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Tanaka Supporters to Sue LA County Sheriff’s Department for Retaliation

October 9th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


In the past, attorney Bradley Gage has successfully sued the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department
in behalf of various department members who claimed that they had been retaliated against, and/or denied promotions, because they had in some way displeased former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka.

Gage has more lawsuits still in progress, brought by LASD employees alleging retaliation by higher ups, including the case of whistleblower deputies, James Sexton and Mike Rathbun, whose lawsuit Gage has just moved from federal to state court.

For years, according to Gage, when would-be LASD clients came into his office with cases of perceived retaliation, more often than not, Paul Tanaka was named as the one behind, or supporting, these alleged acts of retaliation.

“Now,” said Gage, “Tanaka’s gone and those people who are aligned with Tanaka seem to be the targets.”

Gage said he has agreed to represent five such people claiming retaliation by Sheriff Baca for their very public support of Mr. Tanaka, who is now challenging his former boss as Baca makes a bid for a 5th term in office. “And I’ve gotten calls about five more who are being represented by other attorneys, plus I hear from my clients that there are another four or five still out there who are afraid to come forward.”

Until the lawsuits are actually filed, Gage declined to name those department members who have come to him alleging retaliation. But he did say that his new clients were all people who either stood behind the former undersheriff at the August 15 press conference when he announced his candidacy, or they were listed as one if his supporters in a mid-September campaign announcement—or both.

As to what type of retaliation is alleged, Gage said, “In some cases, what we’re talking about is unjustified transfers to areas very far from home, what they call ‘freeway therapy.’ In other cases, [they are being hit by] internal affairs allegations and, in some instances, criminal allegations, for alleged incidents that are maybe two years old, and have never been pursued. These are things that were known for a long time and were evidently not considered a problem before. They are all situations that suggest disparate treatment, meaning that if you’re ‘in the car,’ as they say, you can get away with stuff, but if you’re not, they’ll come after you.”

Asked whether he was surprised to be approached by self-described Tanaka supporters, when he has repeatedly named the former undersheriff in lawsuits.

“No, because this department has a culture of retaliation,” he said. “It’s been a problem for a long time. But the difference is that now the yellow brick road leads back to Sheriff Baca.”

After speaking with Gage, WitnessLA asked Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore about the new string of allegations of retaliatory treatment reportedly coming from the Tanaka camp.

“Look, we understand that this is politics,” said Whitmore, adding, “Its a political maneuver to bring light to someone they’re supporting. There’s no truth to it.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Tanaka is busily campaigning in 88 cities in 88 days.


Photo of Manny Rayes from Manny Rayes collection, via Mission & State

Posted in 2014 election, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 114 Comments »

Santa Barbara Gangster Turned Philosophy Professor….Long Beach Schools Reject Zero Tolerance…& More on the Special Counsel’s Report

October 9th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


GANG MEMBER….SURFER…PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR: THE EVOLUTION OF MANNY RAYA

Santa Barbara’s Mission and State has produced another one of their wonderful non-fiction narrative tales, this one written by Karen Pelland about a confused kid named Manny Raya whose caring but overstressed immigrant mother let him run in the streets, until he inevitably joined a gang and began winding up on the wrong side of the law, his life trajectory decidedly unpromising.

But as luck would have it, several adults—notably two local cops and a philosophy professor—saw something special in the kid and reached out to him. Now Raya has a master’s degree in philosophy and is a sought after philosophy instructor at Santa Barbara City College. And he’s a surfer.

How 32-year-old Raya recalibrated his trajectory (with a little help from Plato) is a story worth reading.

Here’s a representative clip from the story’s middle to get you started:

Joining a gang was not something Raya set out to do.

“It was confusing,” he admits. “As a kid you’re trying to figure out who you are, and you’re trying to separate from your family.” In Raya’s tiny world, that meant one thing: the streets. “The gang to me was everything,” he says. “I didn’t see options. What, I was going to be a gardener?”

Jumped in (delivered a ritual beating) to the Westside Projects gang at 15 with the street name “Fozzy,” Raya’s transition from carefree boyhood to troubled-filled adolescence did not go unnoticed by his mother.

Their relationship had always been open and respectful, but this was something Ms. Raya didn’t understand. “I know you’re better than this,” Raya remembers his mother saying. “You need to stop this somehow.”

It was a puzzling moment for the young man. “I love my mom so much,” he says, “but I was showing my love elsewhere. I remember thinking I had this strength and confidence about myself, and I just wanted to be a man!”

The police, particularly members of the gang task force, also saw a confused kid with potential. “You could tell that he was always torn between his [blood] family and his street family,” says Santa Barbara Police Department Officer Alex Cruz, who arrested Raya after the delivery van incident and who would arrest him many more times.

Cruz, who joined the police department in 1994 and was assigned to the fledgling gang task force in the late ’90s, often got phone calls from Raya’s worried mom. So, Cruz would head out looking for him.

“He had somebody that cared about where he was and whether or not he was in jail,” says Cruz. “Some kids just don’t have that support.”

Lieutenant Ralph Molina, who worked alongside Officer Cruz on the gang task force for years, remembers that “Manny had potential, you could see it.”

Molina says he encouraged the gang unit to really get to know the kids and their families, to talk to them about life, to build mutual respect. “You’d be amazed at some of the things they’ll tell you if you have a rapport with them. They’ll tell us they’re not getting love and attention at home; they’re getting abused at home, physically, sexually… and guess what? If they’re in the streets, the homeboys will give them all the love and attention they want.”


TUESDAY, LONG BEACH SCHOOL DISTRICT VOTES TO ADOPT A KID-FRIENDLY, SCHOOL DISCIPLINE SYSTEM

Several news outlets reported on this story, including the Long Beach Press Telegram.

But this story from non-profit Liberty Hill’s blog, nicely captures the importance of LBSD’s decision to turn away from its previous discipline policies that had resulted in 83,691 students being suspended in the 2011-2012 school year. Here’s a clip:

“Restorative Justice allows a student to see the larger picture of his/her defiance,” said Barbara Lindholm, Principal at Reid High School. “We aren’t interested in ‘punishment.’ Rather, we want to inculcate the values of empathy, orderliness, and manners in students – lifelong lessons which they will use in future arenas.” A student from Poly High School and a leader from Khmer Girls in Action, Malachy Keo, echoed Principal Lindholm adding, “I’ve had disagreements with teachers before. Restorative Justice practices would have helped me and my teachers see each other’s point of view and build better relationships.”

As the majority of students in Los Angeles County, young people of color have a vital role to play in making our neighborhoods safer, our economy stronger and steering our city and state towards success. Yet low income and young men of color have the lowest life expectancy rates, highest unemployment rates, fewest high school and college graduates and most murder victims of any demographic group in the county. This reality starts in school policies that unfairly target students of color for suspensions which ultimately lead to truancy and drop-outs.

