Monday, April 21, 2014
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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


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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


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.


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.


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….


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


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


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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

LA County DCFS Workers Strike, a Close Look at Juvenile Public Defense, the Challenge of Healing Traumatized Kids…and Interrogation Techniques Redux

December 9th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

(NOTE: Today’s posting is a joint project by Walker Taylor & Celeste Fremon)


Striking social workers rallied in front of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services headquarters on Friday (the second day of the strike) demanding smaller, more manageable caseloads and the hiring of more social workers. High caseloads are a crucial issue for department reform, because they impede DCFS workers’ ability to competently do their job—to make sure every kid they are assigned to is safe.

The strike was set into motion after contract negotiations between the public service workers union, SEIU 721, and DCFS came to an impasse. (KPCC’s Rina Palta has the backstory here.)

According to SEIU 721′s website, DCFS strikers will move their picket lines to the LA County Board of Supervisors’ field offices today, where thousands of workers from the Department of Public Social Services will join the strike.

The LA Times’ Seema Mehta and Abby Sewell have the story. Here are some clips:

About two-thirds of social workers and their supervisors did not show up for work Friday, similar to Thursday’s numbers. During a raucous rally in front of the county Department of Children and Family Services building, the head of the agency made a surprise appearance.

“I support social workers, but I want you to come back to work,” said Philip Browning, prompting sustained boos from the crowd of several hundred employees.


Speaker after speaker railed against county leaders for failing to help overburdened social workers or punishing them when things went wrong — the agency has mishandled several cases of child neglect and abuse, a few leading to deaths. The real culprit, speakers said, was a refusal by county officials to see how the caseloads were harming children.

The current contract sets the maximum caseload for most social workers at 31. Union representatives argue that is too high and also say that 680 social workers have caseloads above the maximum.


In a brief interview, [head of DCFS Philip] Browning said he agreed that caseloads were too high and he outlined steps that county officials were taking to reduce them, notably the hiring of 300 to 400 new social workers, which would result in lowering caseloads by 30% within a year.

“I’m confident we’re on our way. I know the board [of supervisors] and the CEO want this strike to be over and everyone to come back to work,” he said.

When asked about the union’s proposal that officials pledge to hire 35 new workers per month for 17 months, Browning demurred, saying it was a budgetary issue, before heading inside the building.


Speaking of overly large caseloads, juvenile public defenders—often the last line of defense for indigent kids facing time in the system—across the nation are critically overworked, making it difficult to adequately serve the kids that need them most.

As part of the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange’s “Juvenile Indigent Defense” series, Katy McCarthy has written an excellent piece about what an ordinary work day for a juvenile public defender looks like (both good and bad), through the eyes of Dominique Pinkney, an Alameda County assistant public defender. Here are some clips:

The main job of juvenile public defenders is to act as the voice of children in the juvenile justice system. Public defenders for juveniles are required to understand not just the law — but the circumstances of their young clients and how to connect them with the most appropriate services. To the general public, even those involved in the juvenile court system in some way, the area of juvenile defense can seem shadowy and hidden. To provide insight into this world JJIE spent a day trailing juvenile public defender Pinkney at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, atop a hill in this city in the East Bay, just south of Oakland.

Assistant public defender Dominique Pinkney arrives in the hallway outside the courtrooms every morning at 8:30 a.m. sharp, to meet with any clients who happen to come in early…

On this day, no one is around early. So Pinkney has a few moments to review his cases for the day. Sitting quietly at a table in a sparse interview room adjoining the court, he opens the red and green files of his clients and nods to himself as he pores over drug test results, completed community service reports and school records. Over the course of the morning, he and nine young clients will go in front of the judge…

The first client of the morning is sitting on the bench with his mom, dressed in a crisp green button-down shirt.

This is the first time the teen has been in trouble and he has unpaid restitution fees.

