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Peace Officer Unions Back McDonnell for Sheriff….CA Kids May Face Mandatory Minimums….State Starting Early Release of Elderly and Sick Inmates…and More

June 17th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

GROUP OF LAW ENFORCEMENT UNIONS TO ANNOUNCE SUPPORT OF JIM MCDONNELL FOR LA SHERIFF

Today, a number of law enforcement unions will be announcing their unified endorsement of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell for the office of Sheriff of LA County. Representatives from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), the LA County Professional Peace Officer Association (PPOA), Probation Officers, AFSCME Local 685, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), and the Long Beach Police Officers Association will gather at a press conference at 10:30a.m., at the ALADS offices in Monterey Park.

PPOA announced their endorsement last Thursday afternoon, and many were waiting to see what ALADS would do, as both PPOA and ALADS had declined to endorse anyone during the primary election. A source close to the unions said that the LAPPL and the Long Beach Police Officers Association had been interested in endorsing McDonnell during the primary, but due to something called “the hometown rule” they had to wait until the unions to which LASD personnel belong (ALADS and PPOA) made their moves.

Thus far, no one has announced that they will be giving money along with their endorsement, but that may (or may not) come later.


CALIFORNIA BILL WOULD INFLICT HARMFUL NEW MANDATORY MINIMUMS ON KIDS IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM

A California bill that would impose the first ever mandatory minimum sentences in the state’s juvenile justice system, SB 838, is currently making its way through California legislature. The bill, authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), directed at kids convicted of certain sex offenses, would eliminate judges’ discretion and ability to choose community-based rehabilitative options, and replace it with mandatory incarceration.

The California Senate has unanimously passed the bill, and today (Tuesday), the Assembly Public Safety Committee will vote on the measure. (And we at WLA will be keeping an eye on it.)

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice has more on the bill (and why they are opposing it). Here’s a clip:

Mandatory minimums violate the foundational principles of the juvenile justice system. If SB 838 becomes law and introduces mandatory minimum sentences into the juvenile justice system, the consequences would be significant for California’s youth. The bill would upend a system grounded in rehabilitation — and the understanding that young people can change — and replace it with one focused on retribution and punishment for California’s most troubled and vulnerable youth.

Mandatory minimums do not prevent crime. Research on mandatory minimum sentencing schemes across the nation has failed to find evidence that they have reduced crime — but substantial evidence that they have driven the nation’s skyrocketing incarceration rates, exacerbated racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and dramatically increased the length of prison sentences. SB 838 would replicate these same failed policies for California’s youth, at great public expense.


STATE TO BEGIN EARLY RELEASE OF CERTAIN ELDERLY INMATES, TRANSFER OF SERIOUSLY ILL INMATES TO HEALTH CARE FACILITIES

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has announced the state will commence with the early release of elderly and seriously ill prisoners who meet certain requirements to either parole or nursing facilities. The move is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to comply with a federal order to ease prison overcrowding. (Backstory here.)

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

Inmates who are over 60 and have spent at least 25 years in prison will be eligible for release if they are not sentenced to death or serving life without parole sentences. Those hearings are to begin in October, board executives said.

Prisoners whose health conditions require they receive skilled nursing care will also be eligible to be moved to health care or nursing facilities — but if they recover they face a return trip to prison. Hearings under the new rules, which reflect an expansion of existing medical parole, are to begin by July 1, a board attorney said.


MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING FOR PEACE OFFICERS IS A BIG STEP, BUT NOT A CURE-ALL

Ventura County law enforcement officers have been receiving comprehensive training in how to deal with the mentally ill, and thus far, it’s making a big difference. Experts say that law enforcement mental health training offerings like Ventura County’s “Crisis Intervention Team” program can help officers prevent tense encounters with the mentally ill from escalating unnecessarily.

Currently, 72% of Ventura officers have received 40 hours of instruction in handling situations involving people with mental disorders. While this is a welcome step in the right direction, in Ventura and other counties (cough, Los Angeles, cough), often the training does not extend to jails, prisons, and other agencies where things can fall apart.

KPCC’s Stephanie O’Neill has the story. Here’s a clip:

Debbie is a Ventura County mother of a 23-year-old son diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At times his condition becomes so severe that he gets delusional and requires hospitalization.

“He doesn’t understand that he’s ill and that he needs help,” Debbie says. “He thinks he’s fine.”

Debbie, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons, says when that happens, she calls the sheriff’s department for help – as she did earlier this year. Their response, she says, was heartening.

“The police officers…were so great, because they kept telling him, ‘You’re not in trouble, we’re here to help you,’ ” she says. “So they weren’t threatening; they didn’t scare him. It stayed really, really calm.”

And that allowed the deputies to take Debbie’s son to the county psychiatric hospital for emergency observation without incident.

“As far as a bad experience goes, it was as good a bad experience as was possible in this situation,” she says.

The responding deputies included several who had received 40 hours of training in handling the mentally ill through Ventura County’s “Crisis Intervention Team” program. The training is based on a renowned model started in Memphis, Tennessee in 1988 that is now taught worldwide.

Tragedies such as the Isla Vista massacre and the Kelly Thomas case in Orange County have highlighted the need for improved training for law enforcement personnel who come into contact with the mentally ill.

So far, 72 percent of all law enforcement officers have completed the Crisis Intervention Team training in Ventura County, says Kiran Sahota, who oversees the program for the county.

“The idea is to hopefully help to deescalate and slow down the situation,” Sahota says. “And sometimes by just knowing ahead of time that (law enforcement officers) are going to be listening and spending a little extra time, it really can defuse a situation.”

But even in Ventura County, breakdowns can happen…

Read the rest.

Posted in juvenile justice, LAPD, LAPPL, LASD, law enforcement, Mental Illness, parole policy, Sentencing, Uncategorized | 29 Comments »

PANDORA’S BOX: Mistrial declared! Jurors “hopelessly split” 6-6 in James Sexton obstruction of justice trial

May 22nd, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



After being sent back for additional deliberation
twice by Judge Percy Anderson, a jury of five women and seven men again declared themselves hopelessly deadlocked—with an even split of six to six—in the question of whether or not defendant Deputy James Sexton had obstructed justice in taking part in an LASD operation to hide federal informant Anthony Brown from his FBI handlers, and other federal agents.

At a few minutes after 8 AM on Thursday, Judge Anderson declared a mistrial.

Prosecutors declined to say whether or not they will retry Sexton.

Looking exhausted by the high-intensity trial, but visibly relieved, the Sexton family hugged each other and supporters after the the judge’s announcement. The specter of LASD deputy Sexton going to federal prison was, at least for now, over—and perhaps over for good, if government prosecutors elect not to retry the case.

