Sunday, November 23, 2014
street news, views and stories of justice and injustice
Follow me on Twitter

Search WitnessLA:

Recent Posts

Categories

Archives

Meta

LAUSD


New LA Program for Child Victims of Sex-Trafficking, Reopening LAUSD Libraries, Holder Takes on Disenfranchisement, and Jerry Brown—Prisons and Playing Cards

February 13th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

LA DISTRICT ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO AID VICTIMS OF CHILD SEX-TRAFFICKING

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the launch of an innovative program to help kids victimized by sex-trafficking, called the First Step Diversion Program.

The DA’s office is partnering with local law enforcement and DCFS to identify girls under the age of 18 who have been arrested for prostitution. For a year after entering First Step, young participants will receive services such as counseling, substance abuse treatment, and education programming. At the end of the year, those who complete First Step will have the arrest cleared from their record.

Here are some clips from Jackie Lacey’s announcement:

Until now, minors between the ages of 12 to 17 who were arrested for sex-related crimes were deemed juvenile delinquents. Between 2000 and 2010, the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed 2,188 petitions against minors caught soliciting or loitering for solicitation.

Those arrested were processed through juvenile courts with little or no resources devoted to addressing the underlying issues that forced them into prostitution.

“We believe that minors who engage in sex for pay are victims not criminals,” District Attorney Lacey said during a news conference. “We believe that we should help these children, not detain them.

[SNIP]

Lacey said the District Attorney’s Office is joining forces with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Probation Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to identify girls under 18 who have been arrested for sex related offenses.

First Step will be rolled out in two Juvenile Division Branch Offices – Sylmar and Compton. These juvenile offices were selected due to the volume of arrests and because those girls arrested actually reside in that community.

A supervising deputy district attorney will be assigned to oversee First Step within each juvenile office.

For a period of one year, minors who agree to enter the First Step program will receive referral services, such as crisis intervention, sexual assault and mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, education and other appropriate social services.


SHUT DOWN LAUSD LIBRARIES MAY REOPEN THEIR DOORS

In December, we pointed to a story about the inordinate number of LAUSD school libraries that have been shuttered because there’s no staff to run them.

On Tuesday, the LA Unified school board approved the creation of a task force to address the issue. The task force will draft a library funding plan and present a budget to the board within 90 days.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson has a welcome update on her previous story. Here’s a clip:

There are only 98 librarians in a district 768 school libraries. Many elementary schools opt for library aides instead – a lower-pay, part-time position. But even with aides, 332 school libraries do not have staff. State law says only librarians or aides can run school libraries.

“We all know that one immediate solution is the staffing of all our libraries,” said board member Monica Ratliff, who authored the task force resolution. “Few are openly opposed to the concept of staffing all our libraries and many are currently interested in addressing the current system of inequity in which some students have access to library books and others don’t.”


ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER CALLS FOR AN END TO FELON DISENFRANCHISEMENT

Earlier this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to restore voting rights to the millions of felons who are still disenfranchised after serving their time.

The NY Times’ Matt Apuzzo has the story. Here are some clips:

In a speech at Georgetown University, Mr. Holder described today’s prohibitions — which in some cases bar those convicted from voting for life — as a vestige of the racist policies of the South after the Civil War, when states used the criminal justice system to keep blacks from fully participating in society.

“Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Holder said. “They could not vote.”

Mr. Holder has no authority to enact the changes he called for, given that states establish the rules under which people can vote. And state Republican leaders made clear that Mr. Holder’s remarks, made to a receptive audience at a civil rights conference, would not move them.

“Eric Holder’s speech from Washington, D.C., has no effect on Florida’s Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote,” said Frank Collins, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.

[SNIP]

Like mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses, laws banning felons from the voting booth disproportionately affect minorities. African-Americans represent more than a third of the estimated 5.8 million people who are prohibited from voting.

Nearly every state prohibits inmates from voting while in prison. Laws vary widely, however, on whether felons can vote once they have been released from prison. Some states allow voting while on parole, others while on probation.

Some states require waiting periods or have complicated processes for felons to reregister to vote. In Mississippi, passing a $100 bad check carries a lifetime ban from voting.

In four states — Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia — all felons are barred from the polls for life unless they receive clemency from the governor.

“This isn’t just about fairness for those who are released from prison,” Mr. Holder said. “It’s about who we are as a nation. It’s about confronting, with clear eyes and in frank terms, disparities and divisions that are unworthy of the greatest justice system the world has ever known.”

And here’s what an NYT editorial had to say about Holder’s move:

Despite some progress, the United States remains an extreme outlier in allowing lifetime voting bans. Most industrialized nations allow all nonincarcerated people to vote, and many even allow voting in prison.

Adding insult to injury, felon disenfranchisement laws — which are explicitly permitted by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — are devoid of both logic and supporting evidence. They undermine the citizenship of people who have paid their debt to society, and possibly at a cost to public safety. As Mr. Holder pointed out, a study by a parole commission in Florida found that formerly incarcerated people banned from voting were three times as likely to re-offend as those who were allowed to vote.

[SNIP]

Regardless of which party might benefit most at the polls, repealing felon disenfranchisement laws is in the interest of upholding American ideals. And it has increasing bipartisan support; Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, Republicans who have promoted criminal-justice reform on a larger scale, are also pushing to scale back or end these laws. Even after someone has completed a sentence, Senator Paul said in September, “the punishment and stigma continues for the rest of their life, harming their families and hampering their ability to re-enter society.”


TWO LA TIMES ESSAYS WITH DIFFERENT VIEWS ON GOV. JERRY BROWN’S TWO YEAR PRISON OVERCROWDING REPRIEVE

George Skelton in his Capitol Journal column says California’s deadline extension is a “win-win” for all parties involved. It’s an obvious victory for Governor Jerry Brown, who fought an uphill battle to gain the extra time, but Skelton says everyone—including inmates, lawyers and taxpayers—will benefit from the judges’ ruling.

Here’s a clip:

The judges, lawyers and inmates will gradually obtain — although not as quickly as they’d liked — more breathing room in the lockups and, consequently, better medical and mental healthcare. Moreover, the felons will be provided improved rehab, education, job training and treatment for drug abuse.

And some prisoners will be given early release, although Brown certainly won’t be calling it that.

The taxpaying public will be saving money in the long run. They’ll be paying for incarcerating fewer prisoners. And those released will be more likely to go straight and not return as expensive wards of the state.

At least that’s the theory. And it’s worth trying, given that California’s old stack-’em-like-cordwood mentality resulted in a recidivism rate — repeat lawbreaking — of 70%, twice the national average.

A Times editorial does not share Skelton’s optimism, and suggests that the judges should not have been quite so lenient with the governor, but pushed him to lock more rehabilitation into his plan.

Here’s how it opens:

There’s always one kid in class who gets away with it. You know the one. The teacher says the homework is due Friday and if you don’t turn it in, you flunk. But this kid pleads for more time. Just give him the weekend and he promises to get it done. The teacher says OK, then Monday comes and he asks to be given until the end of the week. And then he promises to turn it in at the end of the year. Then he says he can get it done by next April. Promise.

Now, how about two years from now?

Gov. Jerry Brown is the kid who got away with it, persuading a three-judge federal court panel to give him until February 2016 — long after this year’s elections — to reduce the state’s prison population by 5,500 inmates and to put in place anti-recidivism programs to keep the numbers down permanently. Even the judges expressed surprise at their own leniency, acknowledging that they’ve heard similar promises from California governors many times since 2009, when they ordered the state to shrink the inmate population to comply with constitutional strictures against cruel and unusual punishment. The judges noted that in the intervening years, prisoners have continued to be mistreated, that Californians have paid a financial price for the state’s delay, and that “this court must also accept part of the blame for not acting more forcefully with regard to defendants’ obduracy in the face of its continuing constitutional violations.”


AND A VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE ON THOSE SUTTER BROWN PLAYING CARDS

California’s first lady, Anne Gust Brown, came up with the adorable corgi playing cards with a state deficit chart on the back that were handed out during the governor’s State of the State speech.

The cards were such a massive hit that there may be a reprint in the works.

