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juvenile justice


The US Would Save $$$ by Helping Disadvantaged Kids…Disparate School Discipline….California Endowment’s Robert Ross on Justice Reform…and the Struggles of an Understaffed Juvie Lock-Up

July 31st, 2015 by Taylor Walker

KIDS OF COLOR FACE HUGE BARRIERS TO OPPORTUNITY AND ACHIEVEMENT, AND THE US COULD SAVE A TON OF MONEY IF THOSE GAPS WERE CLOSED

A new White House Council of Economic Advisers report shows that it is much more expensive not to tear down the school-to-prison pipeline, lower incarceration rates, and ensure boys and young men of color have the same opportunities to succeed as their white peers.

While black kids represent 18% of the preschool population, they make up 48% of preschoolers who have received two or more out-of-school suspension. Those disparities certainly don’t get any better as kids get older, either. There were 875,000 kids arrested in 2013, the majority of them racial minorities.

Despite similar rates of marijuana use, black people are four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana possession.

The White House report points out that we spend around $112,000 on incarcerating a kid for a year, in comparison to $23,000-$31,000 for a year of college, $13,000 for K-12 public school, and around $1,300 for a major mentoring program like Big Brothers Big Sisters or One Summer Plus.

There are disparities in higher education achievement as well. Only 12.4% of Latino men and 20.8% of black men ages 25-29 have a college degree, compared to 37.7% of white men of the same age.

If we closed the higher education gap between men of color and white men ages 25-64, the number of men of color with a bachelor’s degree (or higher) would double, and they would earn around $170 billion more per year.

The report says that intervention at these milestone life changes are crucial to close the gaps:

• Entering school ready to learn
• Reading at grade level by third grade
• Graduating high school ready for career and college
• Completing post-secondary education and training
• Successfully entering the workforce
• Reducing violence and providing a second chance


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC… STUDY SAYS BLACK STUDENTS GET “CRIMINALIZED” DISCIPLINE WHILE WHITE STUDENTS GET “MEDICALIZED”

Black kids often receive suspensions, expulsions, or justice system referrals, while white kids receive medical treatment for the same offenses, according to a Penn State study.

The study, published in the Sociology of Education, used data from 60,000 schools in 6,000 schools districts.

The Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage has more on the report (which is behind a paywall). Here’s a clip:

David Ramey—assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State and the author of the study—has spent years researching how sociological factors affect schools’ modes of punishment. Even when the level of misbehavior is the same, he says, the treatment is not. “White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem,” he says. “Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn.”

Ramey is clear about the distinction between the two disciplinary styles. Criminalized discipline revolves around penalizing the student, using concrete things like suspension, expulsion, or referral to law enforcement. Medicalized is distinctly more benign, searching for solutions through medical attention or psychological intervention.

The deeper implications of Ramey’s results are troubling. Misbehavior from black students is seen as a crime that warrants punishment; misbehavior from whites is a malady that needs medicine.

The American Civil Liberties Union refers to this issue as the “school-to-prison-pipeline” (STTP): “a nationwide system of local, state, and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system.” Dwindling resources, pressure to bring in high test scores, and increased caution from school shootings are all cited as contributing factors.


CALIFORNIA A MODEL FOR OTHER STATES IN THE PUSH FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, California Endowment President Robert Ross applauds President Barack Obama’s recently heightened focus on shifting the nation away from punitive and costly mass incarceration, moving instead toward a prevention and opportunity mindset. Ross highlights the progress California has made toward meaningful criminal justice reform, including passing Prop 47 (which reclassified certain non-serious felonies as misdemeanors), and implementing restorative justice in schools that were funneling kids into the juvenile justice system. Here’s a clip:

We worked with young leaders to address the fact that, for many of our young people, their criminalization begins as early as elementary school. Rather than asking why our students are acting out, they are being pushed out of school and police are being called in to deal with things such as talking back to teachers.

Through our grantees’ efforts, more schools in California are now adopting positive school discipline–giving students the opportunity to reconcile their mistakes–rather than pushing students out of schools and into the juvenile justice system.

Not only do our policies reflect prioritization of punishment over prevention, but so does our state spending. In California, we spend $62,300 a year to keep one inmate in prison but just $9,100 per year to educate one student in our public schools, one of many statistics we highlighted through our Do The Math campaign.

Realizing this contradiction, California voters decided to shift spending priorities towards prevention by passing Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which gives Californians a second chance at opportunity by lowering some non-violent offenses to misdemeanors rather than felonies and shifts up to $1 billion dollars every year toward community health programs.

These efforts will help turn the tide on our prison population, which has grown 430 percent nationally since 1970. At the same time that we seek to break the school-to-prison pipeline, we cannot forget those who have ended up in prison.

One of the most moving things we did last year was visit one of our prisons here in California, to be able to hear from incarcerated people about the type of opportunities they’d like while behind bars to prepare them to best re-enter their lives and communities.

What we heard is they’d like to further their education, be offered opportunities to heal from intense trauma, and have more communication with their families.

We applaud President Obama for visiting El Reno Correctional Institution and we encourage more of our national leaders to do the same. And to take time listening to our youth, you’d be surprised how much information they’ll share about the type of opportunities and future they’d like us to build for them, but it’s up to us to act on that information.


CRITICALLY UNDERSTAFFED ALAMEDA COUNTY JUVIE DETENTION CENTER STRUGGLES TO MEET KIDS’ NEEDS

Brett Myers of of NPR’s Youth Radio visited a juvenile detention facility in San Leandro, CA, that’s struggling to maintain their reputation as a model juvenile facility to due to severe understaffing. Even though they watch over a smaller population of kids than the facility housed around 2010, guards are doing double the amount of overtime they did five years ago, and the kids are paying the price. Use-of-force incidents have tripled, and kids are spending more time in their cells missing out on recreation time.

Myers’ story is part of a series on juvenile justice. (On Thursday, WLA pointed to two stories on juvenile probation that are also from this series.)

Here’s a clip from the write up of the radio show:

According to county records obtained by Youth Radio, guards used pepper spray 147 times last year. The kicker: 90 percent of state-run juvenile correctional agencies don’t allow guards to carry pepper spray. But here, with guards working an average of 30 hours of overtime per week, there has been an increase in the use of force on juvenile inmates — like guards performing takedowns or handcuffing inmates. The department calls these acts “use of physical and mechanical restraints,” and that number nearly tripled in the past five years…

Supervisor Ray Colon has been working for Alameda County Juvenile Hall for 25 years.

“You’ve got a couple of staff watching a number of kids, and things happen,” he says.

During waking hours, the state mandates a minimum of one guard for every 10 kids in detention.

When they’re short on guards, supervisors sometimes run what they call split recs — basically dividing recreation, exercise and dinner time in half. Fifteen kids come out while the other 15 remain in their cells.

“The kids don’t always get the services they should get because we’re running short. They spend more time in their room, which is unfortunate, but it’s the reality of not having the staff to complete the duties we need to do,” Colon says.

Malik, 18, spent more than four months incarcerated in Alameda County Juvenile Hall. He says when young people are locked in their cells, tensions flare.