Lead defense attorney, Tom O’Brien, also looked extremely relieved. “It’s clear to me that the jury saw what this actually is,” he said, “a fight between the FBI and the sheriff’s department.”

Outside the courthouse, juror Marvin Padilla, said that the government’s main evidence against Sexton, which was the defendant’s grand jury testimony, was precisely what got him to vote for acquittal.

“I just did not find it credible,” said Padilla. “I think these are conclusions he reached in hindsight a year later,” not when the actions were actually occurring. “Nearly all of Sexton’s narrative at the grand jury seemed like 20-20 hindsight.”

Padilla also thought it significant that Sexton had talked to the FBI 37 times. “It’s almost as if he had Stockholm syndrome.”

On the question of whether department higher ups should be tried in the Anthony Brown matter, Padilla said he thought it correct that the investigation was continuing.

When asked about the trial testimony of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, specifically, Padilla said, “Either he didn’t know what was going on at all, or he was lying about nearly everything he said, neither of which is very attractive.”

“Something unsightly happened there,” said Padilla. “Something was going on that people above Sexton knew about. Something didn’t smell right.”

As for the tone of rest of the deliberations by this split jury, Padilla said, “It was all very thoughtful, very passionate.”

The case in which Sexton’s six other LASD members will be tried for similar charges begins on Tuesday of next week.

Posted in FBI, jail, LA County Jail, LASD, law enforcement, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 94 Comments »

PANDORA’S BOX: Will Sexton Trial End Up in a Hung Jury?

May 22nd, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


In the course of their deliberation thus far in the James Sexton obstruction of justice trial, the jury sent Judge Percy Anderson four notes.
If two of those notes are any guide, then the panel of five women and seven men could very well wind-up in an irrevocable deadlock.

Actually all of the notes are an intriguing peek into this jury’s process, so here they are, one by one.

The jury began deliberating just before 11 a.m. Tuesday and went home around 5 p.m.that first day. During their afternoon deliberation they sent Judge Anderson their first note, which was a request to hear a “read back” of the testimony defendant Sexton had given to the grand jury, testimony in which he freely admits that he and his team partners were instructed to keep FBI informant Anthony Brown away from the FBI, and that they used all manner of “smoke and mirrors” to do so.

Sexton’s cheerful grand jury testimony is a linchpin of the prosecution’s case against him. Thus the fact that the jury wanted it read back, might suggest that they were leaning toward a guilty verdict.

On the other hand, the tone of the testimony is that of a fully cooperating witness, not some sort of tortured or inadvertent confession. Thus it also could possibly fit a part of the defense’s theory of the case, namely that Sexton had cooperated for more than a year with the FBI, consenting to 37 interviews, and doing all he could to help the feds. For his trouble, he got indicted and now finds himself fighting to stay out of prison, whereas those higher-ups who had issued the orders that were now being labeled as conspiracy to obstruct of justice—namely the sheriff and undersheriff—are walking around, perfectly indictment free.

Whatever the reason for the jurors’ interest in another go-round with Sexton’s testimony, they left for home an hour after the reading, and They were back in the court building ready to deliberate at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning

Wednesday’s first note came at 9:30 a.m. The jury wanted a readback of part of part of Leah Marx’s testimony that pertained to threats James had been receiving.

It was merely a short exchange during her testimony, but the fact that they have asked for it seemed telling.

The testimony pertains to the time when Marx set up the first meeting with Sexton, who had been reluctant to meet with her. He had, however, been already been talking for a while to another LA special agent named Patrick Hampel, whom he considered a friend.

Marx said she passed a message to Sexton through Hampel, that “there were credible threats against him and his life might be in danger.”

(The threats had to do with another LASD case, in which Sexton and his partner, Mike Rathbun, had blown the whistle on some corruption elsewhere in the sheriff’s department. The two got death threats as a consequence.)

Just before the noon hour, the jury sent a new note, this one of a different character. It read:

We wish to inform the judge. We can not, have not, and will not reach a unanimous verdict in this case.

Those in the audience who had scurried into the courtroom for the reading of the note, looked at each other. A hung jury?

The prosecution team looked quietly stricken. Judge Percy Anderson waggled his head as he has a habit of doing when contemplating some act or person in his court that he deems vexing.

“I’m included to bring them out,” said Anderson, “and tell them, ‘I’ve read your note. But it’s a little soon to reach this point. I’m inclined to let you return to the jury room to deliberate. “

The defense knew it was losing battle to ask for a mistrial at this point, but he asked for one anyway. Predictably Anderson turned O’Brien down.

When they jury was ushered into their box, Anderson sweetened the news with a little grandfatherly persuasion.

“We’re going to take you out to lunch, hopefully the fresh air will help clear your minds. Then we ask that you resume your deliberations.” Anderson stopped just short of advising the jury panel that they would surely do better once they’d raised their collective blood sugars.

The jury returned from lunch at 2 pm. By 2:30 there is a new note.

This time, Anderton did not read the text of the note aloud, but instead called for a sidebar. There was argument at the sidebar, mostly it appeared, coming from the defense.

The jury was brought into the courtroom.

“Ladies and gentleman, we received your note…” This time Judge Anderson instructed the jury to go home for the rest of the day and “sleep on it.”

The jury will return to resume deliberation at 8 am Thursday….

Obviously, we’ll let you know when we know. So watch this space……

Posted in FBI, LA County Jail, LASD, law enforcement | 11 Comments »

PANDORA’S BOX: After Closing Arguments the Sexton Case Goes to the Jury

May 21st, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



COLLATERAL DAMAGE

“Mr. Sexton is nothing more than collateral damage” in a conflict involving “two massive law enforcement agencies fighting like children,” said former U.S. Attorney Tom O’Brien as he delivered closing arguments in the week-long corruption of justice trial of his client, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy James Sexton.

Sexton is one of seven members of the LASD who have been federally indicted for having allegedly hidden convicted bank robber/inmate turned federal informant Anthony Brown from his FBI handlers. Brown was part of a then-widening civil rights investigation by the FBI into corruption and brutality inside the LASD run county jails.

The weeklong trial went into the hands of the jury at around 11 a.m. Tuesday, after the prosecution and the defense each presented very different views of the defendant’s alleged crimes.

O’Brien painted both the LASD and the FBI as engaging in a huge “jurisdictional turf war” in which Sexton, who had actually cooperated extensively with the FBI for more than a year, was scapegoated, while those who actually gave the orders for the actions for which the deputy has been charged remain unindicted.