“This vote is an important first step in our effort to ensure that every student has an opportunity to thrive,” said Kafi D. Blumenfield, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation. “Passage of this resolution signals that Long Beach truly wants all students to lead healthy, successful lives.”



IN HIS REPORT, SPECIAL COUNSEL MERRICK BOBB TALKS ABOUT THE “GREY FOG” IN THE LASD & THE POSSIBLE NEED FOR FED INTERVENTION

In the introduction to his 33rd semiannual report on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Special Counsel Merrick Bobb kindly gave a shout out to WitnessLA, talked about former undersheriff Paul Tanaka’s “gray fog” and the possible need for federal intervention to produce true reform at the LASD. Here’s a clip:

….[During the years before his departure] the former Undersheriff apparently exhorted some LASD deputies to work in the so-called “gray zone” or, as I prefer to call it, the gray fog, where objects can be seen only dimly and the guideposts to distinguish right from wrong cannot be read. When the gray fog finally began to burn off, the Sheriff and Undersheriff faced calls for resignation. Although there may have been over-delegation and unwarranted reliance on the Undersheriff by the Sheriff, and despite the LASD being a paramilitary organization, it is worth noting that the assistant sheriffs and chiefs and commanders and captains, with two or three exceptions, did not exactly mutiny or protest when the Undersheriff seemed to overreach.

To attempt change in LASD culture and practice from the outside, the levers have been pulled and the pressure points pushed. The Los Angeles Times and Witness LA, as well as the Department of Justice, have lit up dark corners at the LASD and kept the spotlight unremittingly focused. Yet while vigorous investigations and solid news and editorials are necessary, they are not always sufficient to bring about change. It is frustrating when some recommendations to curb the callousness (or worse) toward some suspects and inmates by a small minority of LASD employees have never been adopted or vanished into the gray fog. In all the years I have served as Special Counsel, I recall only once when I was told things about rotation of deputies in the jails or intentions “sincerely” to change one’s ways that the speakers knew to be less than truthful, and this was at the latter stage of the gray fog years.

Time and again, it is been shown that the power to control an elected sheriff is a near impossibility, to the frustration of many—in particular, to the Supervisors. Despite good- faith efforts to be aware of and respond to problems, the Supervisors at the end of the day lack the power to order the Sheriff or Undersheriff to run a constitutional jail, whether directly or through a blue ribbon commission or a civilian commission or Special Counsel or OIR or an Inspector General or otherwise. It may be that the federal government needs to be added to the mix….

Posted in American voices, Gangs, juvenile justice, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 2 Comments »

Released After 40 Years in Solitary, Tanaka’s Denials, Baca’s Pitchman Fiasco, and Gov. Brown’s Bill-Signing

October 3rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker

JUDGE ORDERS RELEASE OF DYING PRISONER AFTER DECADES IN ISOLATION

The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen has a heartening update on a piece he wrote last week about Herman Wallace, a member of a group of Black Panthers known as the Angola 3, who was held in solitary for 40 years on an disturbingly weak murder conviction. (Seriously. Go read the original piece.)

Wallace, now suffering from advanced liver cancer, was denied compassionate release by state officials. His last ditch hope for mercy was a case review by federal trial judge Brian Jackson.

On Tuesday, Judge Jackson ordered Wallace to be immediately released on the grounds that Wallace’s 14th Amendment rights had been violated when women were not allowed to serve on his jury.

Here are some clips from Cohen’s latest piece:

U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson did a remarkably good and decent thing today — something that every judge should aspire to do in the right circumstances. He found a way to bring a small measure of justice to a man whose entire life had been rife with injustice. He found a way to order the immediate release of Herman Wallace, a terminally ill prisoner who spent 40 years in solitary confinement at the notorious Angola prison in Louisiana in a 6′ by 9′ cell for a murder there was no valid evidence he committed.

Last week, I wrote about this case here at The Atlantic because I felt it comprised so many of the failings of the American justice system. A black man whose trial is marked by racial animus. A defendant whose attorney does unconscionable work. A lack of physical evidence or adequate investigation. Co-defendants and state witnesses with obvious incentives to lie. Punishment that was both cruel and unusual. Deliberate indifference on the part of reviewing courts. It all happened to Herman Wallace. All of it and more; his case was a disgrace from the beginning.

Here is the link to Judge Jackson’s order. If you read it, you will discover that he did not focus upon any of these constitutional infirmities in granting Wallace the relief he sought. Instead, Judge Jackson held that the original indictment against Wallace, over 40 years ago, was constitutionally flawed because women were excluded from his grand jury. So you can add “equal protection violation” to the heap of ways in which Wallace’s rights were denied by our courts for four decades.

Mother Jones’ Hannah Levintova also covered Herman Wallace’s release. Here’s a clip:

Herman Wallace was freed on Tuesday evening. His legal team issued a statement saying the “four decades which Mr. Wallace spent in solitary confinement conditions will be the subject of litigation which will continue even after Mr. Wallace passes away. It is Mr. Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola 3′ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr. Wallace is gone.”

And the NY Times editorial board echoed Cohen’s frustration with this justice system defect. Here are the two final paragraphs:

The standard justifications for imprisonment — incapacitation, deterrence and retribution — become irrelevant in a prisoner’s final days or weeks. Elderly people near death do not commit crimes, and refusing mercy to an aged, dying prisoner does not deter anyone from criminality. That leaves retribution, or the belief that it is somehow in society’s interest to ensure that some prisoners suffer until the day they die. The state penal systems that operate under this view are not making society more just.

To the contrary, as the prison population in the United States rapidly ages — the number of prisoners older than 55 nearly quadrupled between 1995 and 2010 — this brutal mentality harms everyone. The capacity for mercy, critical to any justice system, is eroded every time those in power fail to exercise it wisely.


TANAKA DENIES COMMISSION’S FINDINGS…AND MORE

In an interview with the Malibu Times’ Melissa Caskey, former undersheriff and current sheriff candidate Paul Tanaka appeared to have an attack of truthiness in refuting allegations regarding his role in creating a culture of inmate abuse in LA County jails and his involvement in alleged unethical fundraising for Carmen Trutanich’s DA campaign. (We suspect that a lot of Tanaka’s denials are going to haunt him as the election heats up.)

Here are some clips from Caskey’s article:

The department is currently the subject of separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over allegations of corruption, inmate abuse and bribery. Tanaka was specifically accused by a blue ribbon commission of helping to create a climate in the county jail system in which aggression among deputies was encouraged, loyalty placed above merit and discipline discouraged, according to reports. Tanaka resigned following the commission’s findings in what was widely perceived as pressure from Baca.

But Tanaka, formerly a trusted lieutenant of Baca who served as his second-in-command from 2011 until his ouster, denied the allegations last week and said he has been made a scapegoat in the process.

