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LA County Board of Supervisors

Alt. Public Defenders Before Panel Attorneys for Juvenile Defendants

October 12th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supes. Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl to have attorneys from the Alternate Public Defender’s Office represent juvenile defendants when the Public Defender’s Office is unable to provide counsel. Currently in LA County, when public defenders cannot represent juvenile defendants—due to a conflict of interest or other problem—the kids gets handed to private “panel attorneys,” who get paid an alarmingly low flat-fee stipend for the entirety of each case.

“Today is truly a historic moment,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Our youth have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel and we, as a County, have an obligation to ensure that this right is met. These reforms accomplish that, while also protecting our youth and promoting their rehabilitation.”

In addition to assigning juvenile cases to the county’s Alternative Public Defender’s Office, Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion would also create a unit within the LA County Bar Association, which will provide oversight for the panel attorneys representing any kids whom neither the PD or APD offices can represent.

“Every child in LA County is entitled to quality, competent and effective legal representation,” said Kuehl. “This motion will ensure that happens.”

Two years ago, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas to conduct an analysis of the current juvenile indigent defense system—including how panel attorneys are compensated. (Ridley-Thomas introduced his 2014 motion following the release of a study by Loyola Law School Professor Cyn Yamashiro illuminating serious problems within LA’s system of panel attorneys.)

This week’s motion was introduced in response to a 258-page report by the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law.

According to the report, between 2010-2014, 25% of juvenile petitions were assigned to panel attorneys. The report also found that kids with court-appointed panel lawyers were more likely to be sent to adult court than their peers represented by public defenders.

But the panel attorneys—who are paid between $340-$360 for the life of a case—say they are not the issue, rather, it is the system and the flat fee structure they work under. Supervisor Kuehl noted that the county’s contracts with all panel attorneys are set to expire at the end of the month, and that the attorneys weren’t going to agree to the flat rate any longer.

Supe. Antonovich inquired about the cost of alternatively using only panel attorneys—overseen by the Bar—when PD representation is off the table. County CEO Sachi Hamai informed the board that that option would be more costly than using the APD. In the end, Antonovich abstained from the vote.

Jacqueline Caster, president of the Everychild Foundation, pointed out that the panel attorneys serving indigent adult defendants in LA County are paid by the hour, which gives the attorneys an “incentive to provide better attention to their cases and clients.” Caster, who also serves on the LA County Probation Commission, said that when kids in probation camps need to “access their counsel, to no one’s surprise, it’s very difficult to track their panel attorneys down, let alone receive the services they need in a timely fashion—if at all.” Caster advocated hourly pay for the panel attorneys serving kids at or above the rate received by panel attorneys representing adults because of the extra “training and expertise” juvenile defense attorneys require.

According to the report, panel lawyers consulted with fewer experts, filed fewer motions, provided less documentation in support of their client, and spent an average of just over half as much time as public defenders spent on each juvenile case.

“For too long, the existing system has incentivized a speedy process over one that is just and balanced,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis.

The Alternate Public Defender’s Office says it can take on the juvenile cases immediately, while the LA County Bar Association says it can adopt the changes—intended to create a fairer system for kids charged with crimes—as quickly as November 1.

“Those who have been denied and those who have been neglected…are now going to be able to feel like they are being properly represented,” said Ridley-Thomas.

“Juvenile defense attorneys play a critically important role,” said Kuehl. “They determine whether juveniles will be prosecuted as adults, and they not only defend their young clients, they advocate for mental health, substance abuse and other services that may benefit these young people. We know that juveniles who receive a quality defense and the services they need are much more likely to be set on a path toward successful adulthood.”

Posted in juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors | No Comments »

LA County Supes to Vote on Creating a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform — UPDATED

October 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

UPDATE: On Tuesday, after hearing from advocates and others concerned about certain aspects of a motion to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform, the LA County Supervisors decided to postpone the scheduled vote for two more weeks in order to clarify and improve on the proposed plan. WLA will have more on this story tomorrow.

Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider a motion to form a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform (similar to the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence) to assess problems within the troubled department and to coordinate and bring about reforms to better protect and rehabilitate kids in camps and the youth and adults under supervision.

Here’s a clip from the motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis explaining the need for a blue ribbon panel:

Significant work is underway with the potential to produce meaningful outcomes; however, there is a deficiency in the synchronization of all the current moving elements. A commitment to existing efforts is critical, but integration is required to ensure that true culture change in the Department can be sustained.

Furthermore, new evidence continues to emerge that the Department is still troubled and that additional strategies are needed. As an example, the Department presented data to the Probation Commission showing that use of force incidents in the juvenile halls had nearly doubled from January to July 2016. Other allegations of misconduct in the camps and halls have also surfaced, indicating systemic issues. Despite years of attempted reform, and a growing price tag of operating the camps and halls (with an estimate from a Department audit of a rate of $552 per youth per day), there is widespread concern amongst the Board, Department leadership, and community stakeholders that sustainable reform has yet to be realized. Moreover, the current efforts, while bold and important, are not exhaustive. Gaps still remain in what the Board is currently assessing regarding Department reform. These gaps include: the implementation of state mandates aimed at the adult population, including SB 678 and AB 109; communication and coordination with other agencies serving the same youth and families; racial and ethnic disparities in youth detention and incarceration; inadequate high-quality alternatives to incarceration; and a process for calculating the allocation of Department resources, including opportunities for community input.

The Department’s continued struggle to fulfill its mission of keeping its clients safe, let alone provide for their rehabilitation, underscores that more is still needed and that new approaches should be explored. The time has come for the Board to confirm its commitment to transparency, accountability and sustained transformation. The Board would be best informed by an independent review from an external panel of recognized experts on how, in coordinating the many existing efforts aimed at structural reform and adopting other necessary policy and practice changes, the Department can finally fulfill its mission of protecting, rehabilitating and supervising youth and adults. This type of independent review has been essential in moving forward change in other areas. For example, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence was the impetus for creating the Office of Inspector General, which is positioned to play a prominent role moving forward in providing meaningful oversight of and pushing forward improvements in the jails.

The ACLU of Southern California supports the motion. (So does WitnessLA.) “The Commission is needed because of both the significant and longstanding problems within the Department over the past decade or more and the need for a comprehensive, and unified set of recommendations to chart a path for change for the Department,” said SoCal ACLU’s Chief Counsel, Peter Eliasberg in a letter to the board.

In addition, the ACLU expressed concerns about three of the five candidates identified as finalists by WitnessLA, stating that it “does not believe they have the necessary background and experience to move the department beyond its troubled past.”

We’ll let you know what happens at the Supes’ meeting.

Posted in Juvenile Probation, LA County Board of Supervisors, Probation | No Comments »

LA County Supes Vote to Investigate Abuse Allegations Within Juvenile Lock-Ups

August 3rd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to review three years of “critical incidents” that have taken place in the county’s juvenile halls and probation camps.