“Man, more fights, more attitudes. Kicking and banging — it’s just angry. They want to be out of their rooms. That’s why I used to kick and bang,” he says. “If I know that I have a guaranteed hour of PE each day no matter what, I’m going to be angry if I can’t get that.”

Posted in Education, juvenile justice, Obama, racial justice, Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, School to Prison Pipeline | 5 Comments »

Does Youth Probation Help Kids or Push Them Deeper Into the Juvenile Justice System?….& How One Mich. County Does It Right

July 30th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


In recent years, juvenile judges around California have been making an effort
to put kids on probation instead of sending them to juvenile lock-ups.

That’s the good news.

The idea is that probation will give kids the help and guidance they need and thus improve their ability to stay out of trouble in the future, stay in school, and so on.

Now here’s the bad news.

It seems that, in many California counties, the data suggests that the juvenile probation system is not very good at all at helping kids turn things around. Instead, probation seems to increases the likelihood that a young person will wind up being detained in a juvenile facility.

For example, last year in Yolo County, probation violations were reported as the most common reason kids were incarcerated,

And in LA county, 76 percent of the kids in the county’s juvenile camps were on home probation immediately prior to whatever action resulted in their being sent to camp, according to the Los Angeles County Juvenile Probation Outcome’s Report released in April of this year.

LA’s stats don’t necessarily mean that probation is causing further harm. But the numbers certainly suggest that, for a significant percentage of kids, probation isn’t helping.

Soraya Shockley of NPR’s Youth Radio has a story on this pattern. Here are some clips:

...That’s what happened to one 18-year-old, whom Youth Radio is not naming in order to protect his privacy and his juvenile records, which are protected by the law. He stole two pairs of sneakers, worth $85 total, when he was 15. This was his second arrest for what the court found to be a minor offense.

“And from there everything changed, because that was my first time on probation,” he says.

Instead of sending him to juvenile hall, a judge put him on probation, which can last until age 21. His court orders included nearly two-dozen conditions he had to follow, says Kate Weisburd, his attorney.

“Attend classes on time and regularly,” she read. “Be of good behavior and perform well … be of good citizenship and good conduct.”

Weisburd, who co-directs a youth justice program at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, says that while adults on probation mostly have to avoid committing a new crime, kids on probation have to abide by these sometimes subjective requirements — or be locked up.

The 15th order, “obey parents and guardians,” was one that tripped up the teen who took the shoes, moving him into juvenile hall. And the electronic monitor on his ankle sent him to the hall multiple times.

“I just wanted to go outside and take a walk or something, but then I’d get in trouble,” he says.

[BIG SNIP]

David Muhammad works with numerous probation departments across the country on reform, and he says the alternatives to jail often aren’t achieving their original goals.

“Many of the young people, when they first engage in the system, would be considered low-risk — and involvement in the system increases their risk,” he says. “There is a mountain of research that says, when the juvenile justice system touches a young person, that their likelihood of dropping out of school skyrockets, their likelihood of later being involved in the adult criminal justice system skyrockets.”


WHEN WAYNE COUNTY, MICHIGAN, REDESIGNED ITS PROBATION SYSTEM AWAY FROM A LAW ENFORCEMENT MODEL, OUTCOMES FOR ITS YOUTH CHANGED DRAMATICALLY

While many California counties struggle, a county in Michigan has moved away from a law enforcement approach to juvenile probation, to a therapeutic approach in which the county contracts with local nonprofit programs to help its kids. And the approach working. Recidivism rates have dropped precipitously. Before its reforms, 60 percent of kids in probation in Wayne County got into more legal trouble after becoming involved in the system. Now the recidivism rate is down to 16 percent.

As part of its series on juvenile justice, NPR’s Youth Radio looks at what Wayne County is doing right. Soraya Shockly again reports.

Posted in juvenile justice, Juvenile Probation | No Comments »

LASD Civilian Oversight Report, Kids and Prop 47, and Still No Child Welfare Czar

July 24th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

LA SUPES TO CONSIDER WORKING GROUP’S FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CREATING CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT FOR LASD

The working group tasked with advising the LA County Board of Supervisors on the shape that civilian oversight for the LA County Sheriff’s Department should take is expected to present a final report to the Supes next Tuesday, on July 28th. The report includes five key recommendations for the composition and reach of the oversight commission.

Arguably the most important recommendation is that the commission should have the power to subpoena LASD documents. In order to make that subpoena power possible, however, there would have to be changes to state law.

The LASD’s Inspector General, Max Huntsman, who is also a member of the working group, has had his own trouble getting personnel documents from the department.

“I used to be an attack dog,” Huntsman said, back when the Supes voted to create civilian oversight. “Now I’ve been asked to be a watchdog. If you buy a watchdog, they are only worth it if they come into your house. If you keep them in the backyard, then the burglars can come in the front door. A watchdog can’t watch what they can’t enter and be a part of. So transparency means complete access…”

At a KPCC panel discussion on police transparency last week, LASD Undersheriff Neal Tyler said the department has been working cooperatively “for a year and a half…to deepen Max Huntsman’s…access to the department. And we’re poised to do that.” But, it’s complicated.

Other recommendations include having nine board-appointed commissioners-–one chosen by each of the five supervisors, and four voted on by all of the Supes. Members should also serve three-year terms, and should be diverse (different races, ages, etc.), according to the working group. And, the oversight commission should use the Inspector General’s staff to for monitoring and investigation purposes.

The working group is slated to present the report to the Supes in two weeks. (For backstory on the working group’s preliminary decisions and how they came to make these recommendations, go here.)

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the report. Here’s a clip:

Subpoena power has emerged as a critical issue for activists, who claim it’s necessary to have access to internal department documents. During 13 public meetings and nine town halls conducted by the working group, activists lobbied hard for subpoena power. Patrice Cullors of Dignity and Power Now called it “make or break” for successful oversight.

Sheriff’s representatives who sat on the group strongly opposed the idea.

They felt it was important the new commission begin its work in a “cordial and cooperative relationship,” and that Sheriff Jim McDonnell – elected last year – be given time to “effectuate reforms,” according to the report. None was immediately available for comment.

“Subpoena power would be available as a last resort,” said attorney Dean Hansell, who chaired the group. “It provides a club.” Hansell once served on the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Hansell acknowledged subpoena power would require voters to approve a change in the County Charter. The working group voted four to three to recommend supervisors place the question on the next ballot.

Inspector General Max Huntsman, who sat on the working group, supported giving the new oversight panel subpoena power, but said it may be overrated.

“A subpoena just gets you the right to get somebody to court to say ‘hey give me stuff’,” he said. The department – and the powerful labor union that represents deputies – can always argue that personnel and investigation records are not public.

Huntsman knows this challenge firsthand. The sheriff has denied Huntsman access to personnel records, which include a wide range of information about internal investigations. McDonnell has cited conflicting California laws and court rulings on access.


FOURTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS SEZ JUVIE OFFENDERS BENEFIT FROM PROP 47 TOO

In a ruling on Thursday, a California appeals court said kids qualify, just like adults, for crime reclassifications—from felony to misdemeanor—that adults convicted of certain non-serious felonies receive under Proposition 47. (We at WLA applaud the court’s very sensible decision.)