The SF Gate’s Carla Marinucci has the story. Here’s a clip:

She said the brainstorm had occurred to her as her husband was writing his speech. “This was about the governor sending a message … actually, not to the whole public,” but specifically to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Gust Brown said.

And “how do you keep getting a message out to a group that wants to declare victory?”

Certainly, state legislators “made a lot of hard decisions to get us to a surplus,” and had reason to want to celebrate, she said. “We’ve done a lot to get out of these horrible deficits,” she said.

But Brown wanted to “keep reinforcing the decisions” based on fiscal prudence, she said.

And the challenge: Talking about issues like a rainy day fund “is boring,” she said. “People roll their eyes. You can say it in a speech, or put it in a chart, and they forget it.

“So I liked having some way where Jerry could reconfirm the point … and Sutter being there, I knew, would make it more memorable.”

Along with the dog’s photos on the front of the card, she added a flip side: a chart showing the persistence of the state’s deficits.

Posted in DCFS, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), juvenile justice, LAUSD, prison | No Comments »

LA Child Sex Trafficker Pleads Guilty…Gov Brown to Increase Spending on Private Prisons…State School Board to Decide on New School District $$$ Rules…and More

January 16th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

US ATTORNEY BIROTTE ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEA OF LOS ANGELES CHILD SEX TRAFFICKER

On Tuesday, US Attorney André Birotte’s office announced that Paul Edward Bell, an alleged member of the Rolling 60s Crips, pleaded guilty to the sex trafficking of young girls in LA. Specifically, Bell housed four girls between the ages of 15 and 17, who were recruited in the Inland Empire, and forced them to work as prostitutes in Lynwood and Compton in 2011. Bell faces 30 years in federal prison, and is the last of eight defendants convicted after an investigation by the Inland Child Exploitation/Prostitution Task Force. (The task force is made up of officers from the FBI and law enforcement agencies across Southern California.)

Here’s how the investigation began, according to the FBI’s announcement regarding Bell’s conviction (Alberti and the Rogers brothers are three of the other aforementioned defendants):

The investigation in this case began in January of 2011, when the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department learned that teenage girls attending schools in the Inland Empire were being recruited to work as prostitutes. The investigation later revealed that Alberti attended one of the schools and recruited underage females by “grooming them”—or gaining their trust and telling them that they could make large sums of money by working as prostitutes for Alberti’s pimp. The girls who were successfully recruited to work as prostitutes were brought to the Los Angeles area, where they were housed by Bell and the Rogers brothers at hotels on and near Long Beach Boulevard or at Bell’s apartment.

Bell also admitted to physically abusing one of the girls. Here’s a clip from the plea agreement detailing the incident:

In April 2011, Victim 4, then 17, worked as a prostitute for defendant while Samuel Rogers [one of the other eight defendants] was incarcerated. During that time, defendant harbored Victim 4 at the Euclid Residence with other prostitutes defendant employed. Also, during that time, defendant knew that Victim 4 was 17 years old. While working as a prostitute under defendant’s supervision and direction, on our about April 6, 2011, defendant physically abused Victim 4 for not performing as a prostitute and for acting up. Therefore defendant used force to cause Victim 4 to engage in commercial sex acts.

Here’s what US Attorney Birotte had to say about Bell’s case, according to the FBI’s announcement:

“Sex trafficking is an abominable crime that condemns its victims to physical and psychological trauma, hardship and abuse,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Mr. Bell and his cohorts coldly and brutally victimized young women and juveniles, subjecting them to treatment that can only be described as inhumane. Bell exploited his victims for profit and now he will be held accountable and punished for his predatory conduct.”

We’ve reported on this issue before. Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe are working to put a focus on child sex trafficking, with an emphasis on decriminalizing and aiding the child prostitutes. (These arrests were actually made in Mark Ridley-Thomas’ district.)

Here are a couple of clips from Supe MRT’s website regarding this issue:

“Every day, children as young as 12 are bought and sold by adult men,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas…“We will shine a light on this despicable behavior. You, who come here days, nights, weekends to buy these girls, we see you. And we will bring changes throughout Los Angeles County and the state of California.”

[SNIP]

Human sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar business increasingly run by gangs. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 100,000 children in the United States are sold for sex each year. In Los Angeles, it is estimated that as many as 3,000 children are trafficked.


GOV BROWN TO PUMP MORE MONEY INTO PRIVATE PRISONS REGARDLESS OF JUDGES’ PENDING DECISION

Governor Jerry Brown’s recently proposed budget, which banks on federal judges pushing back California’s prison overcrowding deadline by two years, would still increase spending on private prisons and jail leasing. We at WLA are not thrilled with this news. (Read the backstory here.)

The LA Times’ Paige St. John has the latest on the prison saga. Here’s a clip:

Detailed expenditure records released after Brown announced the highlights of his proposed budget for 2014-15 show that the governor expects to increase the use of outside prison contracts. His plan sets aside nearly $500 million to pay for and administer prison contracts to take nearly 17,700 inmates, increases of $100 million and 4,700 prisoners over the current year.

A little more than half of those prisons are out of state. The rest are community correctional centers, which could be run by local governments or private prison operators.

The governor’s planning documents show that even with that increase in spending, California prisons would remain 3,000 inmates over what federal judges say they can safely hold and still provide adequate healthcare and psychiatric services. The documents do not show how Brown plans to address further growth of the state’s prison population.


STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO VOTE ON SPENDING RULES REGARDING HIGH-NEEDS YOUTH

Today, the California Board of Education is expected to vote on important new rules to ensure school district accountability on spending extra budget money on at-risk students.

Ana Tintocalis has the story for KQED’s California Report. Here’s a small clip from the transcript:

The first draft of these spending rules was trashed by education advocates three months ago. They said districts would have the freedom to spend extra money however they pleased. Now the state board is back with new rules that require each school district to show how they’ll use the money to increase services for low-income students, foster youth, and english-learners…but student advocates are not entirely satisfied…

Go listen to the rest.


PATT MORRISON DISCUSSES THE STRANGER THEORIES REGARDING THE LOWERED CRIME RATE

Last week, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that citywide violent crime rates were down by 12% and property crimes were down 4%, in 2013, keeping up an 11-year crime reduction streak.

In an LA Times editorial, Patt Morrison offers some of the loonier circulating theories on what factors may have contributed to the decline in crime. Morrison says the crime rate drop is cheering, but that it cannot go on forever, and advises the mayor and police chief to be prepared for a time when the numbers move in a different direction.

The mayor and the police chief, Eric Garcetti and Charlie Beck, respectively, were justifiably over the moon this week about the winning streak, 11 years of plummeting crime rates, the lowest overall since 1949.

Both of them credited community policing, community groups and the use of computerized crime data for the laudable numbers.

Some other theories have been floated, some more far-fetched than others, but there’s a master’s thesis lurking in each and every one of them:

Full prisons. The more people you put behind bars, the fewer criminally inclined are out and about to commit more crimes. Although that seems right intuitively, the numbers don’t necessarily bear that out.

Recession. Also counterintuitive because you’d expect that poverty would drive people to desperate, violent measures. Researchers are puzzling over why this didn’t happen. Maybe the potential evildoers just couldn’t afford to buy guns and bludgeons.

[SNIP]

Whatever’s making crime diminish, I am, as an Angeleno, delighted that it’s happening. But logic argues that this decline can’t go on indefinitely; there has never been a zero-crime society in human history, insofar as I know.

The difficult part for both Garcetti and Beck will be in tempering their deserved pleasure at the good numbers and getting some talking points and research ready for the inevitable day when the numbers are not so good.

Posted in Child sexual abuse, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), FBI, Foster Care, LAPD, LAUSD, prison, Youth at Risk | 2 Comments »

More on the LASD Hiring Story, False Confessions via the “Reid Technique,” and LAUSD’s Vanishing Libraries

December 3rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker

LA SUPERVISOR YAROSLAVSKY SAYS NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL SHOULD EXAMINE LASD HIRING

On Monday, we shared the LA Times story about disturbing LASD hiring practices in 2010.

On Tuesday, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that Max Huntsman, the incoming inspector general for the sheriff’s dept., should make taking a deeper look at this hiring issue one of his first priorities.