“Not [former undersheriff Paul] Tanaka, Not [LASD Captain Tom] Carey. Not the Sheriff,” O’Brien told the jury.

The events that underlie the case against Sexton were triggered in the summer of 2011 when, in the course of an undercover sting initiated by the FBI’s Los Angeles office, inmate-turned-informant Brown asked a sheriff’s deputy named Gilbert Michele to smuggle a contraband cell phone into Men’s Central Jail in return for money. Brown was then to use the phone to report back to his federal agent contacts about alleged wrongdoing by deputies he observed inside the jail.

After a few weeks of use, however, the phone was discovered hidden among Brown’s possessions (inside a Doritos bag) by a sheriff’s deputy in the course of a routine search. When sheriff’s investigators subsequently discovered that the contraband phone contained a call and text log devoted almost exclusively to contacting the FBI, a firestorm erupted among the sheriff’s department’s top brass, in particular then Sheriff Lee Baca and then undersheriff Paul Tanaka. They reacted by ordering Brown to be hidden away from the FBI’s reach in farflung corners of the jail system, while he was questioned by LASD investigators. They also ordered covert surveillance, along with some in person bullying, of Brown’s main handler, Special Agent Leah Marx, who headed up the corruption investigation of which Brown was a part.

The government’s charges against Sexton are obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Conspiracy to obstruct means, loosely, that he was part of a group that knowingly tried to subvert a federal grand jury investigation. It also means that, if one of the members of the group did something that knowingly subverted the investigation—-like, say, harassing Marx—then all the conspirators are responsible for the action. According to the prosecution, the task with which Sexton was most involved was hiding Brown, as he was the one on the team with computer skills and thus was able to suggest how to game the LASD jail system database so that Brown appeared to vanish from it.

O’Brien maintains that the above actions of Sexton’s and his alleged coconspirators were lawful, even if foolish, as in the case of going after Marx. More importantly, he contends that Sexton was merely doing what he was ordered to do by his superiors, as is required in a paramilitary organization.

The prosecution believes they have proved that the actions and the rest of his team were not lawful, that they were specifically designed to impede the FBI’s investigation, and contends that just following orders is no excuse.


TALKING TO THE GRAND JURY

A large part of government’s case comes down to what Sexton said in his grand jury testimony, in which he fully admitted his part in the operation that came to be known as Operation Pandora’s Box. In fact, he obligingly described the hiding of Brown in colorful detail, and acknowledged there were elaborate attempts to keep Brown away from the feds specifically through the use of “smoke and mirrors.”

O’Brien, Sexton’s lawyer, also agreed that his clients grand jury testimony was crucial. But his take on how jurors must see Sexton’s statements was very different than that of the government.

“This is the crux of the case,” he said. “It is about how an over eager deputy agreed to cooperate with the FBI, and did work with the FBI.” Special agent Leah Marx even gave him a cell phone so as to be able to get in touch with her and her colleagues without fearing the LASD would overhear and retaliate against him.”

Sexton was interviewed by the FBI 37 different times, O’Brien pointed out. And he appeared before the Grand Jury twice.

“He was trying to please the FBI,” O’Brien said in his closing. And indeed, the tone of Sexton’s testimony that was read at trial leaves that impression. Sexton seemed, as O’ Brien suggested, “eager to please.”

All Sexton did, O’Brien said, was what he was asked to do by the FBI, or in the case of his superiors in the LASD, what he was ordered to do.

“The people giving the orders here, they’ve not been indicted. Not Tanaka, Not Carey. Not the sheriff.”

But those higher ups were harder to indict, O’Brien said.

“What’s easier? Get the over-eager kid, meet with him, give him a cell phone, get him on board, ask him some sloppy questions…..and then let’s indict him, based only on his words.”

After the discovery of the existence of Anthony Brown’s informant status, his contraband cell phone, and the FBI’s part in the undercover operation, “Sheriff Baca spun out of control,” said O’Brien. “And then the FBI refused to talk to him.”

Instead of paying attention to the “business of law enforcement,” O’Brien concluded, the two behemoth agencies “got into a tiff each other.”

“Now it’s led to a young deputy sheriff facing the fight of his life.”


THE JURY

The jury made up of five women and seven men appeared to listen very closely and seriously to the presentations by Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Carter for prosecution, former U.S. Attorney O’Brien for the defense and then the prosecution’s rebuttal to the defense’s closing present, presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox.

“You may believe others may be guilty of the crime,” Fox told the jury, in response to O’Brien, “but that’s for another jury on another day.”

Before the jurors went home on Tuesday afternoon, they asked to hear Sexton’s hour-long plus grand jury testimony read back to them in its entirety.


THE TANAKA POLITICAL FACTOR

Former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, now one of seven candidates for sheriff, was a witness for the defense, and he maintained during his testimony last Friday, and cross examination on Monday, that all of his orders relating to the Anthony Brown matter were lawful. (Although he dodged quite a few other questions.)

On Monday, however, he conceded that he was the subject to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Since his appearance in court, there has been much speculation that his testimony and the outcome of the case could have an affect on his political candidacy.

Three of his fellow candidates—Robert Olmsted, Jim McDonnell, and Todd Rogers-–have called for him to withdraw from the race.

(You can find their statements here and here and here.)

Reed Galen, Tanaka’s campaign spokesman said he has no intention of doing so.

Posted in 2014 election, FBI, jail, LA County Jail, LASD, law enforcement, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca, U.S. Attorney | 8 Comments »

Model Educational Program in Some of LA’s Juvie Camps….1 in 25 of Death Sentenced Inmates Likely Innocent….Drug Offender Releases Did Not Cause Recidivism….and More

April 29th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


LA COUNTY’S EXPERIMENTAL EDU PROGRAM FOR LOCKED-UP YOUTH MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN KIDS’ LIVES

In 2010, some of Los Angeles County’s juvenile camps had such a ghastly record for educating the kids in their care (or more properly not educating them) that the So Cal ACLU and others won a massive lawsuit against LA County Probation and the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) forcing the two county agencies to get their collective act together.

Fast forward to 2014. Probation and LACOE are running a model educational program called the Road to Success Academy in its in girls’ camps—with startlingly good results.

By fall 2015, the Road to Success AcademY is expected to be in operation in half the county’s juvie camps.

Elly Yu at the Juvenile Justice Exchange has more on this and other educational programs for young people in lock-ups around the country that are making a difference in kids’ lives.

Here’s a clip:

When 17-year-old Moriah Barrett first entered Camp Scott, a juvenile detention facility in Los Angeles County, Calif., she was already far behind in school credits in completing the 11th grade. Because of her charges, she would be spending the next five months of her life at the all-girls’ facility — finishing high school wasn’t on her mind.

