(Video of Thursday’s House decision getting booed.)
HOUSE PASSES AMENDMENT AGAINST DEFERRED DEPORTATION OF YOUTH
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to block funding for the Obama administration program (similar to the Dream Act) that defers the deportation of young immigrants who are in school or the military. The change came in the form of an amendment added to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill currently being considered by the House.
Huffington Post’s Elise Foley has the story. Here are some clips:
The House voted 224-201 on Thursday to end Department of Homeland Security discretion policies that allow it to delay deportations for young, undocumented immigrants and other people deemed low-priority, effectively demanding the government force out Dreamers who came to the United States as children.
The King provision was added to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill currently being considered by the House. It’s almost certain to be opposed by the Democratic-run Senate, or by President Barack Obama, who has expanded the use of discretion in deportation proceedings.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement on Thursday vowing the amendment will not be signed into law. The full statement:
As the Senate prepares to debate bipartisan commonsense immigration reform next week, House Republicans chose to spend today passing an extreme amendment to strip protections from “Dreamers.” These are productive members of society who were brought here as young children, grew up in our communities, and became American in every way but on paper. This amendment, sponsored by Representative Steve King, runs contrary to our most deeply-held values as Americans. It asks law enforcement to treat these Dreamers the same way as they would violent criminals. It’s wrong. It’s not who we are. And it will not become law.
LAPD TAKES A DIVE INTO TAR PITS
A law enforcement task force sent an LAPD diver into the oozing La Brea Tar Pits in search of cold case evidence on Thursday.
LA Times’ Andrew Blankstein has the story (and there’s a short video). Here are some clips:
LAPD Lt. Andrew Neiman would not discuss details of the case and wouldn’t say exactly what authorities were searching for, other than that it involved investigators from a joint task force.
“They requested the assistance of our dive team to search for an item of evidence related to an ongoing homicide investigation,” Neiman said.
“It’s horrible in there,” Neiman said. “There’s a diver in the water in a full dry suit which is completely enclosed. He’s covered with tar. It’s a mess.”
On the warm afternoon when this story broke, LA Times writers couldn’t resist coming up with an endless series of tweet-puns. Here are our favorites from Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin:
Joel Rubin (@joelrubin)
.@anblanx Sources tell me it’s a homicide from the Ice Age – a very cold case.
Andrew Blankstein (@anblanx)
Cold Case-La Brea Tar Pits @joelrubin: @RobertFaturechi says they are trying to find who killed the dinosaurs. #VeryColdCase #LAPD #FBI
RECOMMENDED READING: FRESH JOURNALISM IN SB
A promising new Santa Barbara investigative and narrative non-profit news site,Mission & State, launched Thursday. M&S has some big journalistic talent behind it, including Joe Donnelly, the former deputy editor of LA Weekly and the founding publisher and co-editor of the quarterly reader Slake: Los Angeles.
They have a page full of interesting articles already up, like this one on Santa Barbara County Main Jail’s problematic releasing of inmates in the middle of the night. Here’s a clip:
There were 8,602 people released from county jail between January and April, according to Santa Barbara County Main Jail Custody Lieutenant Tim McWilliams. Approximately 2,508 people were released between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., about 20 per day. While the jail provides bus vouchers, Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District buses generally don’t run between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and the bus serving the section of Calle Real adjacent to the jail doesn’t run between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Pressure to release inmates early is coming from two sides—court-ordered caps on the county jail population and AB 109, the state-mandated prison realignment that diverts low-level criminals from state prisons to local jurisdictions. The average daily population has increased from 887 in 2011 to 1,009 as of March 2013 partially because of the realignment, according to Lt. McWilliams.
A bill that would define and limit the use of solitary confinement for kids in juvenile facilities—SB 61, authored by Sen. Leland Yee—made it through the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday and is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate next week.
Here’s a clip from the update from Sen. Yee’s office:
In 2011, a CDCR internal audit found that youth were often locked up in their cells for over 21 hours a day. In one 15-week period, there were 249 incidents of solitary confinement, and in one case, a youth received only one hour out of his cell in a 10-day period. In local juvenile facilities, there have been reports of youth locked up in isolation for 23 hours a day.
“I felt completely unwanted and unnoticed” said Tanisha Denard, who was held in solitary confinement as a juvenile. “It is by far the worst feeling I have ever experienced.”
“The mission of the juvenile justice system is to offer youth an opportunity for rehabilitation while also promoting public safety” said Dr. Laura Abrams of UCLA. “The use of solitary confinement is counter to these goals. Not only does solitary confinement undermine rehabilitation efforts, but also as the potential to return a young person to society with exacerbated trauma and mental illness that can manifest in violence toward self or others.”
FYI, here are some of the provisions of SB 61:
- Define solitary confinement as the involuntary placement in a room or cell in isolation from persons other than staff and attorneys.
- Provide that solitary confinement shall only be used when a minor poses an immediate and substantial risk of harm to others or the security of the facility, and all other less restrictive options have been
- Provide that a minor or ward shall only be held in solitary confinement for the minimum time necessary to address the safety risk.
- Empower existing county juvenile justice commissions to report on the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.
The LA Metro board finally approved funding for an underground metro station in historic Leimart Park, an significant addition to the Crenshaw line that LA Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas has been pushing hard for since 2011, along with outgoing LA Mayor Villaraigosa.
The action comes a day after the L.A. City Council committed $40 million in Measure R funds for the station in the culturally historic African American community. And now, the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will fund the rest, which in total, amounts to $120 million.
Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pushed to make this happen, along with L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sponsored the motion. MTA members voted in favor, 10 to 1. Metro plans to choose a contractor for the project next month.
HARMFUL IMMIGRATION REFORM AMENDMENTS DISCARDED
Several discriminatory immigration reforms were shot down earlier this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, including an amendment authored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have banned undocumented immigrants suspected of gang affiliation from becoming legal citizens, even if they had no criminal record. Another rejected amendment by Sen. Grassley would have allowed law enforcement officers to profile based on nation of origin.
Here’s a clip from gang intervention non-profit Homies Unidos Director Alex Sanchez’s letter to supporters:
Thank you for standing up for justice and dignity. Your calls to the Senate Judiciary Committee members helped to defeat three dangerous amendments to the immigration reform bill: Sessions 32, Grassley 43 and Grassley 49. These amendments sought to increase and normalize the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement in our communities. Session’s amendment would have mandated 287(g) nationwide, while Grassley’s amendments would have penalized young people accused of gang membership and allowed profiling based on national origin. Thank you for pushing back against these harmful amendments. We could not have won this without you.
Despite the good news, Graham 3 passed. The amendment requires additional screening for individuals applying for “registered provisional immigration” (RPI) status who are from certain regions or countries deemed national security threats by the Department of Homeland Security. This will likely target individuals from predominantly Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Middle Eastern countries and is a setback against the fight to end racial profiling.
