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

June 17th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But even in Ventura County, breakdowns can happen…

Read the rest.

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

Isla Vista & the 2nd Amendment…..Paroling Lifers in CA…..LASD Opens Inmate Reentry Center….A One-of-a-Kind Sheriff’s Race….Next LASD/Fed Trial Begins Tuesday

May 27th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



ISLA VISTA & THE SECOND AMENDMENT

Three days before Elliot Rodger went on his murderous rampage on May 23 in Isla Vista, a new non-fiction book called The Second Amendment: A Biography was published to generally good reviews.

In it, the book’s author, Michael Waldman, examines the Second Amendment and our nation’s history with this short (27 words) and weirdly punctuated clause in the Constitution that has become freighted with so much acrimonious controversy. (Walman is a former Bill Clinton speechwriter who now heads up NYU Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to “improving the systems of democracy and justice.”)

The timing of the book’s release turns out be painfully serendipitous, in that the horror of a mass shooting, like the tragedy of a few days ago, inevitably brings up a discussion of guns and what legislation would or would not help prevent a the next Columbine or Sandy Hook or Isla Vista (or—if one is bothering to look at statistics—the everyday shootings that regularly tear irrevocable holes in America’s most violence-haunted communities).

It would be nice to think that Waldman’s scholarly, but lively in tone, “The Second Amendment” could bring some much-needed sanity, and perhaps some facts, into that discussion.

LA Times book reviewer, David Ulin, reviewed Waldman’s book on Sunday. Here’s a clip from what Ulin wrote:

….Guns, after all, represent a microcosm of an America divided between left and right, urban and rural, collective and individual rights. It’s complicated further because it is encoded in the Bill of Rights — one of our foundational documents, to borrow a phrase from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who famously sparred with Dianne Feinstein at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2013.

“[W]ould she consider it constitutional,” Cruz asked of Feinstein, “for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?”

Cruz’s showboating aside — Feinstein responded that she was “not a sixth-grader” and didn’t need a lecture on the Constitution — these are important questions, not so much for pro-gun advocates as for supporters of privacy and free speech rights. What happens if we unravel one amendment, regardless of the way we feel about it? What does it mean for those amendments we prefer?

This is the puzzle of the 2nd Amendment, which, Waldman admits, is a problematic text at best. “Let’s be clear,” he writes: “the eloquent men who wrote ‘we the people’ and the First Amendment did us no favors in the drafting of the Second Amendment.”


PAROLING LIFERS IN CALIFORNIA: JERRY BROWN & THE NEW NORMAL

Governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed nearly all of the parole recommendations for lifers that crossed their desks.

Governor Jerry Brown, in contrast, only reverses around 20 percent of the lifer parole approvals that he sees.

(And by lifers, in this case, we’re talking about people who got indeterminate sentences of, say 15-years-to-life, 25-to-life, 40-years-to-life—-or any such indeterminate sentence with with an “L” after it.)

When NPR’s Scott Shaffer asked Brown about the difference in reversal rates between him and his predecessors, Jerry said that his approach to the matter was “”to follow the law and evaluate very carefully each case, which I do every week.”

Although some suggest that Brown’s policy poses a risk to public safety, in fact, lifers have among the lowest recidivism rates of all released prisoners with less than 1 percent of paroled lifers winding up back in jail or prison.

Here’s a clip from Shaffer’s story:

….As for the difference between his rejection rate and those of previous governors, Brown says, “I don’t know what they did and whether they read the record or whether they looked at the law.” And, he points out, the law has changed.

He’s referring to the 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court that ruled that parole denials could not be based on the viciousness of a crime alone. Instead, the justices said, there must also be evidence that an inmate is still a threat.

The case involved Sandra Davis Lawrence, who fatally shot and killed a woman during a jealous rage. The parole board recommended her release four times, but it was reversed by three different governors. The state Supreme Court cited “overwhelming” evidence that Lawrence was rehabilitated and therefore no longer dangerous.

Jennifer Shaffer, executive director of the State Board of Parole Hearings, says that decision changed everything. “As you can imagine, if their crime alone could keep them from being paroled forever then that was really not life with the possibility of parole. So there had to be something else,” she explains.