“It can be really hard for these poorer families to pay,” explains Pinkney…

Pinkney glances over his list of charges and intake report. Apparently, the teen was at a demonstration in downtown Oakland, when he and a group of other kids broke off from the group and started vandalizing cars.

Pinkney is hoping he will get informal supervision for six months, a more casual version of probation. Afterwards, his case would be dismissed. That is, however, if he pays restitution. If, after six months, he hasn’t paid, his supervision will be extended for another six months.

After the second extension, if he still hasn’t paid, the kid will go on standard probation.

In the 1967 ruling In re Gault, the United States Supreme Court ruled that youth had a constitutional right to counsel in delinquency proceedings — essentially guaranteeing them many of the same due process rights as adults in criminal trials.

However, for this right to be relevant, young people need access to skilled representation.

According to the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) in its National Juvenile Defense Standards that means creating, “an environment in which defenders have access to sufficient resources, including investigative and expert assistance, as well as specialized training, adequate and equitable compensation, and manageable caseloads.”

The reality for many juvenile indigent defense practitioners is that this is easier said than done.

Many young accused are not getting timely access to attorneys — and when they do, the level of counsel they receive is frequently inadequate. A report by the NJDC raised serious concerns that “the interests of many young people in juvenile court are significantly compromised, and that many children are literally left defenseless.”

Pinkney, who spends many weekends in the office, is highly qualified and dedicated to the young people he represents. Multiple parents spoke highly of Pinkney. Several people called him “the best.” One mother stated that “he really fights for his clients.”

This is, however, not always the case with public defenders.

In many instances this is because of impossible workloads. The NJDC report found high caseloads to be “the single most important barrier to effective representation.” And that the ultimate impact of this on youth involved in the court was “devastating.”

(We urge you to go read the rest of this lengthy, but entirely worthwhile, article.)


This week’s This American Life focuses on unconditional love and, while the whole show is definitely worth listening to, it is the second segment titled “Love is a Battlefield” that is utterly essential.

It is about a couple who adopt a 7-year old Romanian boy named Daniel, who was raised under awful circumstances in an emotionally bleak orphanage where he didn’t interact with any of the adults caring for him intimately enough to know their names.

The couple—Heidi and Rick Solomon—assumed that with enough love, they could break through to their son whom they learned was suffering from “attachment disorder. Instead Daniel became increasingly unmanageable to the point of being genuinely dangerous.

What happened next is both humbling and instructive. It provides a frightening snapshot of the kind of horrific damage that trauma and neglect can wreak on a child. The story is also a reminder that one is unwise ever to give up on any kid—a concept that was central to our juvenile justice system when it was formed more than a century ago. Yet it is an outlook that seems too often in the last two decades to have slipped out of our focus.

In any case, listen. It really is an amazing story. (And you can also read the transcript of the segment here.)


With the above TAL story in mind, it is heartening to hear that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is helping put into place a program that tests the theory that many future crimes can be prevented by making available help to kids—and other community members—who have been exposed to the kinds of trauma that is now being called “toxic stress,”

Max Aldax of the San Francisco Examiner has the story.

Here’s a clip:

Police in the Bayview district are getting crime-fighting help from an unlikely source: A pediatrician.

Founded by innovative pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the Center for Youth Wellness on Third Street has been a pioneer in the treatment of “toxic stress” in children who are exposed to violence, neglect and other trauma, and who lack a support system.

The federal government plans to pump money locally following studies showing there are biological reasons for why a child who suffers chronic adversity might engage in high-risk behaviors as an adult.

In September, District Attorney George Gascón lobbied in Washington, D.C., and received help from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, to secure $1 million to evaluate victimized children in the Bayview. In the eastern section of that neighborhood, Gascón says, 70 percent of black youths are referred to the juvenile justice system by age 17.


We linked last week to the fascinating New Yorker article by Douglas Starr about police interrogations, and the problems with the Reid technique, which is the style of interrogation most widely used by law enforcement forces in the U.S., yet—according to Starr’s research—it is also a strategy that has a propensity to produce false confessions.