Deporting immigrants who have serious criminal records makes sense as a matter of public safety. The Times’ editorial page has supported such policies. But Grassley’s amendment wouldn’t have furthered that goal. Instead, it sought to exclude immigrants who are suspected of gang membership from legalizing simply because their names appeared on a gang database or on an injunction.
Los Angeles pioneered the use of gang injunctions and databases as a way to help neighborhoods plagued by violence regain control of their streets. But these lists and civil restraining orders aren’t perfect tools. Individuals can find themselves on such lists because of factors like tattoos, style of dress or identification by an informant.
BOY SCOUTS END EXCLUSION OF GAY YOUTH
The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to end their policy banning gay youth from participating in the program. There is still a ban on openly gay adults acting as leaders, and gay youth can still be forced out of the group when they turn eighteen, but this is a welcomed step in the right direction.
The decision, which followed years of resistance and wrenching internal debate, was widely seen as a milestone for the Boy Scouts, a symbol of traditional America. More than 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the country voted, with more than 60 percent approving a measure that said no youth may be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
The top national leaders of the Boy Scouts had urged the change in the face of vehement opposition from conservative parents and volunteers, some of whom said they would quit the organization. But the decision also put the scouts more in tune with the swift rise in public acceptance of homosexuality, especially among younger parents who are essential to the future of an institution that has been losing members for decades.
The decision is unlikely to bring peace to the Boy Scouts as they struggle to keep a foothold in a swirling cultural landscape, ensuring continued lobbying and debate in the months and year to come. The group put off the even more divisive question of whether to allow openly gay adults and leaders, and those on both sides of the debate predicted that, with the resolution’s passage, the Boy Scouts would soon be forced to start allowing gay adults, whether by lawsuits or embarrassment at the twisted logic of forcing an Eagle Scout who turns 18 to quit.
BIG ISSUES WITH ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
A new report from Human Rights Watch examines the consequences of prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry and reentry into the U.S. (a misdemeanor and felony respectively, and the most prosecuted federal crimes).
The 82-page report, “Turning Migrants Into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions,” documents the negative impact of illegal entry and reentry prosecutions, which have increased 1,400 and 300 percent, respectively, over the past 10 years and now outnumber prosecutions for all other federal crimes. Over 80,000 people were convicted of these crimes in 2012, many in rapid-fire mass prosecutions that violate due process rights. Many are separated from their US families, and a large number end up in costly and overcrowded federal prisons, some for months or years.
“The US government is turning migrants into criminals by prosecuting many who could just be deported,” said Grace Meng, US researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Many of these migrants aren’t threats to public safety, but people trying to be with their families.”
The Senate immigration reform bill, proposed by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” calls for an additional US$250 million for increased prosecutions of these cases in Tucson, Arizona, and increasing the maximum penalties for many categories of people charged with illegal entry and reentry. The US government should instead end unnecessary prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry.
The report is based on a thorough analysis of US government data and interviews with more than 180 people, including migrants and their families, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.
LA TIMES ASKS IF THE LA COUNTY SUPERVISORS ARE TOO SLOW TO PULL THE PLUG ON A TROUBLED FOSTER CARE PROVIDER
Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Gloria Molina were unable to win majority support for their push to sever all ties to a foster care contractor with a history of substantiated child abuse and financial malfeasance.
Under the supervisors’ proposal, the county board had been scheduled to take a public vote Tuesday on the county’s relationship with Teens Happy Homes, a contractor that has received up to $3.6 million per year and cared for more than 1,100 foster children in recent years.
But Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas moved the item to a closed-door session where the proposal died, at least temporarily. A spokeswoman for Ridley-Thomas declined to say why he removed the item from the public schedule.
In closed session, the item was referred back to the offices of its sponsors who are free to bring back the proposal at a subsequent meeting.
Molina was on vacation Tuesday and not due to return until May 30. Antonovich’s spokesman said his office will be discussing the matter with Molina’s aides to decide how to proceed….
EDITOR’S NOTE: In several investigative stories on the LA County Foster Care provider known as Teens Happy Homes, which is responsible for the care and well being of hundreds of the county’s foster children, LA Times reporter Garrett Therolf paints a picture of an agency rife with financial malfeasance and perhaps a lot worse.
The routine audit of Teens in 2003 faced problems from the beginning. Shortly before auditors arrived, a sewage backup destroyed many financial records. The remaining documents painted a picture of financial chaos.
There were canceled checks showing the agency repeatedly bought cigarettes and beer with foster care money — in one instance, 30 cases’ worth. There was $46,000 in unpaid federal payroll taxes. The agency’s bookkeeper wrote $13,000 in checks to herself. “The agency was unable to explain the nature of these expenditures,” auditors wrote.
The bookkeeper, fearing criminal prosecution, wrote to county auditors, saying Robinson had ordered two workers to “come up with receipts” to help keep staff “out of jail.”
He was not going to get caught up in falsifying any documents.”
— Teens Happy Homes bookkeeper, in a letter.
The plan fell apart when one manager refused. “He was not going to get caught up in falsifying any documents,” the bookkeeper wrote in her letter, which was obtained by The Times.
After the 2003 audit, Therolf reports, the Supes expanded the Teens Happy Homes contract rather than canceling it.
Now in the light of further allegations surfaced by the Times, people like Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of L.A. County’s Juvenile Court (and WLA’s hero for opening the courts to reporters) and Leslie Starr Heimov, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, have called for the county to yank its contractual support and transition the good foster families under its umbrella to other agencies.
So why hasn’t that happened? Two sources close to the Supes offices plus DCFS spokesman, Armand Montiel, told WLA that there is a set process for determining whether or not a contract requires severing, and that the process is…well…in process.
“We have the ability to remove a child or children from a location if we think that child is in danger,” added Montiel, “and we won’t hesitate to do so.”
In the meantime, with regard to Teens Happy Homes, the “process” has to be completed, explained one of our sources. “If we don’t do something like this properly, we can wind up with a lawsuit.”
Okay. We get that. But when it comes to the well being of children, a little more communication from the board would help.
GARCETTI ON SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES
We thought you’d be interested in this interview with Eric Garcetti by Youth Justice Coalition in which he discusses some of the issues that matter most to WitnessLA like juvenile justice, gun violence, and education reform.
[YJC]: Los Angeles locks up more youth than any other city in the world. Given that this is in part due to policing, but also due to court and Probation systems outside your direct control, what would you do to improve the justice system for youth from arrest through detention and incarceration?
Eric Garcetti: I would make sure that the reforms I have proposed for our job training system specifically include initiatives to train and employ formerly incarcerated individuals. Unfortunately, AB109 provides little to no resources for community-‐based solutions. As Mayor, I will use my office and partner with the Council to develop and advocate for the implementation of legislative actions that reduce the recidivism rate and improve public safety and social justice. I want to stop the prison system’s revolving door to get people on the right path, to reduce crime and to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers. Prison is more expensive than prevention, job training and counseling.