The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston have the update on the controversial story. Here’s a clip:

“I think the Sheriff’s Department needs to take a look at each and every one of these hires to see what remedies they have,” Yaroslavsky said, “and they need to do it immediately.”…

He said he would meet with Max Huntsman, who is expected to start soon as the Sheriff Department’s new inspector general, and ask him to look at the 2010 mass hire and the sheriff’s hiring in general.

“This should be one of the first things he looks at,” Yaroslavsky said. “This is a very frustrating situation. There’s a rigorous vetting process that goes with hiring any law enforcement employees, and corners should not be cut.… The sheriff needs to be sure this kind of situation does not reoccur.”

In an interview earlier Monday, Huntsman said he was particularly troubled by the finding that dozens of officers who had showed evidence of dishonesty were hired. Investigators noted that some of the new hires had made untrue statements or falsified police records.

“The hiring of people who have not been honest is a dangerous thing to do,” said Huntsman, who is expected to start work as the agency’s inspector general early next year. “Dishonesty is a particularly dangerous area. A use of force can be placed in context … it may or may not reoccur. But dishonesty, that’s always going to be a problem.”

[SNIP]

“At a minimum we would ask questions, gather information and hopefully make suggestions on how to avoid this in the future. Even though I think some of those suggestions are pretty obvious: Don’t do this,” he said. “Hopefully, if we would have existed at the time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Another county supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich, said in a statement that the Board of Supervisors “was assured that full background investigations would be conducted and only those qualified would be hired by the Sheriff’s Department.”
“Those who breached that process should be held accountable,” he said.


MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE: COMMON INVESTIGATION METHOD INDUCES FALSE CONFESSIONS

The New Yorker has an fascinating story about how an oft-used law enforcement interrogation tactic called the “Reid Technique” can (and does) elicit false confessions. The technique involves a series of steps on the part of investigators, including assessing whether the suspect is lying, to pretending to have evidence and minimizing the consequences of the alleged crime.

Unfortunately, the article is hidden behind the New Yorker’s usual paywall. Here’s a small clip from the beginning of the piece (do go read the rest if you have a subscription):

On December 14, 1955, Darrel Parker came home for lunch from his job as a forester in Lincoln, Nebraska. A recent graduate of Iowa State, he had moved to Lincoln with his wife, Nancy, who worked as a dietician for a flour-and-noodle company and had a cooking show on the local television station. He found her dead in their bedroom. Her face was battered, her hands and feet were bound, and a cord had been knotted around her neck. The medical examiner later determined that she had been raped before the murder.

Parker called the police and spent the next several days in a fog of grief and sedation. After the officers questioned him, he took his wife’s body home to Iowa for burial. Several days later, while mourning with her family, he got a call from the attorney for Lancaster County, Nebraska. There was some new information, the attorney said, and he asked if Parker could come in and help with the investigation. When Parker arrived, he was led into a windowless room and introduced to a large, well-dressed man named John Reid.

Reid was a former Chicago street cop who had become a consultant and polygraph expert. He had developed a reputation as someone who could get criminals to confess. Rather than brutalize suspects, as police often did in those days, he used modern science, combining his polygraphic skills with an understanding of human psychology…

The author, Douglas Starr, is co-director of the graduate Program in Science and Medical Journalism at Boston University. (Business Insider’s Erin Fuchs also wrote about the New Yorker piece—you can read it here.)


MANY LAUSD SCHOOL LIBRARIES HAVE GONE DARK WITHOUT $$$

Approximately 145 LAUSD schools may have been forced to shut down their libraries due to lack of funding, according to staffing information obtained by KPCC this week. Because the district no longer pays for school library workers, and state law says that the libraries cannot be run by volunteers, many LAUSD schools (especially middle schools) have lost a crucial tool to help shrink the learning gap between students from lower and higher income families.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson has the story. Here’s a clip:

The district has 457 elementary schools, but only 380 schools have at least a part time library aide, according to statistics provided by L.A. Unified. That translates into about one in five schools that can’t open their libraries.

Shortages have hit middle schools the hardest — 83 percent of them are without a librarian, according to district staffing numbers.

Some schools are working around the district the same way they’ve gotten around insufficient arts instruction — with parents chipping in to pay for it.

That’s what parents at Wonderland Avenue Elementary, in Canyon Hills, did.

“We can allocate $40,000 to have our library opened,” said parent Stacey Gonsalves. “I don’t know how many schools in LAUSD are sitting with their doors locked and the lights turned out” because they can’t.

The shuttered libraries are a legacy of years of budget constraints. The district used to pay for library workers directly, but cut them from the budget in 2011. Schools that wanted them had to find room in their discretionary funds, which can create difficult choices.

“You have to make the choice between a school nurse, an office tech, the library aide, counselors, everything – because you can only afford one,” said Franny Perish, a library aide at Dixie Canyon Community Charter School and a member of the The California School Employees Association.

Posted in Innocence, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, LAUSD | 2 Comments »

WHO SHOULD BE A COP? LAT’s Disturbing Window into the Hiring Practices of the LA County Sheriff’s Department…and More

December 2nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



On Sunday, the LA Times published an exceptionally well-reported—and disturbing
look into some of the hiring practices used by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The focus of the data-informed story by Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston is a hiring period that occurred in 2010 after the department took over the patrols of county parks and government buildings from the L.A. County police force. Following the takeover, it seems that the ousted LA County cops were given first consideration as the LASD began hiring to fill the new positions.

Out of 400 county officers who applied, the Times learned that around 280 were hired. Through the acquisition of a pile of LASD internal hiring files, Faturechi and Poston were able to determine that approximately 188—or 67 percent—of those hired from the county cop pool had been rejected for jobs at other law enforcement agencies.

Around one third of those same hires had been disciplined previously by other police agencies for “significant misconduct on duty.”

Slightly over 10 percent—39 people—were either fired or pressured to resign from previous jobs in law enforcement.

If the LASD management has hired that many people who’ve been discipline by other agencies—or actually bounced out of other cop jobs—what kind of background problems have they overlooked in brand new recruits whom they believe they can train from scratch?

NARROWING THE FOCUS

There have long been reports from LASD insiders that during certain periods, department higher-ups have put pressure on background investigators to push through questionable applicants in order to raise the number of sworn officers to a particular threshold.

Yet for this story, the LA Times reporters focused solely on the County police hires, which was a smart decision. By limiting their reporting to that single pool of applicants, it allowed the Times to analyse and quantify a given hiring pattern in hard numbers—numbers that are both startling, and difficult to explain away.

The Times also tells many of the stories behind those numbers, and they too are not reassuring.

For example:

About 50 disclosed to sheriff’s background investigators misdeeds such as petty theft, soliciting prostitutes and violence against spouses.

One hire told investigators of having inappropriate sexual contact with two toddlers as a teenager.

In another case, Linda Bonner was given a job after revealing that she used her department-issued weapon to shoot at her husband as he ran away from her during an argument. He wasn’t hit; he was lucky he was running in a zigzag pattern, she told investigators, because if not the end result “would have been a whole lot different.”

And then there is:

Another officer, Niles Rose, was hired despite being the subject of several unreasonable force allegations.

Rose had been investigated for misconduct 10 times at the Office of Public Safety since 2001. In three of those cases, the allegations were found by investigators to be true, according to the sheriff’s background file. A former supervisor said Rose developed a reputation as being heavy-handed with suspects.

“If you want smart force used, you make sure he’s in the locker room,” Marc Gregory, a former county police captain, said in an interview with The Times.

Once hired by the sheriff’s department, Rose’s behavior reportedly did not appear to improve. Instead, multiple allegations of misconduct seemed to accompany his every assignment, according to the Times.

AND WHAT DOES THE DEPARTMENT HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE LA TIMES REPORT?

When asked for a response to what the Times found, the reactions were what we have, sadly, now come to expect.

Sheriff Lee Baca declined to comment, but his spokesman said Baca was not aware people with such backgrounds were hired.

Before he knew of the newspaper’s investigation, Baca told Times reporters that people with records of violence or dishonesty have no place in law enforcement. He said applicants who had been fired from other agencies shouldn’t be given a second chance, and that he would not hire applicants with histories of illegal sexual conduct.

“Men that take women and use them as a sexual object are going to always come up against my wrath,” he said.

