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LA County Supes Pass Homelessness, Immigration Motions

December 7th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

SUPES DECLARE HOMELESSNESS AN EMERGENCY, APPROVE A BALLOT INITIATIVE TO RAISE SALES TAX

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed several important motions—two aiming to help the county tackle its homelessness crisis, and another to protect the county’s immigrant community from potential rights-violating actions taken by the Trump administration.

The supervisors’ Tuesday meeting included its two newest board members, Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn. The addition of Hahn and Barger, who were sworn in on Monday, created the board’s first ever supermajority of women.

The board approved a motion from Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger to declare homelessness an emergency in LA County.

“The County of Los Angeles is facing a grave public emergency, the
pervasive and deepening homeless crisis, which currently endangers the health and safety of tens of thousands of residents, including veterans, women, children, LGBTQ youth, persons with disabilities and seniors,” the motion reads. “The tremendous scale of homelessness in the County threatens the economic stability of the region by burdening emergency medical services and the social services infrastructure.”

The supes voted back in June to urge Sacramento to declare homelessness a state of emergency (and thus worthy of additional state funding and attention)—a push led by Ridley-Thomas. The next day, Gov. Brown announced that he would not make the move. The governor’s press secretary said the issue of addressing homelessness is a task for local governments. (The state Assembly, local officials throughout California, and more than 25,000 petitioners later joined the call for the governor to act.)

While Brown has refused to declare a state of emergency over homelessness, the governor did sign budget bill AB 1628, which officially authorizes the state to issue up to $2 billion in bonds to fund permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people suffering from mental illness.

The Supes unanimously approved a second motion from Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn to put a ballot measure before voters that would fund homelessness prevention measures via a county-wide 1/4-cent sales tax increase.

If approved by 2/3 of voters on March 7, the tax increase would raise $355 million annually over the next decade.

“To put this funding in perspective, a 1/4 cent sales tax would translate into an additional tax of 10 cents on the purchase of a $40 sweater, or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television,” explained Phil Ansell, director of the County’s Homeless Initiative.

There are more than 3,400 young homeless people between the ages of 18 and 24 in LA County, (excluding Long Beach, Glendale, and Pasadena) according to the 2016 homeless count.

“All around us, we find human beings living in utter squalor – a shocking number of them families with children,” Ridley-Thomas said. “With this historic vote, we are taking a bold step towards ending this humanitarian crisis, the defining civic issue of our time.”

It will take an estimated $450 million a year in services funding to really make a difference in the county’s homelessness crisis, according to . The tax would fund rental subsidies, mental health and substance abuse treatments, subsidized healthcare, and other much-needed services.

“This is the time to act to provide a dedicated revenue stream to begin to address the incredible crisis that we have with 47,000 people sleeping on our streets,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn.

In August, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced that sheriff’s deputies would soon be instructed to refrain from arresting homeless people for minor crimes related to homelessness. Instead, the goal for deputies will be to connect homeless people with much-needed services. The department’s decriminalization initiative is expected to go into effect at the beginning of 2017.

Decriminalization of the county’s homeless was one of 47 recommendations in a $100 million comprehensive interagency plan to combat homelessness, which was approved by the LA County Board of Supervisors Back in February.


SUPES MOVE TO PROTECT COUNTY’S IMMIGRANT RESIDENTS

The Board of Supervisors approved a second motion by Supes Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl that calls for an analysis of the feasibility of creating a county Department of Immigrant Affairs to protect the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Los Angeles, in the event that Trump follows through with his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

The motion directs the CEO to convert the County Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Task Force into an Immigrant Protection Task Force. The task force’s first job will be to meet with civil and immigrant rights groups to develop and recommend strategies for protecting immigrant residents countywide. The task force will report back to the board within 45 days with its findings, including an analysis of the feasibility of creating a county Department of Immigrant Affairs.

Solis says she received over 45 letters of support for the motion from local non-profits, as well as support from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León and a number of other California lawmakers.

“This motion marks the first step of many that we will take to defend our immigrant communities and their rights,” said Supervisor Solis. “The goal is to protect immigrants who form a large part of our work force, immigrant children who attend our schools and immigrant taxpayers who play a key role in keeping our economy, government, and society running.”

The Office of Education is directed to analyze the potential impact of Trump’s presidency on students, families, and staff. The motion instructs the Chief Information Officer to report back to the board with information on protecting the identities and data of county residents “who may be adversely affected by Federal policy changes.” County Counsel is directed to analyse the president’s authority to modify current immigration laws and policies, as well as what potential legal ramifications the county faces if it fails to comply with current or future immigration laws, and what legal avenues the county can take to challenge the constitutionality of the immigration policies.

Sheriff McDonnell will also have to report back to the board in 45 days on whether the LASD plans to change any immigration-related policies or practices in the event that Trump follows through with his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

“Many people in our county are facing new uncertainties in the wake of the presidential election,” Kuehl said. “This makes it even more important for the County to take steps to protect the immigrant populations who came to this country, as my parents’ families did, to work hard and build a better life for their children.”


LA COUNTY SHERIFF ANNOUNCES NEW UNDERSHERIFF, ASSISTANT SHERIFFS

At a press conference on Monday, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell formally introduced his new undersheriff, Jacques Anthony La Berge, a 31-year department veteran, who is currently the assistant sheriff in charge of patrol operations.

Sheriff McDonnell revealed La Berge’s appointment last week, as well as the promotion of Chief Bobby Denham to the role of Assistant Sheriff of Patrol Operations, and Chief Eddie Rivero to the role of Assistant Sheriff of Countywide Services Operation. (The sheriff was scheduled to formally announce the promotions last week, but the press conference was cancelled due to an unexpected conflict.)

WitnessLA will have more later on in the week.

Posted in Homelessness, immigration, Jim McDonnell, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD | No Comments »

SCOTUS to Hear Case Challenging Prolonged Detention Without Bond Hearings for Immigrants

November 30th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court is slated to consider whether people held in immigrant detention facilities have a right to bond hearings, which means the potential for release.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Jennings v. Rodriguez that immigrant detainees subjected to noncitizen mandatory detention for six months or more must be granted a bond hearing, even if they have been convicted of crimes.

The ACLU brought the original class action lawsuit on behalf of around 1000 immigrants held indefinitely in federal detention centers for minor—and often very old—crimes. Most were legal residents who committed crimes that are grounds for deportation. Others were guilty of re-crossing the border after a deportation.

Those convicted had to complete sentences for the actual crime before moving to immigration detention. In at least half the cases, the crimes committed did not carry more than a six month sentence.

Many of the Jennings v. Rodriguez plaintiffs were held in detention for many months—even years.

“The people who have the strongest claims for staying in the U.S. end up staying in detention longest because they have the incentive to stick it out,” the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights attorney Michael Tan told VICE. “The people who don’t have a case get deported right away.”