[YJC]: Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, local law enforcement have increased their presence at schools and Senator Boxer is calling for the National Guard and armed police at schools across the nation. Do you agree with these policies to address school-based violence? What are your school safety strategies?
Eric Garcetti: Gun violence takes the lives of more than 30,000 nationwide each year. It is time to act. I am proud to have led on the issue of reducing gun violence for years. I helped pass and write laws here in L.A. to get illegal guns off the streets, to ban the open carrying of guns, and to get rid of large caliber weapons and ammunition. I also created At the Park After Dark (now Summer Night Lights), which provides a safe place to go until midnight for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles youth during the summer months. As Mayor, I am going to continue to take this fight nationally in order to keep our schools safe and keep guns off our streets.
ELECTED OFFICIALS OPINE ON ELECTION RESULTS
For more worthwhile after-election reading, LA Mag’s Shayna Rose Arnold has LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Council President Herb Wesson, and City Councilwoman (and primary mayoral candidate) Jan Perry’s thoughts on Tuesday’s election results.
CHANGES IN THE OFFICIAL DEFINITION OF MENTAL DISABILITY WORRIES DEFENSE LAWYERS
The newest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the DSM 5-–AKA the bible of psychiatric conditions, published by the American Psychiatric Association, will be released later this month.
Among its changes and updates, the DSM 5 has revised the definition for what it considers to indicate intellectual disability (mental retardation)—a development that has a lot of defense lawyers worried because of its implications in sentencing, particularly when it comes to capital punishment.
Reuters’ Elizabeth Diltz has the story. Here are some clips:
The fifth edition of the book since it was first published in 1952, or DSM-V, is due to be released May 22. Already it has prompted concern from death penalty lawyers because of the change in the way the manual defines mental illness, or intellectual disability, the new name given in DSM-V.
Earlier editions of the DSM defined mental retardation as an IQ score below 70 accompanied by an inability to meet certain developmental norms, such as bathing regularly or maintaining work. Based on that IQ benchmark, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002 that it is illegal to execute a mentally handicapped person.
But the editors of DSM-V have dropped the 70 IQ score as an indicator of mental retardation and instead recommend that clinicians consider IQ scores while analyzing an individual’s behavior to determine if he or she meets the developmental standards.
Clinically speaking, most consider the change to be a welcome one. Intellectual ability is not even remotely a cut-and-dried matter, as anyone who has worked in or around the mentally disabled can describe. The nature and range of human intelligence is more complex than that which can be measured with such conventional tools as IQ tests.
However, courts tend to like firm definitions, bright lines on that ground that separate this from that, all of which concerns defense lawyers.
However, according to Reuters, some of those who were responsible for the DSM 5′s revisions are hoping the courts will embrace the new complexity, rather than using it as a cudgel.
James Harris, the founding director of the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the DSM-V work group, said the criteria focus on three areas of adaptive functioning: academic, social and practical.
Looking at a death row inmate’s social adaptive area, an expert can examine how gullibility may have led the inmate into a crime, which could support a claim of mental retardation, Harris said in an email.
“We believe that we are providing the courts with a more fine-grained means to consider adaptive functioning more comprehensively and more meaningfully,” Harris said.
KNOW A GANG MEMBER, BE DEPORTED
As the bipartisan immigration reform put forth by the so-called Gang of 8 begins its journey through the congressional process, those who are less-than-friendly toward the reform are seizing the moment to tack on a string of poison pill amendments to the original bill.
One of the most loathsome of these is an amendment proposed by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), which would mandate the deportation of anyone who appears in either a gang database or in a gang injunction.
WLA has written before about the dangers of being falsely named in an injunction, and of the impossibility of getting off CAL GANG, California’s gang database, once you’ve been put on.
Tuesday’s LA Times editorial board has a short but excellent editorial about the creepy Grassley Amendment (penned by the very smart Sandra Hernandez).
Here are a couple of clips:
The Senate Judiciary Committee is just beginning its markup of the bipartisan immigration bill, but already opponents and supporters of the sweeping legislation are fighting over which immigrants should be allowed to legalize their status and which should be deported.
Keeping immigrants from legalizing their status because of accusations, rather than convictions, is unjust. Gang databases and injunctions are useful but imperfect tools with a troubled history. Individuals can find themselves on those lists because of such factors as tattoos, style of dress or identification by an informant. Moreover, critics say individuals who may not be in a gang but have relatives or friends who are can end up in the databases. That’s guilt by association.
Those placed on such lists often face a near-impossible task when they try to remove their names. Just consider Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas’ appalling tactics in trying to secure an injunction against 115 alleged members of the Orange Varrio Cypress gang. Dozens of them went to court to challenge the designation. However, they never got a chance to present their case because prosecutors dropped their names from the list before a judge could rule
The violence prevention program Homies Unidos, is among those youth advocate groups that oppose this amendment. Here’s what they had to say:
This kind of dragnet approach targets the wrong people and risks deporting and separating from their families individuals who are not gang members. Young people living in “bad” neighborhoods will certainly be vulnerable. Moreover, these provisions do not adequately protect people who have left gangs and have stable and productive lives.
These proposals impose guilt by association and collective punishment by targeting people not for their own individual culpable conduct, but for their associations with groups considered to be dangerous. For example, this provision could impact a person who resides with or associates with a family member known to be in a gang or lives in a neighborhood where there is a high concentration of gangs…
ONCE OBSTRUCTIVE REPUBLICANS NOW LEAD ON SENTENCING REFORM IN HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
More cheers for the Right on Crime group that is increasingly providing leadership on many criminal justice issues.
Congressional Democrats have argued for years that too many low-level drug offenders are locked away in federal prisons and that mandatory-sentencing laws disproportionately harm minorities and tie judges’ hands. Lately, they have been joined in those criticisms by Sen. Rand Paul, a tea-party-backed Republican with White House aspirations.
“I think the Republican Party could grow more if we had a little bit more of a compassionate outlook,” the Kentuckian says.
Paul is emblematic of a quiet but unmistakable shift among conservatives in Congress when it comes to criminal justice. Not only are Republicans engaging in a serious debate about relaxing federal criminal penalties — an idea that was once anathema to lawmakers who worried that their next campaign opponent would label them “soft on crime” — they are leading the discussion.
The House Judiciary Committee, which has poured cold water on Democratic priorities since Republicans regained control of the chamber in 2010, last week created a bipartisan, 10-member task force that will conduct a six-month analysis of the estimated 4,500 crimes on the federal books. (Story, p. 848)
The task force will examine “overcriminalization” in the federal justice system and evaluate what Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte calls an “ever-increasing labyrinth” of criminal penalties, some of them for relatively minor crimes in which perpetrators may not have realized they were breaking the law. The Virginia Republican cited the example of an 11-year-old girl who “saved a baby woodpecker from the family cat” but received a $535 fine because of a federal law banning the possession of a migratory bird.