The Supervisors were alerted to allegations of probation staff abuse against kids within the county’s juvenile facilities after WitnessLA broke a story about an incident in April at a juvenile hall in Sylmar involving the alleged beating of a non-combative 17-year-old housed at the facility by four probation staff, while a fifth, a supervisor, watched. The beating incident was captured on video by a camera installed in the teen’s room.

Last week, WLA reported on a second alarming incident—this one at Central Juvenile Hall in May. A county employee witnessed a senior Detention Services Officer roughly handling a physically small 14-year-old who had already been restrained on the ground. When the boy said that the DSO was hurting him, the officer yanked the boy up by the back of his sweatshirt, reportedly causing the boy to choke. The teen retaliated by calling the DSO the N-word. According to the witness’s account, things spiraled from there.

With three juvenile halls and thirteen probation camps, Los Angeles County is home to the largest juvenile justice system in the nation. Ridley-Thomas says the reported staff abuses “underscore that more reforms are needed to protect young people and promote institutional accountability. The County’s response to these occurrences can be just as significant over time as the events themselves.”

Tuesday’s motion—which Supe. Ridley-Thomas read in during last week’s board meeting—directs the County CEO to coordinate with the interim Chief Probation Officer, Director of the Dept. of Mental Health, and the Director of the Dept. of Health Services, and return to the board in 45 days with a report that includes Probation’s policies and procedures for reporting incidents like the ones that occurred at the two juvenile halls, an exact definition of what constitutes a “critical incident” versus a “non-critical” incident (and how probation staff make that determination), whether the department’s policies and protocols address the underlying causes of the conflicts between kids and probation staff, and what kind of medical attention and trauma-informed care is provided to youth—both before and in response to an incident.

“Trauma-informed, timely responses that emphasize healing, coordination, and accountability should be the norm and the protocol, not the exception,” Ridley-Thomas said in the motion.

The motion also requests information on how internal investigations are handled and how staff are disciplined following critical and non-critical incidents.

Then, within 90 days, the county’s Auditor-Controller, in coordination with the Interim Chief Probation Officer, the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Attorney of the Office of the Independent Monitor, the Director of the Office of Child Protection, and County Counsel will report back to the board with an analysis of three years of critical incidents that have occurred within the juvenile camps and halls.

“It is a priority of the Board of Supervisors that we do all that we can to make sure those who are in our custody and care are treated as they should be, consistent with the law, and with the basic principles and practices of decency,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Posted in juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, Probation | No Comments »

Supes Meeting: Addressing Juvenile Hall Beating, Transforming a Girls’ Probation Camp, and Placing a Animal Shelter in a Jail

July 27th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


Last month, WitnessLA broke a story about an incident in April at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, CA, involving the alleged beating of a non-combative 17-year-old housed at the facility by four probation staff, while a fifth, a supervisor, watched. The beating incident was captured on video by a camera installed in the teen’s room.

At Tuesday’s LA County Board of Supervisors meeting, Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas read in a motion—which will be officially submitted to the board next week—that directs the County CEO, the interim Chief Probation Officer, Director of the Dept. of Public Health, and the Director of the Dept. of Health Services to review policies and procedures for reporting incidents like the juvenile hall beating. “I think we need to get this ball rolling again and again until we get this right,” Supe Ridley-Thomas said.

The motion will allow the board to “frankly tell the Probation Department to get its act together,” said Ridley-Thomas.

Ridley-Thomas and his fellow supervisors were reportedly disturbed by the Sylmar story, as well as other allegations of staff abuse against kids in camps, halls, and other county probation-run facilities. “The county is responsible for their safety and well-being at all times,” said Ridley-Thomas.

NOTE: WLA has some additional reports on other alleged incidents coming soon.


The Supervisors also voted Tuesday to have county officials look into remodeling Camp Joseph Scott—one of the county’s two probation camp for girls—following the therapeutic dormitory-style remodel that will be completed at Camp Vernon Kilpatrick (soon to be Campus Vernon Kilpatrick) next year.

“Girls and young women who are under Probation Department oversight should have equal access to the same small-group therapeutic model and other benefits available to boys and young men at Campus Kilpatrick that emphasizes: (1) reduced recidivism; (2) positive behavioral change; and (3) improved well-being through education, health and mental health,” says the motion introduced by Supes Sheila Kuehl and Michael Antonovich.

While the cost of a dormitory-style remodel at Scott is yet to be calculated, it likely would be far less than the $52.5 million price tag for Kilpatrick’s upgrades, as Scott would not need a complete tear-down like Kilpatrick.

The approved motion directs the Interim Chief Probation Officer, the Chief Executive Officer, and the Department of Public Works to report back to the board with an analysis of how feasible renovating Scott would be, along with proposed changes to the county budget for fiscal year 2016-2017, as well as any other possible grant funds to offset the cost to the county.


In addition, on Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a motion by Supe. Michael Antonovich to look into placing a new animal shelter for small animals at Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

The jail animal shelter would both ease current levels of overcrowding at the county’s animal shelters, and provide inmates with another avenue for rehabilitation: caring for abandoned animals “who may otherwise languish and be euthanized.” This is an issue that appears to be close to Antonovich’s heart: the supervisor has facilitated more than 1,000 pet adoptions by holding one sweet critter per week at the board meetings, and urging residents to adopt rescues.

(We’ve written about other LA County jails that have participated in rescue dog training programs with great success, including Men’s Central Jail.)

County CEO Sachi Hamai will now work with the Department of Animal Care and Control and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and report back to the board in 30 days on the feasibility of installing an shelter at Pitchess.

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Reducing Exorbitant Phone Fees for LA County Inmates…and Gov. Brown Says He Won’t Declare Homelessness Emergency

June 16th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to significantly reduce exorbitant telephone rates for LA County jail inmates and kids in county probation camps to comply with a 2015 order from the Federal Communications Commission.

Research has consistently shown that contact with family is extremely important for a former offender’s successful reentry into their community, yet contractors gouge inmates’ families with outsized fees that can add up to hundreds of dollars a month—far beyond the means of many low-income families.

The fee changes are listed in a joint recommendation letter from LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and LA County Interim Chief Probation Officer Cal Remington.

Fees ranging from around $1.00 to nearly $6.00 will be eliminated under the contract amendment. The actual per-minute call rate will go up, however, from $.15 to $.21-$.25 per minute.

The money the county receives from the phone contract with PCS—PCS a subsidiary of Global Tel*Link—is either $15 million per year or 67.5% of revenue (whichever is greater). The county then puts that money into Probation’s Detentions Budget and the LASD Inmate Welfare Fund, which pays for inmate education, substance abuse treatment, the jail libraries, and other programs.

The supervisors also requested that the Probation Office of Diversion and Reentry to report back to the board by September 30, with an analysis on the effects of the fee changes on inmates phone use. The supes directed County Counsel to “clarify the parameters of the FCC ruling” and connect with advocacy groups, experts, and other jurisdictions on how best to implement the rules in a way that boosts contact between families and their incarcerated loved ones and reduces recidivism.

