagement where they’ll be kind of robotic, overly compliant, but they’re not really present. I’ve seen that a lot with these kids. They’ll come out, and they’re little zombies. The interpretation by the staff is that they’ve been pacified. “We’ve broken him.” But basically what you’ve done is you’ve traumatized this person in a way that if this kid was in somebody’s home, you would charge that person with child abuse.
Kids in isolation must lose all sense of control. What’s the impact of that?
One of things that helps us regulate our stress response is a sense of control. With solitary, when you start to take away any option, any choice, you’re literally taking somebody with a dysregulated stress response system, like most of these individuals in jail, and you’re making it worse. The more you try to take control, the more you are inhibiting the ability of these individuals to develop self-control, which is what we want them to do.
How does it affect a kid’s sense of self-worth to be locked away from everyone else?
Most of these kids feel marginalized to start with. They feel like they’re bad, they did something wrong, they don’t fit in. And isolation is essentially the ultimate marginalization. You’re so marginalized you don’t even fit in with the misfits, and we are going to exclude you from the group in an extreme way. In some ways it’s the ultimate message that we don’t care for you. We are neurobiologically interdependent creatures. All of our sensory apparatus is bias toward forming and maintaining relationships with human beings. When you are not part of the group, it’s a fundamental biological rejection.
Do go read the rest of this worthwhile Q&A.
WELL-LIKED LAPD MOTORCYCLE OFFICER CRITICALLY INJURED IN CRASH, HAS DIED
Christopher Cortijo, an LAPD motorcycle officer, who was struck on Saturday by a driver allegedly under the influence of drugs, has died.
Cortijo, who was assigned to DUI enforcement, was stopped at an intersection in North Hollywood when a driver hit his motorcycle, pinning him between her SUV and the Honda in front of him. Officer Cortijo lost the fight for his life Wednesday.
Our hearts go out to Cortijo’s family, friends, and fellow officers. The death of a law enforcement officer is an unimaginable loss for loved ones, but it is also a blow to the greater community.
The LA Daily News’ Brenda Gazzar and Kelly Goff have the story. Here’s a clip:
Officer Christopher Cortijo was a 26-year police veteran who was assigned to DUI enforcement. He was gravely injured and went into a coma after a Chevy Blazer slammed into his motorcycle, which was stopped at a red light at Lankershim Boulevard and Saticoy Street, around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
The driver, a Pacoima woman whose license had expired years ago, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. After several days in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, with officers or family at his bedside around the clock, Cortijo was taken off his ventilator on Wednesday, officials said.
The 51-year-old North Hollywood resident, who had served in the U.S. Marines, was married with adult children.
“It’s a tremendous sadness for all of us,” Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas, who oversees the LAPD’s Valley Bureau, said in a telephone interview. “He was not only a great officer, but a great person. Everyone’s thoughts are with his family. His family will be our family forever.”
About 100 officers lined the walkway outside the ICU at Providence in Mission Hills as Cortijo’s body was taken to the coroner’s van, wrapped in a flag. Nurses similarly lined the hallways inside the building, according to hospital spokeswoman Patricia Aidem.
Police Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti, flanked by about a dozen LAPD motor officers who worked with Cortijo, spoke to reporters late Wednesday afternoon in downtown.
“I was devastated when I heard the news,” Garcetti said. “My heart sank when the chief called me.”
Garcetti said Cortijo’s death was a reminder of the “sacrifice that our bravest heroes make.”
Garcetti said he ordered city flags lowered to half-staff in Cortijo’s honor.
Cortijo was twice named Officer of the Year as a motorcycle cop, Beck said. He arrested more than 3,000 people driving under the influence during his career, Beck said.
“The ultimate irony is that Chris spent his life keeping all of us safe from people who drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” Beck said.
IN OTHER LAPD NEWS…
Yesterday, we pointed to a story about the unauthorized dismantling of 80 LAPD in-car surveillance cameras, and the subsequent failure of LAPD officials to investigate.
Gary Ingemunson, independent counsel for the LAPD union (the Los Angeles Police Protective League), has a story from February on the union’s blog that gives a little bit of extra context—another piece of the puzzle. Ingemunson says that many officers feel the tool is being used against them unfairly, in instances other than “crime documentation and prosecution.”
Read Ingemunson’s story about an officer who was punished for an accident that would have likely been considered non-preventable, if not for a questionable conversation he had with his partner (recorded by the dash-cam) right before the collision.
Here’s a small clip:
The accused officer and his partner engaged in a conversation that higher management did not like and felt reflected on the cause of the accident. This, of course, ignores another special order regarding the DICVS. Special Order 45 states “The Digital In Car Video System is being deployed in order to provide Department employees with a tool for crime documentation and prosecution and not to monitor private conversations between Department employees.”