The Associated Press has more on the ruling. Here’s a clip:

The court of appeal said the reclassification of offenses under Proposition 47 applies to juveniles because they are judged by the same criminal code as adults.

“Accordingly, when a criminal offense is reclassified from a felony to a misdemeanor in the adult context — as occurred under Proposition 47 — the reclassification likewise applies in juvenile wardship proceedings,” Associate Justice Judith Haller wrote for the court.

The ruling came in a San Diego County case involving a minor who acknowledged in 2013 that he had committed felony commercial burglary, according to the appeals court ruling.

The San Diego County district attorney’s office said it will review the court’s ruling and decide whether to appeal.

“We support a juvenile justice system that has a goal of rehabilitation focused on providing the care, treatment and guidance in the best interest of minors,” the office said in a statement.


FOR CANDIDATES AND TWO OF INTERVIEWS, AND STILL NO CHILD WELFARE CZAR

After two rounds of interviews with four candidates to act as child welfare czar, a position recommended by a blue ribbon commission convened to jumpstart much-needed reforms in the county’s child welfare system, the LA County Board of Supervisors has still not made up its mind as to who will lead the new Office of Child Protection.

The board was supposed to continue deliberating in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, but decided to put off the meeting for another two weeks.

Fesia Davenport, who has served as the interim child welfare czar, says she has been interviewed twice for the important role, and hopes the Supes make a final decision soon.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Holden Slattery has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

On Wednesday, during a break at a community meeting on data and analytics in child welfare at the University of Southern California, Fesia Davenport, interim director of the Office of Child Protection (OCP) confirmed that she has been interviewed and re-interviewed.

“I’m hoping that a decision will be made soon,” Davenport said.

Davenport, who previously served as chief deputy director of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), said she feels a greater ability to effect change at the OCP than she did at DCFS.

“Working for DCFS you see a lot of things that need to happen, that should be corrected or need to be changed, and it’s difficult to do that because you’re just focused on core mission and task,” Davenport said. “I really appreciate being in a position where I don’t have the constraints of DCFS. I can effect change with the team, in partnership with the other county departments and the community-based organizations.”

Wendy Garen, president and CEO of the Ralph Parsons Foundation, attended Wednesday’s community meeting, which was organized by the Office of Child Protection. Garen praised Davenport for her performance.

“We know that she’s engaged and willing to do the work that’s necessary, and really whatever’s asked of her,” Garen said. “That’s a tremendous asset to this community.”

Posted in ACLU, DCFS, Foster Care, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors | 6 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 »

Private Prison Medicine, Foster Care Benefits for Dual Status Kids, Presidential Pot Pardons, Sheriff Jim McDonnell on WWLA? …and More

July 16th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

WHEN FOR-PROFIT CORPORATIONS TAKE OVER PRISON HEALTH CARE INMATE MORTALITY RATES RISE

The private medical company, California Forensic Medical Group, is the largest prison health care provider in CA. And, not unlike the largest prison health care company in the nation, Corizon Correctional Health Care, CFMG continues to rake in money despite being mired in scandals and lawsuits alleging mistreatment, neglect, and short-staffing.

CFMG holds medical care contracts for 64 detention facilities in 27 of California’s 58 counties. Most of the counties are rural, like Imperial and Yolo, but CFMG is also responsible for thousands of inmates in counties like San Diego, Ventura, Santa Cruz, and it’s hometown, Monterey.

Around 200 inmates have died in the last decade under CFMG medical care, and more than 80 lawsuits have been filed against the company in the last 15 years, according to an investigation by FairWarning.

FairWarning’s Brian Joseph takes an in depth look at CMFG’s history (which is not unlike many other private prison companies), as well as the stories of inmates who died seemingly preventable deaths while under the care of CFMG. Here are some clips:

The outsourcing of medical care in jails and prisons reflects a nationwide push for privatizing government duties. The private sector, outsourcing advocates say, offers better services at a lower cost. But while other government services have outspoken constituencies, jails and prisons do not. Inmates usually have little clout to demand change if they believe they are receiving poor health care.

“Society doesn’t really care about prisoners,” said Neville Johnson, a Beverly Hills lawyer. Johnson sued CFMG and Yolo County, near Sacramento, over the August 2000 jailhouse suicide of Stephen Achen. A drug addict, Achen warned some jail staffers that he could become self-destructive but promised another that he wouldn’t hurt himself. “As we got into it, we were astonished at what we felt [was] the deliberate indifference of the jail staff and especially CFMG, which is nothing but a money-making machine,” Johnson said. CFMG settled with the Achen family for $825,000 after a judge found evidence of medical understaffing, according to media reports.

The private sector started providing health services to jails and prisons in the 1970s, when negligent medical care became a foremost prisoners’ rights issue. Inmates across the country filed lawsuits alleging inadequate care. Courts ruled that depriving prisoners of competent medical services was unconstitutional and in some cases ordered states and counties to take corrective action. Wardens and sheriffs, lacking backgrounds in medicine, turned to outside contractors for help.

[SNIP]

Ryan George, age 22, was serving time for domestic violence in 2007 when he experienced the onset of a sickle cell crisis, a painful, but treatable, condition where blood vessels become clogged by the misshapen cells. For days, Valerie says, Ryan called her from jail in obvious pain, complaining that he was being neglected.

Finally, when he was found “unresponsive” in his bed, Ryan was taken to the hospital, according to court records. But after a couple of days, of treatment, doctors there decided Ryan was exaggerating some of his symptoms and sent him back to jail. Shortly thereafter, Valerie said, a CFMG doctor called her, saying Ryan was getting worse. She says she demanded that the doctor take him to the hospital, but he said “that’s not a possibility.”

The company doctor acknowledged in court papers that he spoke with Valerie George, but disputed her version of what was said. CFMG executives also acknowledged that the company would have incurred more costs if Ryan was sent back to the hospital, but denied that financial concerns had anything to do with his death.

A few days later, Ryan George was found dead in his cell, with dark green fluid oozing from his mouth and eyes, according to the civil complaint. A subsequent Sonoma County Grand Jury investigation found that the “Sheriff’s (department) and CFMG medical staff failed to fully intervene” when Ryan’s condition worsened. “He was not re-hospitalized, despite exhibiting symptoms of jaundice, severe dehydration, bone pain, altered level of consciousness and loss of urinary and bowel control,” the grand jury found. Said Valerie George, whose family settled with CFMG: “They let him die like a dog in a cage because this company would not pay for him to get proper medical treatment.”

[SNIP]

“Why wasn’t an ambulance called?” a guard later recalled someone asking when he wheeled a pale Dau into El Centro Regional Medical Center at about 9:30 a.m. on July 23, 2011. A doctor rushed to her side and felt her neck. “She has no pulse!” the doctor yelled, according to a deposition given later by the physician. Hospital staff cut off her jumpsuit and attempted CPR, but it was no use: at 9:56 a.m. Dau was declared dead.

A subsequent autopsy by Imperial County Chief Forensic Pathologist Darryl Garber determined Dau died of heart disease with a contributing factor being acute drug intoxication from the multiple medications she was prescribed. Garber also discovered Dau had a bed sore on her lower back, suggesting that she had been unable to move for some time.