During bond hearings, immigration judges determine whether detainees would pose a flight risk or endanger the public if released while they await deportation proceedings.

In Los Angeles area cases, judges found 70% of the men and women who requested bond hearings to be eligible for release, according to the ACLU.

On average, the plaintiffs in the Jennings case, who “have strong claims to lawful status” are five times more likely to triumph over their deportation cases than other detainees, says the ACLU.

Alejandro Rodriguez, the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, was a legal permanent resident when he was convicted of joyriding at age 19, and later, misdemeanor drug possession. These crimes triggered mandatory detention for Rodriguez, who waited for more than three years without going before a judge for a bond hearing. Rodriguez ultimately won his immigration case. Unfortunately, in the process, he lost years with his two children and his job as a dental assistant.

Warren Joseph, another plaintiff, was injured in the Gulf War while serving in the US Army. Joseph was honored for rescuing his fellow soldiers. Joseph struggled to reintegrate into his community after service. In 2001, he was arrested for buying a handgun for people to whom he owed money. Joseph, a legal permanent resident from Trinidad, was put on probation and got his life back on track. Then Joseph moved in with his mother without telling his probation officer, and was sentenced to six months behind bars. After his prison term, Joseph spent another three-and-a-half years in an immigration facility. He never received a bail hearing. Joseph also eventually won his deportation case and became a US citizen.

(For more on the issue of indefinite detention, head over to KPCC, and listen to AirTalk host Larry Mantle discuss the case before the Supreme Court with SoCal ACLU attorney Michael Kaufman and Jessica Vaughan, the Center for Immigration Studies’ Director of Policy Studies.)

Posted in immigration, Supreme Court, The Feds | 4 Comments »

LA County Supes Take on Hate Crimes

November 23rd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

COUNTY TO ADDRESS INCREASE IN HATE-DRIVEN INCIDENTS

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to ramp up efforts to prevent hate crimes.

Supervisor Hilda Solis introduced the motion in response to a wave of reports of hate crimes in the county following Donald Trump’s election victory.

The motion directs the sheriff’s department to “swiftly” contact communities likely to be targeted in order to reaffirm the county’s continued support and to open up communication with those communities so that victims feel they can safely report hate crimes and related incidents, particularly those concerned about their immigration status.

County departments, including the LASD will report back in 60 days with a plan on how to better track and quickly respond to hate crimes.

“It seems that standing up for our people’s constitutional rights is going to fall on the hands of state and local governments,” Solis said. “Many families in our county are fearful and we have to assure them that we are here to protect their rights.”

The motion also directs the county’s Office of Education to report back in 60 days with a plan detailing preventative steps to curb “bullying, targeting, demeaning, and harassing behavior” in schools.

“People in the county are being targeted because of their ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and we need to act now. This motion calls our communities to stand in unison and speak out against these acts of bullying, discrimination and hate violence,” Supe Solis said. “We are calling on our Sheriff’s department, law enforcement agencies and County Education Office to help us maintain a safe environment for everyone to work, learn and live in.”

The Supes created a task force to address anti-Muslim acts committed in the months following the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting. The task force—a group of law enforcement leaders, city and county officials, community groups, and others—spent 2016 developing recommendations for combatting crimes motivated by hate and bias. The recommendations were included in a recently released 2015 Hate Crime Report.
The report found that hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose 24% from 390 in 2014 to 483 in 2015, compared with a 10% rise statewide. Half of the hate crimes were motivated by race.

Last week the FBI released the national hate crime report for 2015, which revealed a startling 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims.
In the video above, US Attorney General called the report’s results “deeply sobering,” and urged victims to continue to report incidents to local law enforcement and the Department of Justice.


SOLIS PREVIEWS ANOTHER MOTION IN THE WORKS

“Every single one of us has a friend, family member, or a neighbor who is an immigrant, and it is that degree of connectedness that should drive us to do everything possible to protect our immigrant population,” Solis said, previewing a separate motion Tuesday. Among the tasks the second motion will call for, is an analysis of the feasibility of creating a county Department of Immigrant Affairs to protect the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Los Angeles.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell will also have to report back to the board in 45 days on whether the LASD plans to change any immigration-related policies or practices in the event that Trump follows through with his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

WitnessLA will have more on the motion after Solis submits it to the board in December.

Posted in immigration, LA County Board of Supervisors, LGBT, Los Angeles County, race | 4 Comments »

More Cities Join LA in Asserting “Sanctuary” Status Despite Trump’s Plan to Take Away Funding

November 22nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the city would not work with President-elect Donald Trump on the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Trump has said that he will withhold major Department of Justice funding to “sanctuary cities” like Los Angeles where undocumented immigrants are not arrested solely for violating federal immigration laws.

Over the weekend, Reince Priebus, tapped by Trump to be chief of staff, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump is looking into pulling funding from the sanctuary cities and counties—of which there are more than 300 nationwide.

Tapper asked Priebus about Los Angeles’ decision not to work with the feds to deport undocumented immigrants, while continuing to take in hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from the DOJ. While Priebus answered that the issue would be a “matter of negotiation,” he also argued that “the idea that a city would decide to ignore federal law, and then would want the federal government to help them anyway is an inconsistent position,” and “not the way life works.”

On Monday Mayor Garcetti called the Trump administration move a “mistake” that would lead to “social, economic, and security problems,” according to the LA Times’ Dakota Smith.

The LAPD will continue to follow Special Order 40, a 1979 mandate implemented by then-LAPD Chief Daryl Gates and the LA City Council, which prevents police from questioning people with the sole intention of determining their immigration status, Garcetti said last week.

The conservative Gates (and every chief who has come after) embraced the mandate, which was put in place so that undocumented immigrants could feel safe reporting crimes and otherwise engaging with law enforcement without the fear of deportation.

The city of Los Angeles is expected to receive more than $500 million this fiscal year from the DOJ for port security, homeland security, and combatting homelessness, among other important purposes.

“Every police department has to make decisions about how to best go about policing efforts, and most jurisdictions have decided that if local police are known to be enforcers, it harms their ability to police effectively,” Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, told the Washington Post.

In California, San Francisco, Alameda County, San Diego County, Santa Clara County, Riverside County also offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, flanked by city officials, promised that SF would remain a sanctuary city. “We promise to be a city that’s always welcoming,” said Lee. “There are no walls in our city.”

Mayors of other “sanctuary cities,” including Portland, OR, Seattle, and Chicago have made similar statements.

In a tweet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made his position clear. “I told the President-elect we’re ultimate city of immigrants & attempts to mass deport our people flies in the face of what makes NYC great.”

Mere hours after taking office in January, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order reclassifying the city as a sanctuary city.

Last week, Kenney reaffirmed the city’s stance. “I vow to uphold the Constitution of the United States by not holding people in jail without a warrant, which I think is in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” Kenney said.