But at Camp Scott, Moriah enrolled at the Road to Success Academy, a public school run by the Los Angeles County Office of Education and housed within the juvenile detention facility. She said it wasn’t like anything she had expected.

Instead of filling in photocopied packets like she did at juvenile hall, she was working on science projects that involved rockets or writing beats about the human skeletal system. She wrote self-reflective essays, painted murals, and met weekly with a counselor to check in on her credit status. Within five months, she was able to complete her GED.

“When I was at Road to Success, it was completely different. They had devoted teachers,” Moriah said. “You can see they’re caring. They don’t give up on you.”

The Road to Success Academy, which started in 2010 as a pilot project, is among a handful of schools across the nation that have been trying to turn the tide of poor education within juvenile justice facilities. Their models have included innovative ways of teaching, emphasis on higher education and the recruitment of high quality teachers.


ONE IN 25 DEATH PENALTY CONVICTIONS MAY BE WRONG

Since the advent of so many DNA innocence cases and other dramatic criminal exonerations in the last few years, many are increasingly haunted by the question of how many more innocent people are still serving long sentences but remain undiscovered. Even worse, have we executed innocent people?

A new statistical study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences attempts to quantify answers to those questions.

Pete Yost of the AP has the story. Here’s a clip:

About one in 25 people imprisoned under a death sentence is likely innocent, according to a new statistical study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And that means it is all but certain that at least several of the 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 were innocent, the study says.

From 1973 to 2004, 1.6 percent of those sentenced to death in the U.S. — 138 prisoners — were exonerated and released because of innocence.

But the great majority of innocent people who are sentenced to death are never identified and freed, says professor Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School, the study’s lead author.

The difficulty in identifying innocent inmates stems from the fact that more than 60 percent of prisoners in death penalty cases ultimately are removed from death row and resentenced to life imprisonment. Once that happens, their cases no longer receive the exhaustive reviews that the legal system provides for those on death row.


LOW LEVEL DRUG OFFENDERS RELEASED EARLY DID NOT INCREASE RECIDIVISM SAYS STUDY

Last week’s Department of Justice announcement that it encourages petitions for clemency for some nonviolent drug offenders serving outsized sentences in federal lock-ups caused some Republican lawmakers to complain that public safety might be adversely affected.

It turns out, however, that in 2011, the U.S. Sentencing Commission did a study that examined whether drug offenders let out early were more or less likely to recidivate than those who served their full sentences.

And the difference in the two groups was….zero. (Actually, the people who served their full sentence were one percentage point more likely to reoffend.)

Ian Duncan of the The Baltimore Sun has more. Here’s a clip.

….the potential freeing of thousands of inmates is not completely unknown for the federal justice system — and advocates for shorter sentences say experience shows prisoners can be released without harming the public.

Previous changes to sentencing rules have led to early release for tens of thousands of inmates serving time for crack convictions. In 2011 the U.S. Sentencing Commission looked at what effect the changes had on ex-convicts’ likelihood of re-offending.

The study compared the recidivism rates of two groups of inmates. The first included crack offenders who had their sentences cut after a 2007 change to the rules. The second consisted of inmates in similar cases who had served their entire original sentence.

“The overall recidivism rates for the two groups are similar,” the report’s authors concluded.

The study found that among the group released early, 30 percent had re-offended within two years of getting out of prison. In the group that served full sentences, the rate was about 32 percent. The study found the difference not statistically significant.

For advocates of early release, like James Wyda, the federal public defender in Maryland, the finding is important because it appears to show prisoners can be released early without posing a greater threat to the public.

“We’ve granted so much sentencing relief and no one notices — not a story,” he said.

That opens the door to the possibility of cutting sentences further, Wyda added. “How far could you take these sentences down and still meet the purposes of punishment?” he asked.


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF OUTSIZED MANDATORY MINIMUM DRUG SENTENCING….

CNN’S Wesley Bruer and Nick Valencia have this story. Here’s a clip:

“I did not really realize I was getting life until the date of sentencing. When my attorney told me, I told him that I wanted to take back my guilty plea… they denied me.”

Timothy Tyler says his life ended when he was 23-years-old. That was two decades ago, when he was arrested and later sentenced to a mandatory double-life term in prison without the possibility of parole for conspiracy to possess LSD with intent to distribute. A self-described “Deadhead,” Tyler was busted after mailing five grams of the hallucinogenic drug to a friend who was working as an informant for the federal government.

He’s had more than 20 years to fixate on that moment, years of “what ifs” and “whys.” More than 20 years of feeling like he died, until now.

Posted in 2014 election, Education, juvenile justice, LASD, law enforcement, Probation, Sentencing | No Comments »

What Does CA’s Use of Juvie Isolation Look Like?…..Stop Locking Up Truant Kids in CA! ….The Lousy State of Education in Juvie Lock-Ups, CA’ s included….North Carolina Sheriff Takes On Wrongful Convictions….Farewell to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

April 18th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING LOOKS HARD AT CA’S JUVIE SOLITARY

In addition to the shock and perplexity felt by many over California State Senator Leeland Yee’s arrest for what is alleged to be extravagant corruption and wrongdoing, the even larger disappointment is over the loss of his extremely valuable work in the arena of juvenile justice now that he’s been disgraced.

A case in point is, the legislation Yee (Dem-San Francisco) introduced earlier this year to ban solitary confinement as a form of punishment for juvenile inmates in California. Now, sadly, bill appears to have nearly zip chance of passing after Yee’s indictment last month on corruption charges.

Trey Bundy reporting for the Center for Investigative Reporting, takes a look at the way California juvie lock-ups are still using solitary confinement. Here is what he found in one of the state’s most progressive juvenile facilities in Santa Cruz, CA.

Although solitary confinement for extended periods is considered one of the most psychologically damaging forms of punishment – particularly for teenagers – no one knows how many juveniles are held alone in cells in California.

Neither the state nor the federal government requires juvenile halls to report their use of isolation for minors – and no laws prohibit them from locking down youth for 23 hours a day.

One thing is clear: Even the county considered one of the most progressive in the state sometimes resorts to solitary confinement to control adolescents.

The Center for Investigative Reporting was given a rare glimpse inside juvenile isolation cells at the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall. Considered a model youth detention facility by many juvenile justice experts, Santa Cruz still places youth in 23-hour isolation, sometimes for days on end.

But amid a growing national debate over juvenile solitary confinement, the way Santa Cruz manages its youth population could serve as a guide for lawmakers as they attempt reform in various states.