Later, according to the minutes from a meeting about Dau’s death, CFMG and jail staff decided that an ambulance should have been called and that Dau was “probably” going through Valium withdrawal.


CRUCIAL BILL TO CLOSE A LEGAL LOOPHOLE AND EXTEND BENEFITS TO “DUAL STATUS” FOSTER KIDS MOVES FORWARD

A CA bill to give foster kids involved in the juvenile justice system (often called “dual status” or “crossover” youth) extended foster care benefits was approved unanimously by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

SB 12, authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), would close a loophole in existing law, and ensure kids who turn 18 while in juvenile detention receive extended benefits like their non-justice-system-involved peers.

Sawsan Morrar has more on the bill and its progress for the Chronicle of Social Change. Here’s a clip:

DeAngelo Cortijo, an intern at the National Center for Youth Law, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing about his firsthand experience as a crossover youth. Cortijo was removed from his home when he was two after his mother attempted suicide. He was placed with family members, and at one point returned to his mother, before he was sent to foster care amid reports of abuse. Since then, he was in over four detention facilities, and ran away from group home placements several times.

“When I was released, I faced many challenges,” Cortijo said. “I now have to fend for myself as an adult. I had to find stable and clean housing. I didn’t have an income to support myself.”

Cortijo was left depending on others for the most basic needs like purchasing a toothbrush or borrowing socks.

“Do you know what that does to a person’s confidence? It completely destroys it,” he said.

With extended benefits in place, Cortijo would have received about $800 a month, just like other transition-age foster youth, to help pay for food, housing and school.

Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center, said these probation youth in transition are exactly who extended foster care aims to support.

“We know that the rates of homelessness, unemployment and incarceration for young people who cross from dependency to delinquency are double to triple the rates for youth who are just in dependency or delinquency,” she said.

According to the Youth Law Center there are approximately 4,000 probation-supervised foster youth in California. There are over 50,000 foster youth in the state.


WHAT IF PRESIDENT OBAMA FOLLOWED IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FDR AND WILSON AND USED HIS PARDON POWER ON MARIJUANA OFFENDERS?

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced that he had commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders, bringing the total number of approved commutation petitions up to 89. While this is a good step in the right direction, there are 95,265 federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses.

The Atlantic’s Zach Hindin makes the case for presidential pardons for all marijuana offenders in federal prison. Former President George W. Bush commuted 11 sentences and pardoned 189 during his 8 years in office, and Bill Clinton commuted 61 sentences and pardoned 396. Our current president has granted just 64 pardons, thus far. (If you are fuzzy on the difference between the two, a pardon wipes a person’s criminal record and restores rights, a commutation shortens a person’s sentence, but does not offer a clean slate.) Obama’s latest move seems far less historically meaningful when compared to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s thousands of post-prohibition acts of clemency for alcohol offenses, says Hindin.

Here’s a clip:

…Compared with the last few administrations, commuting the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders may seem historic. But history sets the bar higher still.

In May 1919, Woodrow Wilson was in Paris negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. It’s hard to think of a moment when any president had a better reason to shelve domestic affairs, but on Monday, May 12, Wilson telegraphed his secretary in Washington: “Please ask the Attorney General to advise me what action I can take with regard to removing the ban from the manufacture of drink.” A week later Wilson sent another cable, this time to Congress: “It seems to me entirely safe now to remove the ban upon the manufacture and sale of wines and beers.”

Congress declined, and instead introduced a bill to shore up the Eighteenth Amendment, known as the Volstead Act. Wilson vetoed the Act. Congress overrode his veto. With no legislative recourse, Wilson chipped away at Prohibition using the executive power that Congress could not check: his pardon. By the end of his second term, alcohol offenders accounted for more than one-fifth of Wilson’s clemency recipients.

Unlike Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt had been ambivalent about Prohibition. During his time in the New York State Senate, the powerful Anti-Saloon League had praised Roosevelt’s “perfect voting record.” Even after the repeal of Prohibition became central to his presidential platform, according to one biographer, “the story persisted that whatever Roosevelt might say, there was a voting record to prove he was ‘dry’ at heart.” But when Prohibition was repealed by popular demand in 1933, FDR went on a pardoning spree that outclassed his predecessors, approving alcohol offenders who had been previously rejected or otherwise hadn’t even applied.

Wilson used his pardon to protest an impossible law. Roosevelt used his to acknowledge the change in social norms.

The time when most Americans condoned alcohol consumption despite Prohibition rhymes with our own, when 53 percent of the country supports the legalization of marijuana, and pot laws have been curtailed in 23 states and the nation’s capital. And just as Prohibition offered a legal apparatus for racism, today, the racial imbalances in marijuana arrests and sentencing are so stark that many in this country consider them a proxy for racial control. In 49 states, blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana—in the worst offending counties, by a factor of eight. The limit of this analogy is scale—together, Wilson and Roosevelt issued some 2,000 alcohol-related acts of clemency. In 2012 alone, almost 7,000 people were convicted in federal courts for marijuana offenses, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, more than for any other type of drug.


LA SHERIFF JIM MCDONNELL TALKS JAIL ABUSE AND MORE ON WHICH WAY, LA?

After 10 jail employees were relieved of duty this past weekend in connection with alleged jail abuse, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell appeared on KCRW’s Which Way, LA? with Warren Olney to discuss jail abuse, transparency, mental illness, and his hopes for the facility that will replace the crumbling Men’s Central Jail.

Take a listen.

In another segment, investigative reporter Jeffrey Sharlet talks about his in-depth GQ story about the March LAPD shooting of Charly Keunang, an unarmed homeless man in Skid Row, and the unreleased officer body cam videos he was able to watch of the incident.

AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF TROUBLING FOOTAGE OF OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS…FAMILY OF UNARMED MAN KILLED BY GARDENA POLICE SEEK CIVIL RIGHTS INVESTIGATION

In 2013, three Gardena police officers fatally shot Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, an unarmed man they mistook for a robbery suspect. According to officers involved, Diaz Zeferino appeared to be reaching for a weapon. The city settled the resulting lawsuit to the tune of $4.7 million, but refused to release videos of the shooting, because of privacy concerns.

On Tuesday, federal Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the city of Gardena to release the videos. And at a press conference on Wednesday, an attorney representing Diaz Zeferino’s family called for a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting.

Here’s a clip from the KPCC update:

Mercardo said the videos allow the public to see for themselves what took place shortly after police stopped Diaz Zeferino and two others suspected of stealing a bike.

“The public can be the judge of what really happened that night,” she said, adding the family had been searching for justice, not money.

Diaz Zeferino’s brother, Augustine Reynoso, holding aloft a picture of the two of them embracing, said he wanted to bring the Gardena police department to account for the death of his brother.

“Money is not what’s important in life. Life is what’s important in life,” he said through Mercado, who translated his comments. “I want justice to be done. I want the Gardena Police Department to be investigated more deeply. That’s why I’m here.”