Unfortunately, however, for those of you who don’t subscribe to the New Yorker, the story was unavailable due to the magazine’s paywall. (I think it may be available now.)

The good news is that NPR’s Terry Gross also liked Starr’s report and brought him on her show to talk about the flaws in the Reid technique, and about an alternate technique, “PEACE” (Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure and Evaluate), used in England, Newfoundland, Wales, Denmark and New Zealand with great success.

Anyway, listen to the story. We think you’ll find it extremely interesting.

In the meantime, here’s a clip from the online story on the story:

As part of his research, Starr took a training course in the Reid technique. “It has the appearance of being very scientific,” he says. But a growing number of scientists and legal scholars say this approach is based on outdated science and psychology — and can sometimes produce false confessions.

“There doesn’t seem to be a national conversation [about interrogator tactics] of any sort,” Starr says, “and that’s unfortunate because for every innocent person that’s put away, the person who really committed the crime is still on the streets.”


“One of the problems of the technique is that it’s based on some science that’s no longer current. When John Reid was doing this in the 1950s, people thought you could see anxiety in people’s body language. If they folded their arms, or hunched over, or looked away, they were being anxious, and also that anxiety was a hallmark of lying. But unfortunately, 40 years of extensive psychological research has shown both of those premises to be untrue. Anxiety has nothing to do with lying.”

The above photo came from the SEIU 721 website.

Posted in DCFS, Foster Care, juvenile justice, LA County Board of Supervisors, law enforcement, Public Defender, Trauma | No Comments »

Inmate Tech Entrepreneur Program Comes to Twin Towers…Help for LA’s Homeless Moms…Suicide of Deputy’s Girlfriend Leaves Much Unanswered…and a Bill for Brightly-Colored Fake Guns

November 25th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


A relatively new business tech program for inmates at San Quentin State Prison expanded this month to serve inmates at LA County’s Twin Towers Jail. Participants take classes twice a week for six months where they learn how to create and launch tech companies—from actual experts.

If inmates graduate the course, they are guaranteed paid internships upon their release from prison or jail. The program has been a successful anti-recidivism tool thus far: the five released San Quentin graduates are all employed in the tech sector.

KPCC’s Martha Mendoza has the story. Here’s a clip:

The rigorous, six-month training teaches carefully selected inmates the ins and outs of designing and launching technology firms, using local experts as volunteer instructors.

“We believe that when incarcerated people are released into the world, they need the tools to function in today’s high-tech, wired world,” says co-founder Beverly Parenti, who with her husband, Chris Redlitz, has launched thriving companies, including AdAuction, the first online media exchange…

“I figured, ‘We work with young entrepreneurs every day. Why not here?’” [Redlitz] recalled.

After discussions with prison administrators, Parenti and Redlitz decided to add a prison-based firm to their portfolio, naming it for the precarious journey from prison to home: The Last Mile.

Now, during twice-a-week evening lessons, students — many locked up before smartphones or Google— practice tweeting, brainstorm new companies and discuss business books assigned as homework. Banned from the Internet to prevent networking with other criminals, they take notes on keyboard-like word processors or with pencil on paper.

The program is still “bootstrapping,” as its organizers say, with just 12 graduates in its first two years and now a few dozen in classes in San Quentin and Twin Towers. But the five graduates released so far are working in the tech sector.

They are guaranteed paid internships if they can finish the rigorous training program, which requires prerequisite courses, proven social skills and a lifetime oath to lead by positive example.


A new program will provide 60 homeless mothers with desperately-needed housing, mental health services, and help finding employment with funds raised by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. The program is an extension of Project 50, a homelessness initiative created by Supe. Yaroslavsky to locate and house Skid Row’s 50 most at-risk residents.