In addition to the “I’m shocked, shocked…!” excuse there was the devil-made-me-do-it excuse. To wit:

Baca’s then second-in-command, Larry Waldie, and a small circle of aides, were responsible for scrutinizing applicants.

Waldie, now retired, said he personally reviewed many of the applicants’ files. He said he was unaware of any hires with histories of significant misconduct.

Presented with some of The Times’ findings, Waldie said: “That information was not brought to me … I don’t recall any of these specifics so don’t ask me anymore.”

Waldie then said he and his aides were under “significant pressure” from the county Board of Supervisors and other officials to hire as many county officers as possible.

“We had to have grave reasons for not hiring them,” Waldie said.

Since the Supervisors have not succeeded in pressuring the sheriff’s department into doing much of anything it didn’t want to in the past decade, the claim of “the board made us do it” is reasonably laughable.

Moreover, other agency heads—such as LA County Probation Chief Jerry Powers—have been under “significant pressure” from the board to get their hiring numbers up, ASAP, in Powers’ case, in order to finish staffing up for realignment. And yet Powers has, if anything, tightened his hiring standards during the intense hiring period.

According to the Times’ repot, the LASD’s reaction to word that reporters had acquired the department’s internal records, was also dismaying predictable.

After sheriff’s officials learned The Times had access to the records, they launched a criminal investigation to determine who had leaked them.

(The Times also reports that sheriff’s officials said they would review whether some applicants had been improperly hired. But it appears that tracking down the leaker was Job One.)

There is a lot more in the article itself, so read it.

Let us hope this issue does not go away, but is investigated further.



AND IN OTHER NEWS:

ON THE TOPIC OF INVESTIGATING THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT…WARREN OLNEY INTERVIEWS NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL MAX HUNTSMAN

It’s just a short, preliminary interview (which you can find here), but it gives us an interesting glimpse of Huntsman and how he sees his new job. Take a listen!

And thanks to Warren for giving us this early window.


NATION’S LARGEST SCHOOL POLICE FORCE—NAMELY THE LAUSD POLICE—WILL STOP TICKETING KIDS 12 YEARS OLD AND YOUNGER

For years, childrens’ advocates have been saying that some school administrators have been bringing in school police too quickly to solve minor issues with young students, most often in lower income areas.

Some of the best reporting on the issue has been that of Susan Ferris and the Public Integrity Institute.

Here are a couple of clips from Ferris’ most recent story:

Responding to demand for reforms, the nation’s largest school police force — in Los Angeles — will stop issuing tickets to students 12-years-old or younger for minor infractions allegedly committed on or near campuses during school hours.

A memo this month to officers from Los Angeles Unified School Police Department Chief Steven Zipperman outlined the new policy, which goes into effect in December. The announcement comes in the wake of community demands for the school district to “decriminalize” minor school disciplinary matters and use more discretion when involving law enforcement personnel.

The move by the LAUSD police came after a new report released this fall showed how frequently younger kids were being ticketed for minor issues.

In October, the Labor-Community Strategy Center issued a report analyzing recent police ticketing data. The group found that more than 48 percent of approximately 4,740 school police tickets issued during the 2012-2013 school year were given to kids 14 or younger. Students who were 12 or 11 received 545 tickets. The single biggest offense for younger kids was disturbing the peace.

In calendar year 2011, records examined by the Center for Public Integrity showed that more than 960 kids 12 and younger were ticketed. More than 10,200 tickets in all were issued to students that year, with more than 43 percent going to kids 14 and younger.

In April of 2012, two first graders, six and seven, were ticketed after they got into a shoving match and the mother of one called police, the principal of the kids’ school told the Center. In September, the Center found, a 10-year-old was ticketed for trespassing.

Getting a ticket used to mean that students were forced to miss school and appear in court with parents — and pay dollar fines or perform community service. Students were saddled with misdemeanor records if they didn’t show up at court, which many failed to do.

We applaud the LAUSD Police Chief Zipperman from taking this much needed step, and thank Ferris and the Center for Public Integrity for staying on the issue.


STATEWIDE ACTIVIST GROUP ISSUES REALIGNMENT “REPORT CARD” FOR COUNTIES & LOS ANGELES GETS A “DOUBLE FAIL”

The San Bernardino Sun reports on the five counties who merited the “double fail’ designation for their productive use of realignment funds, in a rating issued for the statewide activist group CURB.

Here’s a clip from Melissa Pinion-Whitt’s report:

“A lot of counties are not utilizing a lot of the alternatives to incarceration that are available to them,” said Diana Zuñiga, statewide program coordinator.

The group, known as CURB, has released report cards the last three years, grading counties based on their use of realignment funding.

Only two of the 13 counties graded by CURB passed, another six failed and five more received a “double fail” grade. Kern, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Mateo counties joined San Bernardino with the lowest grades.

CURB supports funding to “connect people to housing, health care, education, job training and re-entry services that reduce recidivism…”

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is CURB’s report card that includes LA’s double fail

Posted in 2014 election, LASD, LAUSD, Los Angeles Times, School to Prison Pipeline, Sheriff Lee Baca, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 45 Comments »

LA Jail Deal with Kern County May Be Nixed, a New Women’s Facility, California Prison Pepper Spray Policy Update…and More

October 24th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

CONTRACT TO MOVE LA COUNTY JAIL INMATES TO KERN COUNTY MAY BE VOIDED NEXT WEEK, AND A NEW WOMEN’S JAIL IS IN THE WORKS

A controversial $75M contract to move 500 LA county jail inmates to Taft Correctional Institution in Kern County that the Board of Supervisors approved last month will likely be canceled at next Tuesday’s board meeting. Supe Gloria Molina has introduced a motion to void the deal after learning of an ongoing legal dispute between the state and Kern County over leased beds. (Find the backstory here.)

KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the contract in late September as a means of alleviating crowding in the jails. Two supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Riddley-Thomas abstained from the vote, citing questions about funding the contract and where the move fit into the county’s long-term jail plans. Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mike Antonovich, and Don Knabe supported the contract as a way of adding jail space and potentially reducing the practice of releasing inmates early because of a lack of beds.

Now, Supervisor Gloria Molina has indicated she’s withdrawing her support for the contract and introduced a motion to void it. That item will likely be on the board of supervisors’ agenda on October 29. The motion will need three votes to pass.

Roxane Márquez, a spokeswoman for Molina, said the supervisor changed her mind after the county uncovered legal hurdles to quickly sending inmates to the Community Correctional Facility. It is run by the City of Taft, which is near Bakersfield.

“We did not know that the State of California and the City of Taft were involved in litigation about the use of those beds,” Márquez said. “We’re not interested in getting involved in the lawsuit.”

The Supes also moved forward with a plan to fund a new women’s jail facility in Lancaster at the Mira Loma Detention Center. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Is it just us, or does it feel like the board approves a gigantic new jail expenditure nearly every week without ever having approved any kind of overall plan or strategy? Seriously, people!)

The LA Daily News has the story. Here’s how it opens:

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to shift $100 million in state funding for a women’s jail facility near Castaic to a new project site — the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster.

The county was in danger of losing that grant money, which had been allocated for a “women’s village” at Pitchess Detention Center, but easements owned by oil and utility companies have stalled the planning process.

Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka recommended moving the project to Mira Loma, previously used as a federal detention site for undocumented immigrants but now closed. “If we don’t take today’s action … we will lose that $100 million,” he said, warning the deadline is the end of this month.

Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald supported the change, saying a Mira Loma Women’s Village would offer more capacity for innovative programs and the possibility of a re-entry facility to help ease the transition back to society.

The village would operate under “indirect supervision,” with guards moving freely among inmates rather than being stationed in a central control room, and housing in the proposed re-entry facility would be outside the confines of the jail, so women would have some freedom to come and go.

“The county has an opportunity with this facility to design a national model for the treatment of female offenders,” McDonald said, though she added that the site was “not without its challenges.”

One obstacle is the traveling distance for inmates’ families as compared with the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood, currently the county’s all-female jail.


CDCR SAYS PEPPER SPRAY POLICY CHANGES ARE ON THE WAY

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Wednesday that it will be changing protocol on when and how much pepper spray can be used on mentally ill inmates. The policy shift comes amid federal hearings on alleged abuse of California’s mentally ill prisoners. (You can catch up on that story here, if you missed it.)