The panel will be led by law-and-order Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner and Virginia Democrat Robert C. Scott, an outspoken critic of more-contentious criminal policies such as mandatory minimum sentencing, which the task force will also evaluate. A diverse range of groups endorses the effort, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce….
LA UNIONS MARCH ON TUESDAY TO PROTEST POSSIBLE SALE OF LA TIMES TO KOCH BROTHERS
Members of the County Federation of Labor and others marched on Tuesday to protest the rumored possible sale of parts or all of the Tribune Co., including the LA Times, to the company owned by the conservative Koch siblings.
Unions, activists and artists held a rally on Tuesday, to protest the possible sale of the Los Angeles Times to the Koch brothers, warning that such a sale would turn one of the US’s great newspapers into a right-wing mouthpiece.
Hundreds gathered outside the downtown Los Angeles office of Oaktree Capital Management, the largest shareholder in Tribune Co, which owns the LA Times, to deter it from making such a deal. Some carried signs saying “No Koch Hate in LA”.
“The idea that the LA Times could be taken over by right-wing radical extremists just boggles the mind,” said Glen Arnodo, staff director of the LA County Federation of Labor, as protestors prepared to picket. “It’s impossible to believe with their brand of extremism that there would be any objectivity whatsoever.”
Musician Ry Cooder reportedly even wrote a song about the matter, with which he serenaded the crowd.
MORE ON THE ALLEGED LAPD RACIAL PROFILING AND THE KIDS WHO WERE CUFFED
Tuesday night, there was an open forum at USC to discuss the break-up of an off campus party by more than six dozen LAPD officers, which has now become a high profile incident. Students, faculty, city and county officials and LAPD department members packed into a campus ballroom for the follow-up to several demonstrations and meetings this week regarding allegations of racial profiling by the LAPD against USC students of color.
If for some reason you missed the original story, last Friday night,, after responding to a simple noise complaint, seventy-nine officers, some in riot gear, made six arrests as they shut down a USC party attended predominantly by African Americans. Meanwhile, just across the street, LAPD officers handled a similar noise complaint against a group of mainly white party goers in what was reportedly a considerably more peaceful fashion.
Police maintain that the crowd at party two went inside and turned down the noise when asked, while many members of party one did not and an unspecified numbers threw objects at officers.
Among the students arrested was the first party’s host,Nate Howard, a bright and charismatic USC communications major who, in addition to being a student leader, is also a correspondent for mtvU, the creator of a production company called Brave Entrepreneurs, and has just shot a pilot for his own talk show. Several of the other kids arrested also turned out to be campus leaders.
Feeling unjustly profiled, amid the chaos, the party-goers began tweeting, Facebooking, and videotaping the LAPD encounter. Within hours, they had flooded various social media platforms, and organized a campus sit-in for the following day to raise awareness about what they characterized as unequal treatment by the LAPD that they insisted was not an isolated event.
Here’s a raw video of the 79 police officers (yes, the party-goers counted) taken by a student who had attended the party:
(NOTE: According to a source close to the department, there is an video, unreleased as yet, of officers in a radio car being hit by bottles and/or rocks.)
And another of an impassioned Nate Howard at the campus sit-in, at one point reciting what soon became the demonstrating students’ new call phrase: “We are scholars! Not criminals!”
During Tuesday night’s forum, attendees live-tweeted in a big way, and #USChangeMovement started trending. Here’s a link to the whole feed, but here are some of the tweets that stood out to us:
Frances Wang @FrancesWang_
Friday night, I told an officer that he arrested USC scholars who will change the world. He laughed. Little did he know. #USChangeMovement
Evelina Weary @evelinaweary
Alumni: “Why was DPS not the first responder if this was a DPS registered party?” #uschangemovement #stopracialprofiling
Frances Wang @FrancesWang_
Sarah, the host of the “white” party: “These students weren’t treated with respect, my house was treated with respect.” #USChangeMovement
Neon Tommy @neontommy
“This meeting is a waste of time if you don’t go out to the community and engage your neighbors.” #USC #uschangemovement
Los Angeles and campus police officials told dozens of students, who said they were victims of racial profiling by law enforcement, that authorities have concluded a strong response to a house party last weekend was not based on the race of students involved.
“We’ve looked at this really thoroughly, and there is no indication that it was race-based,” Los Angeles Police Capt. Paul Snell said Tuesday night. “Irrespective of what happened, what I would like to focus on is how we can move forward. Neither LAPD, neither DPS, neither the citizens of Los Angeles want this to happen again.”
And here’s another clip:
One was arrested on suspicion of interfering with police activity. The five others each face a misdemeanor charge. USC police chief John Thomas said he had previously been in contact with one of the students arrested, 20-year-old Rayven Vinson. He said seeing a photo of her being handcuffed hit him personally.
“This is about trust in the Department of Public Safety,” he said. “This is about you having trust in the department that’s providing protective services to you.”
L.A. Police Deputy Chief Bob Green called that first booking number devastating, saying there’s often little hope after that.
USC police chief Thomas said the university is working closely with police to make sure the students arrested are treated fairly. USC’s outgoing vice president of student affairs Michael Jackson said he’s advocating that the city attorney’s office drop the charges. Capt. Snell said the investigation is ongoing.
Here’s a short profile video of Rayven Vinson, one of the students arrested:
This next one is a first-hand account of yet another bright and well-spoken student from Santa Monica College, Anthony Stewart, who was detained Friday night:
We have a feeling this story isn’t going to go away soon. We’ll be keeping an eye on it.
MANY LATINOS AFRAID TO REPORT CRIMES, SURVEY SAYS
Latinos in LA and other cities are less likely to report crimes due to amped up immigration law enforcement and the threat of deportation, according to a new survey by the Lake Research Partners.
About 44% of Latinos surveyed said they were less likely now to contact police if they were victims of a crime because they fear officers will inquire about their immigration status or the status of people they know. The figure jumps to 70% among Latinos who are in the country unlawfully.
“There is fear that is really widespread,” said Nik Theodore, an associate professor of urban planning and policy at University of Illinois at Chicago and the author of the study.
The report, “Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement,” is based on a telephone survey of 2,004 Latinos in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Phoenix. The results are scheduled to be released Tuesday.
CA SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LOCAL RIGHT TO BAN POT DISPENSARIES
The CA Supreme Court ruled Monday that state law cannot stop cities and counties from banning medical marijuana dispensaries.
In a unanimous opinion, the court held that California’s medical marijuana laws — the nation’s first and most liberal — neither prevent local governments from using their land-use powers to zone dispensaries out of existence nor grant authorized users convenient access to the drug.
“While some counties and cities might consider themselves well-suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens,” Justice Marvin Baxter wrote for the seven-member court.