The LA Daily News’ Susan Abram has the story. Here are some clips:

Named for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the $1.8 million wing inside the Didi Hirsch Via Avanta building on Glenoaks Boulevard was hailed by county leaders and nonprofit groups as proof that collaboration can help solve one of the biggest problems in the region.


About 54,000 people were counted as homeless in Los Angeles County this year, an 18 percent increase compared with the last survey in 2011, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. About 15 percent of the county’s homeless are from the San Fernando Valley, which also is an increase, especially among families, the LAHSA figures show.

To help the homeless, Yaroslavsky championed Project 50 in 2010, an initiative to identify Skid Row’s 50 most vulnerable and chronically homeless, and get them housing, medical care, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment so they can live off the streets. But the supervisor acknowledged that it’s a massive undertaking, especially in Los Angeles, which continued to see an increase among the homeless this year compared to 2012, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Didi Hirsch program is an extension of Project 50, organizers said.

Didi Hirsch President and Chief Executive Officer Kita S. Curry said the new wing will help 60 women with children for six months. Afterward, the women will move into housing, thanks to vouchers secured by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.


In September 2010, in St. Augustine, FL., a young mother died from a wound inflicted by her boyfriend’s sheriff’s dept.-issued handgun. The young deputy, Jeremy Banks, said he heard the gunshots from several rooms away, and found his girlfriend Michelle O’Connell bleeding to death.

Investigated by Banks’ own department, the crime scene DNA was left untested, the neighborhood uncanvassed, family and friends uninterviewed, and O’Connell’s suspicious death was quickly pronounced a suicide. And, although new pieces of the puzzle turned up and pointed to Banks, including alleged domestic violence, efforts made to re-open the case were stamped out.

The NY Times’ Walt Bogdanich and Glenn Silber have an excellent interactive narrative of the case and the aftermath. (A PBS “Frontline” documentary produced concurrently with the article will premiere Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 10:00p.m., but has already been released on the PBS website.)

Here are some clips:

At 11:25 p.m., the three St. Johns County officers arrived at 4700 Sherlock Place, a one-story suburban house in this historic seaside community. A young deputy, Jonathan Hawley, was already there. “Oh my God,” he cried, seeing a young woman he knew lying on the bedroom floor, an inert, bloody mess.

Michelle O’Connell, 24, the doting mother of a 4-year-old girl, was dying from a gunshot in the mouth. Next to her was a semiautomatic pistol that belonged to her boyfriend, Jeremy Banks, a deputy sheriff for St. Johns County. A second bullet had burrowed into the carpet by her right arm.

Ms. Maynard quickly escorted Mr. Banks, who had been drinking, out of the house. “All of a sudden he started growling like an animal,” she said. With his fists, Mr. Banks pounded dents in a police car.

“I grabbed him and tuned him up,” another deputy, Wesley Grizzard, recalled. “I told him, I don’t care if you’re intoxicated or not, you better sober up.”

Within minutes of the shooting on Sept. 2, 2010, Mr. Banks’s friends, family and even off-duty colleagues began showing up, offering hugs and moral support. He huddled with his stepfather, a deputy sheriff in another county, before a detective interviewed him in a police car.

With his off-duty sergeant listening from the front seat, Mr. Banks gave this account: Ms. O’Connell had broken up with him and was packing to move out when she shot herself with his service weapon. He said he had been in another room.

Ms. O’Connell’s family, immediately suspicious, received a starkly different reception from the authorities. Less than two hours before she died, Ms. O’Connell had texted her sister, who was watching her daughter: “I’ll be there soon.” Yet when her outraged brother tried to visit the scene, officers blocked his way. The family’s request for an independent investigation was rebuffed, as was one sister’s attempt to tell the police that in the months before she died, Ms. O’Connell said she had been subjected to domestic abuse by Mr. Banks.

Before the sun rose the next morning over this place that calls itself “the nation’s oldest city,” the sheriff’s investigation was all but over.