The cells at Santa Cruz look like what you would find in a prison: gray concrete floors, cinderblock walls, a bunk, a window, a heavy green door and a metal sink-toilet combo.

When isolation is used at the hall, teenagers usually are kept in their own cells for up to 23 hours a day. Guards check on them every 15 minutes, and they can receive visits from nurses, lawyers, pastors and administrators. Officials refer to the practice as room confinement. In extreme cases, inmates can be placed in one of three isolation cells with no windows that sit behind two sets of doors off the main hall. It’s clear by talking with youth here that even a few days alone in a cell can take a toll.

Sitting on a bunk in his 8-by-10-foot cell, one 15-year-old boy described throwing a fit when he thought he was unfairly locked inside for several days.

“I started, like, banging on my wall all day,” he said. “I got all kinds of toilet paper and I covered my light and was throwing up on my walls and making a big old mess.”

Santa Cruz probation officials allowed CIR to interview juvenile inmates on the condition that their names not be revealed.

The boy, who is now 16, has been detained at the hall nine times since April of last year on charges ranging from gun possession to auto theft. His stays lasted between two days and three weeks. This time, he was in room confinement for trying to pick a fight with an inmate from a rival neighborhood.

His mother has had drug problems and doesn’t always have a fixed address, so he couch-surfs a lot. He sometimes has to wear an ankle monitor as a condition of release. Occasionally, he said, life becomes so draining and chaotic and that he violates the monitor on purpose to get back here.

“I kind of feel safe here,” he said. “I come here back and forth, and in a couple weeks, I’ll be back in here.”

The boy was released a week after speaking with CIR and, as he predicted, was back 14 days later. “I’m probably my own worst problem when I’m in here,” he said.


JUDGE MICHAEL NASH SAYS STOP LOCKING UP TRUANTS IN CALIFORNIA

It doesn’t happen in every county, but the locking up of kids for so called status offenses like truancy has to stop says head Juvenile Court Justice Michael Nash, explaining that kids are just made worse by this kind of incarceration, and that most often truancy is a symptom of a family situation or an emotional issue that the kid is dealing with.

The Juvenile Justice Exchange has Nash’s Op Ed.

Here’s a clip:

With all the talk about ending the school-to-prison pipeline, many people may be surprised to learn that California still, in the year 2014, allows kids to be locked up for not going to school. On its face, state law prohibits this, but court decisions have created a loophole that allows incarceration when truants are deemed to be in contempt based on their truancy. Although a majority of California counties do not use this practice, a few persist in locking up truants. Senate Bill 1296 — the Decriminalization of Truancy Act, authored by state Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, would close the loophole. It deserves widespread support.

The loophole stems from the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which originally prohibited the incarceration of “status offenders” — including truants, runaways and incorrigible youth — because Congress didn’t want youth who had committed no crime to be treated like criminals. Unfortunately, the law was later amended to allow confinement if the young person continued to violate court orders. A few California courts have used that amendment to justify locking up truants.

Over the past decade, there has been increasing opposition to the needless incarceration of truants through loopholes in state law. Fourteen states have changed their laws already, and elimination of the federal exception has been a central part of efforts to reauthorize the law. Most recently, U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas of Los Angeles has introduced the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act aimed at eliminating the exception once and for all.


HOW BAD ARE THE EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES IN AMERICA’S JUVENILE LOCK UPS? VERY, VERY BAD.

A new study by the Southern Education Foundation looks at how well or poorly various states are doing in getting kids who are locked up to the goal line of a high school diploma. The answer in most states—California prominently included—we are doing very, very badly.

Here’s a clip from the report’s introduction:

There is every reason to predict that today most of these students, like those who came before them in the juvenile justice systems, will never receive a high school diploma or a college degree, will be arrested and confined again as a juvenile or adult, and will rarely, if ever, become self-supporting, law-abiding citizens during most of their lives. Yet, substantial evidence shows that, if these children improve their education and start to become successful students in the juvenile justice systems, they will have a far greater chance of finding a turning point in their lives and becoming independent, contributing adults. The cost savings for states and state governments could be enormous.


NC SHERIFF BECOMES INNOCENCE CHAMPION—AND SAYS ITS GOOD FOR PUBLIC SAFETY

One day, after reading a nonfiction novel by popular author John Grisham, North Carolina Sheriff Chip Harding arrived at a blinding conclusion; one of the best ways to convict the right person for a serious crime, he concluded, is to avoid convicting an innocent.

Lisa Provence has the story for C-Ville.com Here’s a clip:

Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding has always approached his work as a cop through his background as a social worker and through his Baptist faith. But after a four-decade law enforcement career that includes nearly 30 years putting criminals behind bars as a Charlottesville Police Department investigator, he had a come-to-Jesus moment reading John Grisham’s The Innocent Man. The true story of a once major-league baseball player named Ron Williamson who spent 11 years on death row for a brutal Oklahoma rape and murder before being cleared by DNA evidence hit Harding like a punch to the stomach.

“It embarrassed me, that I’m part of law enforcement that did that,” he said.

Last month, Harding sent a rallying letter to the 123 sheriffs and 247 police chiefs in Virginia asking for their support in forming a justice commission to help prevent wrongful convictions like Williamson’s in the Commonwealth.

“I think we can change practices to lessen the likelihood of convicting the innocent while strengthening our chances of convicting the actual offender,” Harding wrote. “If police chiefs and sheriffs were to propose and or support reform—we would be taken seriously.”

That Harding would be the one leading the charge to overhaul the criminal justice system, one known for its resistance to change, shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s long been on the cutting edge of investigative work as the guy who pushed for the General Assembly to fund Virginia’s DNA databank in the 1990s. And while he aggressively—and successfully—pursued hundreds of felony cases during his years as a detective, he also serves as the vice chair of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, which provides Bible classes and counseling services to inmates at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail.

Realizing he was part of a system that put innocent people behind bars—or worse, to death—was “humbling and shameful,” Harding said. “And it induced a rage. From there I started wondering how often that was going on.”

Here’s a hint at how often: Nationwide, 1,342 people have been exonerated, often after spending decades in jail, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint effort of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University law schools. In Virginia, 36 people have been cleared of committing heinous crimes, 17 of those thanks to DNA evidence.

“That’s not even the tip of the iceberg,” said Harding, who went on to read UVA law professor Brandon Garrett’s Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, an examination of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA.


FAREWELL TO GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ, LATIN AMERICA’S MYTHO POETIC TRUTH TELLER, COLUMBIAN ALCHEMIST WITH WORDS, IRREPLACEABLE GENIUS

Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday at age 87. He had been ill for a long time.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of Garcia Marquez to literature in general, and to Latin American writing specifically.