The LA Times’ Paige St. John has the story. Here’s a clip:

In testimony Wednesday before a federal judge, the state official in charge of adult prisons said he sought the changes in part because of videotapes, introduced as evidence in the case, showing half a dozen inmates who were repeatedly sprayed with large amounts of pepper spray — even while naked and screaming for help.

Those tapes, he said, “are honestly one of the reasons we will be revising our policy to provide additional guidelines,” said Michael Stainer, deputy director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Stainer said the new rules would limit the amount of pepper spray guards may use on a prisoner, including banning the use of pepper spray canisters — designed for crowd control — on prisoners in small cells.

“I would love to have this policy in practice by the end of the year,” Stainer told the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press also reported on the CDCR’s policy changes. Here are some small clips:

The corrections department will limit how much pepper spray can be used and how quickly, said spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman. The rules are still being written and would not apply to emergency situations.

[SNIP]

“Obviously, it’s our goal to use a minimal amount of force. Having it spelled out may help these situations stay more in control,” Hoffman said.


LA TIMES GETS IPAD NUMBERS WRONG, OTHER PUBLICATIONS FOLLOW SUIT

The LA Times falsely reported yesterday that the LAUSD’s deal with Apple to buy thousands of iPads would cost more than originally agreed upon. Many publications picked up the info and ran with it without bothering to fact-check.

LA School Report’s Chase Niesner has the story. Here’s a clip:

“This is not new news and [is] part of the original board-approved contract,” said LA Unifed spokesperson Shannon Haber.

The article, “School iPads to cost nearly $100 more each, revised budget shows,” circulated by numerous media outlets including LA School Report, reported that the iPads now cost $770 per tablet, stating, “the newly disclosed price, a 14 percent increase per iPad, appeared in a revised budget released in advance of a public meeting Tuesday on the $1-billion project.”

But there was no revision. The “newly disclosed price” was available by reading the July contract, which states that the district would receive a significant discount upon purchasing 520,000 devices, totaling $400 million.

The folks at the LA Times weren’t the only ones confused about the iPad deal, another story by the LA School Report’s Vanessa Romo says that the LAUSD school board was shaky on the details. Here’s a clip:

...two months into the school year, with more than 30,000 iPads deployed, $50 million already spent and another $500 million on the line, school board members still have more questions than answers about the most basic details of getting a sleek new(ish) tablet into the hands of every student. And what has become painfully obvious is that school board and committee members alike are only now asking questions that should have been asked long before the project got off the ground.

For instance, board members seemed not to know what was actually in the contract with Apple, or what it would actually cost per unit.

(Read the details here.)


LA COUNTY DEPUTY CHARGED WITH ASSAULTING HIS GIRLFRIEND MULTIPLE TIMES, THREATENING TO KILL HER AND MOTHER OF HIS CHILD

LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Eric Hibner was convicted Tuesday of beating his girlfriend after she found out that he was seeing another woman. He was also charged with threatening to kill both his girlfriend and the mother of his child. (Yet another story that makes the case for more thorough background checks.)

Here’s a clip from the Orange County DA’s website:

On Dec. 25, 2012, Hibner got into an argument with Jane Doe #1 after the victim discovered a sexually suggestive voicemail from another woman on the defendant’s cell phone.

The following day, Dec. 26, 2012, Hibner continued to argue with Jane Doe #1 over his relationship with the other woman. Over the next few days, Hibner physically assaulted Jane Doe #1, spit on the victim, repeatedly swore at her, and threatened to kill her.

On Dec. 30, 2012, Hibner woke Jane Doe #1 and dragged her to the living room by her hair. Hibner threw the victim on the floor and got on top of her. Jane Doe #1 cried, begged Hiber to stop, and banged her foot on the floor to wake the neighbors. Hibner then covered the victim’s mouth, pinched her nose, and threatened to make her pass out. He got off of Jane Doe #1, spit on her, threw a lit cigarette at her, and called her derogatory names.

On Feb. 19, 2013, Hibner met with Jane Doe #2, with whom he formerly had a romantic relationship and minor child, for a child custody exchange. During the meeting, Hibner threatened to kill Jane Doe #2 if she appeared in court at a hearing scheduled for two days later regarding a protective order for the crimes against Jane Doe #1.


LA WILL LIKELY BECOME FIRST CITY TO BAN ELEPHANT BULL HOOKS

On Wednesday, LA City Council moved to ban the use of bull hooks and other objects used to inflict pain on circus elephants, and asked that a city ordinance be drafted and presented to the council for a final vote.

The LA Daily News’ Dakota Smith has the story. Here’s a clip:

Swayed by graphic undercover video showing elephants being prodded with the tools, City Council members unanimously backed a ban on the steel-pointed rod resembling a fireplace poker. The tool is used to inflict pain on the animals, argued City Councilman Paul Koretz, who has sponsored numerous laws in support of animals’ rights.

“It causes great harm and great pain to elephants,” said Koretz, who held a bull hook aloft as he spoke on the council floor.

With the vote, the City Council ordered a draft ordinance, which must return to the council for a final vote. If ultimately approved, the ban would take effect in three years.

The delayed ban allows local workers dependent on Ringling Bros.’ annual show to find replacement work, officials said.

With the move, Los Angeles is set to become only city in the country to ban the bull hook. Animal activists contend the tools are cruel, and point out that progressive zoos and habitats ban their use.

Posted in CDCR, Homeboy Industries, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LAUSD, Los Angeles Times, Mental Illness | No Comments »

Who has the right to be educated in LA County Jail?…Homeboy Goes to Scotland…Gov’t Sued Over Not Protecting Endangered Species…and More

May 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



YOUNG, LEARNING DISABLED, AND LOCKED-UP—AND IN NEED OF EDUCATION

Michael Garcia, who is about to turn 23 in a California state prison, was sentenced as an adult to 12 years in lock-up for his part in a gang-related crime that occurred in 2006 when he was 15. Garcia will be released in 2016, when he’s 26, at which point he is determined to reboot the trajectory of his life toward a positive—and legal—future. One important step along the way to that new life, Garcia knows, is a high school diploma.

Garcia, however, has a learning disability meaning that he does not fit well into conventional classes or instruction. Nevertheless, until he turned 22 years old, the state of California is legally required to provide him with the rest of his high school education, if he desires it, even if he’s incarcerated.

But once Garcia was moved from a juvenile facility to the LA County jail, no state or county educational agency seemed to want to be the ones to provide him with that education—although everyone seemed to cheerily agree that it was in the best interest of society, and all that good stuff, for someone to do it. The question was: who?

Joanna Lin, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, has the story about Garcia and the growing number of young, learning disabled inmates like him who are falling through a yawning gap in the special education laws, never mind that education is one of the biggest predictors when it comes to determining how well or poorly a person does when he or she gets out of prison and attempts to reenter the legal, working world.

Here’s a clip from Lin’s story:

School ended for Michael Garcia with a routine transfer from juvenile hall to adult county jail. There was no fanfare, diploma or cap and gown. He hadn’t graduated or dropped out.

He’d simply turned 18.

For the next 19 months, he was in limbo, unable to receive the high school diploma that he’ll need for most jobs and to attend college. Despite being eligible for special education under state and federal laws – Garcia has a learning disability, an auditory processing disorder and a speech and language impairment – in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, he was a student that no one wanted to teach.

California and federal laws allow students with disabilities to receive special education services until age 22. But the laws are vague enough that deciding who should provide that education is unclear.

Garcia has spent nearly five years in legal battles trying to hold someone accountable. This year, the California Supreme Court is expected to hear Garcia’s case to determine whether an incarcerated student’s local school district – the one in which his or her parents reside – is responsible for his or her special education.

The case has implications for county inmates with disabilities and school districts across the state that could be required to send teachers into jails to instruct special education students. In L.A. County jails alone, attorneys for Garcia estimate, between 400 and 700 young adults are eligible for special education on any given day.

The court’s decision will come too late for Garcia, who is incarcerated at a state prison – a system beyond the scope of his petition. Still, said Garcia, who turns 23 in June, “it’s the least I can do.”

“I know other people are struggling to get education too but don’t have the courage to keep pushing,” he said. “I already went through that struggle. Why not keep going to help everyone else?”