WELCOME NEWS: THE LA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT OPENS FIRST COMMUNITY REENTRY CENTER

Last Thursday, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department formally took a much welcome step in opening the county’s first Community Reentry and Resource Center, or CRRC, that is designed to help inmates make the crucial transition out of lock-up and back into life in their respective communities.

Christina Villacorte at the Daily News has more. Here’s a clip:

For the first time, jail inmates who have served their time can walk out of their cells and go straight into a one-stop shop for finding a place to live, staying sober and getting a job.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Thursday opened the first-ever Community Reentry and Resource Center at its jail complex in downtown Los Angeles.

“One of the challenges for newly released inmates is avoiding a return to drug use and crime,” Sheriff John Scott said during the grand opening ceremony. “It can be a difficult road — their families may not accept them, finding a job may be difficult, and old friends may be eager to support bad habits — and that often contributes to an offender’s return to criminal behavior and, ultimately, to jail.”

Scott said the CRRC, located at the lobby of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility across the street from Men’s Central Jail, would give newly released inmates a “better chance for a successful transition.”

“This is designed to give hope to people,” added Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald.

Read the rest here.

We look forward to giving you additional details once we’ve seen the CRRC for ourselves. But for now we are simply cheering this smart step by the sheriff’s department in helping combat offender recidivism.


A SHERIFF’S RACE LIKE NO OTHER (NO, REALLY!)

The LA Times Rob Greene explains why this particular 7-candidate race for LA County Sheriff is so unique.

Here’s a clip:

….We’re still digging to find a time when voters actually chose a new sheriff, with no incumbent or incumbent’s designee on the ballot.

You’d think this would be easy to nail down. But Los Angeles was so different then — before voters adopted the 1913 “home rule” charter, with its civil service protections and other progressive reforms. Candidates were anointed by political bosses and nominated at county party conventions instead of selected in primary elections. Sheriffs’ tenures were brief, deputies were openly hired and fired based on political support, and the sheriff was paid in part by the fees and fines he collected.

In the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century, four men wrestled over the office — Cline, Hammel, John Burr and William White — along with their respective factions of job seekers and patrons. When Burr was elected in 1894, he went into hiding to avoid a throng of would-be deputies, and in so doing, he failed to show up at the proper time and place to take office. The job was declared vacant, and the Board of Supervisors ended up appointing him.

So when was the last time the choice was this wide open, with no incumbent and no front-runner, and with voters firmly in charge of who the next sheriff would be? In the era in which county politics were something we’d recognize today?…..


AND SPEAKING OF THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT….THE NEXT ANTHONY BROWN/OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE TRIAL BEGINS TUESDAY

On Tuesday, attorneys for the prosecution and for the defense in the second of two obstruction of justice trials, involving federally indicted members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, will deliver opening statements at 8 a.m. sharp Tuesday morning in the courtroom of Judge Percy Anderson.

Now that the trial of Deputy James Sexton resulted in a mistrial last week, with the jury split six-six down the middle, it will be interesting to see how Sexton’s case affects the way defense attorneys and prosecutors reposition their arguments, and retool their witness lists.

Just to remind you, this second trial involves six defendants: Lieutenants Gregory Thompson and Stephen Leavins, sergeants Scott Craig and Maricella Long, and deputies Mickey Manzo and Gerard Smith.

We’ll keep you up to date on what happens.

Posted in 2014 election, crime and punishment, criminal justice, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), FBI, guns, jail, LA County Jail, LASD, parole policy, Sentencing, U.S. Attorney | 5 Comments »

California “Lifers” and Parole, Sex Trafficking in LA, Kids Unrepresented in Court, Sheriff Candidate Updates, and Oregon Legalizes Gay Marriage

May 20th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

LIFE ON THE OUTSIDE FOR FORMER “LIFERS” ON PAROLE IN CALIFORNIA

Over the last six years, California has seen a considerable increase in “lifers” winning parole. This is largely due to a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that changed how the parole board and the governor handled parole decisions.

In the latest installment of the KQED California Report series “Second Chance: Lifers and Parole in California,” reporter Scott Shafer looks at the positive environmental shifts this significantly increased chance of parole is creating inside prisons, and speaks with former “lifers” now paroled and living on the outside.