“That [report] was by a blue ribbon commission, none of whom have ever worked inside of a jail,” he said.

“If you go back and read all the testimony, you’ll see that if you did not like Paul Tanaka, you went in there and you made all these allegations,” he said. “You never got questioned on your credibility, or your sources, or whether or not you were telling the truth.”

[SNIP]

In addition to the jails inquiry, the FBI is investigating claims by a former Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s deputy that the former captain at the station told him and other subordinates to sell tickets to a 2011 fundraiser for Carmen Trutanich’s unsuccessful bid for district attorney. Baca, who campaigned for Trutanich, denied issuing orders down the chain of command to raise money for allies, but the investigation has been seen to weaken his re-election candidacy.

Tanaka said he was aware of the allegations and said he had “expressed his disapproval” to Baca of “certain individuals that hung around” him, but that he had no knowledge of any improper fundraising.


THE BACA NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT ENDORSEMENT SAGA CONTINUES

Baca’s latest embarrassment does not appear to be vanishing any time soon. Both Gene Maddaus of the LA Weekly and the LA Times editorial board have now weighed in on the controversial story.

Here’s a clip from the sharply-worded LA Times piece:

Sheriff Lee Baca, his spokesman says, wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about the nutritional supplements he was pitching if he’d known the promotional video would be seen by the public. That backward mea culpa is just as poorly thought out as the Los Angeles County sheriff’s unseemly use of his public office to promote a company’s product.

[SNIP]

It doesn’t help that the company itself has been the target of multiple complaints to the Federal Trade Commission that it is running a pyramid scheme. But even if Baca were pitching a universally admired product, his ad-man appearance would be an embarrassment to his office and the county. We’d say it’s an embarrassment to Baca himself, especially considering that he received a campaign donation and travel money from Yor Health, though he was not paid for the video appearances. But it’s unclear at this point exactly what it would take for the sheriff — with his poor management of the jails and the continual allegations of special treatment for his friends and donors — to feel shame.

And here’s a clip from Gene Maddaus’ witty assessment:

Sheriff Lee Baca has always been a little strange, but he’s 71 now, and his eccentricities are becoming more pronounced with age. Among his more out-there ideas is his fixation on living to be 100 years old.

How’s he going to do that? So glad you asked! With YOR Health nutritional shakes!

As ABC7 reported on Monday, Baca has been doing promotional videos for YOR Health — a multi-level marketing company which, depending on whom you ask, may or may not be a pyramid scheme. Baca seems to believe that the company’s products will allow him to cheat death for decades to come.

“Hi, I’m Lee Baca and I’m the Sheriff of Los Angeles County and I’m going to live to be 100 years old and beyond,” he says in one promotional video.

Well, if ex-mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can promote a multi-level marketing company, then why not the sheriff? Well, there is the small fact that Baca is still in office. Generally, you’re supposed to cash in on your government service only after you quit.


BILLS, BILLS, BILLS

Gov. Brown this week signed a multitude of bills on education, foster care, and homelessness. Here are a few of the highlights:


AB 549

A bill prompting school districts to set up clear guidelines for the role of police and mental health professionals on campus, AB 549, was signed into law.

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

The bill by Democratic Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles encourages schools to prioritize mental health and intervention services as well as positive-behavior intervention over punitive measures such as expulsion.


AB 652

Here’s a clip from LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy about AB 652, an approved addition to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act:

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said his bill gives those serving foster youths discretion in cases where youths might otherwise be taken into police custody or returned to a home from which they have fled.

“Young people escaping intolerant homes can now begin to get the help they need, so they don’t have to remain homeless – without ending up in police custody or being returned to unsupportive environments,” Ammiano said in arguing for his AB 652.


SB 342

Authored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), SB 342, says that no more than two consecutive monthly meetings between a foster child and their social worker can be held outside the foster home. At the same time, it requires social workers to inform youths that they can ask that a private conversation with the social worker take place away from their foster home and caregiver.


SB 744

A bill to establish safeguards for kids that are transferred or involuntarily transferred to community schools, SB 744, is still on Brown’s desk. Among other things, the bill would ensure that involuntarily transferred students are given “geographically accessible” schooling options. This is really important for the many kids in rural areas who are removed from traditional schools but have no means of getting to the nearest community school. (Susan Ferriss of the Center for Public Integrity has recently done some excellent reporting on this issue.)

Posted in Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Foster Care, Homelessness, LASD, Sentencing, Sheriff Lee Baca, solitary | 12 Comments »

ABC 7 to Report Sheriff Baca Acts as Pitchman for Health Supplement Company….and More

September 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



According to an upcoming report on ABC 7 (appearing Monday at 11 pm) Sheriff Lee Baca has been acting as a pitchman
for a health supplement company called Yor Health.

(NOTE: The videos that were posted here and here, suddenly vanished during the day on Monday after this story ran, and more reporters began inquiring. They showed Baca as a keynote speaker addressing thousands of Yor Life devotees and sales people at the company’s 2010 annual conference. ABC 7 also reports on Baca’s most recent go round at the company’s September 2013 sales conference earlier this month. Videos from that conference, that had been posted on Yor Health’s site, have also been blocked from public view.)

We understand that ABC 7 has been digging deeply into various aspects of the sheriff’s pitchman activities at Yor Health,—including the question of what if any financial arrangements may have been made in return for Baca’s hawking of the company’s products.

We suspect that the report will also look into the ethics of an elected official pitching for a profit making concern such as Yor Health.

We’ll link to the network’s online report after the segment with Marc Brown airs.

In the meantime, it is interesting to note that the Yor Life sales strategy is described by its founder Dennis Wong as “network marketing.”

Yet, according to other reports, like this one by Bradley Cooper for the NY Sun, Wong has displayed a liking for multilevel marketing and that, around ten years ago, Wong was charged by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly engaging in an illegal pyramid scheme. Wong and his partner settled with the FTC, and the settlement, among other strictures, “bars them from participating in any prohibited marketing scheme, including any business that operates as a pyramid scheme.”

While we’ve seen no indication that Wong and Yor Life’s business strategy is in any way illegal, complaints about the company’s multi-level marketing efforts have surfaced on various sites the web (such as this one and this one).

In any case, be sure to tune in at 11 pm for ABC 7′s full story on Sheriff Lee Baca as pitchman.


UPDATE: Here’s a link to the broadcast, for those who didn’t get a chance to see it. Plus we have a fuller rundown in WLA’s Monday post by Taylor Walker.


ONE MILLION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL KIDS ABSENT EACH YEAR IN CALIFORNIA SAYS CA AG

In an alarming report released Monday by California Attorney General, Kamala Harris outlines a truancy crisis that is costing the state a fortune in funding, and creating a damaging achievement gap for many of the state’s children.