Posted in immigration, LAPD | 6 Comments »

Chief Says LAPD Won’t Work with Trump on Mass Deportations, Texting Probation Officers, and LA’s Still Short on Foster Care Beds

November 15th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LAPD CHIEF, LA MAYOR SAY THE CITY WILL NOT HELP DONALD TRUMP DEPORT UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

The LAPD will not change its immigration policies to help fulfill President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Monday.

The police chief told the LA Times that his department will not “engage in law enforcement activities solely based on someone’s immigration status,” or work with Homeland Security on any efforts to ramp up deportations. “That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.”

The LAPD will continue to follow Special Order 40, a 1979 mandate that prevents police from questioning people with the sole intention of determining their immigration status, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. And, if faced with hostility toward the people of Los Angeles, “we will speak up, speak out, act up, and act out,” the mayor said.

Special Order 40 was implemented by then-LAPD Chief Daryl Gates along with the LA City Council, so that undocumented immigrants could feel safe reporting crimes and otherwise engaging with law enforcement without the fear of deportation. Under the mandate, officers are not to arrest or book anyone solely for violating immigration law.

In addition to Donald Trump’s “first 100 days” promise to immediately start deporting more than two million undocumented immigrants is Donald Trump has also vowed to take away US Department of Justice grants from cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco for their “sanctuary city” status.

The LA Times’ Kate Mather and Cindy Chang have the story. Here’s a clip:

During Beck’s tenure as chief, the department stopped turning over people arrested for low-level crimes to federal agents for deportation and moved away from honoring federal requests to detain inmates who might be deportable past their jail terms.

[SNIP]

“Our law enforcement officers and LAPD don’t go around asking people for their papers, nor should they,” [Garcetti] said. “That’s not the role of local law enforcement.”

Capt. Jeff Scroggin, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said it is too soon to say how sheriff’s officials would react to any changes required by the Trump administration. Those changes could be tied to federal funding, he noted.

In the meantime, he said, sheriff’s deputies who patrol the county will continue their longstanding practice of treating all residents the same, regardless of background.

“We just want people to come forward so we have a better community. It doesn’t matter whether they’re an immigrant or going through the process of citizenship,” Scroggin said. “Whatever it is, we want to hear from them. We don’t want them to not cooperate. It’s important to keep the community safe. We never ask about immigration status.”


RIVERSIDE TESTING TEXT MESSAGING PROGRAM FOR PROBATION OFFICERS AND THEIR CLIENTS

The Riverside County Probation Department is testing a unique messaging program that allows probation officers to talk with their clients via text message. Senior Probation Officer Jaime MacLean has been testing the program, which is called CORE (Communicating Openly Requires Engagement), with her 30 clients since March.

Only three of MacLean’s clients have violated their probation in the months since March, compared with an average of around 3 violations per month that usually occur in caseloads of that size in Riverside.

MacLean says it has allowed her to engage with her clients in a way that she hadn’t been able to before that shows probationers that she cares about them and their success. Through the texting program, clients receive important updates, announcements for job fairs and other services, and can quickly communicate with their probation officer if they miss a meeting.

CA Fwd’s Nadine Ono has more on the promising program. Here’s a clip:

Part of building relationships with clients involves texting announcements and reminders for events such as job fairs, sending inspirational messages to lift their spirits in addition, checking-in as part of their probation, or allowing clients to text photos as proof of required activities.

The traditional way of communicating with clients is through phone calls and regular appointments, which is sometimes the only contact. And, if a client misses an appointment, unless he or she can connect by phone, the officer has no way of knowing what happened, which could lead to a violation.

McLean said the extra engagement is paying off. “They’re more willing to be honest via text message.” She explained that it is often hard for clients admit mistakes, such as using drugs or alcohol, over the phone or face-to-face. She added that sometimes clients will meet with her and say everything is OK, but then text her their problem after they leave the office.

“The whole point is trying to figure out how we can work on things together, instead of them feeling like they don’t want to come in and tell their probation officer what’s going on,” said McLain. “If they have a better relationship with me, they’re more willing to figure out what the next steps can be together.”

MacLean said she has one client with bad anxiety who is uncomfortable sitting in the waiting room. With the ability to text, the client can let her know when he has arrived, so that she can meet him at the door and bring him directly to the office. “Otherwise,” she said, “he just wouldn’t show up.” And not showing up could lead to a violation and possibly back in jail.


AS CA MOVES TOWARD ELIMINATING LONG-TERM GROUP HOMES, LA COUNTY STILL STRUGGLES TO BOOST AVAILABLE PLACEMENTS FOR FOSTER KIDS

A recent report from the LA County Department of Children and Family Services reveals that the county continues to struggle to find homes for kids in the foster care system.

While the number of children in foster care decreased by approximately 100, the number of open beds for foster kids also decreased by about the same amount.

DCFS has been working to increase the number of long-term placements with foster families as California moves toward a dramatic overhaul of the group home model slated to go into effect next year.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Christie Renick has more on the report. Here’s a small clip:

The report also showed that there were 1,055 youth in group homes in 2015, a 4.4 percent increase over the year before.

California’s Continuum of Care Reform, which limits the amount of time a child or youth can be placed in a group home or congregate care facility, will take effect in January and will hasten the department’s efforts to find appropriate homes for older foster youth, who are often placed in residential institutions and small group homes.

Posted in Charlie Beck, children and adolescents, DCFS, Department of Justice, Eric Garcetti, Foster Care, immigration, LAPD | 11 Comments »

Juvie LWOP, Sheriff Jim McDonnell on ICE Compliance, and VICE and HBO Look at the Prison System

September 23rd, 2015 by Taylor Walker

REPORT: IN THE LAST DECADE, LA COUNTY HAS SENTENCED THE MOST KIDS TO DIE IN PRISON

Five counties, including Los Angeles, are responsible for 22% of all juvenile life-without-parole sentences in the United States, according to a new report by the Phillips Black Project.

The other four counties are Philadelphia, PA, Orleans, LA, Cook, IL, and St. Louis, MO.

Los Angeles leads the pack on the highest number of juvie LWOP sentences in the last decade at 6.6%, but Philadelphia has the highest count over the last 60 years. The Phillips Black Project researchers put Philadelphia’s tally at 214, 10% of all juvenile LWOP sentences, although one of the county’s public defenders told the Marshall Project the number is actually much higher.

The Phillips Black report shows a growing trend away from locking kids up for life, a practice which rose in popularity during the “superpredator” fear-mongering of the 90′s.

Fifteen states have eliminated juvie LWOP altogether, nine of which made the shift after the 2012 Miller v. Alabama US Supreme Court ruling that mandatory sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole was cruel and unusual.

California has made heartening progress toward scaling back use of LWOP sentences for kids, starting in 2012, when California passed the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act, which gave kids sentenced to life-without-parole, allowing courts to review cases of minors sentenced to life without parole after 15 years, and possibly resentence them to 25-to-life.