Posted in Crossover Youth, DCFS, Foster Care, jail, Jim McDonnell, juvenile justice, LAPD, LASD, Marijuana laws, medical care, Mental Illness, Obama, Sentencing, War on Drugs | No Comments »

Why is LA County Probation Sitting on $21.7 Million in Unspent Juvie Justice Funds?

July 15th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


A few weeks ago, WitnessLA learned that LA County Probation was sitting on $21.7 million in state-allocated juvenile justice funds
that were supposed to be spent toward creating a comprehensive plan of youth services that prominently includes community-based programs to keep at risk kids out of the county’s justice system—and on related programs to help kids already in the system with reentry so that they don’t bounce right back in again after they are released.

Instead, the funds—which have reportedly been piling up at a regular clip since FY 2010/11—were simply sitting in an account doing…well…nothing.

On Tuesday, however, the news of the nearly $22 million became public when a motion co-authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl announced the existence of the unused money.

The motion, which was read in and adopted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting, requires Chief of Probation Jerry Powers and Interim CEO Sachi Hamai “…to report back within 21 days with an amended spending plan that allows for the immediate allocation of $1 million to fund critical programs and services delivered by community-based organizations in each supervisorial district.”

Admittedly, $1 million is less than 5 percent of the entire pot of languishing greenbacks, but it’s a start.


WHERE THE UNDER-THE-MATTRESS $$ CAME FROM IN THE FIRST PLACE

The source of the money in question comes from a funding stream created by the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA), which was itself created by the Crime Prevention Act of 2000 in order “to provide a stable funding source for local juvenile justice programs aimed at curbing crime and delinquency among at-risk youth.”

The funds, which are allocated on a per capita basis to the state’s 56 participating counties (Alpine and Sierra counties opt out), are mandated to be spent to fund a range of programs that help kids. The methods used are required to be evidence-based—aka programs “that have been demonstrated to be effective…”

Each year the various counties have to propose how they are going to spend the money received—which for LA has been in the neighborhood of $28 million annually. Then at years end, they are expected to document how the funds were, in fact, spent.

Only .5—or less than one percent—of the money is allowed to be used for administrative costs. The rest is supposed to go straight to programs that directly benefit each county’s at risk youth. There is no mention in the regulations about any of the dollars being encouraged to lie fallow in a savings account that, until recently, few people seemed to know existed.


WHY WEREN’T ALL THOSE BUCKS SPENT ON KIDS?

So, should that money have been spent, not saved?

Well, technically, yes. The rules of the JJCPA pretty clearly require it.

However we think the best answer to that question may be found in the county’s own most recent research into the state of its justice-involved kids and their needs:

In April 2015, the release of the excellent and unprecedented LA County Juvenile Probation Outcomes Study quantified the daunting challenges and needs of the kids who come in contact with the county’s juvenile justice system.

At the end of the 155-page report, the team of researchers led by Dr. Denise Herz of Cal State LA, summarized in brief the kinds of programs and services that are the most essential if we expect these most vulnerable of our county’s kids to reroute their risk-laden trajectories in order to succeed. They are as follows:

*community-based “front end” prevention and intervention services for youth and families in early stages of Probation involvement to address youth needs and avoid any unnecessary out of home placements;

* transitional services and interventions for families while the youth are in suitable placement or camp, including the ubiquity of certain approaches like individual counseling and the appropriateness of these interventions for most youth; and,

* community-based services for youth who are transitioning back into the community, including current reentry practices like MDTs, school referral and reenrollment processes, family-focused programs, and supportive services for their families during the transition.

In short, all the kinds of programs and services that the JJCPA cash is supposed to be funding.

After Tuesday’s board meeting, I asked Supervisor Ridley-Thomas why so much money that was slated to be used for the benefit of LA County’s at-risk kids was not being put to work.

“I don’t think they have a good reason,” he said. “So, it’s our job to do something about it.”

“The anti recidivism work that we need to do is really very substantial,” Ridley-Thomas continued, “so it becomes a bit problematic to imagine that we are not using all the resources at our disposal to work on the problem. The need is great. And it’s our job to address the need.”

Yep.


NOTE: At Wed 11:05 a.m. this story was updated and corrected to reflect that the Kuehl/Ridley-Thomas motion was read in and adopted at Tuesday’s meeting. In an earlier version we wrote that the motion was scheduled for adoption next week.

Posted in juvenile justice, Probation | 1 Comment »

SISTERS RISING: How a Group of Justice-Involved Young Women Heal & Strengthen While Helping Each Other & Themselves – by Sarah Zahedi

July 13th, 2015 by Celeste Fremon



Editor’s Note:
As youth crime has declined in the past decade, girls’ contact with the justice system has grown. Moreover, girls in the system evidence far higher levels of exposure to trauma and victimization than do their system-involved brothers (who already score high on the trauma scale). In fact, a study released this month found that, nationwide, girls’ rate of abuse is four times higher than that of boys in the juvenile justice system, and nearly twice as many girls than boys in the system have experienced five or more of what experts now call Adverse Childhood Experiences—or ACES.

Other studies confirm a heightened vulnerability in girls who are or have been in the juvenile system. For instance, they are more likely than boys to meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis, and to display more severe PTSD symptoms than their male counterparts. Girls are also disproportionately more likely than boys to be arrested for “survival crimes”—things like running away, shoplifting, involvement in commercial sexual exploitation, all actions that are commonly associated with attempts to escape a maltreating home environment.

For these and other reasons, when girls emerge from the juvenile justice and/or foster care systems, their reentry challenges are similar to those of boys, but the challenges, needs and hurdles also have their own gender specific character—a fact that, for many years, was all but ignored.

Now, fortunately, new programs have been emerging that focus on the needs of young women specifically.

One such program located in San Francisco is called Sisters Rising. It operates out of the larger and more established Center for Young Women’s Development. (CYWD) However, rather than simply offering help and services, Sisters Rising is a program that also provides paid internships for the young women it serves, who are then trained in leadership, and to advocate for change in policy and systems that “better help girls and young women to thrive.” The twinned acts of receiving help and mentorship, while at the same time working to fill the needs of others, appears to measurably heal and strengthen the young women involved.

Sarah Zahedi has written an excellent story on Sisterhood Rising, and on a young woman named Danielle Lynette Robinson whose life the program has transformed.

So read on.


Sisters Rising

A Women’s Center Works to Lower Recidivism Rates Among Juvenile Justice-Involved Girls With ‘Immersion in Sisterhood’

by Sarah Zahedi


Since the day she ran away from her mother’s home at 14, Danielle Lynette Robinson was in and out of Hillcrest Juvenile Hall in San Mateo, Calif. for the next four years.

“It was like my first real home actually — somewhere I could be safe and well taken care of,” Robinson said.

With her cousin serving as the director of her juvenile hall and her brother staying in the boys’ camp, Robinson said she felt comfortable doing time — at least, much more comfortable than she did while living with her mother or while living in foster care.

“Me and my mom wasn’t getting along too well,” Robinson said. “My dad spoiled me so I would run away to him when he and my mom split up.”

Then, a year after her first juvenile hall sentence, Robinson’s dad passed away.

“That’s when things got much worse for me,” Robinson said. “[The court] moved me to San Francisco and began putting me into foster care.”