Ms. O’Connell, the sheriff’s office concluded, took her own life. Detectives were so certain in their judgment that they never tested the forensic evidence collected after the shooting. Nor did they interview her family and friends, who would have told them that she was ecstatic over a new full-time job with benefits, including health insurance for her daughter.

Over time, though, the official narrative began to change. The sheriff asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to re-examine the case, and investigators found two neighbors who said they had heard a woman screaming for help that night, followed by gunshots. Their account prompted the medical examiner to revise his opinion from suicide to homicide, a conclusion shared by the crime reconstruction expert hired by state investigators.

Eventually, however, a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute and closed the case early last year. But that was hardly the final word. The state law enforcement agency asked for a special inquest into the death, saying significant questions remained. The sheriff, David B. Shoar, struck back in support of his officer, prompting an extraordinary conflict between two powerful law enforcement agencies.

And through it all, the O’Connell family continued to believe that the sheriff’s office, investigating one of its own, had blinded itself to the possibility that the shooting was a fatal case of domestic violence.

Domestic abuse is believed to be the most frequently unreported crime, and it is particularly corrosive when it involves the police. Taught to wield authority through control, threats or actual force, officers carry their training, their job stress and their guns home with them, amplifying the potential for abuse.

Yet nationwide, interviews and documents show, police departments have been slow to recognize and discipline abusers in uniform, largely because of a predominantly male blue wall of silence. Victims are often reluctant to file complaints, fearing that an officer’s colleagues simply will not listen or understand, or that if they do, the abuser may be stripped of his weapon and ultimately his family’s livelihood.


The Times examined the case in collaboration with the PBS investigative news program “Frontline,” reviewing police, medical and legal records, interviewing dozens of people connected to the case, and consulting independent forensic and law enforcement experts.

The examination found that the investigation was mishandled from the start, not just by the sheriff and his officers, but also by medical examiners who espoused scientifically suspect theories that went unchallenged by prosecutors. Because detectives concluded so quickly that the shooting was a suicide, investigators failed to perform the police work that is standard in suspicious shootings, including collecting and testing all available evidence and canvassing neighbors.

(We highly recommend you go read the rest of this lengthy, but entirely worthwhile, article.)


Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) plans to reintroduce a bill that would require all fake guns—BB, airsoft, etc.—to be manufactured in bright colors. The revived bill comes in the wake of the recent fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County deputy who mistook his airsoft gun for an assault rifle. (Read more about the shooting, and the previously failed legislation, here.)

The LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy has the story. Here’s a clip:

The death of Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, who was carrying a replica of an AK-47, might have been prevented if deputies could have determined the gun was not a real assault weapon, lawmakers said.

“When officers must make split-second decisions on whether or not to use deadly force, these replica firearms can trigger tragic consequences,” said Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles). “By making toy guns more obvious to law enforcement we can help families avoid the terrible grief of losing a child.”

De Leon plans to reintroduce a measure he wrote in 2011 that would have required BB guns to be painted a bright color.

That bill was requested by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in response to an incident in which 13-year old Rohayent Gomez was shot and left a paraplegic when police mistook his replica firearm for a real weapon. That bill failed passage in an Assembly committee.

Posted in Homelessness, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, law enforcement, Mental Illness, Reentry, Rehabilitation, Skid Row | 1 Comment »

Fed Judges Extend Brown’s Prison Pop Deadline—Again… Police Chiefs Want National Crime & Justice Commission….& Jerry’s Bad Veto

October 22nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon

On Monday a panel of federal judges, in a surprising and heartening move,
gave the Brown administration still one more month to work on coming up with a solid reform-minded plan to reduce the state’s prison population. The idea is to create a statewide program of reentry and rehabilitation programs that will slowly drop the population permanently by cutting down on return customers. This plan, if Brown & Co can hammer it out, would be in lieu of an extremely costly expansion the state’s prison system, through contracts with private prisons. .