And in 2013, CA Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that gave a second chance at parole to kids who committed murder before the age of 18 and sentenced to life-without-parole. (A new bill awaiting the governor’s signature, SB 261, would go even further by expanding the age of eligibility for early parole hearings to include lifers whose crimes were committed before the age of 23.)


LA COUNTY SHERIFF JIM MCDONNELL SEZ DEPT. WILL FOLLOW STATE LAW, ONLY SEND UNDOCUMENTED INMATES TO FEDS FOR SERIOUS OFFENSES

On Tuesday, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that he would hand over undocumented jail inmates to federal immigration officials seeking deportation only if the inmates qualify for deportation under the California Trust Act. The state law passed in 2013 stipulates that local law enforcement agencies can only transfer people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who have been charged with or convicted of serious offenses.

LA Daily News’ Sarah Favot has the story. Here’s a clip:

McDonnell said he will allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to have access to county inmates for potential transfer to ICE under the Priority Enforcement Program once the inmates are preparing to be released as long as the inmates qualify under the California Trust Act. If ICE wants custody of an inmate, but the inmate has not committed a serious or violent felony, the inmate will not be transferred to ICE, McDonnell said.

The California Trust Act, passed by the state Legislature in 2013, limits the criteria under which people can be transferred to ICE custody for potential deportation to serious or violent felony convictions.

“While I have made clear my desire to abide by and implement PEP [the Priority Enforcement Program] as it applies to the county’s jails, the department will not do so when and if that program conflicts with the California Trust Act or applicable case law,” McDonnell wrote. “Our federal and state leaders have developed approaches in regard to this important issue that are at times in tension with each other. It is the department’s aim to balance and reconcile these provisions.”

The L.A. county supervisors voted in May to participate in the program and directed the sheriff to come up with policies and procedures to carry out the program within the county jail system. At the supervisors’ request, the sheriff held community meetings throughout the county before the policies were developed.

McDonnell said his objectives in developing the policies were to work with federal authorities to identify “undocumented persons who pose a danger to our community,” “partner with some of the most diverse and immigrant-rich” communities and promote public safety.

PEP was unveiled by federal Homeland Security officials this year as a successor to the controversial Secure Communities Program. PEP uses fingerprint data to identify potentially deportable noncitizens when the FBI performs criminal background checks for local police.


FIXING THE UNITED STATES PRISON SYSTEM

This Sunday, we recommend tuning into a VICE special on the inner workings and effects of incarceration in America on HBO. The documentary features President Obama’s historic visit in July of Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno in Oklahoma, and his meetings with inmates and prison staff.

The show, VICE Special Report: Fixing The System, will air Sept. 27, at 9:00p.m. (Pacific and Eastern).


Posted in immigration, Jim McDonnell, juvenile justice, LASD, LWOP Kids, prison | No Comments »

YouthBuild, the “Holloway Doctrine,” and ICE Modifies How It Issues Detainer Requests in CA

September 21st, 2015 by Taylor Walker

YOUTHBUILD PROGRAM IN SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY GIVES NEW HOPE AND A CAREER PATH TO KIDS AT RISK OF DROPPING OUT OR ENTERING THE JUVIE JUSTICE SYSTEM

In California’s San Joaquin County and across the nation, the YouthBuild program teaches construction skills to struggling teens while helping them obtain their high school diplomas or GEDs.

The alternative education program lasts for six months to two years and serves 16 to 24-year-olds who are aging out of foster care, have had contact with the juvenile justice system, or are otherwise at risk of dropping out. YouthBuild also connects teens and young adults with contractors and apprentice programs upon their graduation from the program.

Last month, six YouthBuilds in California received a portion of $76 million in funding from the US Labor Department. The $1.1 million allocated to San Joaquin’s YouthBuild will cover the cost of 80 students for two years, plus a year of assistance after graduation.

The Stockton Record’s Reed Fujii has more on YouthBuild and how it shifts struggling kids’ trajectories. Here’s a clip:

Roosevelt Webb lost his way after his father died.

He had dropped out of school as a senior at Edison High in Stockton to help take care of his dad and, at age 21 and with no diploma, he said, “I didn’t know what to do.”

Another Stocktonian, James Vong, said as a teenager he had no guidance, no father figure, and growing up on the city’s gritty streets, found himself falling into drugs and the gang life.

But both have found a new direction through San Joaquin County’s YouthBuild program, an alternative educational program that emphasizes building-trades skills as well as academic school standards.

Webb, now 24, works for the San Joaquin County Office of Education, helping supervise YouthBuild teams on construction sites.

And Vong, 20, is enrolled in the program and was working on an affordable housing project in south Stockton as part of Webb’s team.

“Ever since attending YouthBuild, I made a 360 degree flip,” he said of his life. “Now I’m working at Habitat (for Humanity’s Dream Creek project), doing what I love.”


JUDGES (AND PROSECUTORS) HAVE THE ABILITY TO GRANT LENIENCY TO INMATES SERVING OUTDATED, TOUGH-ON-CRIME SENTENCES

Despite increased federal efforts to lower prison populations by releasing non-violent drug offenders, President Barack Obama ranks among the ten least merciful presidents of the United States, having granted only 153 pardons, commutations, remissions, and respites, thus far.

Recent releases of two men serving excessively high and outdated sentences (often for drugs) have brought attention to another less-used method of leniency. The two men, Francois Holloway and Luis Anthony Rivera have successfully petitioned judges to reduce their old, disproportionately harsh sentences. The original prosecutors had to consent to the judges’ decisions.

Advocates and legal experts believe that if federal prosecutors will agree not to oppose judges’ leniency, the appropriately named “Holloway Doctrine” has the potential to lead to the release of many more inmates serving sentences that would not be handed down today.

The LA Times’ Richard Serrano has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Rivera and Holloway asked federal judges for leniency, something that happens frequently, and federal prosecutors agreed not to fight, which is rare.

The original sentencing judges agreed to take a fresh look at the punishments of the two men. Assured that both had turned their lives around, the judges and prosecutors agreed to vacate parts of their original convictions and reduce their sentences to “time already served.”

Legal experts predict the cases could open the door to similar requests by many more prisoners if federal prosecutors are willing to take the same approach elsewhere.

“That’s a pretty novel way to do things,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. “I’ve not run across a lot of people who ever get out that way, and we get letters every day from people wanting help.”

Mauer predicted that the Rivera and Holloway examples will prompt defense lawyers around the country to seek similar relief for clients and will give judges “a level of comfort” in agreeing.

“It’s always the courageous ones that go first,” he said.

Holloway’s case went to court last year in Brooklyn, where the top federal prosecutor at the time was U.S. Atty. Loretta Lynch, who is now attorney general. Lynch at first resisted his release, suggesting he seek a presidential commutation. But she ultimately agreed not to oppose his appeal.