NOTE: just to be clear, it is not the job of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to educate people like Garcia. It’s LAUSD and/or the state of California that is dropping the ball with young inmates with learning disabilities. (The LASD’s Education-Based Incarceration program is an entirely different kind of program.)


HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES GOES TO SCOTLAND

Father Greg Boyle and former prison lifer, James Horton (who now works for Boyle’s Homeboy Industries) were asked to visit Scotland in order to consult with local law enforcement about the uptick in crime and violence that is plaguing the country’s poorest urban areas.

Now Boyle and Horton—plus my pal, UCLA violence reduction expert, Jorja Leap—are on the ground in the land of kilts and poets, and the local media has been reporting on their peregrinations. Here’s a clip from the BBC’s coverage by Huw Williams :

Former gang member James Horton spent 12 years on death row in the US but was later cleared of a murder charge. He now works with Homeboy Industries.

“Joining a gang was like a rite of passage, and you did it because you wanted to be accepted by those in your community,” he said.

“I was drug dealer too. I was a criminal. Every opportunity that I had to do something to make some money I was most likely involved in doing that.

“You have to deal with the issue as a whole. You can tell someone ‘come join us, be with us’ but if you don’t give them no hope, or no job, then the gang will always have access to them.

“Father Greg teaches us that you can never take away a person’s hope.”

[BIG SNIP]

Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) said one of the biggest challenges for ex gang members and those recently out of prison was finding a meaningful job, so they could contribute economically and socially.

Father Greg Boyle and former gang member James Horton are in Glasgow working with the VRU
The VRU said Braveheart Industries, a social enterprise based on the Los Angeles experience, could improve public safety, make communities healthier and safer, and break the cycle of gang violence.

VRU director Karyn McCluskey added: “Giving people an opportunity and a job has a huge impact on their life and it has a halo effect on their family, it affects the lives of their children and their partners, and I think we can use that experience here.

“We’ve had great policing, Stephen House has driven down violence in Scotland, but the thing that really stops reoffending is giving people a positive destination and I think we can really take some of the experience from Father Greg and Homeboy Industries and use it in Scotland.”

Meetings are to be held in Glasgow, with similar sessions planned in Edinburgh and Kilmarnock later in the week, to see if the work can be replicated across Scotland.


FOSTER CARE YOUTH COVERED FOR HEALTH CARE UNTIL AGE 26 (UNLESS THEY HAVE MOVED STATES IN WHICH CASE THEY’RE OUT OF LUCK)

This is one of those bureaucratic gaps that needs to be fixed immediately.

The California Report has an podcast on the topic.

Anna Challet of New America Media has still more on the issue. Here’s a clip from her story:

There are over 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system, and almost all of them are enrolled in Medicaid. Brooke Lehmann, the founder of Childworks, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., says that 80 percent of foster youth have one or more chronic medical conditions that must continue to be treated after they age out of care.

“There’s simply a cliff where they were once provided for,” she says.

To qualify for the extended coverage [to age 26], youths must have been in foster care at the time of their 18th birthday or have aged out of foster care based on their states’ age limits, and have been enrolled in Medicaid. Until now, states had an option (known as the Chafee Option), but not a mandate, to extend Medicaid coverage to former foster youths, and only until age 21. Only 33 states had adopted the Chafee Option. Now all states will be required to cover eligible youth through age 26.

But, under the extended eligibility provision, there is not currently a requirement that states must cover former foster youth who aged out of care in a different state.


DOJ FAILS TO GUARD AGAINST KILLING OF ENDANGERED SPECIES, SAYS NEW LAWSUIT

The US Department of Justice, which is not exactly having a good month (what with their poorly received new habit of spying on journalists and all), is now rightfully being sued by environmental advocacy groups for their weak-kneed enforcement of protections against killing endangered species.

Julie Cart of the LA Times has the story. Hee’s a clip:

Environmental groups are taking the Justice Department to court over a policy that prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be proved that they knew they were targeting a protected animal.

Critics charge that the 15-year-old McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors and whooping cranes as well as 48 federally protected Mexican wolves.

The policy stems from a Montana case in which Chad McKittrick was convicted under the Endangered Species Act for killing a wolf near Yellowstone National Park in 1995. He argued that he was not guilty because he thought he was shooting a wild dog.

McKittrick appealed the conviction and lost, but the Justice Department nonetheless adopted a policy that became the threshold for taking on similar cases: prosecutors must prove that the individual knowingly killed a protected species.

The lawsuit charges that the policy sets a higher burden of proof than previously required, arguing, “The DOJ’s McKittrick policy is a policy that is so extreme that it amounts to a conscious and express abdication of DOJ’s statutory responsibility to prosecute criminal violations of the ESA as general intent crimes.”

WLA agrees

And to validate the casualness with which the feds seem to view the protection of endangered species, there is this story from early last month regarding the “mistaken” killing of a highly endangered Mexican Gray wolf by a USDA Wildlife Services employee, who said he thought he was killing a coyote.


Posted in bears and alligators, Education, environment, Foster Care, Gangs, health care, Homeboy Industries, LA County Jail, LAUSD, wolves | 5 Comments »

Gov. Brown Calls Out Trutanich on Realignment, LAUSD Bans Suspensions for “Willful Defiance”…and More

May 16th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

TRUTANICH “MISLEADING VOTERS” ON REALIGNMENT, SAYS GOVERNOR

With just a few days until the May 21 general election, Gov. Jerry Brown has recorded a message to voters calling out City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for spreading misleading information about prison realignment. Trutanich, who is running a decidedly uphill battle for reelection was originally a supporter of realignment. Now, he has changed his tune, and is bashing opponent Mike Feuer for supporting it, inaccurately pronouncing realignment the “get-out-of-jail early law,” and more.

LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a mailer, Trutanich calls the plan “the get-out-of-jail early law.” The mailer describes Tobias Summers, the alleged Northridge kidnapper, as “one of Feuer’s get-out-of-jail free graduates.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has disputed that, saying that Summers was not released early.

Brown endorsed Trutanich in his failed D.A. campaign, but is now supporting Feuer for city attorney. In the robocall, Brown faults Trutanich for “misleading voters by suddenly attacking a public safety plan he once supported.”

We’d kind of like a city attorney who bothers to check his facts on legal matters, but that’s just us.


WILLFUL DEFIANCE NO LONGER GROUNDS FOR SUSPENDING L.A. KIDS

Tuesday, the LAUSD school board voted to ban suspensions for the catchall, “willful defiance,” in favor of alternative behavioral disciplines. L.A. is the first district in the state to take this large step toward school disciplinary reform.

The state bill on the same issue is making its way through the legislative process. According to Public Counsel spokesman Michael Soller, “AB 420 passed the Assembly Education Committee, and is headed for an appropriations vote on May 24 or 25. If it gets out of that committee, then it’s on to the Senate.”

WitnessLA will certainly be keeping an eye on it.

LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story on LAUSD’s vote. Here’s a clip:

The packed board room erupted in cheers after the 5-2 vote to approve the proposal, which made L.A. Unified the first school district in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension. The action comes amid mounting national concern that removing students from school is imperiling their academic achievement and disproportionately harming minority students, particularly African Americans.

“Now we’ll have a better chance to stay in school and become something,” said Luis Quintero, 14, a student at Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. He attended the board meeting, along with dozens of other students and community activists who have been pushing the proposal by board members Monica Garcia and Nury Martinez.

But the vote came after an impassioned discussion over whether the proposal would give a “free pass” to students and shield them from the consequences of misbehavior. Board members Marguerite LaMotte told students that they needed to pay for their mistakes, while Richard Vladovic said no student had the right to disrupt learning opportunities for classmates.

“I’m not going to give you permission to go crazy and think there are no consequences,” LaMotte said.


U.S. KIDS’ HIGH EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA

According to a new report from JAMA Pediatrics, four out of ten kids in the U.S. were exposed to physical violence in the last year. In addition, an alarming 13.7 percent of the 4,500 children surveyed reported repeated mistreatment from their caregivers.

The Examiner’s Sharon Gloger Friedman has the story. Here’s a clip:

…Survey results showed:

*Physical assault in the past year was reported by 41.2 percent of respondents.