The AP’s Robert Jablon has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

California must act to reduce rampant truancy that saw an estimated 1 million elementary students absent in the last school year and may cost the state billions of dollars through increased crime and poverty, according to a study released Monday by the state attorney general’s office.

“The empty desks in our public elementary school classrooms come at a great cost to California,” the report said.

The report, scheduled for release at an anti-truancy symposium in Los Angeles, said children have unexcused absences from school for a number of reasons, including family issues, neighborhood safety concerns and bullying. It called for a sweeping battle against absenteeism that brings together parents, educators, lawmakers, law enforcement and community groups.

“The findings are stark. We are failing our children,” the report’s executive summary concluded….


LA’S CITY ATTORNEY GOES AHEAD WITH ECHO PARK GANG INJUNCTION

There has been strong advocacy pro and con about the new gang injunction in Echo Park that has just received court approval.

The LA Times Hailey Branson-Potts has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

A Los Angeles County court last week granted a permanent injunction against six gangs in Echo Park and its surrounding neighborhoods, according to the city attorney’s office.

The injunction prohibits known members of the gangs from associating with each other in public, possessing firearms or narcotics, or possessing alcohol in public, officials said. It also prohibits gang members from possessing aerosol paint containers, felt-tip markers and other items that can be used to apply graffiti.

The gangs named in the injunction are the Big Top Locos, Crazys, Diamond Street Locos, Echo Park Locos, Frogtowns and Head Hunters.

“We’ve got to be tough on violent gang activity, and gang injunctions such as this one … are an important step,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.

The city has 45 other active gang injunctions, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The city’s lawyers filed the Echo Park injunction in June. It creates a 3.8-square-mile “safety zone” in Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Historic Filipinotown and portions of Silver Lake, court documents say.

The injunction — a civil suit that seeks a court ruling declaring a gang a public nuisance — also includes Echo Park Lake and Dodger Stadium


AND MORE ON THE STATE’S PRISON OVERCROWDING CRISIS

We didn’t want you to miss the LA Times editorial on the latest wrinkle in the state’s prison overcrowding crisis and what to do about it. Here’s a clip:

The three federal judges who have ordered California to dramatically reduce its prison population have now pushed back their deadline by 30 days. The delay is both less and more than it seems.

It’s less, because it’s nothing close to the three extra years that Gov. Jerry Brown said he would need to reduce overcrowding and to keep the number of inmates capped. Instead of facing a Dec. 31 compliance date, the governor and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now have until late January. That’s not enough time to reduce crowding by attrition, or even by assigning newly convicted felons to leased cells in and outside of California.

But it’s also more, or at least it could be. It’s a signal from the judges that they believe, perhaps for the first time since the reduction order was handed down four years ago, that California may be ready to devote considerable thought and resources to reducing the flow of felons into the system….

We agree. And may we step up to the plate.

Posted in CDCR, City Attorney, Civil Liberties, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Gangs, LASD, prison, prison policy, Sheriff Lee Baca | 19 Comments »

LASD Deputy Involved in 7th Shooting… Seeking Answers on Those CA Prison Sterilizations…Stop & Frisk Leads Young Adults to Distrust Police, Says Study

September 20th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


FATAL SHOOTING OCCURS AFTER PAUL TANAKA REPORTEDLY PUT DEPUTY WITH SIX PREVIOUS SHOOTINGS BACK ON PATROL DUTY

Michael Gennaco of the Office of Independent Review (OIR) wrote the LA County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday regarding his concern over a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy who had just been involved in his seventh shooting, this time a fatal one.

Reportedly, part of Gennaco’s concern was that the deputy, whose name is Anthony Forlano, was returned to field duty earlier this year after having been removed from active patrol twice before, specifically after shootings number five and six, at least one of which had been flagged as being tactically problematic. Moreover, three of men he shot turned out to be unarmed.

According to Gennaco, Forlano was returned to duty by former undersheriff Paul Tanaka. A few months later, the deputy and his partner shot a seventh suspect, this time fatally.

Jack Leonard and Robert Faturechi have more on the matter in a well reported story in Friday’s LA Times. Here are some clips:

In a department where many officers spend their entire careers without firing their weapons, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Forlano is an outlier.

Following his sixth shooting, Forlano was pulled from patrol duty and assigned to a desk job. He was also disciplined for “tactical deficiencies” in that shooting. But recently, he was allowed to return to the streets.

After a few months back on patrol, he got into his seventh shooting last week when he and a colleague fatally shot a suspect in East Los Angeles.

[SNIP]

Seven shootings in the Sheriff’s Department is extraordinary,” Gennaco said in an interview, “compared to the number of patrol deputies and how many they get involved in, which is usually zero or one.”

A department captain identified the deputy as Forlano, an 18-year department veteran.

Capt. Robert J. Tubbs, who supervises the Community Oriented Policing Services bureau, said Forlano had done a fantastic job doing administrative work for the last two years. Tubbs said the deputy had been eager to return to the streets to “do the thing he loves to do, and that’s police work.”

As the Times reports, Forlano worked for Community Oriented Policing Services—or COPS—a program funded with federal dollars which is overseen by Capt. Robert Tubbs.

Tubbs, it is interesting to note, is one of the active department members who has endorsed Tanaka in his candidacy for sheriff against Lee Baca, and was one of those supporters seen standing behind the former undersheriff when Tanaka announced his intention to run.

Why Mr. Tanaka would be involved in returning a benched officer to active duty is unclear, especially since he was pushed into retirement in March 6 of this year, and last fall the former undersheriff was supposedly removed by Sheriff Baca from any responsibility for departmental oversight—either in custody or patrol—except for that of the LASD budget.

The shooting issue is the second controversial incident to spring out of COPS in the past few weeks:

Veteran department member, John Augustus Rose II, who was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of having sex with a 14-year=old girl, also worked at COPS under Capt. Tubbs.


SEEKING ANSWERS ON THE CDCR’S QUESTIONABLE STERILIZATIONS: WHO WAS STERILIZED IN CALIFORNIA’S STATE PRISONS AND WHY?

This summer Corey Johnson from the Center for Investigative Reporting brought us the startling news that, during a four year period, from 2006, to 2010, around 150 women inmates had been sterilized in California prisons, against state policy. Many of the sterilizations reportedly took place under coercive circumstances, such as when a woman was prepped and anesthetized just before undergoing a C-section.

Paulene Bartolone reports for KUOW on new developments in the story that was originally uncovered by Johnson. Here’s a clip:

Sitting in her San Francisco living room, Kimberly Jeffrey is combing her son Noel’s hair. He groans, but she meets his energy with calm — and adoration.

Noel’s birth was not an easy time. While Jeffrey was pregnant, she served a six-month sentence for petty theft at a state prison. When it came time to deliver Noel through a caesarean-section, Jeffrey was also confronted with the prospect of sterilization.