Instead of ending up in juvenile hall for repeatedly running away from home, she soon began serving time for more serious offenses: multiple truancies at school, fighting at school, getting kicked out of class and bringing alcohol to school. She spent her four years of high school at five different institutions including San Mateo High School; Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School; Civic Center Secondary School; Margaret J. Kemp Camp for Girls, a juvenile justice facility in San Mateo; and finally the continuation school at Hillcrest Juvenile Hall.

“I just figured since I was under 18 and I could do whatever and just end up in juvenile hall, I didn’t care,” Robinson said. “There were times I felt like I was going to change but that’s only because I was locked up. Once I got back on the street, I acted the same.”


MOTHERHOOD CHANGED HER

When she turned 18, things changed for Robinson — she served her last sentence in juvenile hall and had a daughter one year later.

“Having a daughter changed my whole mind frame in life,” Robinson said. “I had someone else to take care of and I wanted to be there for her.”

Still, Robinson felt alone. She had trouble getting employment, did not have the financial support of her family, did not have many friends and suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her long-term boyfriend. Finally getting out of her abusive relationship and feeling as though she had no one else to turn to, she spoke to her yoga mentor from juvenile hall who recommended she visit the Center for Young Women’s Development (CYWD) in San Francisco and apply to their Sisters Rising job program. In 2013, at 21, she applied and was accepted.

Jessie Akin, 21, is one of the young women in the Sisters Rising program. She has taken part in the Sisters Rising program at age 16 and again at age 20 after getting out of county jail.
For 20 years, the Center for Young Women’s Development has been a safe space for thousands of young women ages 16 to 24 who have been incarcerated or are homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area. In part, the center serves as a recreational area where these marginalized, low- and no-income young women can socialize and use the center’s computers, plus the children’s playroom since many are young mothers.

CYWD administrators also go to local juvenile facilities to conduct workshops for incarcerated young women — many of whom end up coming to the center when they are released. The center is most recognized for its strategies to give these women opportunities for personal and professional growth, such as the Sisters Rising program.

Through Sisters Rising, CYWD administrators hire about 10 women for a nine-month-long internship, training them to be community organizers and paying them $15 an hour as they simultaneously learn soft job skills like resume building and interviewing tactics. The center tries to meet the unique needs of each woman, according to Naomi Briley, the CYWD senior administrator/operations director.

“Everyone has a different goal when they get here,” Briley said. “One might be helped with going on to pursue higher education, someone else might want to get a full-time permanent job, someone else might be getting out of an abusive relationship. We work with each woman to put together a plan with their goals so we can empower them to pursue those goals.”


SYSTEMIC CHANGE

This past year, those in Sisters Rising completed a participatory action research project in which they put together a survey about the needs of young, low-income women of color in the area through focus groups and street-based outreach. The goal is to share this information with other agencies and to better model the center’s programs to fill these needs.

As community organizers, they learn about the systemic issues that have directly affected their lives, such as the fact that young women of color are disproportionately suspended from school, are far more likely to be murdered and experience intimate partner violence at greater rates than white girls and women. For those who are unmarried, they have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth accumulated by their male counterparts and a fraction of a penny for every dollar accumulated by white women. At the same time, they experience increasingly higher rates of incarceration than their white counterparts.

In San Francisco, black women represent 5.8 percent of the city’s female population but account for 45.5 percent of all female arrests in 2013, according to a report from the Center on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. On the national level, black women are incarcerated at four times the rate of white women and Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than their white counterparts to be locked up.

“San Francisco is one of the wealthiest cities in the country and this group of young women often goes under the radar in the area,” Briley said. “These unnoticed young women are not being served by the juvenile justice system and sometimes are being filtered back through it. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen and that they can work becoming leaders of their own lives and of their communities.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in juvenile justice | 1 Comment »

Girls and the Sexual-Abuse-to-Prison-Pipeline

July 10th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

ABUSED YOUNG GIRLS ARE INCARCERATED AT MUCH HIGHER RATES THAN GIRLS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN ABUSED

As many as 81% of girls in the California juvenile justice system have been victims of physical or sexual abuse, and their common reactions to abuse are often criminalized (like truancy, running away, and possession and consumption of drugs and alcohol), according to a report released Thursday by the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Ms. Foundation for Women. And 56% of abused justice-system-involved girls had been sexually abused, and 45% physically abused, often multiple times. In addition to abused girls being locked-up for youthful offenses, girls are often criminalized as victims of sex trafficking.

There were other states with worse numbers than California. In Oregon, 93% of girls were experienced one or both forms of abuse.

Nationwide, girls’ rate of abuse is four times higher than that of boys in the juvenile justice system, and there are nearly twice as many girls who have experienced five or more Adverse Childhood Experiences as boys.

“Girls, and disproportionately black and brown girls are, incredibly, being locked up when they’ve run away from an abusive parent or when they have been trafficked for sex as children,” says Malika Saada Saar, executive director of the Human Rights Project for Girls. “But their stories of unjust arrest and incarceration have been marginalized.”

“These girls are too often victims of sexual abuse and trauma who need our care and support,” says Peter Edelman, faculty director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, calling on lawmakers and advocates to “dismantle” the abuse-to-prison-pipeline, and to better serve victimized girls.

The report recommends strengthening both the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and the Prison Rape Elimination Act, as well as decriminalizing victims of sex trafficking, increasing collaboration between the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems, and providing better training for law enforcement, judges, and juvenile justice staff to better recognize abuse and trauma.

Posted in ACEs, juvenile justice | No Comments »

Locked Up & Alone: Should CA Ban Solitary for Kids? – by Kelly Davis

July 3rd, 2015 by Celeste Fremon


EDITOR’S NOTE:
On Tuesday, California took a large step closer to banning the use of solitary confinement for the state’s youth when SB 124 passed out of the assembly’s Public Safety committee. The bill needs to pass through one more committee* before it can be up for a vote in the assembly itself. (Th Public Safety committee vote divided along party lines with five democrats voting “yes,” two republicans voting “no.”)

The bill has already been passed by the state senate. So if it is passed by the assembly it goes to Governor Brown for his signature.

An impressive list of supporters, including the LA County Board of Supervisors, have gotten behind the passage of SB 124. Yet the bill also has its strong opponents.

As a consequence, the conversation about the use of solitary confinement for juveniles is bound to heat up as the crucial assembly vote nears. With this in mind, in her excellent story below reporter Kelly Davis digs deeply into what we know and don’t know about the issue of kids and solitary.


This story first ran in an earlier version at The Crime Report— where you can find the latest in national criminal justice news daily.



LOCKED UP & ALONE

What Do We Really Know About Solitary for Kids?

by Kelly Davis


How do you define solitary confinement? That question is at the core of a California debate over ending the practice in state- and county-run juvenile detention facilities, which are estimated to house roughly 9,000 individuals at any given time.

The debate intensified earlier this year with the introduction of a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), which would ban the use of solitary confinement as punishment. Under the bill, young people who pose a safety risk can be confined to their rooms—but for no longer than four hours.

Despite three previous attempts to pass similar legislation, Leno believes the bill will succeed, given the increased scrutiny nationwide on the use of solitary confinement.