The LA Times’ Paige St. John has more on the story of the Monday extension. Here’s a clip:

A panel of federal judges has given Gov. Jerry Brown an additional 28 days to come up with long-term solutions to the state’s prison crowding problems.

In an order issued Monday, the judges moved the deadline for California to remove about 9,600 inmates from state lockups to Feb. 24, adding almost a month to their last deadline of Jan. 27. It previously was Dec. 31.

They also ordered the state to continue negotiating for solutions with lawyers representing California’s 134,000 prisoners.

Monday was the deadline for a state appeals judge, Peter Siggins, who was assigned to mediate those confidential talks, to report on the two sides’ progress. Based on Siggins’ confidential update and recommendations, the federal panel ordered the negotiations to continue, with another update due Nov. 18, the jurists said in their signed order.


And..while we’re on the subject of the need for a smarter focus on reentry and recidivism, on Saturday in Philadelphia, at the four-day conference for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Philadelphia’s Chief Charles Ramsay called for a national commission to assess crime and justice in the United States, noting that the last time such a panel existed was in the 1960′s under Lyndon Johnson. Ramsey also noted that most other national law enforcement groups were calling for the commission as well.

The Crime Report…has the story. Here’s a clip:

...The IACP [International Association of Chiefs of Police] supported a proposal by former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to create a commission on criminal justice, but it fell three votes short of the number necessary to approve it in the Senate in the last Congress. Currently, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has proposed a commission to study the federal criminal justice system. In other remarks Saturday, Ramsey said that sufficient community resources must be assembled to provide services to inmates released in a drive by many advocates on both the left and right to reduce U.S. prison populations, or law enforcement’s “hard efforts to reduce crime may disappear….”

While WLA agrees that the overuse of commissions can be a waste of time, sometimes the right commission at the right time is exactly what is needed.

Webb’s proposal of the creation of a criminal justice commission is just such a case. After nearly 30 years of an unbalanced use of incarceration, there is a real push for intelligent criminal justice reform on the part of those looking most closely at the matter on both the left and the right. Yet, reform is still in its nascent stages. Thus a crime and justice commission could focus that early momentum in ways that could matter.


The Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferris has been following the problems created by unnecessarily transferring kids to alternative “community schools”—especially when they live far from the schools that all too often keep track of the students poorly, causing them to slip through the educational cracks.

Experts on the topic are very unhappy at Jerry Brown’s veto of a bill that would have reformed the program.

Ferris explains.

Here are some clips:

California Gov. Jerry Brown has upset school discipline reform advocates by vetoing a bill that would have made it tougher to transfer students to alternative “community” schools. Brown said he was deferring to “the skill and good faith” of local educators.

Reform advocates, including some prominent educators and law-enforcement officials, say such student transfers are sometimes poorly planned, and carried out before a child gets proper counseling or other services at home schools. They also claim too many transfers end up depriving struggling students of an equal education and increase risks they will drop out rather than succeed.

The proposal that Brown vetoed on Oct. 12 was Senate Bill 744 authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat of Bell Gardens. Lara said he’s concerned by estimates that more than one-third of the tens of thousands of students moved into alternative community campuses every year end up dropping out.

The majority of these students are from low income families and are Latino or black. Some are moved into the alternative campuses as punishment for violating school rules. Many others are involuntarily transferred to alternative settings because they’re behind academically or judged to be truant.

Lara’s bill would have stopped involuntary transfers of homeless students to alternative campuses. And it would have required that transferred students’ home districts confirm there is actually space for students at alternative schools and that those campuses can handle the students’ needs. The proposal would have also prohibited community schools from imposing new requirements that block students from returning to their school of origin once original transfer terms are met.

SB 744 would have also required that students involuntarily transferred be reassigned to community schools that are “geographically accessible.”

Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity reported on the hidden reality of California students reassigned to county-run community schools so far away — 20 to 40 miles from their homes – that their working parents were unable to transport kids to and from campuses.