Late last year, attorneys Ron Kaye, Barry Litt, Scott Rapkin, and Michael Rapkin filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of families of inmates in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, challenging the “grossly unfair and excessive phone charges” passed on to inmates’ families. (Riverside County is slated to switch over to the lower fees next week.)


Also on Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to call on lawmakers to declare a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis in California, in order to drum up $500 million in state funds for cities and counties grappling with serious homelessness.

Homelessness is still on the rise in Los Angeles County, according to the latest homeless count—up 5.7% over the previous year (to 47,000). In introducing his motion, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas cited several alarming statistics. “The number of homeless persons [in LA County] on any given night is 47,000 approximately,” Ridley-Thomas said. “I’m prepared to say we have 47,000 reasons to act with urgency, including 6,000 parents and their children,” and 4,000 veterans. The California numbers are increasing, too.

“I therefore move that the Board of Supervisors send a five-signature letter to the California Assembly and California Senate asking them to pass a resolution urging the governor to declare a state of emergency in California,” Ridley-Thomas said.

On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown announced that he would not declare a state of emergency. Gov. Brown’s press secretary, Debra Hoffman, told KPCC that it would be inappropriate for Brown to declare a state of emergency, and that local governments “remain best positioned to tackle challenges like this and tailor solutions to the needs of their communities.”

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail | 1 Comment »

Supervisor Candidates on Foster Care and Juvie Justice…the OC Jailhouse Snitch Blog…High Court Hearing on Brown’s Justice Measure…and Homelessness

May 6th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


This week, the Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback has a series of interviews with the top contenders for LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s fifth district seat. Loudenback asks the candidates’ thoughts on improving the juvenile justice and foster care systems in LA County—both the largest in the nation.

We’ve pulled some relevant clips from each (but do go over and read the interviews):

Bob Huff, is a California state Senator representing the 29th District, covering parts of LA, Orange County, and San Bernardino County. Huff has co-authored a bill with Sen. Holly Mitchell, now signed into law, that allows social workers to know about criminal exemptions given to potential foster parents and care providers. Now, Huff is co-authoring another bill with Mitchell that increases the potential foster parent pool and cuts down on delays when kids are being placed with their relatives.

Los Angeles County has been confronted by a sharp uptick in homelessness. A large percentage of the homeless population are youth. How can the county better support these vulnerable youth and get them off the streets?

If we adequately address the issues raised in the other questions, we will have addressed the biggest challenges related to this question. Talking with a skid-row expert, he said that half our foster youth are on the streets within two years of being released from the system. This underscores a systemic breakdown in our care of foster youth. It speaks to poor self-esteem from being bounced around a broken system with not enough quality foster parents, not being trained for the workforce, which speaks to the failures of our educational system. Many have substance abuse issues, which speaks to the lack of intervention and behavioral treatment at an early age. This is exacerbated by our state (and county’s) policies that drive up costs of housing, drive away many businesses that create good-paying jobs. The recent increase in the minimum wage is an excellent example of raising a higher obstacle for kids trying to get their first job to gain experience and build a resume.

There are various community-based programs and organizations that do great work in seeking to support homeless families and children and we should do all we can to work with and help grow these NGO efforts.

Los Angeles County has the largest juvenile justice system in the country. According to a recent review of the Probation Department’s budget and practices, the yearly cost to the county for a youth at one of its juvenile halls was roughly $234,000. For a youth living in one of the county’s camps, a stay there comes to a little more than $200,000 a year. What would you do to lower costs and improve outcomes for the county’s embattled juvenile justice system?

Some progress has been made relative to the over-all administration of the county’s Probation Department as indicated by the conclusion of the federal monitoring of the county’s juvenile camps. Unfortunately, while the population of youths detained under the county’s probation department has dropped from 17,000 in 2011 to just 9,000 last year, the costs have increased dramatically. Much of the increase in cost has been attributed to the cost drivers associated with complying with federally mandated higher staff-to-youth ratios at the halls and camps. According to the department, the mental health, health and educational services required under the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice are more intensive and costlier than those for other California counties.

However, as the recent review by the L.A. County Auditor-Controller’s office found, there is clearly more to be done to ensure that the department remains in compliance with federal requirements and to ensure that operations of the camps provide for the safe rehabilitation and education of youth offenders. The audit found, among other issues, that probation camp staff was not ensuring that youth offenders participated in required substance-abuse treatment programs and therapy for anger management and behavior issues.

There have been allegations of wasteful spending and mismanagement. As supervisor, I would be interested in an independent audit looking at the questions of waste and mismanagement, but also as to whether cost containments and efficiencies can also be identified. Also a comparative analysis could be undertaken of other counties with programs that achieve effective outcomes with a lower cost basis. I believe that improved outcomes can be achieved through ensuring that staff is fully trained and oversight is in place to ensure that youth offenders are able to participate in required substance-abuse treatment, mental health counseling and other education services proven to reduce recidivism.

Elan Carr is a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney—a criminal gang prosecutor—who spent a year prosecuting kids in juvenile court.

Los Angeles County has been confronted by a sharp uptick in homelessness. A large percentage of the homeless population are youth. How can the county better support these vulnerable youth and get them off the streets?

While youth homelessness is a very troubling problem, homelessness in Los Angeles County is not new. We have the largest homeless population in the country – more than 44,000 – and we need leadership. As a criminal prosecutor, I personally experience the results of homelessness on both the homeless population and on the community. That’s why I volunteered to be a part of the new Community Collaborative Court program, where I worked together with judges, probation officers, and county Department of Mental Health personnel to find treatment programs, as an alternative to incarceration, for homeless defendants who are mentally ill or abusing drugs. The problem of homelessness requires both short-term and long-term solutions.

While the county had well-founded reasons for closing the Youth Welcome Centers – including a lawsuit by the state – the closure merely exacerbated the problem and created even more homeless children. We need a safe and expeditious process to remove, hold and transfer children to their new placements. I will ensure that we devote enough revenue every year to housing as well as to programs. And I will expedite development of affordable rental residences so that we can bring the cost of housing down. I look forward to working with the governor, county department heads, the sheriff, district attorney, leaders in the community and adoption agencies to create a robust plan to fix the homeless issue in our county.

Los Angeles County has the largest juvenile justice system in the country. According to a recent review of the Probation Department’s budget and practices, the yearly cost to the county for a youth at one of its juvenile halls was roughly $234,000. For a youth living in one of the county’s camps, a stay there comes to a little more than $200,000 a year. What would you do to lower costs and improve outcomes for the county’s embattled juvenile justice system?

I spent a full year prosecuting minors in juvenile court, and I myself have sent kids to juvenile hall, camp, and on occasion to the Department of Juvenile Justice (formerly CYA). Now, as a criminal gang prosecutor, I prosecute very young adults and regularly secure sentences longer than the than the years they have been alive. It is agonizing to me to see so many of our kids deprived of a nurturing and empowering education and the chance at a good job after high school. Public safety is the main focus of my campaign, and it is vital to remember that we can’t handcuff our way out of the current crime problem.