In May, Illinois became the 20th state to ban the practice in juvenile detention facilities.

“I don’t believe there’s any data that even begins to suggest that there is anything beneficial to this practice,” Leno said in an interview with The Crime Report. “The idea that taking a troubled youth with behavioral problems and putting that youth in solitary confinement—whether for 10 hours or 23 hours—and thinking the behavior is going to improve, is completely irrational.”

The Leno bill defines solitary confinement as “the placement of an incarcerated person in a locked sleep room or cell alone with minimal or no contact with persons other than guards, correctional facility staff, and attorneys.

The state’s influential prison-guard and probation unions have opposed the bill—-and its predecessors—arguing that solitary confinement is an inaccurate description of current practice in juvenile facilities. They say that isolation of juveniles is used sparingly, and is regulated by California’s Minimum Standards for Juvenile Facilities, which were recently revised to urge limited use of room confinement.

Nevertheless, youth advocates—who want to see a ban enshrined in state law—-point to recent examples that they claim could not be described otherwise than “solitary confinement.”


A GAME CHANGER IN CONTRA COSTA

Last month, Contra Costa County, located just east of San Francisco, agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by two public-interest law firms, Disability Rights Advocates and Public Counsel. The lawsuit claimed young people with psychiatric and developmental disabilities were being kept in 12-by-12-foot cells for up to 23 hours a day in the country’s juvenile hall.

Although Contra Costa County’s Office of Education and its Probation Department denied any wrongdoing, the county committed itself under the settlement to ensure that the maximum period of confinement for any youth will be four hours, and only if he is considered a danger to others—which in fact mirrors the language of the Leno bill.

Leno described the Contra Costa settlement as a “game-changer” when it comes to enacting a statewide ban on punitive solitary confinement.

In another case, the Youth Law Center, a San Francisco-based national advocacy group,- has filed a complaint against San Diego County with the Department of Justice, based on an investigation launched in 2013 into reports of excessive use of pepper spray in the county’s juvenile detention facilities. In the course of that investigation, attorneys found examples of young people, some of them suicidal, being confined to their rooms for up to five days—-despite county inspection reports saying that room confinement was never used.

A spokesperson for San Diego County declined to comment—-citing “pending legal action”—–on whether YLC’s complaint prompted any policy changes.


A DISCIPLINARY TOOL OR A SOURCE OF TRAUMA?

Amid the growing national debate over ending youth solitary confinement, California is an example of the disconnect between law enforcement authorities who cling to isolation as a disciplinary tool and experts who say confinement beyond a few hours can cripple a young person’s development.

“Even short term, especially if a young person has an underlying mental health issue, that creates serious consequences,” Jennifer Kim, director of programs for the San Francisco-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a supporter of Leno’s bill, said in an interview with The Crime Report.

“The impact that has on that person’s emotional and physical well-being is going to be exacerbated, whether it’s 72 hours or two months.”

Further obscuring the issue, advocates say, are the variety of terms for the practice. Before a Justice Department investigation shuttered Mississippi’s Columbia Training School, for instance, young female detainees were confined to dark, bare rooms in what was called the “Special Intervention Unit.”

“People call it all sorts of things inside juvenile facilities,” says Dana Shoenberg, deputy director of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Children’s Law and Policy.

“They call it reflection time, they call it segregation, they call it medical isolation. But if you lock a kid alone in a room for a sustained period of time, the effects are still the same.”

While a locked room in a San Diego County facility might be a far cry from something like the Columbia Training School, the effects of isolation in either setting, experts say, can undermine rehabilitation and exacerbate mental illness. A 2009 national study commissioned by the Justice Department found that of the 79 detainees who committed suicide in juvenile detention centers between 1995 and 1999, nearly two-thirds had a history of room confinement.

Roughly half committed suicide while in isolation.

In a report last year, the American Civil Liberties Union concluded it was nearly impossible to pin down how many young people are subjected to isolation, why and for how long, since data collection is not required on the state or federal level.

Kim said the semantics of solitary confinement has made it difficult to really measure the scope of the problem in California.

“If you have different counties and the state using different names to refer to the same practice, it provides a way for people to create confusion around how much something is happening,” she said.

“One of the issues this bill is trying to correct is the fact that this practice is happening with very little accountability and very little transparency,” she added.


DATA MATTERS

Getting accurate data is a key hurdle.

“A lot of it is just not being able to objectively see that what you’re doing falls in that definition of solitary confinement,” says Sue Burrell, a staff attorney for the Youth Law Center, a national advocacy group. “For so long, everyone in juvenile justice has dealt with disciplinary problems by locking kids in their rooms.”

Punitive isolation is frowned upon by the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that seeks to set national standards. Yet a 2014 survey by the California Association of Probation Institution Administrators found that of the 53 percent of county facilities that responded, all of them used separation as a disciplinary tool.


ITS NOT ABOUT THE SYMPTOMS

Barry Krisberg, a UC Berkeley professor who has studied the use of solitary confinement, said punitive isolation is considered to be counterproductive since it fails to address what made the youth act out in the first place.

“I think that’s sort of the fundamental issue,” Krisberg told The Crime Report. “(Isolation) doesn’t solve the underlying problem. If there’s an issue having to do with mental illness, then you’ve got to have a response to that.

“Putting someone away in a room for a period of time is not a solution.”

The lack of federal guidelines on juvenile solitary confinement could be one reason the system has been so slow to change, youth advocates say. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), established in 1974 to set standards and provide funding for juvenile justice programs, has not been reauthorized since 2002.

On April 30, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) introduced legislation to reauthorize the JJDPA. The 2015 version would add nearly 30 pages to the Act and would require states to create plans to eliminate solitary confinement in juvenile facilities and offer training and technical assistance to “minimize the use of dangerous practices, unreasonable restraints, and isolation.”

Schoenberg of the Children’s Law and Policy Center says the legislation “could have a meaningful impact,” especially the bill’s requirement that facilities collect data on the use of isolation.

She adds: “Folks who examine their data are in a strong position to begin making changes.”


Kelly Davis is a 2015 John Jay/Langeloth Mental Health & Justice Reporting Fellow and a freelance reporter in San Diego who writes about the criminal justice system and vulnerable populations. This spring she launched a successful IndieGogo campaign to help support her fine criminal justice reporting


*We originally wrote that Public Safety was the last committee hurdle that had to be cleared. But, there is still an additional assembly committee that will consider the bill before SB 124 can go to the Assembly for a vote.


Photo of two kids is courtesy of the Ella Baker Center’s #EndYouthSolitary campaign @EllaBakerCenter

Posted in juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, solitary, torture, Youth at Risk | No Comments »

LA County Counsel Resigns After 8 Months, a Unique SF Drug Abuse Program for Teens, Public Input on LA Child Safety…and More

June 16th, 2015 by Taylor Walker

LA COUNTY COUNSEL MARK SALADINO UNEXPECTEDLY ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION AFTER 8 MONTHS IN OFFICE

Late last week, just eight months after taking office, Los Angeles County Counsel Mark J. Saladino startled nearly everyone by announcing his resignation.