The original sentencing judge, John Gleeson, a former prosecutor who had put Mafia boss John Gotti in prison, noted that Holloway had served more time for robbing three cars than “if he had committed first-degree murder.”

“Black men like Holloway have long been disproportionally subjected to the stacking of counts,” Gleeson said, referring to sentencing rules that he said forced him to sentence Holloway to 57 years in prison in 1996.

The judge applauded Lynch for consenting to the release.

“This is a significant case, and not just for Francois Holloway,” he said. “It demonstrates the difference between a Department of Prosecutions and a Department of Justice.”


FEDERAL IMMIGRATION DEPT. CHANGES APPROACH IN HOPES OF REGAINING COMPLIANCE FROM CA LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

In the face of law enforcement agencies’ widespread refusal to comply with federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants in jails for up to 48 hours, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representatives say the department is trying to be more flexible and meet law enforcement groups in the middle.

Under the new system, ICE analysts in a SoCal office run data on arrests to determine who is high priority for deportation before issuing detainer requests. ICE still asks law enforcement to let them know when they are releasing someone facing deportation, but issues fewer detainer requests for low-level offenders.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department changed its stance from no compliance with ICE detainer requests to allowing ICE to interview incarcerated immigrants, but still refuses to keep immigrants locked up past their release dates.

The Associated Press has more ICE’s new methods and how law enforcement agencies are responding. Here’s a clip:

…immigration authorities have also narrowed their focus to people convicted of more serious crimes, and the number of so-called detainer requests — which aim to have jails hold inmates up to 48 hours for deportation officers to pick them up — dropped by 24 percent in the 2014 fiscal year from a year earlier.

At the same time, the number of people deported from the United States, not counting those apprehended on the border, fell 24 percent, federal statistics show.

Immigration authorities had begun issuing detainers based on electronic data after getting access to fingerprints from jail bookings under enhanced law enforcement information-sharing after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

ICE initially started the hub in suburban Southern California to streamline the process for the region, one of the key spots where detainers were used. Now, the Pacific Enforcement Response Center issues about 40 percent of all immigration detainers and requests for notification when inmates are being released, handling the task for much of the country on nights and weekends.

The office, which issued 6,800 detainers and notification requests between June and August, contains half a dozen computers that collect leads for potential deportees and spit out the results on a large printer. Analysts and agents then search for matches in databases for visa holders, naturalized citizens and border arrests to determine the immigration status of those booked into local jails.

In the last three months, detainers or notification requests were sent in 11 percent of the center’s cases. Others are typically sent to field agents for investigation and about half are set aside because the person is here legally or doesn’t have a serious criminal conviction to make them a priority for deportation under the program, which was revamped last year, ICE officials said.

Under the new approach, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department lets immigration agents interview inmates who have detainers but won’t hold them beyond their release date. In Santa Clara County, officials still won’t honor detainers but are weighing whether to notify ICE about serious offenders, while authorities in San Francisco won’t do either despite public outcry after the shooting.

Posted in Education, Foster Care, immigration, juvenile justice | No Comments »

The Lost Boys, the Roanoke Shooting, Lawsuits Against LASD Members, San Bernardino DA’s Office Swears in Two K-9s

August 27th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

UNDOCUMENTED BOYS AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

A CA bill would protect juvenile justice system-involved immigrant children from being deported by banning the unauthorized disclosure of kids’ records to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a court order.

The bill, AB-899, authored by CA Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

While county probation departments have been cutting back on how many undocumented kids they refer to ICE, advocates and immigration attorneys say this practice of reporting minors violates children’s civil rights, and contradicts the state juvenile justice system’s rehabilitative objectives of keeping kids in their communities, connected with their families, and acting in the best interest of children.

In Orange County, kids in juvenile hall who are suspected of being undocumented, can be interrogated by ICE agents without their parents of legal representation. The kids are not told of their right to a lawyer, phone call, or trial by judge before they are subjected to the interrogation.
Then, the children’s statements are often used against them during deportation hearings.

During deportation proceedings, kids are taken from their families and communities and sent to group homes and federal detention facilities across the nation.

Part one of four-part series by the Voice of the OC’s Yvette Cabrera about undocumented boys’ contact with the criminal justice system, tells the story of a 14-year-old referred to ICE and taken from the OC all the way to Texas, without informing his mother of his location. Here’s a clip:

One young man who is part of this generation of boys agreed to share his story, and with his mother’s consent and participation allowed a Voice of OC reporter to follow his case over nearly a three-year-period as it proceeded in immigration court. Since he is a minor in the juvenile justice system, the Voice of OC is using the pseudonym of Alex, for the minor, and Marisa for his mother to protect the minor’s privacy.

In the summer of 2012, immigration authorities entered Orange County’s juvenile hall and took Alex, then a 14-year-old, into federal custody and allowed him to make one phone call to his mother, Marisa.

The ICE agents told him he might be sent to a Texas facility, but Alex told Marisa over the phone that he knew little else about where he was headed.

She was in disbelief.

Her son had landed in juvenile hall after bringing a pocket knife to school, but she couldn’t understand how Alex ended up in the hands of immigration authorities.

She feared the worst — that Alex would be immediately deported to Mexico, where he was born.

A native of Mexico, Marisa, who is now 36, was 17 when she became pregnant with Alex. But at the time her relationship with her boyfriend had turned so violent, she almost miscarried. When Alex was nearly three-years-old, she took him and fled her physically abusive partner and crossed illegally into the United States.

She was determined to create a new life in California, but ended up falling into two other abusive relationships.

Alex witnessed his mother being abused, and experienced physical abuse at the hands of his mother’s partners as well. The consequences of his turbulent childhood would emerge early on, but Marisa never imagined when Alex began acting out in school that it would one day lead to his possible deportation.

When ICE agents placed Alex in custody in August 2012, Marisa was still undocumented, without a driver’s license and fearful that any contact with federal immigration authorities would lead to her own deportation.

“I felt awful,” she said in Spanish, pausing to catch her breath as the upsetting memory of that day washed over her. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to go see him in Texas.”

Immediately after the call from Alex, Marisa began to scour the Internet, searching for group homes that house refugee immigrant children and those in deportation proceedings. But she could not find him. She called an ICE facility in Los Angeles – only to learn that Alex was no longer there.

“Nobody would tell me where my son was,” said Marisa, wiping away tears. “It was horrible. I stayed up all night asking myself, ‘Where can he be?’”

Marisa’s struggle to find her son was the beginning of a much more difficult ordeal: Trying to keep federal immigration authorities from deporting him so that he could return home to Orange County, where he had spent the majority of his childhood.

Read on.