LA City Councilmember Mitchell Englander, has served the 12th District communities of Granada Hills, Northridge, Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, North Hills, Reseda, Sherwood Forest, and West Hills, since 2011.

Last year, Los Angeles County created the Office of Child Protection to ensure that child safety is embedded in all the county’s agencies and departments. What sort of child maltreatment prevention approaches and strategies should the county adopt and encourage to protect children?

The county’s child protective services agency has been plagued with issues for many years and continues to struggle to fulfill it’s mission. Over the last few years, there have been a number of positive steps towards addressing the issues at the agency, namely creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection and the subsequent creation of the Office of Child Protection (OCP). The work of the commission, as well as the creation of OCP, have helped identify and address critical issues such as mismanagement, case load issues and overall delivery of services. However, in my view, there is a great deal of work to be done. As we work to implement many of the recommendations made by the commission, I strongly believe that regular reassessment and accountability measures are paramount to ensuring that the office is making real progress. I would like to implement an A-P3 – Assess, Provide, Promote, Protect – approach to implementing meaningful changes to address it’s short comings.

Assess: The Blue Ribbon Commission has made great strides in identifying the shortcomings of the child protective services agency. We need to prioritize on-going assessments of the agency as well as measuring the impact that new policies and initiatives have towards reaching identified goals.

Provide: Caseloads have been an issue. While it’s good to hire a thousand new social workers, as the county has done, doing that without giving them the technology and other support resources they need to manage large caseloads is useless. Many have quit, and caseload numbers have increased. While the most tragic stories have been in the front pages, everyday kids are abused, neglected or allowed to be preyed upon. We need to make a commitment to providing modern technologies and tracking mechanisms in order to track work, enhance coordination and improve the exchange of information between relevant agencies. Implementation of the Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System (E-SCARS) is one example of how technology can improve the agency.

Promote: A “see something, say something” approach to child maltreatment needs to be promoted countywide, to all residents, not just care providers and teachers. This is particularly true within the agency. I believe that the Office of Child Protection can play a central role in reshaping the culture within relevant county agencies.

Protect: There needs to be the same ability to anonymously report suspected abuse as there is for other crimes and even a similar reward-type incentive for information leading to convictions. We also need to place a greater emphasis on utilizing background checks as well as regular in-depth welfare checks to ensure that children are placed in safe and healthy environments.

Kathryn Barger, chief of staff to current Supervisor Michael Antonovich, has spent more than 25 years working for the supervisor.

Los Angeles County has the largest juvenile justice system in the country. According to a recent review of the Probation Department’s budget and practices, the yearly cost to the county for a youth at one of its juvenile halls was roughly $234,000. For a youth living in one of the county’s camps, a stay there comes to a little more than $200,000 a year. What would you do to lower costs and improve outcomes for the county’s embattled juvenile justice system?

I will review the completed fiscal analysis that is underway by the CEO now, which will help us better understand the cost per youth in our institutions. Based on the data, I would propose a four-pronged approach:

Ensure that the only the youth who should be confined in our institutions are those in our institutions (i.e., high risk and not for minor infractions, such as curfew violations).

Expand and enhance community-based programs for the youth who can be safely and effectively treated and supervised in the community. We have recently expanded our partnerships with community-based organizations like UCAN, Boys and Girls Clubs in San Gabriel and Santa Clarita Valleys, Asian Youth Center, and Mentoring and Partnership Program in Pasadena. I will also work with the Probation Department to establish a juvenile day reporting center in the Fifth District, which is in preliminary stages.

We need to do a better job of preventing the crossover of our foster youth into the juvenile-justice system. We know that there is a substantial link between children who are abused and neglected and subsequently enter the juvenile-justice system. We must continue to improve service coordination and integration between the Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, Mental Health and Public Health to provide needed services to foster youth. And we need to effectively and efficiently link youth with substance abuse services which are available through Medi-Cal.

Given that the population of youth in our camps and halls has decreased by more than 60 percent in the last seven years and the on-going challenges in filling staffing vacancies, I will ensure that the human resources are deployed where there is the greatest need.

Darrell Park is an entrepreneur focusing on start-ups and clean energy, who has worked at the federal White House Office of Management and Budget.

Last year, Los Angeles County created the Office of Child Protection to ensure that child safety is embedded in all the county’s agencies and departments. What sort of child maltreatment prevention approaches and strategies should the county adopt and encourage to protect children?

Every child must be treated as our most valuable resource. That must be our goal. As a child, my parents hosted 19 foster children over the years. Some stayed for a weekend, others stayed for years. Los Angeles County’s system is not workable, as it currently functions. But there are simple solutions to fix what is wrong with this system, and make L.A. County the model for the rest of the country.

For instance, we need many more caseworkers, but we can also increase the effectiveness of every case worker by 30 percent immediately. We have underutilized the use of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s motor pool. We can get workers to their meetings as fast as lights and sirens can allow, and that can be changed instantly. We also need to use our county support staff that can take dictation from case workers as they drive between appointments, so workers don’t have to waste time sitting at a desk.

Other successful programs across the country also involve outreach efforts to secure many volunteers to provide support for families, facilities and kids, so that every child is supported and surrounded by love. Studies have shown that for a teen to become a successful adult, they need at least seven positive relationships with other adults as they grow up. Unfortunately, that resource of human capital is deeply lacking for foster youth.

(Note: CSC is also holding an LA County Board of Supervisors Fifth District Forum on Children’s issues, which you can RSVP for: here.)


In the newest twist in the ongoing Orange County jailhouse snitch scandal, OC Sheriff’s Department members kept a secret blog on jail informants that was kept away from defense lawyers. Information about the “unauthorized” blog, which was hidden on the county jail’s computer system, surfaced during testimony in the murder trial of Daniel Patrick Wozniak. (Here’s the backstory on the OCDA and the OC Sheriff’s Department’s misuse of jailhouse informants to extract confessions, as well as the withholding of evidence from defendants.)

One of the deputies involved in the blog, was accused of giving false testimony during the murder trial of Scott Evans Dekraai, which was one of the reasons the OC DA’s Office was banned from prosecuting the death penalty portion of Dekraai’s trial. A different informant information system was found during the Dekraai trial that helped deputies hide possibly helpful evidence away from defendants.

Voice of OC’s Rex Dalton has the story. Here’s a clip:

These details were revealed during a remarkable all-day hearing Tuesday before Judge John D. Conley, with testimony by sheriff’s officials, including Commander Adam Powell, who oversees all of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ investigative services.

This is now the second time Sanders has uncovered a computer system through which sheriff’s deputies kept secret potentially helpful evidence from murder defendants. The Dekraai case revealed a system maintained by deputies with so-called TRED records on informants and inmates in county jails.

It was not disclosed until late 2014 when prosecutors responded to an 11th hour subpoena by Sanders. The TRED records were instrumental in Goethals’ decision that some deputies provided false testimony in the Dekraai case.