“As I was laying on the operating table, moments before I went into surgery, [medical staff] had made a statement,” Jeffrey recalls. “I’m not even quite sure if he was actually talking to me or if he was just making a general statement to all the medical staff — that, ‘OK, we’re going to do this tubal ligation.’ And I said, ‘Hey, I don’t want any procedures done outside of the C-section.’ ”

Jeffrey refused the tubal ligation, but a recent investigation from the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that scores of female inmates underwent the procedure, which is supposed to be prohibited for California prisoners, between 2006 and 2010….


NEW STUDY REPORTS THAT STOP & FRISK POLICIES MAKE YOUNG PEOPLE LESS LIKELY TO REPORT MORE SERIOUS CRIMES

The NY Daily News reports on a new Vera Institute study that indicates New York PD’s stop-and-frisk policies erode trust in police to the point that a significant number of young adults “won’t go to officers to report violent crimes.

The VERA study surveyed 500 young men and women from ‘highly patrolled neighborhoods,’ most of whom had themselves been stopped, most multiple times.

Here’s a clip from the Daily News story:

A landmark study has found that stop-and-frisk policing leads to so much mistrust of cops, many young adults won’t go to cops to report violent crimes — even when they are the ones victimized.
The study, by the Vera Institute of Justice, found a stunning correlation between those who have been stopped and frisked, and an unwillingness to cooperate with the police.
For every additional time someone was stopped, that person was 8% less likely to report a violent crime, the researchers found.

“Our main finding is pretty plain and simple: Stop-and-frisk is compromising the trust needed for public safety,” lead researcher Jennifer Fratello said.

The study titled Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk: Experiences,
Self-Perceptions, and Public Safety Implication
s was released
on Thursday and may be found here.

Here are excerpts from the study’s fact sheet:

For many young people, stops are a familiar and frequent experience and also perceived to be unjustified and unfair.
• 44 percent of young people surveyed indicated they had been stopped repeatedly—9 times or more.
• Less than a third—29 percent—reported ever being informed of the reason for a stop.

Frisks, searches, threats, and use of force are common.
• 71 percent of young people surveyed reported being frisked at least once, and 64 percent said they had been searched.
• 45 percent reported encountering an officer who threatened them, and 46 percent said they had experienced physical force at the hands of an officer.
• One out of four said they were involved in a stop in which the officer displayed his or her weapon.

Trust in law enforcement and willingness to cooperate with police is alarmingly low.
• 88 percent of young people surveyed believe that residents of their neighborhood do not trust the police.
• Only four in 10 respondents said they would be comfortable seeking help from police if in trouble.
• Only one in four respondents would report someone whom they believe had committed a crime.

Half of all young people surveyed had been the victim of a crime, including 37 percent who had been the victim of a violent crime

Photo by Jaime Lopez, LASDnews.net

Posted in CDCR, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, law enforcement, Sheriff Lee Baca, women's issues | 46 Comments »

The Benefits of Inmate Education, a New Gang Intervention Partnership, Probation Poetry, and LA Deputy Saves Choking Inmate

September 16th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


THE EFFECTS OF INMATE EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAMS ON RECIDIVISM…AND MORE

Inmates who receive academic or vocational education while incarcerated are 43% less likely to end up back behind bars within three years than inmates who receive no educational programming, according to a new meta-analysis by Rand Corp.

The study also found that those inmates who receive rehabilitative training have a 13% better chance of employment upon release. And, those who receive job training, specifically, have a 28% higher chance of employment than those who receive neither.

In an op-ed for the LA Times, an author of the study, Lois Davis, says that those numbers would translate to huge state savings—not to mention transformed lives and communities. Here are some clips:

Nationwide, state prison systems are struggling with budget constraints that require tough choices. Cutting rehabilitative services that provide correctional education and vocational training may seem like a tempting way to plug short-term budget gaps, but it actually ends up costing the system more over time — and squandering lives that could have been transformed.

Each year, more than 700,000 people are released from American prisons, but within three years of their release, four out of 10 of them end up back behind bars, guilty of committing new crimes or violating the terms of their release. If prisoners had more access to education and training while incarcerated, those numbers might change dramatically.

My Rand Corp. colleagues and I recently completed a national study examining all the evidence on the effect of correctional education on recidivism and employment. We found that inmates who participated in correctional education programs — remedial education to develop reading and math skills, GED preparation, postsecondary education or vocational training — were 43% less likely to return to prison within three years of release in comparison to those who did not participate. That’s a 13-percentage-point reduction in the risk of reoffending.

[SNIP]

We compared the direct costs of correctional education programs with the costs of reincarceration and found that prison education programs save as much as $5 in three-year reincarceration costs for every dollar invested. Put another way, we estimated that to break even, such programs would need to reduce the three-year reincarceration rate by between 1.9% and 2.6%. Yet, we found that participating in such programs is associated with a 13% reduction in the risk of recidivism three years after release from prison.

And these savings estimates are, if anything, conservative: We did not look at the indirect costs of recidivism, such as the financial and emotional tolls on crime victims and the costs to the criminal justice system as a whole, including policing and court costs.


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF TRAINING AND EDUCATION AS A DETERRENT…

LA Mission College, which provides college-level classes to kids in several LA juvenile facilities, has partnered with a gang intervention group that helps at-risk young people get construction union apprenticeships. The agency, Communities in Schools (founded by WLA’s pal “Blinky” Rodriguez, former champion kickboxer), will now send apprentice program graduates to LA Community College building jobs where they will concurrently receive personal and vocational training courses.

The LA Daily News’ Dana Bartholomew has the story. Here are some clips:

For Javier Franco, it’s a long way from Columbus Street to precalculus at L.A. Mission College.

A member of the notorious Columbus Street Gang, which just received an injunction because of street crimes including drug dealing and murder, the 27-year-old Panorama City student had served long stints in Folsom State Prison.

Then he found moral guidance from a former prizefighter at Communities in Schools in North Hills, a welding job through an apprenticeship at Laborers’ Local 300 — and hope at the Sylmar community college that he could someday succeed.

[SNIP]

…now the growing campus, tucked up against the San Gabriel Mountains, is ramping up its community outreach, from a new effort to coax gang members such as Franco into the ivory tower to a new campaign beckoning adults locked up in county jails to take courses in the likes of social ethics and media arts.

[SNIP]

Communities in Schools of the San Fernando Valley and Greater Los Angeles soon aims to funnel 100 young adults into training programs run by Laborers’ Local 300 and Southern California Laborers Apprenticeship.

The unions then aim to shuttle graduates into hundreds of Los Angeles Community College District building-program jobs, from pouring concrete foundations to welding structural beams and stairways.

At the same time, college counselors and teachers will be providing personal-development classes, as well as career, technical education and training.