MCJ MAKES IT ONTO WORST LOCKUPS LIST
In other news (and not all that surprisingly), Men’s Central Jail takes the number five spot on Mother Jones’ list of America’s ten worst lockups.
Photo used with permission from Twitter user and USC forum attendee @RiniSampath.
LASD Captain Kelley Frazer (see above video) is scheduled to be promoted to the position of commander and will be working under Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald, the recently recruited head of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Custody Division.
Frazer is an openly lesbian officer.
To take the promotion, Frazer will leave her post as the highly-regarded head of the LASD’s West Hollywood station, which she has led since April 2010.
When Frazer was promoted to captain and given charge of WeHo she was, at that time, the first openly gay person in department history to serve as an LASD branch commander.
Prior to WeHo, Frazer worked for the department’s Emergency Operations Bureau, and at Carson, Lennox and Temple stations, among other postings.
So what do her troops think of her?
“She’s Amazing!” said watch commander Lt. William Nash, when I called West Hollywood to get a reading. “It’s really bitter-sweet for us. We’re happy for her, and we know she deserves this opportunity but….she will be missed. She’s a great person. Ask anyone here.”
According to Nash, Fraser “cares for everyone in her command,” really looks out for their well being, and knows how to get the best out of people. “But she’s also a tough as nails as a cop,” said Nash. “She wants to make sure we’re on top of our jobs. She wants us to be safe, but she wants this community to be safe. And she really wants to get the bad guys off the street.”
West Hollywood Mayor, Jeff Prang, told the WeHo News that,”That an out member of the LGBT community now is in the highest ranks of the sheriff’s department is really good for West Hollywood and it’s good for LGBT people.”
Indeed. And with any luck Frazer will be good for the LASD Custody Division.
PREDICTING WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS
In a fascinating new study, the National institue for Justice looked at 460 erroneous convictions and “near misses,” in which “factually innocent” defendants were released or acquitted post-indictment, and found that there were 10 factors that were most most often led to a wrongful conviction. We’ve long known the elements that most often went wrong in a wrongful conviction (mistaken or coerced eyewitness testimony, false confessions, perjured informant testimony, etc.) but the study concluded that it was incorrect to call those factors “causes.”
Causes, they found, were different. So what elements, if they appear in combination, are most likely to cause a wrongful conviction? Here are the ten factors they found:
*A younger defendant
*A criminal history
*A weak prosecution case
*Prosecution withheld evidence
*Lying by a non-eyewitness
*Unintentional witness misidentification
*Misinterpreting forensic evidence at trial
*A weak defense
*Defendant offered a family witness
*A “punitive” state culture
THE RIDICULOUS MATTER OF THE SHOT-UP-AND-NEARLY-KILLED NEWSPAPER WOMEN, THEIR LAPD-PROMISED REPLACEMENT TRUCK…AND THE HOT POTATO OF TAXES (!!!)
Surely someone at the LAPD can find a way to cut through this idiotic tax-related impasse… But, evidently so far, they haven’t.
The Huffington Post’s Anna Almendrala has the story. Here’s a clip:
Accusations are flying over the Los Angeles Police Department’s bungled effort to replace a bullet-ridden pickup truck that belonged to two women who were mistaken for fugitive Christopher Dorner one horrifying morning.
Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71, were delivering newspapers in Torrance, Calif., during the early hours of Feb. 7 when members of the LAPD mistook their blue Toyota Tacoma for Dorner’s getaway car, a gray Nissan Titan pickup. Officers fired 102 bullets into Carranza’s truck. While Carranza was injured by the shattered glass, Hernandez was shot in the back.
Two days after the almost-deadly case of mistaken identity, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck visited the victims’ homes to apologize, and the department publicly promised to give them a new pickup truck by the next week.
Now, more than a month after the shooting, the police still haven’t replaced Carranza’s truck. A prominent car dealership owner and a lawyer representing the two women are pointing fingers about whose fault it is….
YOUNG UNDOCUMENTED “DREAMERS” WANT TO KNOW WHY THEY DON’T CAN’T HAVE ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE SINCE THEY ARE, THEY SAY, FOR THE MOMENT ANYWAY, LEGAL
The video above was just released by the The California Endowment, in partnership with a group of undocumented youth in Southern and Central California. It kicked off the Endowment’s new #Health4All campaign, “an effort to drive a dialog about providing a health care solution for the remaining uninsured.”
California’s young immigrants who have been granted reprieves to stay in the country stand to gain little from the federal health reform law that the state Legislature is working to implement.
The Affordable Care Act excludes illegal immigrants from accessing the law’s benefits, but some immigrant and health advocates are angry that the young people known as Dreamers have been left out, saying the policy contradicts the law’s intent of expanding coverage to more people.
“It really defeats what the goals of the ACA were to begin with,” said Sonal Ambegaokar, health policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center….
There is a lot of news that is worth your attention this week: a significant new report with implications about California’s probationers and parolees...some action on LA County probation’s use of solitary confinement for kids…additional LASD news….and more. But we’ll get to those issues tomorrow, and in coming days.
Today we are pausing to focus on Monday’s inauguration as it relates to a couple of the social justice topics that we discuss here at WitnessLA.
With that in mind, here are some stories, essays, and op eds that attempt to decode the import of the president’s speech, specifically, and the inauguration, in general:
No one anticipated it, but President Barack Obama used the occasion of his second Inaugural Address to give what was perhaps the most important gay-rights speech in American history. Inaugural Addresses are, by their definition, important and defining occasions, when Presidents set the tone and direction for the coming four years. President Obama used the occasion to make the first direct reference to gay-rights in an Inaugural Address, and he did so with a power and forthrightness we have not heard before, even from him.
About two-thirds of the way into the speech, Obama referred to Stonewall, a gay bar where, in 1969, a police raid provoked a riot, in the same sentence as Seneca Falls and Selma—thus comparing the women’s and African-American civil-rights movements to the gay-rights struggle. Had he stopped there, it would have been historic—particularly coming from the first African-American President—but, in keeping with the tradition of politicians who refer to gay-rights obliquely or with code words, stopping short of directness.
But the President continued:
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
Not only was this a call to end discrimination, but an unambiguous argument for the recognition of same-sex marriage across the country. For a President who announced his support for marriage equality less than a year ago, after more reluctance (and suggestions about what could be left to the states) than many would have liked, this was a bold declaration….
THE DIFFERENCE FOUR YEARS MAKES
NY Times columnist, Frank Bruni, comments on the difference between Obama’s first inauguration and Monday’s when it comes to gay rights. Here’s a clip:
Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall. The alliteration of that litany made it seem obvious and inevitable, a bit of poetry just there for the taking. Just waiting to happen.