And of course to his legions of entranced readers. (Your editor included.)

To glimpse the power of the man referred to in the Spanish speaking world as Gabo, one has only to read the opening sentence to Garcia Marquez’ masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, long considered one of the best first line’s in literature:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

(What book lover with any sense would not wish to read on after that?)

Each of his ten novels produces its own kind of revelation. But for me, after One Hundred Years of Solitude, the book of his I most treasure is Love in the Time of Cholera Gabo’s novel about lovers whose story takes fifty years, nine months, and four days to finally entirely bloom.

It has its own great opening line as well:

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

NPR’s Mandalit del Barco has more in a wonderful appreciation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez here.

Gabo, rest in peace. We will miss your light, of course. But we are grateful beyond words that you left so much of it behind for us.

Posted in art and culture, Education, Innocence, juvenile justice, law enforcement, Life in general, literature, solitary, Trauma, writers and writing, Youth at Risk | No Comments »

New DOJ Report on Inmate Sexual Abuse, Gov. Brown Files Prison Overcrowding Proposal, and LASD Sheriff Contender Stories

January 24th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT SHOWS INCREASE IN ALLEGED SEXUAL ABUSE IN CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

A new Department of Justice report says that correctional officers may have been responsible for half of alleged sexual abuse cases in prisons and jails in 2011. A total of 8,763 allegations were reported in 2011, (about 2,500 more than were documented in 2005) and only 10% of the allegations were substantiated upon investigation. More than half of those substantiated instances of sexual abuse were committed by female officers.

ProPublica’s Joaquin Sapien has more on the report. Here’s a clip:

The report, released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, takes data collected by correctional administrators representing all of the nation’s federal and state prisons as well as many county jails. It shows that administrators logged more than 8,000 reports of abuse to their overseers each year between 2009 and 2011, up 11 percent from the department’s previous report, which covered 2007 and 2008.

It’s not clear whether the increase is the result of better reporting or represents an actual rise in the number of incidents.

Allen Beck, the Justice Department statistician who authored the reports, told ProPublica that abuse allegations might be increasing because of growing awareness of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act.

“It’s a matter of speculation, but certainly there’s been a considerable effort to inform staff about the dangers of sexual misconduct, so we could be seeing the impact of that,” said Beck.

The survey also shows a growing proportion of the allegations have been dismissed by prison officials as “unfounded” or “unsubstantiated.” Only about 10 percent are substantiated by an investigation.

But even in the rare cases where there is enough evidence to prove that sexual abuse occurred, and that a correctional officer is responsible for it, the perpetrator rarely faces prosecution. While most prison staff shown to be involved in sexual misconduct lost their jobs, fewer than half were referred for prosecution, and only 1 percent ultimately got convicted.

About a third of staff involved in alleged abuse were permitted to resign before an investigation was completed, allowing them to keep a clean record, and potentially find similar work elsewhere.


CALIFORNIA ASKS FOR TWO MORE YEARS TO REDUCE PRISON POPULATION…JUDGES TO MAKE FINAL DECISION SOON

On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown and prisoners’ lawyers filed their separate proposals for getting the California prison population down to the federal-judge ordered 137% capacity. (Read the backstory here.) Gov. Brown requested a deadline extension of nearly two years—from the current and already-extended April 2014 deadline to a new February 2016 deadline. Brown detailed how the state planned to reduce the prison population via parole for the elderly and ill, increased good-time credits, and an alternative custody program for female inmates, among other efforts.

The Associated Press’ Don Thompson has the story. Here’s a clip:

Brown wants the deadline extended to Feb. 28, 2016. He proposed that the state meet interim population reduction deadlines in June 2014 and February 2015.

Two years is “the minimum length of time needed to allow new reform measures to responsibly draw down the prison population while avoiding the early release of inmates,” the administration said in its seven-page court filing.

The judges had ordered the administration and attorneys representing inmates to propose separate plans by Thursday after they failed to reach agreement on how best to reduce crowding.

Inmates’ attorneys said in their four-page filing that the state should be ordered to meet the population cap by May of this year. The filing recommended that the state comply by sending more inmates to private prisons in other states, something the state said would not be necessary under its proposal. The state currently houses about 8,900 inmates housed in out-of-state facilities.

The inmates’ lawyers also asked the court to appoint a compliance officer to order inmates released, if necessary.

Rebekah Evenson, an attorney with the Berkeley-based nonprofit Prison Law Office that is suing the state, said another two years is too long to wait when the state already has had four years to comply with previous court orders.

“People are hurt and people are dying because of the inadequate heath care. We just can’t wait another two years to get that resolved,” she said.

The state and the prisoner’s lawyers have until next week to give feedback on the others’ proposals, after which, the judges will review and make their final decision in February.


AND IN GOVERNOR BROWN NON-PRISON-RELATED NEWS

For those of you who watched the State of the State address and wanted a closeup of the Sutter Brown playing cards that the governor held up to the crowd as an unusual show-and-tell during the speech, the LA Times has helpfully published a photo and the story behind the cards. (Sadly, procuring a full First Dog deck is not possible.)


MORE SHERIFF CANDIDATE UPDATES

KPPC’s Frank Stoltze has a new profile of LA County Sheriff hopeful (and current Long Beach Police Chief) Jim McDonnell that’s worth reading. Here are some clips:

McDonnell, 54, has established himself as a well-known leader in the Southern California policing community. He spent 30 years at the LAPD, rising to assistant chief, before taking the top job in Long Beach four years ago. He has served as president of the L.A. County Police Chiefs Association.

Now, he wants to succeed L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. McDonnell says he would bring a fresh perspective to a Sheriff’s Department with problems ranging from a federal investigation into excessive use of force at the jails to hiring unqualified deputies.

“I bring the outside set of eyes coming into an organization without predispositions,” McDonnell says. “Without alliances within the organization.”

All of the other candidates seeking to become the county’s top cop are either current or former sheriff’s officials, except for an LAPD sergeant. If elected, McDonnell would be the first sheriff to come from outside the department in at least 100 years.

Key law enforcement leaders back him for just that reason.

“Sometimes, as was the case with the LAPD, it’s necessary to look outside an organization for leadership,” says former federal judge Robert Bonner, who once led the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck also have endorsed McDonnell. He’s also won the unanimous support of his former colleagues on the blue-ribbon Jail Violence Commission.

[SNIP]

LAPD Chief Beck spent decades working with McDonnell at the department. Asked about McDonnell’s management style, Beck says don’t expect a tough guy who’ll force changes at a broken Sheriff’s Department. Instead, he says McDonnell would “charm the troops.”