RECOMMENDED READING: NYC PROBATION DEPT. PUBLISHES PROBATIONER POETRY JOURNAL

The NYC Dept. of Probation’s South Bronx Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) has published a new “Free Verse” poetry journal. The publication was birthed from a program to turn probation clients’ time spent in waiting rooms into something productive and enriching, and soon everyone wanted to get involved. The journal is unique in that it features writings from probationers, their officers, security guards, staff, friends, family, and other community members. (You can read the first issue of “Free Verse” in its entirety here.)

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange’s Gwen McClure has more on NeON’s poetry journal. Here’s a clip:

When John Taylor was sentenced to four years on probation for robbery, he knew he would be required to check in with his probation officer every other week at the South Bronx Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON). Taylor soon got involved in a GED class–he had been taking classes when he was charged, and wanted to make good use of the hours he spent waiting. Before long, he was spending three days a week at the center because he took a job at the NeON as a writing apprentice.

At 26, it wasn’t Taylor’s first time writing, but he soon found the words were coming more easily to him. And it didn’t take long—less than half an hour after his initial request, in fact—for his friends, mother and aunts to start sharing their work with him as well.

“You can write anything, a poem, a rap song, a story,” he said. “I was impressed myself.”

On Thursday, September 12, the writing apprentices like Taylor, staff and contributors gathered at the South Bronx NeON to celebrate the release of “Free Verse,” the poetry journal they produced. The journal comes from a program that has been running since April, in which people waiting in the probation office can participate in writing and presenting their poetry, to transform dead time into something productive and positive.

[SNIP]

Vincent Schiraldi, commissioner for the New York City Department of Probation, said that as a father he saw the importance of letting his children try different activities to find out what they were good at and enjoyed doing. In his position, he said, he sees many people on parole who have never had the opportunity to sample different activities. He said some participants don’t enjoy writing, but have found other ways to be involved, such as setting up sounds systems for the spoken word portion of the events.

Schiraldi is also excited that it’s not just those on probation getting involved—even probation officers have started to write and present their own poems.

“That’s a vulnerability that would’ve been unthinkable a few years ago,” he said.


LA INMATES THANK DEPUTY FOR AIDING CHOKING INMATE

Sixty-three inmates at Century Regional Detention Facility wrote a thank-you letter to LASD Deputy Kristen Aufdemberg for saving the life of an inmate confined to a wheelchair who began choking on her food during a meal late last week.

The LA Times’ Kurt Streeter has the story. Here’s how it opens:

The relationship between inmates and guards at Los Angeles County jails has long been fraught with trouble. So much trouble, in fact, that federal authorities are investigating claims of abuse by prison guards.

But this week dozens of inmates at an L.A. County jail signed a note praising a sheriff’s deputy for saving the life of a choking prisoner.

The note, signed by 63 female inmates at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, praises Deputy Kristen Aufdemberg’s response to a prisoner who began choking on food during a Thursday night dinner.

Aufdemberg ran to the inmate, whose name was not released by the Sheriff’s Department, stood behind her and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

(Nixle has the full thank you letter and a photo of Deputy Aufdemberg.)

Posted in Gangs, juvenile justice, LA County Jail, LASD, Rehabilitation | 5 Comments »

Judge Refuses LA Deputies Union Attempt to Bar LA Times Use of LASD Background Screenings

September 11th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



The LA Times scored a victory in court for the First Amendment on Tuesday
after ALADS—The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs—filed an emergency motion to prevent an LA Times reporter from publishing information from department members’ background screenings.

One presumes that most of the screenings are a part of the hiring process. And while there are some privacy issues to consider, since the Times and others have reported on possible irregularities in the LASD’s screening and hiring process that may have, in certain instances, allowed people into the department who are not suited for law enforcement, it is understandable that a Times reporter would consider the screening material important.

The LAT’s Victoria Kim has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs filed an emergency motion against The Times and a Times reporter Tuesday morning, alleging that the reporter unlawfully possessed background investigation files containing personal information of about 500 deputies.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell denied the union’s motion, writing that the union failed to present “the evidence most critical to the showing of irreparable harm or immediate danger.”

“The court declines to issue [an order] imposing a prior restraint on defendants’ free speech based on the speculative hearsay testimony of anonymous witnesses,” she wrote.

Attorneys for The Times had argued that prior restraint, or restricting speech before publication, was a grave infringement of the 1st Amendment. The attorneys said prior restraint has been considered unconstitutional by courts except in extraordinary circumstances such as troop movements in wartime or to “suppress … information that would set in motion a nuclear holocaust.”

[SNIP]

The newspaper’s attorneys also wrote that the union had no basis for seeking an emergency order, noting that The Times has published other stories based on information from employment records in the past.

The Times has reported since last October on the department’s hiring of employees who had personal ties to top officials or Sheriff Lee Baca despite histories of violence and brushes with the law.

In August, the Sheriff’s Department announced in a news release that it had launched a criminal investigation into an apparent leak of personnel information to a Times reporter….

Posted in How Appealing, LASD, Los Angeles Times | 46 Comments »

New Probe of Jails Could Result in Fed Consent Decree, 2 Sheriff’s Challengers say Bring it On

September 9th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


Late last week, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice notified LA County
that the feds were opening a “pattern and practice” investigation into allegations of abusive use of force against jail inmates by LA County Sheriff’s deputies.

In response to the news, at least two of the challengers for the office of sheriff said over the weekend that they would welcome a federal consent decree, which is one of the possible outcomes of this newest federal investigation into alleged wrongdoing inside the scandal plagued LASD.


A TRIO OF PROBES

According to the LA Times, federal authorities opened the probe after becoming “‘…increasingly concerned about use of force and alleged abuse by jail deputies and staff.’”

This new round of federal scrutiny follows the FBI’s already existing criminal investigation into brutality and corruption in the jails, and comes almost exactly a year after the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence issued its final report on September 28, 2012, describing:

“…a troubling culture in Custody that resulted in the excessive use of force in the jails...” The commissioners wrote that while many deputies working in the jails were hardworking, dedicated professionals, other deputies’ behavior toward their charges was “…reflective of a disturbing mindset that promotes a lack of respect for inmates, an aggressive view that force is best used early and often to control the inmate population, and a disdain for those supervisors who have endeavored to enforce contrary principles.”

And then at the end of this past June, the feds released a report that documented, among oher problems, “a pattern of unreasonable force, including a pattern of the use of force against handcuffed individuals” by sheriff’s deputies out in Antelope Valley.

“I think the people of Los Angeles should be very concerned when the sheriff’s department is the subject of not one, not two, but three different investigations by the federal government,”said Peter Eliasberg, the Legal Director for the Southern California ACLU. “I’d love to know if there’s any other law enforcement agency in the country that’s ever been the subjects of three different federal investigations.”

It is not at all clear whether the LA County Sheriff’s Department holds any kind of ignominious title, but the existence of three federal investigations—one of them known to be multi-pronged and wide-ranging—is not any kind of positive sign.