But it has waited a long time. And President Obama’s use of it in his speech on Monday — his grouping of those three places and moments in one grand and musical sentence — was bold and beautiful and something to hear. It spoke volumes about the progress that gay Americans have made over the four years between his first inauguration and this one, his second. It also spoke volumes about the progress that continues to elude us.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” the president said, taking a rapt country on a riveting trip to key theaters in the struggle for liberty and justice for all.
Seneca Falls is a New York town where, in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum. Selma is an Alabama city where, in 1965, marchers amassed, blood was shed and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood his ground against the unconscionable oppression of black Americans.
And Stonewall? This was the surprise inclusion, separating Obama’s oratory and presidency from his predecessors’ diction and deeds. It alludes to a gay bar in Manhattan that, in 1969, was raided by police, who subjected patrons to a bullying they knew too well. After the raid came riots, and after the riots came a more determined quest by L.G.B.T. Americans for the dignity they had long been denied.
The causes of gay Americans and black Americans haven’t always existed in perfect harmony, and that context is critical for appreciating Obama’s reference to Stonewall alongside Selma. Blacks have sometimes questioned gays’ use of “civil rights” to describe their own movement, and have noted that the historical experiences of the two groups aren’t at all identical. Obama moved beyond that, focusing on the shared aspirations of all minorities. It was a big-hearted, deliberate, compelling decision.
He went on, seconds later, to explicitly mention “gay” Americans, saying a word never before uttered in inaugural remarks. What shocked me most about that was how un-shocking it was.
OKAY, THAT’S ALL VERY NICE, BUT DOES IT SIGNAL A CONCRETE POLICY SHIFT THAT WILL RESULT IN ACTION?
In this LA Times Op Ed, Ken Dilanian and David G. Savage of the paper’s Washington Bureau, discuss the possible policy shifts the speech suggests—particularly when it comes to the stand the administration may or may not take with regard to the gay rights matters coming soon before the Supreme Court. Here’s a clip from their story:
“….Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he continued, “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
The passage “was definitely one of those moments that took your breath away,” said Adam DeRosa, president of the Lesbian and Gay Band Assn., whose 215 members later marched past the president in the inaugural parade. “We understand the historical significance of it. What political significance it has remains to be seen.”
Obama, who only last spring hesitated to declare his public support for gay marriage, soon will have to decide whether his administration will take the potentially huge step of arguing before the Supreme Court that gay marriage is an equal right under the Constitution.
The court will soon review two cases, one of them involving California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure that limited marriage to unions between a man and a woman. Gay rights lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to declare the ballot measure unconstitutional, potentially striking down the laws of 41 states.
To several legal scholars, Obama’s equating of Selma and Stonewall strongly implied he is prepared to side with gay rights activists. But doing so would mark a sudden departure from the caution with which he has typically approached most issues….
Theodore Olson, the former George W. Bush administration solicitor general and lawyer for the gay couples challenging Proposition 8, said the president sounded ready to back a constitutional right to gay marriage.
“I was very gratified to hear the president state in clear and unambiguous language that our gay and lesbian citizens must be treated equally under the law,” Olson said, “and that their loving relationships must be treated equally as well. That can only mean one thing: equality under the Constitution.”
Evan Wolfson, president and founder of New York-based Freedom to Marry, noted in an interview that Obama’s speech “was an inaugural address, not a legal brief, and we will see over the next several weeks exactly what positions the Justice Department takes.”
“I am confident the president knows that the Constitution requires equality in the freedom to marry,” he added…
AND, WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF ACTION, WHAT’S WITH THE PREZ’S INACTION ON CLEMENCY?
“We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.”
Blogging four years ago during the last day in which a US President took the oath of office, I commented in this post about the tendency of chief executives to invoke great rhetoric and wax poetic about freedom and liberty in America despite our country’s recent record of locking up a record number of persons in jails and prisons. I also asked in this follow-up post on the same day whether it was too early to start demanding President Obama use his clemency power to live up to our country’s traditional commitment to personal freedom and liberty.
Sadly, as P.S. Ruckman effectively documents and highlights in this new post, President Obama’s first-term record on the clemency front is at once disgraceful and disgusting:
Barack Obama’s first term has come to an end and we are now ready to report that his four-years as president represent the least merciful term for any modern president (Democrat or Republican) and, quite possibly, the least merciful in the entire history of the United States (see footnote below).
This is, of course, an incredible distinction for a president who repeatedly notes that America is a place where people get “second chances,” from a president who complained bitterly about overly-harsh sentences given to criminal defendants simply because they were African-American, and from a president who promised us “hope and change.”
AND TWO MORE OPINIONS ON WHETHER OR NOT THE RHETORIC WILL TRANSLATE INTO ACTION
The Atlantic’s James Fallows points out that, in addition to the significance of the paragraphs in the president’s speech on gay rights, gender equality, et al, the other significant section is the one that comes earlier in the speech, and contains this:
“For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.”
In other words, for whatever it is worth, POTUS intends the speech as more than rhetorical; it is a specific call to action.
Fallows says he has ” no illusion, delusion, allusion, or even dog-whistle conceptions that this speech will change the partisan power-balance affecting passage of anything Obama mentioned, from climate legislation to reforming immigration law.”
And yet, Fallows’ colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates suggests in his reflections on the speech:
Obama’s speech is different. To some extent it exposes people to new ideas. But to a greater extent, perhaps, it shows how movements which only a few years ago were thought to be on the run have, in at least one major party, carried the day. This is not a small thing.
For details, one presumes we should stay tuned for the State of the Union address in February.
AND NOW….back to our regularly scheduled programming
PS: While Beyonce and the others were wonderful to see and hear at the inauguration, for me it was that lovely, unnamed soprano who—along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir surrounding her—truly blew the doors off the joint.
SEN. DURBIN TAKES ZERO-TOLERANCE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE ISSUES TO THE NATIONAL STAGE
Senator Dick Durbin will be holding a hearing on ending the “school-to-prison pipeline” next Wednesday. We’re heartened that this issue is being taken seriously on a national level and hope it leads to effective policy change.
Here’s a clip from the announcement from Sen. Durbin’s office:
The first-ever Congressional hearing on the matter will investigate the troubling increase in the number of young people sent to the juvenile delinquency system as a result of relatively minor school discipline issues. Since the 1990s, many students nationwide have been pushed out of the classroom and into the courts for relatively minor, non-violent offenses. Once young people enter the criminal justice system, they are more likely to fail in school and commit new crimes, creating increased public safety risks.
This “school-to-prison pipeline” also wastes scarce government resources on ineffective policies and has led to striking racial disparities. Over 70 percent of students in school-related referrals to law enforcement are African-American or Latino. The hearing will explore the problems with the pipeline as well as successful reforms and new initiatives to help end it.
PTSD SURPRISINGLY RAMPANT AMONG CORRECTIONAL GUARDS
Thirty-one percent of guards in correctional facilities suffer from PTSD, a number higher than any other law enforcement personnel, according to a fascinating new report from Desert Waters Correctional Outreach.