Ultimately last year, Goethals ruled the state Attorney General’s Office should prosecute the penalty phase of Dekraai’s trial. The judge’s order is under appeal, with Rackauckas’ plan to seek the death penalty on hold.

Then in February, Goethals overturned the 2006 murder conviction of Henry Rodriguez of Anaheim for a 1998 double murder, citing constitutional rights violations involving informant evidence again “washing ashore.”

During the Rodriguez proceedings for a retrial, a sheriff’s deputy from the special handling unit that works with jail informants produced the heretofore unknown cache of computer notes — which started multi-pronged hunts for more similar records.

Last month, Sanders subpoenaed any similar notes from the sheriff’s department for his defense of Wozniak — who in December was convicted by a jury who recommended the death penalty.

Wozniak faces sentencing on May 20. But a sentencing on that date looks increasingly unlikely given the ongoing hearing that continues Thursday.

Unless he can win a dismissal of the death penalty, Sanders has said in court that he will seek a new penalty phase trial for Wozniak, with the evolving mishandling of evidentiary notes likely to play a significant role. Sanders was scheduled to file a major motion in the case May 6, but that too is likely to be delayed.


On Thursday, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the legality of a last-minute amendment to Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot initiative that would remove the power to transfer kids to adult court from prosecutors, and give the control back to judges, as well as increase inmates’ access to early release credits.

Earlier this year, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang blocked California Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot initiative, siding with California District Attorney’s Association members, whose lawsuit alleged that amendments to the initiative did not go through the proper legal process. The state Supremes put a hold on Chang’s ruling, allowing Brown to continue collecting signatures to qualify for the November ballot in the meantime. (Read the backstory: here.)

During Thursday’s hearing, the justices reportedly seemed skeptical of the attempt by the DA’s union to block Brown’s measure, saying that the law gives a considerable amount of leeway for making changes to a measure before it goes out for signature-collecting.

The high court is expected to rule on the issue within 90 days.

The Sacramento Bee’s David Siders has more on the hearing. Here’s a clip:

While a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled the measure substantially changed the content of the original initiative, several justices on Thursday suggested state law grants the proponents of a measure broad authority to make changes before circulating it for signatures.

“It seems pretty clear to me that the Legislature wanted to give a great deal of latitude to the proponents of any initiative,” Justice Carol A. Corrigan said.

At issue before the court is a sweeping effort by Brown to reduce prison crowding and to ease the effect of fixed-term sentencing standards that Brown signed into law – and later regretted – when he was governor before. Filing his initiative as an amendment to an existing proposal allowed him to move more quickly through the state’s initiative review process.

A ruling by the Supreme Court is due within 90 days.

In an hour-long oral argument, justices pressed the Brown administration on how dramatically it changed the original proposal. Brown’s opponents, including the California District Attorneys Association and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, had argued Brown’s measure should have gone through its own review process, including public comment.


Homelessness is still on the rise in Los Angeles County, according to the latest homeless count—up 5.7% over the previous year, which is less than half of the 12% increase experienced in 2014, but still disappointing.

LA County and LA City have a collaborated on comprehensive plan to help and house thousands of homeless residents through interagency coordination, non-profits, philanthropy groups, and businesses. But the housing (and required dollars) won’t appear overnight. Much of the funding has not yet been gathered, and there’s not much in the way of affordable housing real estate options, the LA Times editorial board points out. And the focus should be on addressing the issues that lead people to become—and stay—homeless. Here’s a clip:

City and county officials need to maintain the will and the commitment to fight this devastating social problem, even though they can be sure there will be political pitfalls ahead. They will have to work hard to explain the situation to voters and to persuade them that the best, most effective solutions have been identified. It is possible to make headway against homelessness; indeed, the best news in yesterday’s report was that veteran homelessness was significantly down — 30% — from 2015. That’s a testament to the increase in financial resources and personnel focused on veterans by the federal, county, and city governments over the last few years.

On Wednesday, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion directing the county’s Executive Officer to pursue a change in state law to grant counties the authority to seek voter approval of a tax on personal income above $1 million a year to combat homelessness.

Creating more housing must be a high priority in an area with such an extremely low vacancy rate and stratospherically high rents. That’s the most costly part of solving homelessness.

Of course, the city and county are already housing thousands of people each year. The problem is that as more are housed, more become homeless. So part of the challenge is to prevent homelessness in the first place, which in turn requires an understanding of who these people are and how they lost their homes in the first place. Were they evicted? Do they suffer from mental illness or drug addiction? Are they newly homeless or have they been on the streets for years? Are they in treatment? What do they need to rebuild their lives?

This post has been updated to include The Chronicle of Social Change’s interview with Mitch Englander.

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors | No Comments »

More on the State of Juvenile Defense in LA County…LA’s Wrongful Convictions Unit…and Presidential Commutations

March 31st, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Monday, LA County CEO Sachi Hamai released a colossal 258-page report highlighting inequalities in representation for indigent juveniles who are represented by private panel attorneys, rather than the county’s public defenders. If you are unfamiliar with the issue, when public defenders are unable to represent juvenile defendants (often because of a conflict of interest), the kids gets bounced to panel attorneys, who are paid a shockingly low flat-fee stipend for each case.

Among other noteworthy findings, the report revealed that panel attorneys, when compared with public defenders, consulted with fewer experts, filed fewer motions, and provided less documentation in support of their client. And those kids with panel counsel were more likely to be sent to adult court than their peers represented by public defenders. (Read more about the report in our earlier post: here.)

A motion previewed at the LA County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday would direct the CEO and County Counsel to look into a number of possible reforms to the way poor juveniles are represented in Los Angeles (with the help of a consulting expert on indigent defense), including the creation of an oversight unit for panel attorneys run by the LA County Bar Association, elimination of the problematic flat-fee structure for panel attorneys, increasing access to appropriate experts, merging the Public Defender’s Office with the Alternate Public Defender’s Office, and increasing use of alternate public defenders in juvenile cases, among other actions. Currently, only Lancaster uses alternate public defenders for juvenile defense when public defenders are unavailable or have a conflict of interest. Panel attorneys are used less often under this structure (similar to the way adult indigent defense is set up in LA County). The motion directs the CEO and County Counsel to report back on these possible reform areas in 90 days.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion with Supe. Sheila Kuehl, said the proposal addresses “an area that needs our urgent attention.” The Supes are expected to consider the motion at next week’s meeting.


Since its launch nine months ago, LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s Conviction Review Unit—which investigates innocence claims—has been slammed with 730 petitions from people who say they’re innocent.

The Conviction Review Unit has only made it through preliminary reviews of about a third of the cases. A total of 213 cases are ready for an in-depth review, a couple of cases are currently undergoing a more thorough innocence review, 42 cases have been rejected outright, and 13 claims have been referred to staff for further action.

Advocates say the pace is frustratingly slow considering some men and women may be needlessly behind bars, but DA Lacey says the task force is “working as diligently and as hard as we can to quickly get cases reviewed.”