In part two of the series, Cabrera zeros in on the debate about whether federal immigration law and policy trumps state and local law meant to protect kids and their juvenile records, and the groups that are wading into the battle. Here’s a clip:

The law, California’s Welfare and Institution Code section 827, states that unless special permission from a juvenile court is granted, only a limited and specified group of individuals from the state’s juvenile justice system is given authority to inspect a minor’s case files. Among those authorized are the district attorney, child protective agencies, or law enforcement officers who are “actively participating in criminal or juvenile proceedings involving the minor.”

Section 827 does not include ICE or any other federal immigration authorities.

The Orange County Probation Department cites the federal law, Section 1373 of Title 8 in the U.S. Code, as its legal authority to communicate with immigration authorities.

According to the law, state and local entities can’t prohibit or restrict communication with ICE, nor prohibit or restrict any government entity or official from sending information to ICE or receiving information from ICE regarding the citizenship or immigration status of an individual.

Catherine E. Stiver, Orange County Probation Department’s division director for juvenile court services, oversaw the most recent revisions to the department’s ICE referrals, including changes in 2012 that cited the federal law for the first time.

Under the authority of Section 1373, Stiver said there is no need for immigration authorities to request a special juvenile court order to grant ICE access to a juvenile’s court files or personal information.

“The [juvenile] court cannot dictate what we release and receive from ICE,” said Stiver.

Probation spokesman Edward Harrison added that the federal law supersedes state laws, including the provisions in the Welfare and Institutions Code regarding juvenile confidentiality.

“The U.S. code, like the Constitution, supersedes state code and local ordinances. That’s the law over the land,” said Harrison, who also serves as the agency’s director of communications and research.

But some legal scholars and immigration attorneys throughout California disagree that federal immigration law preempts California’s juvenile confidentiality laws. On the contrary, they say, federal law recognizes the importance of protecting the privacy of juvenile court records, including from other federal agencies.

“Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has ever recognized any broad exception that would allow state and local agencies to breach confidentiality to share information with federal immigration authorities, particularly when such information sharing would pose a detriment to the child,” stated a 2013 report published by UC Irvine School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic on this issue.

[SNIP]

Los Angeles immigration attorney Kristen Jackson of the Public Counsel pro bono law firm said she discovered in some of her Orange County cases that her clients’ immigration court files were “chock full” of confidential juvenile court documents.

In those cases, Jackson sent ICE letters warning the agency that the documents were released in violation of California law, and as result the government did not submit the documents in immigration court. The issue, she pointed out, is that the documents will remain a part of the individual’s immigration file for the rest of his or her life.

“So it may start with this, but it doesn’t end with this,” said Jackson.


SHOULD THE MEDIA SHARE GRAPHIC KILLINGS LIKE THAT OF JOURNALIST ALISON PARKER AND VIDEOGRAPHER ADAM WARD IN VIRGINIA?

On Wednesday Vester Lee Flanagan II, a one-time WDBJ-TV reporter in Roanoke, VA, shot and killed former journalist colleague Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, during an interview on live television. The woman Parker was interviewing, Vicki Gardner, was also shot, but underwent emergency surgery and is expected to survive.

Flanagan led police on a chase, at the end of which, he shot himself.

Flanagan, who went by the name Bryce Williams, recorded the horrific shooting from several different angles and reportedly posted the footage on Facebook. Many others, including the media, started circulating the graphic videos. But should TV stations, news sites, and other media members continue to show the disturbing footage?

NPR’s David Folkenflik has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Viewers of the morning show for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., actually watched the deadly shootings of reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward. And they watched it live, unexpectedly, without warning. So did the program’s anchors, who were themselves shocked, initially uncomprehending, appalled.

Others quickly grabbed that footage from WDBJ-TV and posted it online and on the air. CNN, for example, rebroadcast a portion of the station’s video, including the shootings and a fleeting glimpse of the shooter. Anchors told viewers the network would only show it once an hour. MSNBC and Fox News do not appear to have aired the actual shots. By the middle of the day, CNN said it would hold off on showing the footage again.

The decision to air or share such material has to be a conscious choice. Often it is not. So do we, as viewers, have to think hard about what we choose to consume.

The Roanoke station where Parker and Ward worked has decided not to rebroadcast it.

“We are choosing not to run the video of that right now because, frankly, we don’t need to see it again,” Jeffrey Marks, WDBJ’s station manager, said on the air Wednesday morning. Marks’ rending observations, and those of his colleagues processing the deaths in public view, admirably sought to present well-rounded pictures of the two journalists. The station and its staffers tweeted out tributes, even as they continued to report the story.

And, the NY Times’ has a thorough report on the incident. Here’s a clip:

The shooting and the horrifying images it produced marked a new chapter in the intersection of video, violence and social media.

The day began with the most mundane of early-morning interviews. Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward were working on a story for WDBJ about the 50th anniversary of Smith Mountain Lake, a reservoir tucked among farms and rolling mountains that is popular with anglers, kayakers and sunbathers. They stood on a balcony of Bridgewater Plaza, a shopping and office complex on the lakeshore, talking with Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Around 6:45 a.m., the shooting began.

The station’s own disturbing video shows Ms. Parker screaming and stumbling backward as the shots ring out and a set of jumbled images as the camera falls to the floor. Eight shots can be heard before the broadcast cut back to the stunned anchor at the station, Kimberly McBroom.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Flanagan wrote on Twitter, “I filmed the shooting see Facebook,” and a shocking 56-second video recording, which appeared to be taken by a body camera worn by the gunman, was posted to his Facebook page. It showed him waiting until the journalists were on air before raising a handgun and firing at point-blank range, ensuring that it would be seen, live or recorded, by thousands.

Both social media accounts used the name he was known by on television, Bryce Williams, and both were shut down within hours of the shooting.

Ms. Parker, 24, a reporter, and Mr. Ward, 27, a cameraman, both white, were pronounced dead at the scene. Ms. Gardner was wounded and underwent emergency surgery, but was expected to survive. Mr. Flanagan shot and killed himself hours later after being cornered by the police on a highway about 200 miles away.


LAWSUITS AGAINST LASD MEMBERS CAN MOVE FORWARD, SAYS APPEALS COURT

On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that three LA County Sheriff’s Department members can be held liable in two separate lawsuits brought by Francisco Carillo and Frank O’Connell whose wrongful murder convictions cost them 20 and 27 years behind bars, respectively.

Carillo is suing former deputy Craig Ditsch, for pressuring a witness to falsely identify Carillo, who was 16 at the time, as the drive-by shooter who killed Donald Sarpy.

O’Connell, who was convicted of killing Jay French in 1984, is suing former homicide detectives J.D. Smith and Gilbert Parra for allegedly withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense.

Carillo’s attorney, Ron Kaye told the LA Times that he didn’t believe any of the three LASD employees were ever disciplined.