*Assault-related injuries were reported by 10.1 percent of respondents.

*Nearly 11 percent of girls ages 14 to 17 reported sexual assault or abuse.

*Repeated maltreatment by a caregiver was reported by 13.7 percent of respondents; of that group 3.7 percent said they experienced physical abuse.

More than 13 percent of kids reported being physically bullied; one in three said they had been emotionally bullied.
According to Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist in Potomac, Md., these numbers may be low.

“I think, unfortunately, this [violence] is so endemic to our society, it’s overlooked. It is considered like a cold,” Brody, who often works with victims of childhood violence, and who is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, told HealthDay News.

Brody added that witnessing or experiencing violence as a child can result in rage, lack of security, feelings of powerlessness, nightmares and other psychological aftereffects that last long into adulthood.

Of particular concern are children and teens who suffer frequent exposures to violence. Survey results showed that nearly 15 percent of study participants had been exposed to violence six or more times in the past year and about five percent had been exposed to 10 or more violent acts.

A similar study by the National Survey of Children’s Health found that nearly 48 percent of US youth had experienced at least one major childhood trauma.

Jane Stevens expertly lays out the consequences of this exposure to violence and trauma on her blog, ACEs Too High. Here’s a clip:

Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.

Even more concerning, nearly a third of U.S. youth age 12-17 have experienced two or more types of childhood adversity that are likely to affect their physical and mental health as adults. Across the 50 U.S. states, the percentages range from 23 percent for New Jersey to 44.4 percent for Arizona.

The data are clear, says Dr. Christina Bethell: If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness. Not only will their lives be difficult, but the nation’s already high health care costs will soar even higher, she believes. Bethell is director of the National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center, part of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration, sponsors the survey.

Those numbers are already formidable, and they get much higher when looking at kids in the juvenile justice system.


KRIS KRISTOFFERSON CONCERT TO RAISE MONEY FOR HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES

And on a happier note, Kris Kristofferson will be performing a benefit concert for Homeboy Industries’ 25th anniversary, at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater on June 23. (WitnessLA plans to be there.)

FishbowlLA’s Richard Horgan has more details on the concert.

Posted in children and adolescents, City Attorney, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Homeboy Industries, LAUSD, prison, Realignment, Uncategorized, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 3 Comments »

Foster Mother’s Day, LAUSD Voting to Reign in School Discipline…and More

May 13th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

FAMILIES AND ADVOCATES GATHER TO CELEBRATE FOSTER MOTHERS

This past Sunday, the non-profit organization Foster Care Counts hosted the Fifth Annual Foster Mother’s Day event in LA, home to the nation’s largest foster care system. Fifteen-hundred foster moms and their families gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day and National Foster Month with food, family activities, and entertainment.

We received some excellent photos of the festivities, like this foster mother with her sweet baby…

…and this happy group of kids getting ready to play some carnival games:

As journalists, we so often cover the tragedy and letdowns in foster care, it’s nice to take a moment and recognize the many decent folks who are giving kids homes.


WILL LAUSD VOTE TO BAN SUSPENSIONS FOR “WILLFUL DEFIANCE?”

Tuesday, the LAUSD Board of Education will vote on a resolution authored by LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia to ban suspensions for “willful defiance,” and to provide new guidelines for school discipline. (For more on the resolution, hop over to our April post.)

The LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Damien Valentine knows painfully well about a national phenomenon that is imperiling the academic achievement of minority students, particularly African Americans like himself: the pervasive and disproportionate use of suspensions from school for mouthing off and other acts of defiance.

The Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore has been suspended several times beginning in seventh grade, when he was sent home for a day and a half for refusing to change his seat because he was talking. He said the suspensions never helped him learn to control his behavior but only made him fall further behind.

“Getting suspended doesn’t solve anything,” Valentine said. “It just ruins the rest of the day and keeps you behind.”

But Valentine, who likes chemistry and wants to be a doctor, is determined to change school discipline practices. He has joined a Los Angeles County-wide effort to push a landmark proposal by school board President Monica Garcia that would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for willful defiance.


BROOKLYN D.A. REVIEWING FIFTY MURDER CONVICTIONS INVOLVING RENOWNED NYPD DETECTIVE

The Brooklyn D.A.’s office has ordered a review of around fifty closed homicide cases involving retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella. The review comes after the release of wrongfully convicted David Ranta, who was locked up for twenty-three years on a false confession obtained by Scarcella. It was also triggered by the findings from an NY Times review of a dozen other cases.

We urge you to read the entirety of this wild and alarming tale.

The New York Times’ Frances Robles and N. R. Kleinfield have the story. Here’s a clip:

The office’s Conviction Integrity Unit will reopen every murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict after being investigated by Detective Louis Scarcella, a flashy officer who handled some of Brooklyn’s most notorious crimes during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

The development comes after The New York Times examined a dozen cases involving Mr. Scarcella and found disturbing patterns, including the detective’s reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions and his delivery of confessions from suspects who later said they had told him nothing. At the same time, defense lawyers, inmates and prisoner advocacy organizations have contacted the district attorney’s office to share their own suspicions about Mr. Scarcella.

The review by the office of District Attorney Charles J. Hynes will give special scrutiny to those cases that appear weakest — because they rely on either a single eyewitness or confession, officials said. The staff will re-interview available witnesses, and study any new evidence. If they feel a conviction was unjust, prosecutors could seek for it to be dismissed.

Posted in criminal justice, Foster Care, Innocence, LAUSD, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

Will LAUSD Regulate School Discipline & Ban “Willful Defiance?”….Far Right Lawmakers Say Let States Regulate Weed….LAPD’s Zero Tolerance,

April 17th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


MONICA GARCIA’S STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS

On Tuesday, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia introduced a motion that, if adopted by the board, would establish a Student Bill of Rights for school discipline.

It’s a carefully constructed motion that is supported by a range of organizations including Public Counsel, Liberty Hill, The California Endowment, Community Coalition, and a host of student groups, and it lays out a set of rules and guidelines for schools regarding the way they discipline students. Among other things, the motion mandates transparency and good record keeping in the discipline process, and a clear delineation of the role of school police on campus.

It also mandates that all students have access to what is known as School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions (SWPBIS), a strategy that has been shown to reduce suspensions, increases attendance, and even to improve academic performance.

But, if passed, the biggest change the motion would put into place is the removal from the school discipline tool kit the use of “willful defiance” as a reason for suspension or expulsion.

Here’s the wording:

Beginning Fall 2013, no student shall be suspended or expelled for a “willful defiance” (48900(k) offense

Willful defiance is a blunt instrument that youth advocates and education reformers have been working hard to get taken off the table at a state level, but the state legislature and the governor have, thus far, balked. Thus for LAUSD to lead the way would be a positive development indeed. (And perhaps it would lead the way for passage of AB 420.)

Oddly, Tuesday’s LA Times editorial that discussed Garcia’s resolution, praised most of it, but took is issue only with the removal of “willful defiance” as an option.

We believe the Times is wrong-headed in its objection.

Here’s the relevant clip (italics ours):

The resolution, which is scheduled to come before the board Tuesday, would require schools to use other measures to combat willful defiance, including setting clearer expectations and providing counseling to get at the root of bad behavior when possible, both of which have been found to be more effective than suspension. But it also would allow schools to devise additional programs that might prove even more useful, such as detention, or setting up a special classroom, with schoolwork to be done and tutors available, so that students who act up in class aren’t allowed to continue disrupting the education of other students but also don’t fall behind in their studies.

Where the resolution goes off course is with its zero tolerance for suspending defiant students under any circumstances. The district still has not figured out how to deal with the most persistently disruptive students, those who don’t respond to counseling, and it shouldn’t completely tie the schools’ hands....

We don’t agree.

As we briefly outlined here earlier this week, in 2009, Jose Huerta, the principal of Garfield High School in East LA, not only took willful defiance off the table at his school, he took the radical step of doing away suspensions and expulsions altogether (except in extreme instances where demanded by state law). The result was, after less than two years, Garfield had a much healthier, safer campus, and suspensions went from 683…down to one. A year after that, the school’s state achievement scores (API) had jumped 75 points.