The most recent National Comorbidity Study asserted that the prevalence of PTSD in the general population in 3.5 percent — nearly 10 times less prevalent than in prison security guards. 14.3 percent of New York firefighters were found to suffer from PTSD — a prevalence rate nearly half that of correctional officers. A National Institutes of Health study from 2009 put the prevalence rate of PTSD in Iraq war veterans (20 percent) below that of prison security officers.
“Corrections environments represent uniquely unsafe workplaces due to repeated exposure to trauma, compared to most occupations. While not widely recognized, corrections professionals are exposed to the same types of VID-related events as are emergency responders and war-time military personnel, and they are potentially exposed to even more life-threatening experiences than law enforcement personnel over time,” the study noted.
CA’S BAN ON GAY CONVERSION THERAPY FOR MINORS GETS TANGLED IN CONTRADICTORY FEDERAL RULINGS
A federal judge upheld California’s ban on gay conversion therapy for minors Tuesday, in a case brought by former patients and their parents against the new legislation. This ruling came just a day after a different federal judge declared the ban a violation of the therapists’ First Amendment rights. The conflicting rulings likely mean that the the new law will be tangled up in the courts over the coming months.
Because Monday’s ruling by Judge William B. Shubb, of Federal District Court in Sacramento, was applicable only to three plaintiffs in the suit before him — two practicing therapists and a former patient — it appeared the state’s ban would take effect on Jan. 1 as planned.
But the contradictory rulings, and the prospect of appeals from both sides of the issue, suggested that the law, the first of its kind, could be embroiled in the courts in the months ahead.
The ban had been hailed by gay rights advocates and mainstream mental health groups that call therapies that try to alter the sexual orientation of youths potentially damaging.
Judge Shubb’s ruling sharply challenged the law, and left little doubt that in his court, as he put it, “the plaintiffs are likely to succeed” with their argument that the law violates free speech.
But on Tuesday, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, in another federal court in Sacramento, held that the plaintiffs in her case — two former patients and their parents, who also challenged the law — were unlikely to prevail and refused to prevent the law from taking effect. While the law’s supporters appeared to have the upper hand, advocates on both sides said they planned to keep fighting in court.
California’s attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, said, “My office will continue to protect California minors by vigorously defending this law.”
CA ATTNY. GEN. HARRIS SAYS LAW ENFORCEMENT DOESN’T HAVE TO KEEP IMMIGRANTS LOCKED UP FOR ICE
CA Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Tuesday that local law enforcement agencies are not required to comply with ICE’s requests for law enforcement to hold immigrants for deportation under Secure Communities.
It was Harris’ first public assessment of Secure Communities, under which all arrestees’ fingerprints are sent to federal immigration officials, who then may ask police departments to hold suspected illegal immigrants so deportation proceedings can begin.
While the intent may have been to improve public safety, Harris said that a review of data from March through June of this year showed that 28% of those targeted for deportation in California as a result were not criminals. Those numbers, she noted, changed little since Immigration and Customs Enforcement pledged a year earlier that the program would be reformed to better target the most serious criminals.
“Secure Communities has not held up to what it aspired to be,” Harris said. The law enforcement bulletin she issued Tuesday stated that “immigration detainer requests are not mandatory, and each agency may make its own decision” about whether to honor them.
Some elected officials and local law enforcement agencies have complained that — in addition to pulling in those arrested for minor offenses — Secure Communities had made undocumented immigrants fearful of cooperating with police, even when they themselves were the victims.
WHY NO INFO (YET) FROM SCOTUS ON PENDING GAY RIGHTS CASES?
The Supreme Court was expected to announce Friday afternoon whether they were going to take on any or all of ten gay rights cases up for consideration. They didn’t announce their decision, nor did they even make one. They may still give us a decision this afternoon, Monday, or they may not.
Maybe they’ll make an announcement Monday, maybe they’ll wait until they meet again in January. Maybe they’ll put their fingers in their ears and chant “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you” until the seas turn red and the sun wheezes itself into blackness. They had been “widely expected to decide whether to take up a case that could ultimately determine whether there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage,” but you can’t pin these nine free spirits down. They have their reasons for not making a decision yet, reasons like:
- Too focused on hunting down international person of interest John McAfee
- Preparing for winter hibernation; too sleepy and full of Ovaltine to listen to anyone present an argument
- Planning a justices-only slumber party (NO APPELLATE COURT JUDGES ALLOWED)
The Federal Bureau of Prisons only averages a paltry twenty-four compassionate releases each year of prisoners who are terminally ill and no longer pose a threat to their communities, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
The federal prisons house more than 218,000 inmates but, on average, they release only about two dozen people a year under the program. By contrast, the state of Texas, no slouch when it comes to tough punishment, let out about 100 people on medical parole last year, researchers say.
“Why are so few people getting out?” asks Jamie Fellner, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch who helped write the new study. “You have a prison system that is grotesquely overcrowded, you have prisoners who pose no meaningful threat to public safety and yet they’re being denied release?”
Fellner says she’s convinced the culture of the federal prisons and the Justice Department acts as an iron curtain for all but the sickest inmates — people with less than a year to live, who can’t even walk or use the bathroom on their own, let alone commit another crime.
“They’re in the business of keeping people in prison,” Fellner says. “Not to try to facilitate them getting out, however reasonable or compelling their request might be.”
Mary Price, general counsel at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, helped write the new report…
“We don’t sentence people to die alone in prison when we’ve given them a five-year sentence,” she says.
KIDS’ BRAINS, JUVENILE JUSTICE PRACTICES, AND WHAT WE COULD BE DOING DIFFERENTLY
A new report commissioned by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (part of the DOJ) examines data on youth brain development and the counter-intuitiveness of treating kids in the juvenile justice system like adults. The report takes a look at counties across the nation that are taking kids’ brain development and restorative justice seriously (and those that are not), and gives recommendations for how the juvenile justice system can reform its policies to catch up with the facts of science.
Here are a couple of clips from the report‘s summary:
Adolescents differ from adults and children in three important ways that lead to differences in behavior. First, adolescents lack mature capacity for self-regulation in emotionally charged contexts, relative to adults. Second, adolescents have a heightened sensitivity to proximal external influences, such as peer pressure and immediate incentives, relative to children and adults. Third, adolescents show less ability than adults to make judgments and decisions that require future orientation. The combination of these three cognitive patterns accounts for the tendency of adolescents to prefer and engage in risky behaviors that have a high probability of immediate reward but can have harmful consequences.
Evidence of significant changes in brain structure and function during adolescence strongly suggests that these cognitive tendencies characteristic of adolescents are associated with biological immaturity of the brain and with an imbalance among developing brain systems. This imbalance model implies dual systems: one involved in cognitive and behavioral control and one involved in socioemotional processes. Accordingly, adolescents lack mature capacity for selfregulation because the brain system that influences pleasure-seeking and emotional reactivity develops more rapidly than the brain system that supports self-control.
