Prop. 47 Easing Jail Overcrowding, Peacemakers in South LA, and Patt Morrison Talks with Luis RodriguezApril 1st, 2016 by Taylor Walker
ANALYZING THE EFFECTS OF CA’S PROP. 47 ON OVERCROWDED JAILS
Jail populations in California dropped by 9% overall, and fewer inmates have been released early due to overcrowding following the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014, according to a report from the Public Policy Institute of California.
(If you need a refresher: voter-approved Prop 47, which reclassified six low-level drug and property-related felonies as misdemeanors, and was supposed to ease overcrowding in prisons and save the state more than $100 million each year.)
The PPIC report found that Prop 47 freed enough jail space to reduce early inmate releases by 65% in six California counties—Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and Stanislaus—all under court orders to reduce overcrowding in their jails.
“Taken together, there were significant changes in county jail populations following the passage of Proposition 47,” said Mia Bird, PPIC research fellow and co-author of the report. “For counties with court orders to cap their jail populations, Prop 47 created flexibility, allowing jail space to be reallocated toward more serious offenders who might otherwise have been released.”
Researchers found the percentage of pretrial releases increased among people accused of Prop. 47 offenses. There were also fewer bookings on arrests and warrants for Prop. 47 offenses, and fewer convictions for those crimes. And those convicted of Prop. 47-qualifying offenses spent less time behind bars, on average.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore says that thanks to Prop. 47, the county has been able to do away with early releases caused by jail overcrowding.
The vacant jail beds have also allowed the county to book people for misdemeanor offenses, rather than handing out citations to people accused of misdemeanors. (Note: Los Angeles has had a much different reaction to Prop. 47. In LA, officers have stopped booking people on these reduced offenses, instead handing out citations. In a series of LA Times video op-eds, LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell says the low-level offenders are receiving the citations because Prop. 47 did away with consequences for those crimes.)
Unfortunately, there have been some issues with how much money Prop. 47 has saved the state and where it should be directed.
Money saved by Prop. 47 is earmarked for community mental health and rehabilitation services, truancy and dropout prevention efforts, and victims services. CA Governor Jerry Brown’s budget has calculated that savings to be $29.3 million—a far cry from the original estimate of $100 million in yearly savings. And the ACLU and other advocates have criticized Gov. Brown for putting Prop. 47 money back into the prison system by subtracting certain supervision and court costs from the Prop. 47 savings total.
A report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that Governor Jerry Brown’s budget under-counted the dollar amount Proposition 47 saved the state by about $100 million. Local officials and advocates have asked where that savings has gone. According to California Department of Finance’s Amy Jarvis, the projected savings was calculated before the state started implementing realignment, which altered the savings math.
SOUTH LA’S “PEACEMAKERS” PROFILED ON KCRW
In an excellent series called Peacemakers, KCRW introduces three people working end the cycle of violence in South LA.
The first Peacemaker profiled by KCRW is Skipp Townsend, who was once a member of a Bloods gang called the Rollin’ 20s, but works with the LAPD as a gang interventionist. Here’s a small clip, but don’t miss the audio, video, and pictures (and comics) in this interactive series:
Townsend now works as a gang interventionist with the LAPD. His job is to find out why shootings happen and to prevent retaliation. Townsend sees himself as a “cushion” between the police and the community. “The police, of course, know protocol and procedure and the community doesn’t know that protocol and procedure,” said Townsend. “It’s just a matter of being bilingual.”
As an interventionist, Townsend deals with angry and grieving survivors: young men proving themselves and mothers facing their worst fears. It is painful, dangerous work, and the pay is terrible.
At 17, Townsend became a full fledged member of the Rollin’ 20s, a Bloods street gang from the West Adams neighborhood. He did jail time for selling drugs and stealing cars.
At 34, Townsend was arrested again, facing two life sentences on an attempted murder charge. He says he was innocent. But he was in jail for nearly a year. “It was probably one of the worst times in my life, knowing I wasn’t the person they said I was,” he said. “But I still had some things that were in the closet, some things that had never been uncovered that I was wrong for doing, things that I didn’t get caught for. So I gave it to God and said you know this must be my fate.”