Saladino was hired last October on the recommendation of then-CEO William Fujioka, who some considered a controversial figure in the county.

Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas, the only board member who voted against hiring Saladino, said there had not been enough of a search for competitors, the board had not agreed to a list of requirements for candidates, and Saladino’s prior legal experience was in corporate finances, lending, taxation and related areas. In fact, in 2013, Saladino had not practiced law in approximately 15 years, since he had taken over the position of county treasurer-tax collector in 1998.

Saladino will be returning to the Department of Treasurer and Tax Collector.

LA County Board of Supervisors had a special meeting Monday, that included public comment, as a step toward appointing an interim County Counsel.

Metropolitan News-Enterprise has the story. Here’s a clip:

Saladino hadn’t practiced law since being appointed county treasurer-tax collector in 1998. State Bar records showed that he took inactive status in 2002 and returned to active status on June 27 of last year, eight days after then-County Counsel John Krattli made public his plans to retire.

Prior to becoming treasurer-tax collector, Saldino was a deputy county counsel, having joined the office in 1990. His prior experience was at large law firms in New York and Los Angeles, in the fields of public finance, corporate finance and securities, bank lending, real estate, taxation and other transactional matters for public and private clients.

A spokesperson for Board of Supervisors Chair Michael Antonovich said the supervisor had no prior notice of Saladino’s intent to resign. Requests for comment from the other four supervisors produced no responses, although longtime board employees said it was virtually unprecedented for a department head to resign without prior notice.

Saladino’s successor will be the ninth person to occupy the post of county counsel since DeWitt Clinton retired in 1998 after 15 years.

Los Angeles County and the Office of the County Counsel are also currently in the middle of a legal battle against the ACLU and civilian watchdog Eric Preven, who are demanding that County Counsel disclose exact dollar amounts paid to private law firms in lawsuits filed against the LASD and its personnel. (Read more about that: here.)


SAN FRANCISCO SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAM HELPS ADDICTED KIDS GRADUALLY CURB DRUG USE THROUGH JUDGMENT-FREE, “HARM-REDUCTION” APPROACH

San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point Youth Foundation helps kids ease out of substance abuse, in a neighborhood beset by violence, where 39% of residents live below the poverty line.

The Foundation’s program, Youth Moving Forward, provides counseling and substance abuse treatment to kids 13-17, using innovative “harm-reduction” strategies that focus on preventing harm that results from drug abuse, rather than specifically targeting the drug use.

The program provides a judgment-free, safe space for kids and connects them with free sports programs and other activities as alternatives to drug use.

Youth Today’s Sarah Zahedi has more on the program, which is funded by the SF Department of Health. Here’s a clip:

“Our goal is for them to reduce their use,” said counselor Julia Barboza. “So instead of [their] smoking five times, we say, ‘How about you do it four times?’ We meet them where they are at so to not have them totally quit but to reduce their use. In the process, they are not aware that they are actually going to stop.”

Johnson agreed she did not even know she was in a substance abuse treatment program when she was going to talk to her counselor.

“They don’t call it a drug treatment program. They just tell us that they are there for us to talk to,” Johnson said. “It was just a safe space and seeing it that way helped because it doesn’t scare you away.”

For this reason, youth services program director James McElroy said the counselors make it a point to avoid calling Youth Moving Forward a drug treatment program.

“We don’t want these youth to walk around thinking something is wrong with them if they decide to take part in our services,” he said. “We aren’t here to judge. We are here to help them achieve what they are trying to achieve in life.”

To do so, the program also makes a point of referring youth to social activities such as sports, exercise and field trips as an alternative to drug use.

“A lot of the times, the youth’s substance abuse problem comes from the kid not having anything else to do,” McElroy said. “We want to make sure we promote activities a youth is interested in so they can do something productive with their time at no cost.”

The program’s five counselors serve approximately 80 clients per year. Barboza said their success is due to the bond each counselor shares with the youth.

“We call them our kids versus our clients because they spend most of their time with us,” Barboza said. “At a lot of agencies, you don’t see that, kids just come in and out. Here, we do more than counsel kids and just sit in an office to help them reduce their use. We cook for them when they are hungry, we clothe them when they need clothes, we shelter them when they need shelter.”


CHILD WELFARE CZAR HOLDS MEETING IN COMPTON TO GATHER INPUT FROM PUBLIC ON BOOSTING CHILD SAFETY

The Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection held a meeting in Compton for members of the public (72 in attendance) to brainstorm and give input on a strategic plan to boost child safety and welfare in LA County.

The strategic plan was one of 163 recommendations made by a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection convened to jumpstart reform efforts in the county child welfare system.

Among the ideas submitted by community members was a child safety mobile app.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Holden Slattery has the story. Here’s a clip:

Attendees included employees and directors of numerous government agencies and local nonprofit organizations. The groups focused on the pantheon of child welfare goals: child maltreatment prevention, finding permanency for children in the system, safety and well-being. After they posted their objectives on the wall, attendees used stickers to vote on their favorites—the ones they would like to see in the strategic plan.

That strategic plan, itself, was one of the 163 recommendations made by the BRC in its 2014 report, which scored numerous headlines for decrying the county’s child welfare system as “in a state of emergency.”

But the Office of Child Protection wants more recommendations—ones that reflect the voices of people in locations throughout the county, according to Interim Child Protection Director Fesia Davenport.

“We know that the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations are going to pre-populate many areas of the strategic plan, so we’re looking for ideas for the gaps,” Davenport said.


STATE SEES RESULTS AFTER INVESTING IN REDUCING CRIME IN VIOLENCE-PLAGUED OAKLAND

The $2 million California spent on crime-reduction efforts in Oakland last year appears to have paid off. According to 2014 end of year crime reports, homicides in Oakland were down 11%, shootings down 13%, and burglaries and robberies dropped a combined 30%.

The $1.3 million of the state money has beefed up existing anti-recidivism programs, but a portion was also spent launching new pilot programs.

Oakland Local’s A. Scot Bolsinger has the story. here’s a clip:

In a report recently submitted to the city council, Sara Bedford, director of Oakland Unite, said the funds have impacted a wide number of programs.

“It has augmented existing services and allowed for more individuals impacted directly by intense violence to receive important support services,” Bedford wrote.

The money was dispersed among a wide group of service providers and programs that include employment training for formerly incarcerated young adults, academic support for youth on probation, crisis counseling and legal help for domestic violence victims, street outreach and Ceasefire case management, among other programs, according to Beford’s report.

Though the lion’s share of the money went to existing programs, the grant required some funds — not to exceed $340,000 — be used to enter into agreements with new partners, according to Bedford’s report.

Halpern-Finnerty highlighted some of the pilot programs funded, like academic assistance for youth on probation through the East Bay Asian Youth Center.

“It got off to a good start and went well. This summer kids got interested, so we’re looking into something that is worth funding in the next cycle,” she said.

Halpern-Finnerty said the request for proposal funding process under the recently passed Measure Z encourages innovative new projects that may not have been situated to benefit from the one-time funding grant. On Friday, Oakland Unite submitted plans for a new innovation fund under Measure Z that would create a foothold for new ideas and innovation to reduce violence.

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