Parents told the Center they felt forced to put children on home-study programs that allow county schools to collect five days’ worth of attendance-based funding for students, but leave kids at home most of the week to educate themselves. Other students whose parents are farmworkers never made it to far-off alternative schools, and had to drop out.

One of them, a 14-year-old girl, was readmitted to her regular school this month only after an intervention by local community organizers and publication of the Center’s reports. Erika Brooks of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a community-organizing group in Kern County, said the cases of two other students languishing out of school are still under review.

There’s lots more so read on here.

Posted in Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, law enforcement, prison, Realignment, Reentry, Rehabilitation | No Comments »

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

September 20th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Here’s a clip from the Daily News story:

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

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

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

Here are excerpts from the study’s fact sheet:

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jaime Lopez,

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

Exoneration 12 Years After Evidence Revealed…California Assembly Panel Approves Brown’s $315M Prison Plan…Voters Support Reducing Prison Spending and Overcrowding…and More Missing Guns

August 30th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


Daniel Taylor spent twenty-one years behind bars because of a coerced false murder confession, but not because the absolving evidence wasn’t out there.

Maurice Possley and his reporting partner at the Chicago Tribune, Steve Mills, found and published strong evidence of Taylor’s innocence in 2001. Still, it took prosecutors in Illinois twelve years to own up to the wrongful conviction and dismiss the case.

Possley expertly lays out Taylor’s heartrending story in a lengthy piece for the Atlantic. Here are a few clips from the beginning:

During nearly 25 years as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, I received hundreds of requests for help from convicted defendants. None was more compelling than the hand-printed letter from Daniel Taylor, a 25-year-old inmate at Stateville Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois. In neat block letters, Daniel explained that he was serving a life sentence without parole for a double murder in Chicago in 1992. Even though Daniel had given a court-reported confession, he said he was innocent and he had police records that proved it.


…in December 2001, the Tribune published our five-part series, “Cops and Confessions,” Daniel’s case was the subject of an entire installment. We had uncovered strong evidence of Daniel’s innocence—evidence that he was actually in jail at the time of the crime and that his confession was false.

I had never been so confident of a convicted defendant’s innocence. And I never imagined nearly 12 years would pass before Cook County prosecutors would admit the truth and dismiss his conviction. But it finally happened. On June 28, 2013, Daniel, who was arrested at age 17, was released at age 38, having spent more than 20 years behind bars.


The story of Daniel’s wrongful conviction begins with the gunshot murders of Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook in an apartment on Chicago’s North Side on November 16, 1992. A neighbor heard the shots, looked out the window, and saw four men leaving, one of whom noticed her and pointed a finger in warning. The witness soon identified Dennis Mixon, a West Side cocaine dealer, as one of the men, but police couldn’t find him.

Two weeks later, police picked up 15-year-old Lewis Gardner and 19-year-old Akia Phillips for selling marijuana on a street corner near the scene of the shooting. Gardner, who had an IQ of 70, told police he got his drugs from Deon Patrick and implicated Patrick in the shooting. Police said Gardner and Phillips confessed to being lookouts for the gunmen and said they also implicated Daniel Taylor, Joseph Brown, Phillips’ brother Paul, and Rodney Mathews.

Daniel, who had been declared a ward of the state at age 11 because his mother was a cocaine addict, had lived in a dozen foster homes over the ensuing years. At that time, he was living in a state facility. He was picked up in December and taken to a police station, where detectives said he confessed almost immediately. His statement was transcribed by a court reporter.

Daniel told us a different version. He said he was smacked in the head with a flashlight and was told that he had been implicated by others. He said the detectives told him if he gave a statement, he would be released, so he told them what they wanted to hear: that he, Mathews, Patrick, and Mixon went to the apartment to collect a drug debt owed to Mixon. According to the statement, when Lassiter said he couldn’t pay, Patrick shot him dead. Taylor and Mixon then held Haugabook’s arms and Patrick shot her as well.