KPCC’s Ashley Bailey has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

“I think the DA’s heart is absolutely in the right place, I think the problem has been getting the unit up and going and understanding how these decisions will be made,” said Loyola Law Professor Laurie Levenson, founder of the university’s Project for the Innocent.

“On our end, that’s a bit frustrating ’cause we have cases that we want resolved today,” she said.

As of this March, 213 cases are ready for review, 42 claims have been rejected, 13 have been assigned to staff for followup, and a couple are under a much more thorough investigation.

Lacey said she’s mindful that people are sitting in prison every day and there could be a person who is wrongfully convicted waiting for help, but asked for patience and cooperation while investigators conduct a diligent review.

The goal of L.A. County’s unit is to investigate credible claims where new, substantial evidence, such as DNA, casts doubt on a conviction of someone still in prison on a serious or violent felony.

“The person has to currently be in custody and has to be a case where they claimed actual innocence from the get go, so we have of course murder cases that fall into that,” Lacey said. “These are serious cases where someone is probably doing life or a substantial amount of state prison time.”


San Diego County has joined a growing number of cities and counties across the nation—Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia among them—with task forces to investigate wrongful convictions. SD’s new conviction review unit will be comprised of two full-time prosecutors to work in conjunction with the SD Public Defender’s Office and the California Innocence Project to write justice system wrongs.

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kristina Davis has more on the welcome announcement from SD District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Here’s a clip:

“We recognize that despite our goal of pursuing justice and truth, in a few instances new evidence is discovered and in some cases, mistakes are found,” Dumanis said in a news conference Wednesday. “As prosecutors, our legal, moral and ethical obligation is to ensure the right person is convicted for the crime charged.”

The unit is already looking at about 10 cases.

The work will be done in coordination with the Public Defender’s Office and the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law. Both applauded the district attorney for her willingness to give convictions a second look.

“As good as our system is, as much checks and balances as we have, people do slip through the cracks,” said Public Defender Henry Coker. “Things look like what they’re not, and lives are lost in that process.”

Justin Brooks, director and cofounder of the California Innocence Project, said the District Attorney’s Office has been at the forefront of a nationwide sea change recognizing it is possible to put innocent people in prison.

“It’s all of our job together to right these wrongs,” Brooks said. “… It should be done in a way that’s not about pointing fingers but getting the right result.”

Claims of innocence must meet a certain threshold for review: the conviction must have occurred in the San Diego County Superior Court, the convict must still be serving the sentence, the crime must be a serious or violent felony (that is, murder, kidnapping, rape), there must be credible and verifiable evidence of innocence, and the convict must be willing to cooperate with the process.

Prosecutors realize they will likely be inundated with requests that don’t fit that criteria, but they promised to still look through each application for cases that should be reviewed. If the circumstances don’t necessarily fall into their jurisdiction, they said they will pass the request along to the appropriate person.

The unit will be led by Deputy District Attorneys Bryn Kirvin, who has served as the office’s ethics coordinator, and Brent Neck, who for the past five years has worked as the office’s liaison to the Innocence Project.


On Wednesday, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 61 Americans serving time in prison under outdated, tough-on-crime sentencing laws.

The move is a significant one for a president who has faced criticism from activists in past years for granting few people clemency.

President Obama has now commuted sentences for 248 people—more than the last six presidents combined, although ___ of those six presidents granted more pardons than Obama has thus far. For instance, while former President George W. Bush commuted just 11 sentences, he pardoned 189—a good deal more than Obama’s current 61, according to the US Department of Justice comparison chart. (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.)

More than a third of the people benefiting from Obama’s latest clemency push were serving life sentences.

“The power to grant pardons and commutations… embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws,” the president wrote in a letter to the 61 clemency recipients.

Posted in LA County Board of Supervisors | No Comments »

County Litigation Figures, and LA County and City Approve Big-Ticket Settlements

January 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


LA County spent $118.9 million during fiscal year 2014-2015, an increase of 24% over the $95.6 million spent in FY 2013-14 according to a new report from County Counsel.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department alone spent $61 million on litigation, up 50%—$20 million—over the previous year’s $40 million. The LASD spent more than half—$33.5 million—on excessive force incidents, most of which were patrol cases (only 3.7% were jail cases). The excessive force cost was up nearly $10 million over the previous year.

Much of these cases date back several years. So while the sum paid out for law enforcement cases has risen over the past few years, instances of excessive use of force are actually declining. A report from the County CEO’s Office, also presented to the board Tuesday, says that use of force numbers dropped 22% from fiscal year 2013-2014 to 2014-2015.

Nearly half of the total $118.9 million was spent on litigation via attorneys’ fees and costs.

“Every cent the county spends on litigation is precious funding that we cannot use to house the homeless, promote better health and wellness for children, upskill our workforce and provide countless other needed services to our communities,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis in a statement.


After County Counsel presented a breakdown of last year’s legal costs to the Supervisors, the board approved a $1.6 million settlement in a lawsuit against the LASD over the fatal shooting of an 80-year-old man, Eugene Robert Mallory, in his home.

The LA Times Abby Sewell has more on the settlement. Here’s a clip:

The deputies were serving a search warrant at Mallory’s home in the community of Littlerock near Palmdale in June 2013 while investigating reports of a suspected meth lab.

No evidence of methamphetamine was found. Sheriff’s officials at the time said that marijuana was discovered on the property.

Mallory’s wife filed a wrongful death suit against the department. According to a statement released by her attorneys at the time, deputies claimed that Mallory had confronted them with a gun, but his wife said he was “sleeping in his bed when he was confronted and shot without warning.”

In a memo to the supervisors, county attorneys said the county denies the allegations in the lawsuit but recommended settling the case “due to the risks and uncertainties of litigation.”


The LA City Council has approved $24.3 million in settlements to two men, Kash Delano Register and Bruce Lisker, who spent decades behind bars for murders they did not commit.

The city will pay $16.7 million to Kash Delano Register, who spent 34 years in prison, and $7.6 million to Bruce Lisker, who spent 26 years in prison after being falsely convicted of killing his mother when he was 17.

CBS has the story. Here’s a clip:

Register had been convicted of the April 6, 1979, shooting death of 79-year-old Jack Sasson in West Los Angeles. A key witness in the case, Brenda Anderson, testified that she saw Register at the crime scene. Register was found guilty despite claims by his girlfriend that she was with him at the time.

Anderson’s sister, Sharon, testified at a court hearing in 2013 that her sibling had lied. According to attorneys for the Project for the Innocent, another Anderson sister tried to tell police investigating the shooting in 1979 that Brenda had lied to authorities, but the claim was never presented to Register’s defense attorney.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader ruled that the prosecution had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence and used false testimony at Register’s trial. That ruling cleared the way for the then-53-year-old Register’s release in 2013…

Register’s New York-based attorney, Nick Brustin, said he is “hopeful that Los Angeles will build on this settlement by adopting reforms to their eyewitness identification procedures.”

“This case should also be a lesson to Los Angeles and other cities to take a hard look at other cases where inmates proclaim their innocence, even where, as here, there was no remaining physical evidence to do testing like DNA,” he said.