The LA Times’ Maura Dolan has the story. Here’s a clip:

Frank O’Connell, convicted of killing Jay French in 1984, won his release in 2012 after spending 27 years behind bars. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover found that sheriff’s detectives had failed to disclose exonerating information to either the prosecution or the defense.

O’Connell later sued former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives J.D. Smith and Gilbert Parra, alleging that they had refused to reveal evidence impeaching the statements of three eyewitnesses as well as information about a previous attempt on the victim’s life.

Francisco Carrillo Jr., in a separate lawsuit, also said the department failed to disclose information about the reliability of an eyewitness in his case. Eyewitness testimony is a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

Carrillo was convicted of killing Donald Sarpy in a 1991 drive-by shooting. Carrillo was 16 at the time and served 20 years in prison.

In his lawsuit, Carrillo charged that former Deputy Craig Ditsch knew that an eyewitness had trouble identifying Carrillo and tried to pressure the witness when he decided to recant.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Paul A. Bacigalupo ordered Carrillo’s release in 2011 after concluding the eyewitness testimony against him was false, tainted or both.

Attorneys for the sheriff’s employees argued that the lawsuits should be dismissed because the law was unclear in 1984 and 1991 as to whether police had to disclose evidence exonerating innocence.

Members of law enforcement have immunity from lawsuits when their actions did not violate an established law.

The 9th Circuit, citing Brady vs. Maryland, the 1963 Supreme Court decision that required disclosure of exculpatory evidence, said the authorities should have known of the requirement.


SAN BERNARDINO DA’S OFFICER SWEARS IN TWO DOGS TO COMFORT VICTIMIZED KIDS TAKING THE WITNESS STAND

The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office has sworn in its first two K-9s as part of the Special Victims Unit. The two black Labradors, Lupe and Dozer, are specifically trained to comfort kids who have witnessed or been victims of violence while they give testimony or take the witness stand.

The San Bernardino Press-Enterprise’s Gail Wesson has the story. Here’s a clip:

With a paw atop a state Penal Code book and a black, hairy chin on another copy, the first two K-9s were sworn in and received their star badges as members of San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos’ Special Victims Unit in a Friday ceremony.

The four-legged so-called facility dogs will enhance his office’s ability to “see justice for the most vulnerable victims, our children,” Ramos said during the event where K-9s, Dozer and Lupe, mostly sprawled out comfortably on the floor, while keeping an eye on the cameras and their victim advocate handlers.

More than two years in development, the district attorney’s office is partnering with nonprofit New Mexico-based Assistance Dogs of the West, which supplied K-9s and handler training, and Washington state-based Courthouse Dogs Foundation for educating the legal community.

[SNIP]

They will be called upon to help in interview and courtroom testimony situations, primarily with children but are available for adults too. Ramos said of child victims, “Some of them have suffered tremendous physical abuse, some of them tremendous sexual abuse and some have lost their lives.” The aim is to help witnesses be comfortable as they testify in order to get cases prosecuted in court.

“Our main goal is to greatly reduce the understandable fears that a child has about entering the courtroom,” Ramos said in a written statement.

Posted in immigration, juvenile justice, LASD | No Comments »

Incarcerated Kids 3 Times More Likely to Be Hospitalized for Mental Health Issues….New LASD Mental Heath Crisis Teams in Desert….Expanding Adelanto…and Sandra Bland

July 22nd, 2015 by Taylor Walker

LOCKED UP KIDS IN CA ARE FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE HOSPITALIZED FOR MENTAL HEALTH REASONS THAN NON-INCARCERATED KIDS

Kids in CA juvenile detention facilities were hospitalized for mental health issues way more often (and for longer) than their non-justice-system-involved peers over a period of 15 years, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Stanford researchers analyzed data from nearly two million hospitalizations of kids and teens between 11-18 in California from 1997 to 2011. The findings surprised the study’s lead author, Dr. Arash Anoshiravani. A whopping 63% of juvenile detention hospitalizations were for mental health problems, compared with 19% for kids who were not locked-up.

“We know young people in the juvenile justice system have a disproportionate burden of mental illness,” said Anoshiravani, “But I was really surprised by the magnitude of the problem, because hospitalizations typically occur for very severe illness.”

Locked up patients were more likely to be older, boys, and black. And when you took boys out of the picture, detained girls’ hospitalizations were for mental illness 74% of the time.


LA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPT. LAUNCHES MENTAL EVALUATION UNITS IN SANTA CLARITA AND ANTELOPE VALLEY

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has launched three new, much-needed Mental Evaluation Units for Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster. The teams are comprised of sheriff’s deputies and a Dept. of Mental Health clinician. The LASD has such teams already in place in other parts of the county, and in the jails, but, until now, hasn’t been able to fund units for Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley, which account for more than a third of mental health-related calls to the LASD.

LA Daily News’ Susan Abram has the story. Here’s a clip:

“We had been pushing for this for years, but we couldn’t get the funding,” said Lt. Carlos Marquez, who oversees the evaluation teams for the Sheriff’s Department. “When we got these three additional teams, the logical placement was in Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster,”

Of the 1,000 calls for service that have to do with mental health, a third come from the northern part of L.A. County, Marquez said.

Those people who require emergency psychiatric care will be taken to Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, one of three facilities countywide with emergency psychiatric beds, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, director of community health and integrated programs at the county Department of Health Services.

There are about 130 emergency psychiatric beds throughout the county — not nearly enough, Ghaly said, noting there may be some relief later this year.

In 2011, county officials opened a $10 million mental health urgent-care center in Sylmar, next to Olive View, for walk-in patients suffering from anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and a range of other issues.


SOCAL PRIVATE PRISON BECOMES LARGEST ADULT IMMIGRANT DETENTION FACILITY IN THE NATION

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), along with 28 other legislators, sent a letter last week, urging the US Justice Dept. and the Dept. of Homeland Security to stop expanding the Adelanto Detention Center, a privately run prison for immigrants in San Bernardino County.

Last month, Adelanto, which is run by the scandal-plagued GEO Group, became the largest detention facility in the country for adult immigrants. Before the expansion, Adelanto was a men’s only facility, but has added 260 beds for women, in addition to 380 more beds for men.

GEO Group, the second largest for-profit prison operator, is often accused of medical neglect and abuse. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is beholden to a “lock-up quota”—a profit-boosting tactics penalize states for not filling prison beds—of 488 prisoners through May of 2016.

In an op-ed for The Hill, Christina Fialho, who is an attorney and co-founder of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), urges the feds to stop ignoring the medical neglect by GEO Group, and to stop the expansion, and instead defund the detention center altogether. Here’s a clip:

The Congressional letter highlights Gerardo Corrales, a nineteen-year-old who is paralyzed from the waist down. Corrales suffered a urinary tract infection because GEO Group was unwilling to provide him with a sufficient number of catheters. Doctors at a nearby hospital not affiliated with GEO told Corrales that his infection could have been fatal. Earlier this month, Corrales launched his own campaign along with three other men detained at Adelanto calling for the release of all people from the facility. Chu’s letter includes a link to Corrales’ oral testimony.