At the trial, the victim testified that Townsend was not the person who shot him. Two jurors still found him guilty and the trial ended in a hung jury. That close call changed his life…
The next Peacemaker in KCRW’s series, is Lt. Michael Carodine, a 31-year LAPD veteran who worked in the Nickerson Gardens housing project, and has strived for better police-community relations for decades.
The final Peacemaker is Lita Herron, a 69-year-old grandmother who got started working to heal the violence in South LA, and got involved with Cease Fire, after her neighborhood exploded in violence 30 years ago, and she watched a young man and his pregnant girlfriend get shot outside a funeral.
Go over and experience the whole series as part of KCRW’s “Below the Ten.”
NOT-TO-BE-MISSED: PATT MORRISON IN CONVERSATION WITH LA POET LAUREATE, LUIS RODRIGUEZ
The LA Time’s Patt Morrison has a fabulous interview with LA’s poet laureate, Luis Rodriguez, who talks about the importance of poetry and his journey from a gang-involved, drug-addicted teen in LA in the 60′s, to a celebrated author, poet, activist, and mentor to young men and women seeking healthy alternatives to gang life.
Here’s a clip from the interview, but do go over and listen to the whole thing.
And for you, your personal story is also a very compelling one to reach young people, people who have had troubled pasts themselves.
I grew up in a situation where I was a troubled young man. I was a dropout, I was in and out of jails and juvenile hall, I was on drugs, I was in a gang, but people helped me. And so ever since then, I’ve been crime-free, gang-free, drug-free for more than 40 years. But ever since then I’ve tried to help others.
What is the appeal of poetry for you? A lot of people say, poetry, it sounds so sissy.
I love to read books and that’s what my saving grace was. I didn’t know English very well growing up, but books were like the one place where I could hide. And even when I was homeless and in the worst straits of drug abuse, I would go to the downtown library. That was beautiful, just to read books, book after book, so when I wanted to think about what I wanted to do, I was sitting in jail actually, and I started writing.
Somehow, those words came into me in such a way that I felt maybe I could write. It took me a while, but I learned how to write and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Why the Central Library? What got you in the doors of the library?
What happened was, I was downtown homeless, and in those days, it was a different time, but still there were a lot of places to sleep. There used to be abandoned cars everywhere, now they’re all gone — abandoned warehouses, the concrete river, the LA River, there were all-night movie theaters. There was all these places I would sleep but during the day, I really loved that library. It was my refuge. Books never beat me up and never told me I wouldn’t amount to anything. Books were always open to me. And it really helped me, I think, get through all the troubles.
Do you remember some of the first books you pulled off the shelves?
Actually, I do. I loved Ray Bradbury.
Who also loved the Central Library.
Yeah! I didn’t really know that [then]. “The Martian Chronicles,” I think, was one of the first books I picked up. I loved African-American experience books at the time – I’m talking about Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Claude Brown’s “Manchild in the Promised Land,” Perry Thomas – I ate ‘em up.
Because they were the only books I really could relate to. They might have been from Harlem or Chicago or other places, and they might have been African-American, but to me, they were telling my story from their viewpoint.
They were outsider stories.
They were outsider stories but also because they were troubled men who somehow found a way, and that was important for me.
When you talk to kids who feel like outsiders themselves, what do you tell them to maybe pull them into the fold, to let them know there’s a medium, an art form that might work for them?
You know, one of the things that’s been most effective is the idea of owning your life. Because one thing that happens when you’re on the streets, you think you own your life, you think you’re not dependent on anybody, but when you’re in a gang, you end up doing what the gang wants to do. When you’re on heroin or any drug, you do what the heroin wants you to do.
I keep telling them, we keep turning our lives over to others or other things. At a certain point, you gotta say, I want to own this life. I don’t want to have to answer to anybody other than myself.
Actually kids are very smart. And one thing you can’t do is BS them, as you know. So they look at me, I don’t look like a gangster, I look like a regular schmo to them. I look like somebody’s uncle, or I look like the janitor in the school. I look like a regular guy now. Once they see me talking, telling my story, then they get it, you know, and they see my tattoos, they know that I’ve been somewhere and then they open up.