Lisker was convicted in 1985 of second-degree murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison for the death of his 66-year-old mother, Dorka, who was found stabbed and beaten to death in their Sherman Oaks home in 1983, when he was 17 years old.

A Los Angeles Times investigation in 2005 called into question much of the evidence in Lisker’s trial, and his conviction was overturned in August 2009 by a federal judge in Riverside, who ruled that false evidence had been used and that Lisker had inadequate legal representation.

Posted in LA City Council, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD | 8 Comments »

LASD Oversight Moves Forward, LAPD Chief’s Recommendation for Charges in Venice Shooting, Closed Adoptions, and the State of the Union

January 13th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a plan for appointing members to a civilian oversight commission for the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

The motion allows former law enforcement to serve on the nine-member panel, but only if they had been disengaged from the LASD (or other law enforcement agency) for at least a year.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who submitted the motion with Supe. Hilda Solis, defended the inclusion of former members of law enforcement, saying, “This is not about anti-law enforcement from my point of view, it is about pro-accountability of law enforcement. You want the best people to be part of causing that to happen, irrespective of their discipline.”

Supervisor Solis added that moving toward the creation of an oversight commission is a step toward better fiscal responsibility—better use of taxpayer money. “The County spends millions of taxpayer dollars settling lawsuits. That money could be spent on housing, services, or tax relief.”

You can read more about the decision on Supe. Ridley-Tomas’ website. Here’s a clip:

The motion also drew praise from Jose Osuna, director of external affairs at Homeboy Industries, which provides job training to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women, allowing them to become contributing members of society.

We are highly encouraged by the commitment that is demonstrated by this motion to improve relationships between law enforcement, government, and the community,” Mr. Osuna told the Board.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell expressed support for the motion, saying, “I welcome the opportunity to work with the Inspector General and to have the Civilian Oversight Commission to be able to validate the good that’s being done (by the Sheriff’s Department) on behalf of the public.”Since the Sheriff signed a memorandum of agreement last month to provide the Inspector General with unprecedented access to information, the Board will wait until May 31 before considering asking voters to give the Commission subpoena powers via Charter amendment.

Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA, supported the move. “I agree with the makers of the motion that it is worthwhile to allow the Sheriff to demonstrate that his voluntary agreement to share information with the Commission will be sufficient,” he told the Board. “[Afterwards], the Supervisors can consider what, if any, changes should be made involving subpoena power and changes to state law.

Under the motion, the five Supervisors would each appoint a Commissioner. The Board as a whole would appoint four other Commissioners from a pool of candidates recruited by a consultant.


An LA Times editorial lauds LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s recommendation that a deputy be charged in the fatal shooting of a Venice homeless man as a rare and welcome change from what we have come to expect from the nation’s police chiefs. Here’s a clip:

To some, it may seem like an overtly political act. Some may suspect that Beck threw an officer under the bus to appease local activists and perhaps city officials in an effort to avoid the kind of uproar faced in Chicago and other cities where police officers have shot unarmed African Americans with seeming impunity. And who wouldn’t be suspicious? After all, this sort of recommendation isn’t made by police chiefs very often.

But maybe it should be done more often. Not the throwing under the bus part — obviously a police chief should base his decision on the facts and the evidence, and not on political pressure or public outcry. But the willingness of a chief to acknowledge that sometimes use of force is not justified even if a suspect was behaving badly is an important step forward. Historically, police chiefs in L.A. and elsewhere have been part of the cone of silence in cases of deadly use of force. No doubt the public outrage over police killings has made that stance more difficult.

The police union, however, is not at all thrilled with Beck’s decision to recommend charges. The LA Times Kate Mather has more on the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s statement, as well as a story about Beck’s responses to critics and outreach to his officers.

And the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf has more on the fatal shooting of Brendan Glenn, an unarmed homeless man in Venice, and Chief Beck’s recommendation to charge Officer Clifford Proctor.


After losing nearly all contact with her four nieces and nephews after their closed adoption—an process that has been traumatizing for all involved—17-year-old Jordain Rodriguez has stepped up to fight for children in the child welfare system. Rodriguez believes that regular contact with her nieces and nephews, whom she helped raise, would have been far more beneficial for the children, helping to reduce abandonment-related trauma.

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

…at age 13, life abruptly changed for Rodriguez. She was taken from her parents by child protective services and placed in relative foster care with her grandmother. Not long afterward, her nieces and nephews entered the system as well.

She remains haunted by the experience, especially when social workers arrived to take away some of the children.

“It was the worst thing I have ever had to do,” Rodriguez said. “They didn’t want to go, and they were scared to go in the car with a stranger.”

About a year later, the children were placed with an adoptive family, and Rodriguez and other family members—including her parents, her brother, her boyfriend and both of her sisters—were allowed a final visit before the children disappeared into the adoptive system.

“We didn’t tell the kids it was the last visit, but you could tell they knew this was the last time,” she said. “They were all upset. You could just tell.

“After the visit, I was very mad that I couldn’t do anything to keep them with me and that I had no say so about what the parents decided. I started crying a lot. It just broke my heart to see them leave.”

During the process, she worked with the Real Family Project to create a video about her story and listened to the experiences of adults who had been adopted in childhood. Issues like grief, abandonment and identity development may often follow adoptees into adulthood, leading to unresolved trauma long after an adoption occurs.

“I didn’t think that the hurt would stay with them so long after the adoption,” Rodriguez said. “It opened my eyes. Without answers, kids are always going to wonder where their families are.”


Rodriguez is not content to let fate handle matters or wait until her nieces and nephews reach 18, when they’ll be able to access information about their biological family if they wish. In February, along with other CYC members, Rodriguez will make a visit to the state capitol in Sacramento, where she’ll present some of her research to legislators in support of a bill to better protect the rights of family members in the adoption process.

In closed adoptions, [adoptive parents] have all the power,” Rodriguez said. “The biggest thing is not making this just about siblings. It needs to be about all of the biological family. If they’re a good influence on the kids and if they have good intentions, [the law] shouldn’t just let adoptive parents rip them away.”


Among the State of the Union guests seated next to Michelle Obama last night was Sue Ellen Allan, a woman who spent close to seven years in Arizona’s state prison for women. Once she was released in 2009, Allan fought to get back into the women’s prison to help the locked-up women with education services and employment training to disrupt the recidivism cycle. Sue Ellen’s non-profit re-entry program, Gina’s Team, is named after her cellmate who died while locked up.

Allan’s inclusion on the list of State of the Union guests is particularly noteworthy because while we hear often about initiatives and services meant to help imprisoned men, we rarely hear about women-specific programs and other efforts.

You can read more about Sue Ellen’s story over at Buzzfeed.

Also among the guests in the First Lady’s Box was Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who has become a national leader for community policing practices.

The White House also left an empty chair in the First Lady’s Box to represent the people killed by gun violence in the US each year.

