Bills to Curb Drugging of Foster Kids Clear CA Senate…Veteran’s Court Makes Vets Feel at Home…LA FBI Agent Indicted…and MoreJune 5th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
PACKAGE OF BILLS TARGETING OVER-DRUGGING OF CA’S FOSTER KIDS MOVES ON TO STATE ASSEMBLY
On Wednesday, the California Senate approved a package of four California reform bills addressing over-drugging in California foster care system. The bills have bipartisan support, and have a good chance of making it through the Assembly and onto Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. But a price tag of between $8-$22 million may be a tough sell for the governor.
Among other changes, the bills, authored by Sens. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Jim Beall (D-San Jose), and Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would require state-wide data-tracking on the prescribing of psychotropic drugs and other potentially harmful drugs to foster kids, as well as restrict how juvenile courts authorize such medication, set up a system of nurses to monitor the kids who are medicated, and push doctors to choose non-medical treatments before psychiatric drugs.
Karen de Sá, who has been doing some powerful investigative reporting on the excessive use of psychotropic medications to treat California kids in the foster care system, has more on the issue for the San Jose Mercury News. Here’s a clip:
The newspaper’s investigation found the powerful medications, which can cause debilitating side effects, are often prescribed to control troubled children’s behavior. But the bills, approved unanimously in the state Senate on Thursday, would improve how the state’s juvenile courts approve prescriptions; create new training programs; expand the ranks of public health nurses; and require ongoing reporting of how often foster children are being medicated.
Social workers would be alerted when kids receive multiple medications or high dosages and when psychiatric drugs are prescribed to very young children. And residential group homes, where prescribing is typically the highest, would be more closely monitored and subject to corrective action.
“The Senate has sent a clear message: The system must never permit powerful psychotropic drugs to replace other effective and necessary treatments,” said Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, who authored the bills along with Sens. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Bill Monning, D-Carmel.
While the legislation faces no formal opposition, some child psychiatrists have expressed concerns that too many new rules could hinder care when access to medication is vital. The bills also carry a multimillion dollar price tag that could threaten their passage if they reach the governor’s desk.
VETERANS COURT BRINGS COMFORT AND FAMILIARITY TO PARTICIPANTS BY ADOPTING MILITARY-INSPIRED PRACTICES
A court in Orange County aims to help, rather than punish, veterans who are often suffering from PTSD, other mental illnesses, substance abuse, or a combination of those issues. The veterans court is modeled after drug courts and offers low-level offenders an alternative to incarceration.
To make the veterans feel more comfortable, the court does certain things military-style, like addressing participants by their rank. Participants receive a mentor (who is also a combat veteran), intensive therapy, substance abuse treatment, and other services they must take advantage of to make it through the program.
The veterans court, one of many cropping up across the nation, believes it has saved $2 million so far in jail and prison expenses since its inception five years ago.
Alisa Roth has more on the program for the Marketplace Morning Report. Here’s a clip:
Castro ended up in the veterans court in Orange County, California, after he got drunk and beat up a worker in a Subway restaurant. He says he doesn’t remember much of what happened, but he woke up the next morning in jail facing a bunch of felony charges.
The veterans court wasn’t his first choice, he says, but it seemed better than prison. And when he started the program, he was pleasantly surprised to find that it felt familiar.
“It was like being in the Marine Corps again,” he says. “They’re watching you … they’re on you.”
The program is modeled on drug courts, so the emphasis is on treatment and recovery rather than punishment. In this case, the court connects clients to existing services, mostly through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and then forces the vets to make use of them or go back to jail. It’s intense: there’s substance abuse treatment, group therapy and individual therapy, plus regular check-ins with the judge and probation officer at court.
“They make you get those demons out,” Castro says. “They make you work, work, work.”
But it’s also supportive.
“What makes this unique,” says Joe Perez, the presiding judge, “is we’re all getting together, trying to figure out what’s the best way to keep this person from coming back.”
In Orange County, one of the ways they try to keep people from coming back is to make court feel like the military. The judge makes references to the military, sometimes addressing clients by their rank.