The scientific literature shows that three conditions are critically important to healthy psychological development in adolescence: (1) the presence of a parent or parent figure who is involved with the adolescent and concerned about his or her successful development, (2) inclusion in a peer group that values and models prosocial behavior and academic success, and (3) activities that contribute to autonomous decision making and critical thinking. Schools, extracurricular activities, and work settings can provide opportunities for adolescents to learn to think for themselves, develop self-reliance and self-efficacy, and improve reasoning skills.
Yet the juvenile justice system’s heavy reliance on containment, confinement, and control removes youth from their families, peer groups, and neighborhoods–the social context of their future lives – and deprives them of the opportunity to learn to deal with life’s challenges. For many youth, the lack of a positive social context during this important developmental period is further compounded by collateral consequences of justice system involvement, such as the public release of juvenile records that follow them throughout their lives and limit future
educational and employment opportunities.
A DEPORTED FATHER’S BATTLE TO REUNITE WITH HIS KIDS
Every year, thousands of US-born kids in LA (and beyond) are separated from their families and thrown into the foster care system when their parents get caught in the deportation process. One such parent, Luis Ernesto Rodriguez, was picked up by police in a case of mistaken identity and found himself facing the reality of deportation and losing his young daughters forever. Rodriguez’s story is a moving example of the things deported parents often go through to reunify with their families.
Rodriguez last caressed his daughters in the predawn darkness of their cluttered apartment in South Los Angeles. The girls were asleep under the pink sheets of their shared bed when he kissed them and then rushed out to seek day laborer work at the Home Depot store on Slauson Avenue.
It was there, on that morning in November 2008, where police converged on Rodriguez, weapons drawn, and arrested him on suspicion of armed robbery. A short man with a bristly mustache, Rodriguez, then 39, fit the description of a man who had swiped three gold rings from a woman.
It was an apparent case of mistaken identity. No charges were filed, but Rodriguez wasn’t going back to his girls.
An immigrant from El Salvador with a troubled past, he had a deportation order dating to 1991. He spent the next two months in jails.
The girls ended up with their maternal grandmother, who was destitute and suffered from memory lapses, so social workers took them away. They joined the thousands of children nationwide who are under custody of child protection agencies after their parents have been placed in deportation proceedings or deported. An estimated 5,000 such children are in foster care, about 1,000 of them in Los Angeles County, according to juvenile court attorneys and the Applied Research Center, a nonprofit racial justice think tank.
Many follow their deported mothers and fathers, if the parents can convince U.S. agencies that they can provide a stable life in their home countries. In such cases, social workers from Los Angeles escort the children to parents at joyous airport reunions, usually in Mexico and El Salvador.
But sometimes parents fail. Their children either languish in foster care or they’re adopted by American couples. Some never see their biological parents again.
WITNESS AND DEPUTIES HAVE DIFFERENT STORIES ON OFFICER-INVOLVED FATAL SHOOTING
A woman who witnessed a deputy-involved shooting on Nov. 10th said that officers shot an unarmed man while his hands were on his head and his body was turned away from the deputies. The officers involved said that Jose de la Trinidad was reaching for his waistband when the shots were fired. We suspect this story will not go away any time soon.
Two sheriff’s deputies had attempted to pull over De la Trinidad and his brother for speeding as they were leaving a family quinceañera. De la Trinidad’s brother was driving the car and fled for a few blocks before the car came to a sudden stop in the 1900 block of East 122nd Street in Willowbrook, a residential neighborhood tucked just off the 105 Freeway.
According to the deputies’ account, De la Trinidad jumped out of the passenger seat.
His brother, 39-year-old Francisco de la Trinidad, took off again in the car. One of the four deputies on the scene gave chase in his cruiser, leaving Jose de la Trinidad on the sidewalk and three deputies standing in the street with their weapons drawn.
The deputies said Jose de la Trinidad then appeared to reach for his waistband, prompting two of them to fire multiple shots into the unarmed man. He died at the scene.
Unknown to the deputies at the time, Estefani sat perched in her bedroom window, directly overlooking the shooting.
Estefani said De la Trinidad did jump out of the car after it came to a sudden stop. After he ran toward the deputies a few feet, they ordered him to stop and turn around — which he did immediately, she said.
Seconds later, the deputies opened fire, she said.
CA TRUST ACT REVAMPED AND ABOUT TO BE REINTRODUCED
A revised version of the TRUST Act, the “Anti-Arizona bill vetoed by Gov. Brown just two months ago, is expected to be introduced Monday.
San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) intends to unveil the new Trust Act on Monday. His office has not yet said what revisions have been made.
Activists have billed the TRUST Act as an “anti-Arizona” law aimed at keeping undocumented immigrants arrested for minor offenses from being turned over to immigration officials for deportation.
The proposed law was intended to counter the federal Secure Communities program, which shares law enforcement fingerprint data with the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It would require local police to release people who have been arrested once bond is posted, as long as they have no serious convictions.
SCOTUS DEBATES HENDERSON V. UNITED STATES AND INJUSTICE
SCOTUS justices Wednesday discussed a case in which a man was sentenced to an overly long prison term so that he could receive rehabilitation while incarcerated. While everyone seemed to agree that the man, Amarcion D. Henderson, should not have had to serve the extra time, no one could agree on what should be done, if anything, to fix the error.
“There’s always an injustice when the district court has gotten it wrong,” Justice Antonin Scalia said. “The district court got it wrong, applied the wrong rule. Justice has not been served.”
But at the same time, Scalia continued, “we don’t say, ‘We want to do justice.’ We say, ‘We’re only going to do justice if it was clear’ ” to all at the time that a mistake was being made.
The mistake in Henderson’s case was that the federal statutes on sentencing do not allow a judge to extend someone’s sentence in order to facilitate drug rehab. But that was not settled law when a judge sentenced Henderson to five years in prison, above the federal guidelines of 33 months to 41 months.
By the time the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit considered Henderson’s appeal, it had been settled. A unanimous Supreme Court in 2011 said the federal statute was clear that “a court may not impose or lengthen a prison sentence to enable an offender to complete a treatment program or otherwise promote rehabilitation.”
But the appeals court upheld Henderson’s sentence anyway, because at the time of his guilty plea, it was not “plain error” for the judge to have imposed the sentence he did. And plain error is part of the test that courts must use to decide whether to get involved when a defendant’s lawyer has not objected to a judge’s mistake.
WILL SCOTUS TAKE ON GAY RIGHTS CASES?
Don’t forget, SCOTUS is deciding today, Friday, whether to take on any or all of ten possible gay rights cases on the table from the lower courts. The justices could announce their decisions as soon as this afternoon, otherwise we are likely to know Monday morning.
Wednesday, we posted on part one of a four-part series navigating the legal controversy of gay rights by Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog. (Here are parts two, three, and four.)