Despite a handful of important criminal justice guests, the president only touched lightly on a couple of criminal justice topics. “I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse,” Obama said early on in his speech.

ThinkProgress has compiled a list of the social justice-related topics that Obama skipped, including gun violence.

Slate’s Leon Neyfakh has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Besides the reference he made to the issue at the very beginning—in which he used justice reform as an example of a bipartisan effort he hopes Democrats and Republicans can work on together during the coming year—Obama brought up the criminal justice system just once, gesturing somewhat obliquely at the end of the speech to his belief that employers should not reject applicants based solely on their criminal record. (In a reference to the national debate over police use of force, he also gave a shoutout to “the protester determined to prove that justice matters” and “the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.”)

While reform advocates might take solace in the fact that criminal justice came up mere seconds into Obama’s remarks, it still got barely any airtime. Some experts in the field are speculating that it’s a strategic move—that Obama doesn’t want to associate himself too closely with the ongoing efforts to push a criminal justice bill through Congress, lest it scare off Republicans who would rather not be seen supporting his agenda. There’s also an argument to be made that, given the federal government’s relatively limited ability to make a dent on what is fundamentally a state issue, it’s only appropriate that the president prioritize other topics.

Posted in Charlie Beck, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD | No Comments »

Populating the LASD Oversight Commission….LAPD Chief Recommends Charges in Officer-Involved Shooting….and More

January 12th, 2016 by Taylor Walker


On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors are expected to discuss the makeup of a civilian commission to oversee the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

In previous talks about the oversight commission, one important topic of discussion has been whether retired sworn personnel could serve as commission members, or whether that would create a conflict of interest.

Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis have submitted a motion to only allow former LASD personnel to serve on the nine-member commission after they had been disconnected from the department for one year.

Mark Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now argues ex-deputies should not serve on the board at all. Johnson says that even former personnel like Bob Olmsted, who testified about corruption and misconduct within the department to the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence, could serve as advisors to the commission but not as commissioners, arguing that ex-cops on the commission could potentially harm the group’s credibility.

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

“Fundamentally, we don’t think law enforcement should be policing law enforcement,” said Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now, a group that formed to protest deputy-on-inmate violence in the jails and pushed for the new commission.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Johnson said. “The community needs to know that they can go to a place where the people they are talking to have not been entrenched in a practice of law enforcement – one that protects law enforcement.”

But L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and the powerful Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs argue excluding former deputies from eligibility would be unfair and also exclude people who know the inner workings of the department.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis agree — and have introduced a motion that would allow former deputies to serve on the commission after a one-year period away from the department. They argue an ex-cop’s perspective could be valuable on a panel charged with looking for problems at the Sheriff’s Department.

“There is no question that it could have a lot of value depending on who the person is,” said Ridley-Thomas. He points to the late Jesse Brewer, a former LAPD assistant chief who became a strong voice for reform on the city’s civilian police commission in the 1990s.

“In my view he was one of the best commissioners to ever serve,” said Ridley-Thomas.

Johnson agrees that former officers can be valuable, citing ex-Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted. He was one of the few sheriff’s officials to testify about problems at the department at the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence.


Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has recommended that the LA County District Attorney’s Office charge police officer Clifford Proctor in the fatal shooting of Brendon Glenn, an unarmed homeless man in Venice.

Video and other evidence from the May shooting led police investigators to determine that during an altercation, Proctor shot 29-year-old Glenn twice in the back while Glenn was lying on his stomach on the ground.

It’s now up to LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey as to whether Proctor will be charged. This is the first time Chief Beck has ever recommended charges for an on-duty fatal shooting by an officer.

ABC7 has the story. Here’s a clip:

Proctor’s attorney said the officer saw Glenn reaching for his partner’s gun. However, Beck said that after reviewing video, witness accounts and other evidence, investigators determined Glenn was not trying to take either Proctor’s gun or his partner’s weapon at the time of the shooting.

Glenn was among 21 people fatally shot by Los Angeles police in 2015, when the overall number of officer-involved shootings in the nation’s second-largest city increased by 52 percent.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that he hopes Beck’s recommendation is “considered with the utmost gravity.”

“As the District Attorney reviews this case, my hope is that Chief Beck’s recommendation is considered with the utmost gravity. No one is above the law, and whenever use-of-force crosses the line, it is our obligation to make sure that principle is upheld,” he said.

The police union, however blasted Beck.

“Chief Beck should never be involved in this,” said Craig Lally of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. “He should just hand over the investigation and let the people that are actually going to either file or prosecute this case – with the evidence at hand – let them decide.”

Meanwhile, there was rare praise for Beck from civil rights activists.

“It is so unprecedented,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable. “When in living memory can you remember a local police chief saying ‘an officer messed up. An officer abused his authority.’”


Between 2005-2015, there was only one officer charged with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty fatal use of force. While the number of officers charged in the deaths of civilians has risen across the nation, it is still very difficult to convict an officer in an on-duty shooting, point out the LA Times’ Jack Leonard and James Queally, who have compiled a list of recent charges against California officers and their outcomes. Here’s a clip:

Despite California’s sheer size, officers rarely face charges for on-duty shootings, according to Phillip M. Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State in Ohio who is tracking murder or manslaughter charges against officers nationwide.

From 2005-15, only one California officer was charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with an on-duty shooting, said Stinson. Nationally, 65 officers were charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with their role in on-duty shootings in that time frame, Stinson said.

Last year saw a noticeable spike in the frequency of such serious charges across the country, he said.

Eighteen officers were charged in 2015 with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty shooting, according to Stinson’s data. From 2011-14, just 16 officers faced similar charges.

Stinson said it’s too early to tell if there is a link between increased national scrutiny of police actions and an uptick in the number of murder or manslaughter charges filed against officers.

California prosecutors who have brought such cases in the last few decades have sometimes struggled to win convictions.


Thanks to a change in state law, visitors at California prisons will no longer be subjected to strip searches.

Under the new regulations, visitors will now incur a year’s worth of heightened scrutiny if drug sniffing dogs or scanners detect illegal substances. And the penalties for those who refuse a clothed pat-down after being flagged by dog or machine will face increasing penalty levels for each refusal.

The Associated Press has the story.

It’s the first time visitors will be scrutinized by dogs that previously have been used to search inmates, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Dana Simas said Monday.

Visitors who are spotlighted by a dog or ion scanner but refuse clothed searches face an increasing range of penalties under the revised regulations the department proposed on Friday and will take effect after a public comment period.

A first refusal means no visit that day. A second refusal could bring a loss of visiting privileges for 30 days, while a third could mean no visits for a year. A fourth refusal in a year could result in the permanent revocation of visiting privileges.

The progressive penalties will encourage visitors to submit to the searches, the department said in outlining the new regulations.

Even if a visitor submits to a clothed search and no drugs or other contraband is found, the visitor can’t have physical contact with an inmate during that day’s visit and must go through the process again the next time he or she visits an inmate within the next 12 months.

Posted in Charlie Beck, LA County Board of Supervisors, LAPD, LASD | 112 Comments »

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