While it does not excuse the officers who tampered with the cameras, it raises an issue that management might want to think about.
BUREAUCRACY IS THE TRUE KILLER OF DCFS REFORM
Later this month, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, established by the LA County Board of Supervisors, will present their final report, chock-full of recommendations for reforming the dysfunctional Department of Children and Family Services. But these recommendations may not be all that new. The commission found 734 recommendations presented over the years, either not in play at all, or stuck in the beginning stages of implementation.
On March 28, at second-to-last meeting of the LA County Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, commission-member Andrea Rich said that bureaucracy, itself, is what’s blocking past and present child welfare reforms.
Two members of the Board of Supervisors (Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina) are terming out and new faces will take their seats. Two years from now, two more supervisors will be replaced (Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe).
The LA Times’ Robert Greene says this change-up is a real opportunity for reform, if only the supervisor candidates will rise to the challenge. Here’s a clip:
“Bureaucracies not carefully managed and consistently improved have characteristics that are destructive to client-oriented services, impede innovation, stifle efforts at self-improvement,” she said. “This sort of narrow span of control and bureaucratic risk-aversion typical of the bureaucratic process constantly thwarts efforts toward meaningful reform. And we’ve seen it over and over in our studies here and in testimony.”
Commission Chairman David Sanders also headed an L.A. County department – the often-criticized Department of Children and Family Services – but he said Monday that he was surprised at the extent of the dysfunction he saw from his new perspective compared with what he saw at DCFS.
Translation: The county is messed up. Efforts to reform the child protection system are doomed without a thorough overhaul – not of DCFS but of the entire county governmental edifice, the way it thinks and the way it works.
So how can that kind of overhaul happen? There are two ways to answer the question. One way is to look at the list of 734 recommendations for improving the child protection system offered to the Board of Supervisors and various county departments over the years that the commission found gathering dust on shelves or at best stalled in some early stage of implementation, and conclude that county government is hopeless.
The other is to look at the looming change in county leadership, with two of the five supervisors leaving office this year – the first time there has been that sweeping a change since Michael D. Antonovich ousted Baxter Ward and Deane Dana booted Yvonne Burke a generation ago, in 1980 – and candidates vying to replace them. Antonovich, still serving on the Board of Supervisors 34 years later, and Don Knabe, who succeeded his boss and mentor Dana, will likewise be replaced in two years.
Los Angeles County can have the exact same government and culture with slightly different faces, or it can embrace an opportunity for new thinking.
It’s fine for candidates to talk about how they would hire more child social workers, although the county is already on track to do that. Or how they would change deployment, although those kinds of changes are constantly discussed and always seem to be in the works.
In the view of the commission – this is preliminary, because the final report is yet to be adopted – there is an even more global mandate, and while members of the panel may insist that their recommendations are all about ensuring child safety, a closer look suggests that they go to the heart of numerous challenges that this big, awful bureaucracy faces in order to accomplish anything: Explicitly define its mission; put someone in charge of executing it; measure success and failure.
Sitting supervisors may well protest that these things are already being done, and candidates may be puzzled at marching orders that sound more like a homework assignment in an MBA student’s organization behavior class than social work.
But that’s the point. The county has grown and segmented itself so quickly that it has lost its sense of priorities; or rather, its sense of priorities is set by news headlines, scandals, outrages and political campaigns.
Read the rest.
CALIFORNIA GETS A NEW PRISON POPULATION COMPLIANCE OFFICER
On Wednesday, federal judges named Elwood Lui California’s prison population “compliance officer.” Lui, a former associate justice of the California Court of Appeal, has been tasked with releasing prisoners if the state fails to comply with the judges’ population deadlines throughout the next two years. (Backstory here.)
The Sacramento Bee’s Sam Stanton has the story. Here’s a clip:
Lui was one of two candidates for the position suggested by lawyers representing the state. He has agreed to serve without compensation but to have reasonable expenses reimbursed, according to the order from the panel issued Wednesday afternoon…
The judges originally ordered California in 2009 to cut its inmate population to 137.5 percent of capacity, but appeals delayed that and resulted in the Feb. 10 order giving the state two more years to comply.
The February order also gave the compliance officer authority to release the necessary number of inmates to ensure that California meets the court-ordered deadlines.
The compliance officer now has the authority to release inmates if the prison population is not cut to 143 percent of capacity by June 30 (or 116,651 inmates); to 141.5 percent by Feb. 28, 2015 (115,427 inmates); and to 137.5 percent a year after that (112,164 inmates).