WOULD A FEDERAL CONSENT DECREE BE GOOD OR BAD?

A DOJ “pattern and practice” investigation could produce any one of a range of possible outcomes. At the lowest end, it could determine that everything is mostly fine and dandy, with perhaps a few improvements suggested. At the low-to mid range, it could require a Memorandum of Agreement in which certain reforms are agreed upon, which are then nominally monitored by the feds until all the necessary boxes are checked. The most stringent outcome would be a federal consent decree, which is essentially like a plea bargain. It is a highly detailed and legally binding agreement to eliminate the troubling “pattern and/or practice,” all of which is enforced by a federal judge. (The LAPD’s post-Rampart consent decree lasted from 2001 to 2013.)

Robert Olmsted, the retired LASD commander who is challenging Baca for the office of sheriff, told WLA that he was not at all surprised by the new investigation, and said that he would welcome a federal consent decree.

“At this particular point, I think it’s absolutely necessary. The only way we’re going to create transparency is by having somebody else come in and monitor exactly what we do until such time as we can say okay, everything is running smoothly and we have a fresh clean ship.”

While there has been improvement in the jails, Olmsted said, he believes the root causes of the longtime problems have remained inadequately examined by the sheriff.

“In fact, I understand they’re still doing a bunch of dumb stuff in the jails right now,” Olmsted said, “that they’re lying about some of the force that is occurring.” He then related an instance, he said occurred in the past month in which a sergeant allegedly told a deputy to write up a use of force case in such a way that the force would not appear to be excessive—when in fact it was. Olmsted said that the deputy was troubled by this instruction.

“This gets to my point that if you don’t drill down and find the cancerous cells and determine what the causal factors were, then you’re bound to repeat the problem.”

Lou Vince, the LAPD detective who is running for sheriff, is the other candidate who said he “unequivocally” favored the idea of a consent decree.

“I don’t see a downside to it,” he explained in an email. “I would see the federal intervention as a welcome helping hand, not troublesome meddling. I lived/worked through a consent decree at the LAPD. Everyone bristled at first, but as it progressed, it became very positive and simply the way of doing business- and still is even after being released from it.” [It would hold] “the Sheriff, and the LASD as a whole, accountable for actually implementing the reforms needed and sets goals and measures of effectiveness. No more hand-wringing or political two-steps.”

When asked about the possibility of a federal consent decree, sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore said it was “presumptuous” for the department to comment on the issue. “That’s a decision that is not ours to make.” he said, but added that while the department was “cooperating fully with the investigation,” the sheriff did not agree that there were big causes for concern. “The use of force is down dramatically,” he said, and that any use of force was immediately “reported and investigated.”


TREATMENT OF THE MENTALLY ILL

In addition to general brutality in the jail, the civil rights probe will examine the LASD’s treatment of the mentally ill specifically, a topic that has been flagged as an issue of serious concern in the past by federal officials, the ACLU and the jails commission.

In fact, as early as 2002, Sheriff Baca signed a “Memorandum of Agreement” with the Department of Justice agreeing to a series of conditions designed to improve the treatment of the mentally ill who were in jail custody. Then in 2009, the ACLU released a report authored by a nationally recognized expert on mental health issues in jails and prisons named Dr. Terry Kupers. In his report, Dr. Kupers described what he called “toxic” conditions for the mentally ill housed inside Men’s Central Jail.

When news of the latest probe broke, LA Times editorial board member, Sandra Hernandez, had some fairly harsh things to say about what the investigation implies about the sheriff’s reported ongoing failure to address the problem. She wrote:

This second investigation is extremely troubling. After all, this is the sheriff who referred to himself as a social worker in a 2010 interview with my colleague Patt Morrison, and who considers himself an advocate for the mentally ill in the jails.

If he’s an advocate, then I think he’s done a pretty poor job of it. Just consider that he agreed to implement sweeping reforms in 2002 as part of a memorandum of agreement with the Justice Department. That deal called for training deputies to deal with mentally ill inmates and in suicide prevention and to make other improvements to avoid a civil rights lawsuit. And now, a decade later, the Justice Department is once again raising questions about the treatment of those inmates.

And then there was this:

….Last year, the county Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence found that more than “30% of the use-of-force incidents in custody involved individuals who have a mental history.”

That same commission also noted that although the 2002 agreement provided great promise for change, the sheriff appeared to have no memory of it. The commissioners wrote that eight years after Baca signed it, he said in a sworn deposition that “he had never seen this agreement, was unaware of any DOJ findings regarding mistreatment of mentally ill inmates in the county jails, and had no knowledge of the MOA or the DOJ findings letter underlying the agreement….”

Miriam Krinsky, the executive director for the jails commission, also seemed unsurprised by the feds’ latest move. “While the County has made significant progress in implementing many of the Commission’s recommendations,” she emailed, “the recent DOJ investigation confirms that serious challenges remain and that full implementation of the Commission’s reforms—including the creation of a new Office of Inspector General—is needed.”


Yes, that Office of the Inspector General issue is something we’ll be harping on soon.


PS: While sheriff’s challenger Pat Gomez didn’t seem to put out any new policy statements, candidate Paul Tanaka announced a new policy-to-be on “concealed carry” permits for firearms, otherwise known as CCWs, which Sheriff Baca infamously used to hand out to celebrities, judges, and other high profile pals.


NOTE: We’ll catch up on stories on a bunch of other topics tomorrow.

Posted in 2014 election, ACLU, LA County Jail, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 9 Comments »

WitnessLA Taking a Break for the Rest of the Week

September 3rd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

Due to a looming project that absolutely must be completed, we’re taking a break until Monday, September 9—unless, of course, there’s breaking news or something so pressing that it would be a clear dereliction of journalistic duty not to give you the heads up.

We will return next Monday in full force.

In the meantime, as we go out the door, here are a few links that you might want to check out:


WHY IS JERRY BROWN SO OBSTINATE ON THE PRISON PLAN ISSUE? asks the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters. Good question. As Walters points out, State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg’s plan is FAR less expensive and far more creative—and potentially a route to reform. So why is Jerry digging in his heels? Calling all FOJs—Friends of Jerry. Talk to the man!


SHERIFF’S CHALLENGER PAUL TANAKA talks to the Los Cerritos News.


A bunch of EARLY RELEASES FROM LA COUNTY JAIL to free-up space, writes the LA Times’ Jack Leonard and Abby Sewell. WLA wants to know why the Sheriff hasn’t taken a leadership position on pre-trial release (See VERA Institute report) instead of all this early releasing.

(Sheriff challenger, Bob Olmsted comments on the matter on his Facebook page, and challenger Lou Vince tweets about it.)


PS: Did we mention that DIANA NYAD is a goddess? Consider it mentioned. For this summer at least, the toughest athlete in the world is a 64-year-old woman.