There are other examples elsewhere in the country. But Garfield is the closest, and the best.

Garcia’s motion will be voted on next month. We hope those behind the Times editorial will have done some further research and thinking on the issue between then and now.

(You can read Garcia’s motion here, but scroll down to page 24, item 44.)


ARCH CONSERVATIVES URGE CONGRESS TO GET RIGHT WITH STATES’ GANJA LAWS

Tim Dickenson of Rolling Stone has the story. Here’s a clip:

There’s a new congressional push to end the federal War on Pot in the states – and it’s being spearheaded by some of the most conservative members of the Republican conference.

The “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” introduced in the House last week would immunize anyone acting legally under state marijuana laws from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. Depending on the state, the legislation would cover both medical marijuana and recreational pot, and would protect not only the users of state-legal cannabis, but also the businesses that cultivate, process, distribute and sell marijuana in these states.

The legislation is in keeping with poll data released last week from Pew Research that found that 60 percent of Americans believe the feds should allow states to self-regulate when it comes to marijuana. The same poll finds that 57 percent of Republicans also favor this approach, which may explain why this bill is attracting arch-conservative backers in the House.

The three GOP co-sponsors are:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, who is best known to liberals as a villainous climate denier for theorizing that global warming is the result of “dinosaur flatulence.”

Read the rest, to find out who else—from both the (R) and (D) sides— makes up this ganja gang.


LAPD SAYS ZERO TOLERANCE RE: PERJURY

The story by KPCC reporter Erika Aguilar is a sad one, really. Two LAPD motor cops may have made an innocent mistake in the way they wrote up a DUI stop, which led to the officers perjuring themselves—even though it seems there was no reason to do it. Nothing to gain. But Chief Charlie Beck said (in so many words) that the LAPD is firm about zero tolerance for lying on police reports and perjury.

That is, obviously, as it should be. Holding the line on a principal means holding it everywhere, no excuses. Let us hope the line is consistant throughout the department.

Here’s a clip from Aguilar’s story:

The criminal trial of two Los Angeles police motorcycle cops accused of lying under oath about conducting a DUI traffic stop began this week.

Craig Allen, who was fired, and Phillip Walters, who is on suspension from the force, were charged last year with perjury and falsifying a police report.

The incident occurred in Highland Park just after midnight three years ago. LAPD traffic cops were on watch for impaired driving. A DUI task force was in full force that night.

Officer Cecilio Flores watched a driver roll through one stop sign and then another before pulling her over. He said she had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol. Flores radioed over officers Walter and Allen to assist him with the stop and then take over, a “hand-off” as described in court or a “gimme.”

The DUI stop continued its fairly routine course. The driver was given a field sobriety test, arrested and transported to jail, and Allen began the paperwork.

That last step, the written police report, is the meat of this case.

“He wrote that he was in the area when they observed and pulled over the vehicle,” said prosecutor Rosa Alarcon in her opening statement. “He didn’t mention Flores.”

Alarcon said Walters later testified during a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing regarding the woman’s driver’s license that he saw her driving that night. She added that officer Allen testified at another hearing giving specific details about how they pulled over the driver — but admitted that he hadn’t personally observed the offense after audio of the dispatch recording was played.

“The defendants made a conscious decision to lie,” Alarcon said.

Posted in DEA, Education, LAPD, LAUSD, Restorative Justice, School to Prison Pipeline, War on Drugs, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 7 Comments »

THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE CRISIS: 3 New Bills, a Commission Hearing, a Groundbreaking Report… & LAUSD

April 15th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


The topic of school discipline, school safety
and the so-called school to prison pipeline continues to heat up. We will be reporting more regularly on these issues over the next year, as more and more voices push for change.

In the meantime, here’s an overview of some of the events of the past week and the coming week.


NEW BILLS & WILLFUL DEFIANCE

On Tuesday of this week a cluster of new bills will have their first hearings in the state capital. All are aimed at at reforming some part of what education advocates call a crisis in school discipline. AB 549 would push for more school counselors and better defined roles for school police, and SB 744 would help fix some of the more pressing problems with “community day schools” that, at present, often lead students to drop out, rather than helping students toward graduation.

But perhaps the most important of the new bills is AB420, which would greatly curtail the use of the dangerously vague catch-all category of “willful defiance” as the sole reason for suspending or expelling a student.

We’ll have more on the willful defiance issue as time goes along. But for now what you need to know is that it is defined as, “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school staff,” and that, according to a new report by the California Department of Education, 53 percent of all school suspensions this past year had this kitchen sink category as the primary cause.


A NEW NATIONAL REPORT AND A “SELECT” COMMITTEE MEETS

Last week, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project released a first-of-its-kind new report analyzing the data from more than 26,000 American middle schools, and found that one out of every nine secondary school students was suspended at least once during the year—and that the majority of suspensions were for minor infractions of school rules—things like disrupting class, tardiness, and dress code violations. The suspensions were rarely for serious, violent or criminal behavior.

The report also found that racial disparities in the use of school discipline are so great, and have grown so dramatically since the 1970s, that the matter has become a civil rights issue—especially for African American students who now face an astonishing 24.3% risk of being suspended—that’s a one in four likelihood.

When gender and disability are thrown into the mix, things get worse: According to the report, 36% of all Black male students with disabilities in middle and high schools, were suspended at least once in 2009-2010—more than one in three.

The UCLA study warned that the findings should be of “serious concern” given that new research shows being suspended even once in ninth grade means “a 32% risk for dropping out” before graduation.

“There is something terribly wrong,” wrote Daniel Losen, report author and director of The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, “when, despite very effective alternatives, so many middle and high schools quickly punish and exclude students of color, students with disabilities and English Learners. We know these schools can change because, in many large districts, we found many low-suspending schools where suspension is still a measure of last resort.”

All these points and more were discussed in Sacramento this past Friday morning as testimony was presented at the Select Committee on Delinquency Prevention and Youth Development, chaired by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D).

The special hearing, called: Beyond Newtown – Promoting Safe, Supportive, and Healthy Schools, heard some affecting testimony from all over California.

Yet, not surprisingly, our own LAUSD was front and center more than any other district.


SCHOOL DISCIPLINE AT LA UNIFIED

The UCLA report found that LAUSD had 54 schools out of its 215 secondary schools that suspended at least one segment of its student body (African American males, let’s say) more than 25%, and 13 schools that suspended one group or segment more than 50%. The report designated these high suspension campuses as “hot spots.”

Nationally, LA Unified ranked as 4th in the nation, when it came to these “hot spot” schools.

That’s the bad news. However, like many districts, LAUSD is a very mixed bag when it comes to school suspensions. This means there is also good news—namely the fact that the district ranked first in the nation when it came to low suspending schools (81 schools) that “suspended no group over 10%.”

Here’s a break out of the LAUSD part of the UCLA Civil Rights Project report


THE MIRACLE OF GARFIELD HIGH

Of all the low-suspending LAUSD schools, the one with the most dramatic story of change is James A. Garfield High School, which is located in an unincorporated area of East Los Angeles. Garfield draws from some of LA’s most impoverished communities, as a consequence, it has traditionally dealt with a host of social problems that often lead to discipline issues, including gangs, drugs, and the family dysfunction that often accompanies poverty.

Thus it was nothing out of the ordinary that, in the 2008/2009 school year, Garfield instituted 683 suspensions and one expulsion.

But in January 2009 Garfield got a brand new principal named Jose Huerta, who was part of a new reorganization plan for the desperately troubled school. Among other changes he and his team instituted, Huerta decided that he was going to take suspensions and expulsions entirely “off the table.”

It was a radical promise but, amazingly, Huerta made good on it. At the end of the 2010/2011 school year, Garfield had suspended one kid, and expelled zero kids. The next year, it was the same, suspended 1, expelled none.

Thus far for the 2012/2013 school year there have been no suspensions.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Garfield in the coming weeks—as we think you’ll find its transformation to be an important and instructive story.


AND IN OTHER NEWS

That’s all for now. Tomorrow some interesting LA Sheriff’s department news, plus news about a proposed LA Unified Board resolution—-and more soon on LA County Probation.

So stay tuned.


Posted in LAUSD, Restorative Justice, School to Prison Pipeline, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

« Previous Entries Next Entries »