LA-AREA FBI AGENT ALLEGEDLY GOES ON SHOPPING SPREE WITH $100,000 IN STOLEN DRUG RAID MONEY
A former FBI agent, Scott Bowman, was indicted Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 in confiscated drug raid money, and for obstructing justice by falsifying FBI reports to hide his ill-gotten gains. As part of the Gang Impact Team “GIT” in San Bernardino, Bowman carried out state and federal search warrants throughout the Central District of California, seizing and documenting evidence from drug raids.
Bowman allegedly spent the money on two cars plus upgraded equipment, plastic surgery for his wife, and a weekend in Las Vegas at a luxury hotel with his girlfriend.
As an explanation for his increased spending, Bowman allegedly told his fellow agents that he had received an advance inheritance of $97,000 from his sick father.
Here’s a clip from the Dept. of Justice:
The indictment alleges that Bowman used the stolen money for his own purposes, including spending $43,850 in cash to purchase a 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe, $27,500 in cash to purchase a 2013 Toyota Scion FR-S coupe and approximately $26,612 in cash to outfit these vehicles with new equipment including speakers, rims and tires. According to the allegations in the indictment, the defendant also used approximately $15,000 of the misappropriated cash to pay for cosmetic surgery for his spouse, and opened a checking account into which he deposited approximately $10,665 of the stolen funds, a portion of which he used to pay for a weekend stay at a luxury hotel, casino and resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to the indictment, to conceal his misappropriation of the drug proceeds, Bowman allegedly falsified official FBI reports and other records. Specifically, in connection with one of the seizures, Bowman allegedly endorsed an evidence receipt knowing that it did not accurately reflect the amount of cash seized and altered the same receipt by forging the signature of a police detective next to his own.
The indictment further alleges that Bowman made false representations to his colleagues regarding the disposition of certain seized drug proceeds. In addition, Bowman allegedly sent an email to the detective whose signature Bowman had forged setting forth a detailed cover story that the detective should offer if asked about Bowman’s activities with respect to the seized drug proceeds. According to the indictment, Bowman also allegedly provided the detective with a copy of the forged receipt so that the detective falsely could claim the forged signature as his own, if asked.
The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General has investigated this case, and now it is in the hands of prosecutors from the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.
DISCUSSING BLACK-ON-BLACK CRIME
Fusion’s Collier Meyerson has a worthwhile guide to black-on-black crime for those sometimes generality-ridden discussions about crime in predominantly black communities.
Meyerson excerpts articles, research, and statistics to help move the public dialogue away from common myths toward more fact-driven context. Here are some examples:
2. Gun violence in black communities is a matter of public health, and it depends on a variety of structural inequalities.
Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman break it down in Jacobin:
“Research suggests that violent crime rates are driven by a variety of social factors which tend to make American cities particularly prone to gun violence against black residents. Among the most of these factors are very high levels of neighborhood segregation, concentrated un- and underemployment, poverty and a dearth of adequate social services or institutional resources. Fundamentally, gun violence has to be treated like other kinds of public health problems — not as the basis for continuous, empty calls for an introspective discussion about ‘black on black violence.’ And like other kinds of public health disparities, tackling high rates of inter-personal violence requires confronting the social context in which it occurs.”
5. Crime in black communities and crime committed against black people by the state are not created equal.
Michael Eric Dyson gives a compelling reason: “Black people who kill black people go to jail. White people who are policemen who kill black people do not go to jail.”
“Focusing on black-on-black crime distracts from the current news (the murder case against Slanger, in this instance) that is worthy of discussion and analysis. Worse, it randomly zooms in on one phenomenon — that sometimes black people kill people who are also black — while ignoring the issues that go hand in hand with it. And that’s a lot to ignore. As Ta-Nehesi Coates wrote at the Atlantic in 2014, “The policy of America has been, for most of its history, white supremacy. The high rates of violence in black neighborhoods do not exist outside of these facts — they evidence them.”