“Of all the people that I know that can come in from the outside, he is one that can get the willing cooperation of the deputies,” Beck says.

That’s no easy task. Just figuring out the politics of the sprawling and often byzantine Sheriff’s Department, with its rival internal factions, could be daunting.

And former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka’s KFI John and Ken Show interview we linked to on Tuesday is getting the attention of other media, as well. LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus has a recap of the radio show.

Posted in CDCR, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), LASD, law enforcement, Paul Tanaka, prison | 48 Comments »

Playing Catch Up: Some Highlights of What We’ve Missed

January 6th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



ONE SIMPLE FIX FOR LA’S FOSTER CARE SYSTEM THAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED IMMEDIATELY SEZ BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION—IF THERE WAS THE WILL TO DO IT

This LA Times editorial runs it down and says what stands in our way. Here’s a clip:

Los Angeles County fails to protect children from abuse and neglect because no single person or entity in county government takes responsibility for the problem or has the power to prevent it.

But how can that be? There is a Department of Children and Family Services specifically charged with child protection, and there are dozens of other agencies, programs and policies intended to further the goal.

A divided and frustrated Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formed a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection this year in the wake of the May death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale to try to figure out why the county keeps failing in its mission. To its credit, the panel made clear from the outset that it would focus on why the puzzle is never completed. It sent the board an interim report Monday.

[SNIP]

But all of those departments, programs and policies too often operate in bureaucratic isolation, with poor communication and coordination. It’s as if several dozen people, each given a piece of a puzzle, went off on their own to ponder what the whole picture might look like if they ever got together. No one sits them down at a table and starts putting the pieces together…..

Read on.


WHY GOOD AND SKILLFUL TEACHERS OF COLOR OFTEN QUIT TEACHING

Amanda Machado at the Atlantic Monthly writes a thought provoking essay about how the painfully personal knowledge of what is at stake for students in today’s public education can drive black and Latino teachers to leave the profession at higher rates than their white peers because of the stress they place on themselves to be perfect in order to make sure kids succeed.

Here’s a clip:

…Because our backgrounds often parallel those of our students, the issues in our classrooms hit us more personally. This ultimately places an extreme amount of pressure on us to be good teachers immediately, since we know or have experienced ourselves the consequences of an insufficient education. A Latino Teach for America alum in Miami told me: “While teaching, I was acutely conscious of the fact that I wouldn’t have obtained the same level of success if my own teachers had not given everything they had to push me to where I needed to be. This intensified the pressure I already felt to do well.

I knew what happened when our kids failed at school—many of my relatives and friends had failed, and some never recovered. Relatives and friends who had dropped out of school now lived in poverty, became alcoholics, or spiraled into depression. With these pictures in my mind, the job became almost a matter of life and death. With every lesson I planned, I had this big-picture anxiety: I worried that if I did not teach this lesson impeccably, in a way that compelled my students to stay committed to their education in the long-term, my students would inherit the same fates of so many people I knew. I worried that my failure would ultimately become theirs….


WHEN WILL YOUR CHILD BE ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE? HANK COXE TALKS AT TEDX

Celebrated trial lawyer Hank Coxe gives a must watch TEDX talk about how out-of-whack our juvenile justice system has become.


A CONTROVERSIAL OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING IN SANTA BARBARA BRINGS THE FILING OF A $10 MILLION LAWSUIT

Reporting for Mission & State, Sam Slovic follows-up on his story from last month about the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man named Brian Tacadena who was welding a knife on a public sidewalk, and who may or may not have tried to die. Now members of Tacadena’s family have filed a big bucks lawsuit, saying that the legal action is their only way to find out if Tacadena’s sad death could have been avoided.


EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll have more on the LASD news we missed later in the week.

Posted in DCFS, Education, Foster Care, juvenile justice, law enforcement | No Comments »

An “Epidemic” of Brady Violations…ATF Agents Behaving Badly…. Fed Judges Now Add Solitary to CA Prison Talks

December 16th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



CHIEF JUDGE KOZINSKI FOR THE 9TH CIRCUIT SEZ THERE IS AN EPIDEMIC OF PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT

The Huffington Post’s Radley Balko (one of our favorite criminal justice journalists and the author of The Rise of the Warrior Cop) reports on the series of statements by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Justice Alex Kozinski—and what is behind Kozenski’s blistering fury. Here’s a clip:

The dissent by Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, from a decision not to rehear U.S. v. Olsen starts off with a bang:

There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.

Brady, of course, is shorthand for the Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. In Olsen, a ruling from a three-judge 9th Circuit panel in January detailed extensive questionable conduct on the part of the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks (*see clarification below), who works for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. (Kozinski’s opinion this week doesn’t name Hicks, nor do most press accounts of the decision, but I will. These prosecutors need to be identified by name.)

[BIG SNIP]

The U.S. Department of Justice is stingy when it comes to releasing information about disciplining federal prosecutors for misconduct, but it seems unlikely Hicks will face any real sanction. Recent media investigations have found that such discipline is rare. Even in cases involving high-profile, egregious misconduct, like the prosecution of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, prosecutors can usually duck any serious sanction. In the Stevens case, the DOJ imposed light suspensions on the offending prosecutors, and even those were later overturned by an administrative law judge. (You could make a strong argument that federal prosecutors have more protections against professional sanction than criminal defendants do against violations of their constitutional rights by federal prosecutors.)

Offenbecher says it’s unlikely that he’ll file a complaint against Hicks. That isn’t uncommon, either. Defense attorneys have to work with prosecutors on behalf of other clients, including negotiating favorable plea bargains. Putting yourself in the cross-hairs of a U.S. attorney’s office can make it very difficult to be an effective advocate. That’s a lot of risk to take on, especially if it’s unlikely that anything will actually come of the complaint.


FEDERAL ATF AGENTS PAY TROUBLED 19 YEAR OLD TO GET JOINT SMOKING SQUID TATTOO….AND WORSE

This story falls into the please-tell-us-you’re-kidding category.

The Atlantic Monthly’s Coner Friedersdorf and Andrew Cohen draw attention to an astonishing, and largely ignored story broken by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’s alleged use of a string of mentally disabled locals in a number of US cities to drum up business for their various stings, later arresting the people they’d used.

And then the ATF’s behavior really got crazy.

Here’s a clip:

Lately infamous for the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal, the ATF now has the dubious distinction of bankrolling even-more-questionable behavior, which my colleague Andrew Cohen details here. The newspaper leads its latest investigative article with a headline-friendly anecdote about Aaron Key, a mentally disabled 19-year-old who started hanging out with the guys who ran a smoke shop near his house, taking them for friends. As it turns out, they were undercover ATF agents. And they paid the troubled teen and a friend $150 apiece to tattoo the fake shop’s emblem on their necks.