The woman who had identified Mixon viewed a lineup and said she recognized Daniel from the neighborhood, but that he was not one of the four men she saw the night of the murders.

After the lineup, when detectives told Daniel he was being charged with murder, Daniel realized he was not being released. So he told the detectives the truth: He had been in jail on the night of the murders. A check showed that, in fact, Daniel had been arrested for fighting in a park that night at about 6:45 p.m., and jail records showed he was released about 10 p.m. and the murders occurred at 8:43 p.m.

But Daniel was not released.

Instead, detectives went about constructing a case to support his confession…


The California Assembly Budget Committee Thursday morning unanimously approved Governor Jerry Brown’s $315M prison-leasing plan to ease prison overcrowding by the federal court’s end-of-the-year deadline. If the bill passes through the Assembly, it will have to contend with the Senate.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg has publicly opposed Gov. Brown’s plan and presented an alternative plan Wednesday that would seek population reduction through a sentencing commission, rehabilitation programs, and a three-year delay on the court’s quickly-approaching December deadline. (For more backstory go here.)

The LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy has the latest. Here’s a clip:

If the bill is approved by the full Assembly, it sets the stage for a showdown in the Senate, where Democrats oppose the measure and are insisting that more money be spent on rehabilitation and drug treatment services for felons so they do not end up back in prison after their release.

Members of the Assembly Budget Committee approved the legislation on a bipartisan 21-0 vote Thursday, with members saying they were allocating the additional money in SB 105 reluctantly and would rather spend the money on other priorities, including schools and universities.


Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) criticized the decision to spend more to use state prison guards to staff a private prison the state will rent in California City.

Currently, California spends $142 per prisoner per day for inmates in its own prisons and $63 to $67 to lease beds in private facilities out of state.

“I can’t understand why we would take it out of the private sector at half the cost and turn it over to the state at double the cost and use taxpayer dollars to fund the difference,” Grove said.


California voters show broad support for criminal justice reforms that reduce spending and prison population, according to a new survey commissioned by Californians for Safety and Justice and conducted by David Binder Research.

Sixteen-hundred California voters from across the state took part in the survey. Here are some highlights from the results:

Establish a Public Safety Commission, made up of criminal justice experts, to streamline California’s criminal statutes with the goal of safely reducing prison costs and maximizing public safety:
74% Support / 14% Oppose

Allow judges to consider, with victim input, releasing elderly and frail inmates that are no longer a threat to public safety, and who have less than life without parole sentences:
70% Support / 22% Oppose

Expand effective treatment programs for mentally ill people instead of putting these people in prison:
80% Support / 13% Oppose

Financially reward counties that reduce the number of people sent to state prison and county jail through evidence-based community programs proven to reduce repeat offending and help former offenders become productive Californians:
59% Support / 28% Oppose

Allow inmates who were not sentenced to life without parole or death to earn early release from prison by completing rehabilitation programs, paying victim restitution, and completing job training and educational programs:
66% Support / 25% Oppose


Everyone was upset about the LASD’s missing M-16, but in the interest of fair play, it’s important that we also bring your attention to a weapon theft during a CHP training session this week. Guns and equipment, including two AR-15 assault rifles and an officer’s badge, were stolen from a CHP car Monday afternoon. None of the firearms have been recovered, thus far.

Santa Clarita Valley News’ Leon Worden has the story. Here’s a clip:

According to both crime broadcasts, the stolen weapons include two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, two Remington shotguns and two Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handguns.

Also stolen were a bulletproof vest, handcuff keys and the officer’s CHP identification.

Some items were recovered near 120th Street and Central Avenue in Los Angeles. Specifically, the officer’s duty badge was recovered, but the weapons were not.

(The LA Times’ Joseph Serna also covered the theft.)

Photo from the Innocence Project of Florida.

Posted in criminal justice, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), guns, Innocence, law enforcement | 1 Comment »

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