CA DAs’ Creepy Death Penalty Bill Rejected…Jail Deputy Allegedly Beat Informant…. CA Submits Additional Prison Pop Reduction StrategiesMay 3rd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
It used to be the CCPOA*
PPOA, the prison guards’ union, that was the most reform-averse and law-and-order crazy lobbying group in the state. But now the the CCPOA PPOA* folks look positively bleeding heart next to the California District Attorneys Association that wants to lock everyone up for as long as possible, consequences be damned. They also really, really, really want to get some people executed in our state, and don’t seem to mind if it’s done very painfully.
So while Maryland’s governor signed a bill Thursday repealing the death penalty, becoming the 18th state to do so, in supposedly progressive California, the prosecutors are itching to kill somebody.
It should be noted that not ALL prosecutors feel this way. In fact, a number of the state’s leading prosecutors don’t. But the prosecutors who call the shots at the CDAA are quite the blood lusty, punishment lovin’ group—and they’re the ones either putting forth or blocking legislation.
Fortunately, in the most recent instance, the Cal Senate’s Public Safety Committee helped the DAs dial things back.
Bob Egelko at the San Francisco Chronicle has the story.
Here’s a clip that outlines the bill that the Public Safety Committee spiked:
Backers of SB779, including its author, state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine (San Diego County), said the bill would speed up executions in California, which have been blocked by court orders since 2006. It was introduced following the narrow defeat in November of a ballot measure to repeal the state’s death penalty law.
The bill would have limited most condemned prisoners to one round of appeals in the state court system and another in federal court. Other provisions would have eliminated public review of regulations on execution procedures, barred disclosure of the suppliers of drugs used in executions and authorized a new method of gas chamber executions.
California’s last execution by cyanide gas was in 1993. A federal judge ruled a year later that the gas chamber at San Quentin caused excruciating pain and violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Lethal injections at the prison were halted in 2006 when another federal judge ruled that the executions, carried out by poorly trained staff in a dimly lit chamber, posed an undue risk of a prolonged and agonizing death. The court-imposed moratorium is likely to remain in place at least through 2013 as the state tries to validate new regulations and cope with a shortage of execution drugs.
*NOTE: Please forgive the sleep deprived typo of PPOA instead of CCPOA. (sigh.)
JAIL DEPUTY ALLEGEDLY REPEATEDLY ASSAULTED CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT OF WHISTLEBLOWER DEPUTY JAMES SEXTON
In the lawsuit filed last month by Deputies James Sexton and Mike Rathbun, [and reported by WLA here], among the many allegations listed in the legal complaint is the report that one of Sexton’s confidential informants was repeatedly assaulted and harassed by a deputy working in the jails, even after Sexton told the deputy that he was the inmate’s handler, that the man was a valuable informant, and to please leave him alone— Deputy Michael Camacho continued with his harassment, both physical and verbal.
Robert Faturechi has a story in Friday’s LA Times that reports more deeply on the alleged abuse of the informant by Deputy Camacho. Here’s a clip:
Prosecutors are considering whether to file criminal charges against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy accused of assaulting an inmate who was helping federal authorities investigate a suspected international drug trafficker, according to records and interviews.
The inmate accused Deputy Michael Camacho of targeting him, at least in part, because he was cooperating with detectives as an informant, internal records show.
The records indicate that in July, the inmate told his sheriff’s handlers that Camacho punched him in his torso and ribs.
“Put me in a room by myself and your [sheriff's handler] and we will see what happens.”
The Sheriff’s Department, which runs the nation’s largest jail system, has been beleaguered by allegations that its deputies have abused inmates, often just for showing nonviolent acts of disrespect.
Records show the informant had been deemed “reliable” and was providing specifics on a drug smuggling ring’s operations, including a six-figure cash drop-off, escapes from law enforcement and kilos of cocaine hidden in warehouses.
A sheriff’s spokesman confirmed that the department completed an investigation into the allegations, and is waiting for the district attorney’s office to decide whether to file criminal charges. In the meantime, Camacho has been reassigned to a desk job.
“We don’t know if this had any effect on his ability to continue his service to the Sheriff’s Department and federal authorities,” spokesman Steve Whitmore said of the said of the inmate informant.
In the Sexton/Rathbun lawsuit, it is alleged that in August 2012, after Sexton had formally reported Camacho for abusing inmates a few weeks before, Camacho confronted Sexton and threatened him physically.
The alleged attacks and threats by Camacho took place in the Spring and Summer of 2012, after the Citizens Commissions on Jail Violence had, for months, been holding their well-publicized hearings investigating abuse of inmates by deputies, and also after Sheriff Baca had publicly and within the sheriff’s department made it clear that such abuse would not be tolerated.
AS REQUIRED, GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN AND THE CDCR SUBMITTED A LIST OF ADDITIONAL STRATEGIES DESIGNED TO LOWER CALIFORNIA’S PRISON POPULATION BY 9000 MORE INMATES BY DEC 2013
On May 3, Governor Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections submitted a list of additional strategies to lower the state’s prison population, but it did so unhappily and under protest.
Here is a summary of the state’s new suggestions, most of which require a vote of the state legislature:
The court-ordered list focuses on increasing capacity to house prisoners, but also includes provisions to increase good-conduct credit. Virtually every action identified on the list requires legislative approval with the exception of the expanded fire camp capacity. All legislative changes must be urgency measures in order to meet the December 2013 court-ordered deadline.
The list includes the following measures:
· Expanding the capacity of fire camps by allowing certain inmates who are currently ineligible to participate.
· Slowing the rate of returning out-of-state inmates to California.
· Leasing beds from county jails and other facilities where there is sufficient capacity.
· Increasing good-conduct credit for non-violent inmates.
· Expanding medical and elderly parole.
The increase in credits for good conduct will not impact realignment. Prisoners who are released under the new good-conduct rules would serve their parole under state supervision. If they violate parole prior to the end of what their sentence would have been without the increased good-conduct credits, they will return to state prison.
The full response to the court-ordered population reduction may be found here.
AND….WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF WAYS TO LOWER THE STATES PRISON POPULATION….A BILL PASSES IN CA SENATE THAT WOULD SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER PENALTIES FOR NON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENSES
Aaron Sankin from the Huffington Post has the story. Here’s a clip:
A bill that passed the California State Senate earlier this week has the potential to fundamentally change the way the state deals with its non-violent drug offenders.
The legislation, introduced by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), gives local officials more flexibility in how they decide to charge individuals convicted of non-violent drug crimes. This flexibility could ultimately lead to California incarcerating fewer of its citizens, the measure’s backers argue.
“One of the best ways to promote lower crime rates is to provide low-level offenders with the rehabilitation they need to successfully reenter their communities,” said Leno in a statement. “However, our current laws do just the opposite. We give non-violent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they’re incarcerated, and then release them back into the community with few job prospects or opportunities to receive an education.”
Current California law mandates that certain drugs be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, while others are categorized as “wobblers,” in which prosecutors and judges decide for themselves on a punishment. For example, marijuana possession is always a misdemeanor and cocaine is always felony; however, meth is a wobbler. The bill, which does not apply to anyone selling or manufacturing drugs, would turn all simple possession cases in wobblers.
Leno expects that giving local prosecutors and judges the ability the charge and sentence some offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies would both direct more people into rehabilitation programs rather than having them serve hard time and also free up about $159 million annually for said rehabilitation programs.
It could also help the long term life trajectories of some offenders….
It would be an excellent step forward if California were to do something so sensible as to pass this bill.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the bill’s progress.