Posted in 2014 election, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), LA County Jail, LASD, pretrial detention/release, prison, prison policy | 2 Comments »

Much at Stake Over Gov. Brown & Sen. Steinberg’s Conflicting Plans to Lower Prison Pop.

August 29th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


EDITOR’S NOTE:
As we all know by now, the US Supreme Court and the panel of three federal judges have both demanded that the state lower its prison population by 9400 inmates by the end of this year. The strategy that the governor and the members of the state legislature choose in order to respond to the judges’ demand will have great fiscal and human consequences in California for years to come.

As things stand, Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed plan consists mainly of addressing overcrowding by expanding the state’s prison system. As there is no way to actually build new prisons by the December 31, 2013 deadline, he proposes to lease a for profit prison from the Corrections Corporation of America, and to staff it with California’s union guards, at a cost of $315 million the first year, $415 in the subsequent two years. (And that’s over and above the billions that we already spend to house our inmates.) The extra funds will blow through the state’s entire surplus in a plan that critics say does nothing to lower the prison population in the long term—and is not guaranteed to lower the population enough in the short term either.

This week Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and the Senate Democrats have come up with an alternate proposal that WLA’s Taylor Walker has detailed below.

Neither plan involves any kind of prisoner release, which has, frankly, become a political impossibility.

At WitnessLA we strongly favor Steinberg’s strategy, and will be weighing in on the topic in the days between now and the Sept. 13 deadline when the legislature adjourns.

Much is at stake here. And even if you think this isn’t usually your kind of issue, we hope you will decide to make it your issue this time.

Here’s Taylor’s report:



PRISON PLANS: SENATOR STEINBERG VS. JERRY BROWN

In a press conference Wednesday morning, the California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), backed by a group of Democratic senators, proposed an alternative to Governor Jerry Brown’s extremely expensive prison-leasing plan to reduce overcrowding by the end of the year. (For back-story, go here.)

The Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) is backing Gov. Brown’s $730 million—in total—proposal, but the California Senate Pro Tem Steinberg is adamantly against it. Steinberg said that the Senate would not let the governor’s plan pass.

The conflict has a little over two weeks to be settled before the Senate’s current session ends on September 13th.

AP’s Tom Verdin has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a direct slap to Gov. Jerry Brown, his fellow Democrats in the state Senate on Wednesday rejected his plan for dealing with California’s prison crisis, throwing the state’s response to a federal court order into chaos.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Brown’s proposal to move inmates to private prisons and vacant county jail cells was essentially dead on arrival and that his chamber would not pass it.

“We oppose the governor’s plan,” Steinberg told a Capitol news conference. “We think it is, as the governor himself said … ‘It’s throwing money down a rat hole.’”

Brown quickly dismissed Steinberg’s alternative — seeking an extension from the court — leaving the state with no clear path just weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year.

[SNIP]

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, released a statement calling Brown’s plan “the right plan given our circumstances.” Some of Steinberg’s long-term proposals already are included in the governor’s plan, he said.

While the Democratic Assembly speaker is on board, the Democrats who control the Senate are not. They are rejecting both the early release of inmates and spending any more money to house prisoners elsewhere.

“I know we are not going to do what was proposed yesterday,” Steinberg said. “It’s not smart.”

Instead, he wants a three-year extension of the year-end deadline set by the federal courts.

That grace period would be designed to give local rehabilitation and drug and mental health treatment programs time to work. Steinberg said such programs, if properly implemented, will lower the crime rate and, by extension, send fewer people to prison.

UT-San Diego’s Steven Greenhut also has a good column on the battle between Brown’s plan and that of Steinberg and the Senate Democrats. Here’s a small clip of what Greenhut has to say about Brown’s plan:

If this is all the administration could come up with, it’s hard to understand why the prison matter has been dragging on for so long.

Aside from some mention about the plan buying time for legislators to look at long-term solutions, there was little reference at the press conference to the kinds of policies the state would look at to create a longer-term, less-costly fix. The plan seems like a punt.


THE SENATE DEMOCRATS’ COUNTER-PROPOSAL: MORE REHABILITATION

Here’s the full video of Senator Steinberg’s Wednesday presentation of the proposed alternative to Brown’s plan:

Steinberg’s plan to address the prison overcrowding crisis can be found here. (Note: clicking on the link will download the doc to your computer.)

And here’s a bit about the plan from the Senate’s website:

The Senate plan would achieve a durable solution to California’s chronic prison overcrowding by reducing crime through performance-based grant programs. The grants would incentivize counties to expand proven rehabilitation, drug and mental health treatment programs for criminal offenders. Additionally, the state would create an Advisory Commission on Public Safety to analyze and recommend changes in California’s sentencing laws.

In return, Senator Steinberg asks that the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit agree to extend the current December 31, 2013 deadline for meeting the court-imposed population cap by three years. The proposal asks all parties to allow an independent state panel to evaluate and determine proper population levels for California’s prisons based on standards and practices employed by correctional administrators across the country.

“Governor Brown has a well-earned reputation as a good steward of the public purse; throwing this expensive Band-Aid on a hemorrhage threatens to undermine our hard work,” said Steinberg.

The Performance Incentive Public Safety Grant Program proposed by Senator Steinberg is modeled after a 2009 effort which, in just two years, reduced new prison admissions by more than 9,500, with $536 million in state savings over three years.

And here’s a clip from Senator Steinberg statement against Brown’s $315M plan:

“The Governor’s proposal is a plan with no promise and no hope. As the population of California grows, it’s only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again. For every ten prisoners finishing their sentences, nearly seven of them will commit another crime after release and end up back behind bars.

“More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution.


SENATE CANCELS HEARING TO APPROVE BROWN’S CDCR APPOINTEES

Amid the clash over what to do about the federal court order to drop the prison population, the California Senate played hardball by postponing a hearing to confirm two of the governor’s CDCR director appointees.

The LA Times’ Anthony York has the story. Here’s a clip:

As the two Democrats tangle over prison policy, Steinberg has put the governor’s appointees on hold, at least temporarily. Both Stone and Virbel have been removed from the docket of Wednesday’s hearing.

“It’s clear we have additional questions about the administration’s ongoing corrections policy,” said Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund. “It makes sense to wait before we consider those two appointments.”


AND LA COUNTY SHERIFF CANDIDATES WEIGH IN…

Sheriff hopefuls Paul Tanaka and Lou Vince weighed in on the governor’s proposed plan. Here’s what they had to say:

Paul Tanaka ‏(@TanakaLASheriff)
It is logical that our prisons expand at the same rate as our population. I agree with Brown’s proposal to expand. http://bit.ly/15uw8z3

Lou Vince ‏(@Vince4Sheriff)
@TanakaLASheriff No- Prison pop. declines if we are smart w/sentencing & custody alternatives. Expansion only exacerbates problem @WitnessLA

Posted in CDCR, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), LASD, prison | No Comments »

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