My organization, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), has been documenting medical neglect and other abuses at Adelanto since 2012 through the support of CIVIC volunteers who visit the facility weekly. Although U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tells us that people detained at Adelanto who request a medical visit are seen within 24 hours, the people in detention tell us otherwise. In fact, it is our understanding that sometimes it takes weeks for the men to see medical personnel, and they rarely meet with a doctor. The nurses often prescribe ibuprofen or “drink more water” for symptoms ranging from cataracts, to a slipped disk, to infections. One man was denied treatment for a serious hip infection because “it was too expensive,” according to a letter released in May by advocates. Unbelievably, nurses even deny sweaters to people detained at Adelanto who are cold.

Despite numerous complaints CIVIC has filed with DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Office of the Inspector General about the facility, ICE decided to expand the Adelanto Detention Center to detain 640 more people, including up to 260 women. Currently, the Adelanto Detention Center is imprisoning eight women, and local ICE personnel are hopeful that the expansion will allow them to detain transgender women at the facility as well. This is very troubling because these vulnerable populations require specialized healthcare services, and GEO Group has already proven that it is incapable of providing adequate care to the men in detention at Adelanto. Meanwhile, at GEO Group’s only other California-based immigration detention facility in Bakersfield, a pregnant woman tripped and miscarried last month after GEO shackled her in violation of federal guidelines.


RACISM IN THE TEXAS COUNTY WHERE SANDRA BLAND DIED MYSTERIOUSLY IN A JAIL CELL

Recently released jail video and dash cam arrest footage further complicate the mystery of how Sandra Bland, a black woman on a road trip to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University, ended up dead in a jail cell in Waller County.

The history of racial prejudice in Waller County does not prove anything—one way or the other—about Sandra Bland’s death. Yet, it should not be disregarded either.

The Atlantic’s David Graham has more on Sandra Bland’s death and racism in Waller County. Here’s a clip:

Statewide, stops and citations for black people in Texas are actually lower than their share of the overall population, and the same holds true for stops by the Waller County sheriff and police in the towns of Hempstead and Prairie View.

But this might be one of the few areas where there isn’t evidence of racially disparate outcomes in Waller County, a place with a grim history of discrimination and tension—“racism from the cradle to the grave,” as DeWayne Charleston, a former county judge, put it to The Guardian.

The history is especially painful because Waller County was for a time a beacon of black progress. During Reconstruction, an office of the Freedmen’s Bureau opened in the county seat of Hempstead, and federal troops—including, for a time, some commanded by George Custer—occupied to keep the peace. Not coincidentally, the Ku Klux Klan also set up shop. Nonetheless, Hempstead became a locus of black political activity and hosted the Republican Party’s statewide convention in 1875. In 1876, the predecessor of Prairie View A&M was established, and in the 1880 Census, the county was majority black.

But the last two decades of the century saw an influx of white immigrants from Eastern Europe, and that dilution of the black vote, along with the end of Reconstruction, reduced blacks to a minority and slashed their political power. After a 1903 law established “white primaries,” African Americans were effectively shut out of politics—such that in a county with some 8,000 black voters, only 144 Republican votes were cast in 1912, according to The Handbook of Texas. Waller County, as Leah Binkovitz notes, had among the highest numbers of lynchings in the state between 1877 and 1950, according to a comprehensive report by the Equal Justice Initiative.

This may seem like distant history, but it set something of a pattern for the county’s race relations through to the present—and as the events of the last year have made clear, a place’s history is often an effective predictor of how it treats its black residents, from St. Louis County to Cuyahoga County. In fact, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Waller County has continued to be a source of contention.

In 2004, students at Prairie View A&M fought and won a battle over their right to vote in the county…

Read on.

Posted in immigration, juvenile justice, LASD, mental health, race | 16 Comments »

Mysterious Death in AZ Immigration Lock-Up Triggers Inmate Protest

June 15th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon



Around two hundred detainees at Eloy Detention Center outside Tucson, AZ, reportedly launched a hunger strike on Saturday in protest of an inmate’s death
inside the facility, which hunger strikers claim occurred under questionable circumstances. According to immigration rights advocates at the Puente Human Rights Movement, the strikers sat down in the exercise yard at 9:45 AM and declared their protest.

The death in question occurred on May 20 when José de Jesús Deniz-Sahagún, 31 a Mexican national was found “unresponsive” in his cell at Eloy, prompting the controversy and the protest. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials issued a press release after Deniz-Sahagún’s death, stating that the inmate had “no signs of apparent injury.”


SOUNDS OF A BEATING

However, according to immigration law expert, Daniel Kawalski, detainees who were part of the strike said guards beat the man badly prior to his death, and may have then locked him in solitary without care. Deniz-Sahagun had reportedly been in the immigration facility for only two days, after attempting to enter the US from Mexico on May 15. It was his third attempt to enter the U.S.

According to the Huffington Post, a related group of around 100 protesters demonstrated outside Eloy in support of the inmate/hunger protesters. One of the outside demonstrators, a woman named Sandra Ojeda, said that her husband, who is a detainee, plus some of the other detainees whom he spoken with, heard Deniz-Sahagun cry out for mercy.

The demonstrators also claim there was a second recent inmate death, although ICE has not released any such announcement.

According to advocates, the recent inmate death (or deaths) was not so much the cause of the protest as it was the final trigger that convinced detainees that they needed to take action. The deeper reasons, activists said, were poor conditions in the facility in general. They specifically named issues like getting needed medication and medical care, getting access to legal material, and the use of excessive force by guards.


WHAT HUNGER STRIKE?

On Sunday, in a slightly odd turn of events, ICE evidently issued a statement that there was no hunger strike, according to the Arizona Daily Independent.

Francisca Porchas, spokesperson for the Puente Movement, countered by stating, “While ICE’s official policy is to not acknowledge a hunger strike in its facilities until detainees have refused food for three days or more, people inside are risking their lives to fight against ongoing abuses and violence…” According to Porchas, strikers are not only known by the guards, but have been retaliated against.

Advocates say that hunger strikers are also calling on Vanita Gupta, the Assistant Attorney General for the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, to visit Eloy “…and launch an immediate investigation into the recent deaths and ongoing abuse and and excessive use of force at this facility.”


THE PRIVATE PRISON FACTOR

The Eloy Detention Center is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America , a publicly traded for profit company (NYSE:CXW). Although the companies stock is down slightly for the year to date, its dividend yield to its stockholders remains at 6.10 percent, which is considered high.

CCA operates four corrections facilities in the state of California, three of them in the San Diego area. One of the San Diego facilities. like Eloy, caters to ICE prisoners.


Photo from Puente Human Rights Movement

Posted in immigration, jail | 1 Comment »

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