Brown Hopeful About Prison Negotiations…Crucial Justice Programs Denied Federal Funding…LAPD’s New Digital “Library of Homicide”…and MoreNovember 20th, 2013 by Taylor Walker
A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE PRISON-OVERCROWDING TUNNEL?
On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown sounded hopeful for the first time regarding coming to a potential agreement with California prisoners attorneys. Brown also again called for an extension on the state’s deadline for a workable plan that would persuade federal judges to grant a larger extension on the court-ordered prison population reduction. Part of that plan will require successful negotiations (months in the making) with inmate attorneys that have brought suit against the state over prison conditions.
(Brown was also to meet this week with all of California’s 33 wardens and a number of prison administrators to discuss prison conditions.)
The LA Times’ Anthony York has the story. Here are some clips:
As ordered by federal judges, the Brown administration has been in talks with attorneys for inmates whose lawsuits led the court to declare the prisons unconstitutionally crowded.
“I’m reasonably optimistic that we’re going to come to something that we can make work,” Brown said at a charity event in the capital.
The governor said the meetings, moderated by state appellate Judge Peter Siggins, have “been collaborative and informative.”
But he declined to provide details. The parties are under orders not to discuss specifics of the negotiations.
Lawyers for the prisoners declined to assess the progress of the talks.
“I really don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment at this point,” said Don Specter, an attorney for the plaintiffs, “though I’m glad to see that the governor is optimistic about it.”
The optimism is a shift for Brown, who had previously dismissed any suggestion that the two sides could reach an accord. He declared in September that he would not let inmates rewrite prison policies.
On Tuesday, the governor called for more time to comply with the court. He cited the recent problems with the new federal healthcare rollout as a reason to proceed with caution.
“When government embarks on major programs, it should do so with humility and caution and a lot of planning,” he said. “So whenever people say ‘Hey, we need 10,000 fewer people in prison, do something,’ I want to do that something very carefully.”
EFFECTS OF HUGE FEDERAL FUNDING CUTS TO STATE AND LOCAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS
A new report from the Vera Institute found that between 2010 and 2013, federal funding decreased by 43% for such state and local criminal justice areas as law enforcement, juvenile justice programs, victim assistance, courts, and community-based strategies.
Here’s what some of those seeing the detrimental effects of the cuts have to say:
“When funded we have been able to reduce criminal recidivism by up to 50 percent by providing education, resources and social services intervention to persons returning to the community from custody. When cuts are made, these same persons are more likely to return to custody, which results in more substantial costs of incarceration, and families returning to social service assistance.”
— Manager in education and prevention in California
“Our federal [Byrne] JAG funds help to support our juvenile diversion program which has a 96 percent success rate. With the reduction in funds we will no longer be supporting this program with federal dollars. Over 80 children are served annually in this program.”
— Juvenile justice manager in Florida
“Our Behavioral Health Therapeutic Drug Court program recently completed a review of our success for recidivism. We found that, before Drug Court participation, defendants recidivated (new felony charges over a two-year period) at a rate of approximately 75 percent. After Drug Court participation, that rate decreased to 25 percent; for our graduates, the rate decreased to 11 percent. The costs savings can almost not even be computed, when one considers the impact for improving public safety and return- ing citizens to productive, tax-paying status. Without federal discretionary funds, our program (and others across the country) would have to be reduced or eliminated.”
— Manager in Washington state
“We’ve experienced a total loss of funding for a residential program serving juvenile males with sexual assault histories; those youths are now being served at residential treatment centers in other Texas communities, away from home and not in coordina- tion with local treatment providers. There has also been a loss of funding for First Offender Programming, which enables law enforcement to refer youth charged with minor crimes and their parents to an educational/skills-building program. Drug Court funding has also been severely decreased, pushing eligible youth further into the juvenile justice system without treatment.”
— Texas budget and administration manager in juvenile justice
BUILDING THE LAPD’S “LIBRARY OF HOMICIDE”
The LAPD, through a helpful new partnership with the FBI, is digitizing thousands of cold case files into a homicide database that detectives can access instantly—instead of spending anywhere from hours to weeks searching through boxes of binders for information when victims’ loved ones have unanswered questions.
The LA Times’ Nicole Santa Cruz has the story. Here are some clips:
Adrian McFarland awoke in a panic. His brother had come to him again in a dream. In this one, McFarland walked into a bar and there his brother stood, flashing a toothy smile.
But Charles had been gone for nearly two decades, shot to death in Los Angeles when he was 27.
McFarland, younger by four years, knew little about the crime. The dreams, he thought, were a sign. After all these years, had anyone been caught?
A few days later, LAPD Det. Mark Hahn’s phone rang. McFarland was on the line from Monroe, La., with questions long unasked…
Usually, answers would have been hard to come by, especially for a case so old.
But this time, Hahn knew where to turn: to the detectives creating the Los Angeles Police Department’s first library of homicide…
A large lecture room serves as the homicide library’s headquarters. It’s lined with blue and black binders labeled with names and dates, and in the middle of the room files are neatly organized in rows. This is where Det. Teddy Hammond maintains a spreadsheet tracking the location of each file…
For two years, Hammond and several other detectives have organized the binders, getting them ready to be scanned. They’ve seen crime scene photos, Polaroids of witnesses, medical reports, notes scrawled on yellowing paper.
The task wasn’t feasible before because of a lack of resources, but this first-of-its-kind partnership with the FBI will place sought-after information a click away for detectives, who sometimes spend weeks tracking down a file’s location. When the database is complete, investigators will be able to search any aspect of a murder book, including license plate numbers and gang monikers.
First, the department plans to digitize more than 4,500 files from the southern part of the city — long the deadliest — between 1990 and 2010. Eventually, cases from the entire city will be included. Officials plan to open the doors to a brick-and-mortar library where families can go for answers and detectives can check out files.
“No case will be lost,” said Tom McMullen, a recently retired LAPD captain, who oversaw the group of detectives who handle the area covered in the database.
McMullen called the database a “one-stop shop” that will make it easier to piece together cases involving multiple murders, such as the Grim Sleeper serial killer.
(Go read the rest.)
LA EVENT TO ADDRESS SUPPORT FOR CRIME SURVIVORS AND COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS
On November 21 (Thursday) LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino and Californians for Safety and Justice will co-host an event on public safety and how to help individual victims of crime, as well as communities plagued by high crime rates.
Here’s more on the event:
Leading voices from the survivor community, service providers and elected officials will share insights on:
em>How survivors and communities can recover and be safe;
How to reduce repeat victimization, assess gaps in services;
Better understanding crime and closure rates of serious offenses; and
Exploring how a city and/or county task force could improve the use of resources and policies for survivors of crime.
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Ronald F. Deaton Civic Auditorium, 100 W. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Keynote Speaker: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer
Speakers on the “What Survivors Need” panel:
Aqeela Sherrills, Survivor Outreach Strategist, Californians for Safety and Justice (moderator)
Adela Barajas, Life After Uncivil Ruthless Acts
Stinson Brown, Los Angeles Police Department, Gang Intervention Liaison
Vickey Lindsey, Project Cry No More
Eve Sheedy, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, Domestic Violence Policy
You can register here.
LA SUPES DELAY VOTE ON QUESTIONABLE ELECTRONIC MONITORING DEVICE CONTRACT
On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors postponed a vote on a contract for an adult electronic monitoring program (EMP) through Sentinel Offender Services, a company recently fired by Orange County. (Read more on the issue in the post below this one.)