But digging into the story, it’s evident that undercover employees were engaged in far more objectionable behavior.

In cities around the United States, the ATF set up fake stores—often but not always pawn shops—set up surveillance cameras, conducted lots of illegal business over many months, and arrested various customers at the end of the sting. Normally federal law-enforcement agencies don’t set up operations guaranteed to mostly snare low-level individual criminals operating at the local level.

Questionable resource allocation aside, the really shocking parts of this scandal involve what happened at the neighborhood level as several of these stores were being operated. Just take a look at the newspaper’s bullet-point summary….

To find the summary, click here. And for the whole series, go here.


FEDERAL JUDGES ADD THE ISSUE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT TO THE CALIFORNIA PRISON NEGOTIATIONS

As the mandated negotiations continue to try to nail down a long-term plan that will lower California’s prison population, as ordered by the US Supremes, a new element has found its way into the talks, reports the LA Times’ Paige St. John. Here’s a clip from St. John’s story:

Federal judges considering California’s request for more time to reduce prison crowding have asked the state in turn to limit how long some mentally ill prisoners spend in solitary confinement.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton on Wednesday said he had accepted a state offer to limit the time severely mentally ill prisoners who have committed no rules violations can be held in isolation to 30 days. Hours later, he and the other two judges issued an order extending negotiations to Jan. 10, and pushing the state’s deadline to reduce crowding to April 18.

Karlton is holding hearings on the treatment of mentally ill inmates and also sits on the federal three-judge panel that ordered California to reduce prison overcrowding.

California has been ordered to remove 7,000 inmates from state prisons, reductions that judges say are needed to remedy unconstitutionally dangerous conditions, including inadequate medical and mental health care. In Wednesday’s order, the judges said they expect no further extension in the talks, “absent extraordinary circumstances,” but that does not preclude additional delays in the actual crowding deadline.

[SNIP]

Transcripts of courtroom hearings show the talks took a twist after Thanksgiving, when Karlton said he was concerned about some 230 mentally ill prisoners currently housed in isolation cells, though they have committed no infraction. State prison officials say they are there for their own protection, or while awaiting space in a mental health unit.

Karlton said he told the other federal judges “that as far as I was concerned” the state’s request for an extension to reduce prison overcrowding should not be granted as long as those mentally ill inmates were being held in isolation units.

Lawyers for California made it clear that the state is eager to address the judge’s concerns about solitary confinement. Transcripts show that at one point last week, state officials were rushing documents to the judge for review. At another, they offered to produce Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard to speak with Karlton. The judge said he was told Brown’s office responded that it “understood the nature of the problem” and promised a quick remedy….

Posted in CDCR, Courts, crime and punishment, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), guns, How Appealing, law enforcement, solitary | No Comments »

SHERIFF’S ELECTION WATCH: Candidates Comment Re: Fed Indictments…..and on Which Way LA? Ridley-Thomas Talks About Changing the State Charter to Appoint Not Elect LA Sheriffs

December 12th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


CHALLENGERS FOR SHERIFF BACA’S JOB SPEAK OUT

After federal indictments were unsealed Monday morning triggering the arrest of 18 members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, there was initially no comment from former LASD undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is now running for sheriff against Lee Baca.

But then on Wednesday, Tanaka released a statement that, while it didn’t address the indictments directly, seemed to be a gesture that direction. The LA Times’ Seema Mehta has a story on the matter. Here’s a clip:

Paul Tanaka, the former undersheriff who is challenging his old boss Sheriff Lee Baca in next year’s election, made his first public statement Wednesday since news broke that the federal government had arrested 18 current and former members of the Sheriff’s Department in a jail abuse and corruption scandal.

“The residents of Los Angeles County deserve better, as do the hard-working men and women of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. It’s time for the sheriff to take responsibility for the decisions he has made as the top public safety official in the county,” Tanaka said in a written statement.

Former LASD commander Bob Olmsted, the strongest dark horse challenger in the sheriff’s race, had already released a statement about the indictments on Monday, along with making several media appearances, where he pointed to the involvement of Sheriff Baca and Paul Tanaka in the alleged hiding of FBI informant, Anthony Brown, which resulted in seven of Monday’s indictments.

For instance, in his appearance on Which Way LA? with Warren Olney, Olmsted noted that when Tanaka was interviewed by the LA Times, and by ABC-7, earlier in the year, the former undersheriff admitted his involvement with the operation to hide informant Brown, claiming that Baca ordered him to do so.

“He said it was Lee Baca’s idea and I was just following orders,” said Olmsted. “[The hiding of Anthony Brown] could not have occurred without being condoned all the way to the top.”

Then on Wednesday, in response to Tanaka’s statement, Olmsted put out a second press release, again taking both Tanaka and Baca to task in relationship to the indictments. It reads in part:

“Rather than telling the whole truth about who permitted sheriffs’ officials to use excessive force, abuse inmates, obstruct justice, or intimidate an FBI agent, on Monday, Sheriff Lee Baca neglected to detail how all of this happened or what the chain of events transpired under his watch. Even worse, he didn’t take responsibility or hold himself fully liable for these failures.

Either Sheriff Baca was asleep at the wheel, or he purposely separated himself from the daily operations of his department, or he’s hiding his involvement in this train-wreck.

This week, retired LASD lieutenant and candidate for sheriff, Pat Gomez, also released a statement that was critical of Baca and Tanaka.


RIDLEY-THOMAS CALLS FOR POSSIBLE CHANGE IN STATE CHARTER TO APPOINT, NOT ELECT LA COUNTY SHERIFF

On Tuesday, on Which Way LA? Warren Olney did a second show relating to the indictments, this time asking guests if Sheriff Baca’s bid to be reelected for a fifth term in office is imperiled by recent events.

With Olney on the show were LA County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas, attorney Mark Geragos, who is a strong Baca Supporter, Ralph Sonenshein, head of the Pat Brown institute at Cal State LA, and former County Counsel and Police Commission president, Andrea Ordin.

The notable moment on Tuesday’s show came when Ridley-Thomas again called for stronger oversight of the sheriff’s department and said that perhaps it’s time to change state law so that sheriffs, like chiefs of police, are appointed, not elected.

Be sure to listen to the show’s podcast here.


LASD badge and patch photo by Jaime Lopez

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Posted in 2014 election, Board of Supervisors, FBI, LA County Jail, LASD, law enforcement, Paul Tanaka, Sheriff Lee Baca | 13 Comments »

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