Here’s a clip from the transcript:

For decades, California inmates serving sentences like 25-years-to-life had very little chance of being released. Parole was routinely denied by the Board of Parole Hearings, or blocked by the governor.

But in the past few years, there’s been a dramatic change. Since a key Supreme Court ruling in 2008, the number of so-called “lifers” winning parole has steadily climbed. Since then, more than 1,700 lifers have been released.

The change is being felt on both sides of the prison walls. At a recent graduation day at San Quentin State Prison, about 50 inmates — most of them lifers — collected their diplomas from a course in leadership.

After the ceremony, Associate Warden Jeff Lawson said that as more and more lifers are granted parole and leave prison, the inmates are taking notice.

“Most of these guys understand there is light at the end of the tunnel now,” Lawson says. “So it just helps improve the overall environment for them. And it gets the ones who were maybe straddling the fence to get off the fence and get on the right side.”

Inmate Duane Reynolds just completed the leadership course. On the way back to his cellblock, he describes the crime that sent him away more than 25 years ago.

“As a matter of fact, what I did was, I murdered my uh, my supervisor,” Reynolds says. “High on drugs. So my life was out of control.”

Reynolds was 30 at the time. His sentence: 26 years to life. He’s now 54. Despite being denied parole three times, Reynolds is hopeful. Next month, he says, the parole board will decide — once again — if he’s suitable for parole and no longer a risk to society. I ask him if he thinks he’s suitable?

“That’s a very difficult question for me,” he answers. “I will say this: I’m a changed individual. But the fact that I took another human being’s life, that’s a hard question for me.”

Reynolds says he and his fellow San Quentin inmates are very aware that after years of routine denials of parole, word is out: If you do the work, complete the programs and stay in line, release is a very real possibility.

“The fact that people are going home is really encouraging to a lot of individuals,” he notes.

Since 2009, more than twice as many lifers have been paroled than in the previous two decades combined. There are several reasons for that. State Supreme Court rulings that made it tougher to deny parole to inmates who are no longer a threat to public safety.

Also Gov. Jerry Brown’s 12 appointees on the parole board are granting parole at a much higher rate than previous commissioners.

And unlike his predecessors, who usually blocked parole for murderers, Brown is allowing 80 percent of the parole recommendations to go forward.

While you might think that freedom after decades in prison is all upside, the reality is more complicated…

Listen to/read the rest.


LA DAILY NEWS TAKES AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT SEX TRAFFICKING IN LOS ANGELES

http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20140518/prostitution-in-los-angeles-court-gives-girls-in-sex-trade-a-second-chance
The LA Daily News has a compelling new series on sex trafficking in Los Angeles,
who the real victims of the trafficking are, and new ways city officials and law enforcement agencies are combatting the problem.

A particularly good story in the series, this one by Christina Villacorte, explores programs created to help teen girls escape sexual exploitation and start their lives over, through relocation, education and job training, and other crucial services. Here’s how it opens:

Her face marred by a tattoo that a pimp had used to mark her as his property, the teenage girl told the judge in a plaintive voice, “I just want to go home.”

Later, another teen girl wearing too much makeup and too little clothing admitted running away from a group home for juvenile delinquents after attacking someone there for insulting her.

“Someone called me a prostitute and I lost it,” she explained to the judge. “I blacked out.”

Her bravado faded, however, when a probation officer explained that she was found wandering the streets afterwards, having gotten lost while looking for her mother, who had abandoned her.

When she cried, she revealed the child she still was, underneath the makeup, sheer top and short skirt, with high heels and matching red purse.

This is the STAR Court in Compton, a pilot program that specializes in cases involving commercially sexually exploited girls, and Commissioner Catherine Pratt presides with a focus on rehabilitation over punishment. The acronym stands for Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience.

Pratt does not immediately dismiss the prostitution-related charges against the girls so they can remain eligible for wraparound services offered by Los Angeles County’s juvenile justice system. These include placement in a group home or juvenile hall — a safe place away from pimps — gang intervention programs, educational opportunities, job training, and even family reunification services.

“Most of these kids have experienced betrayal, if not worse, from people in positions of authority throughout their whole lives that skews their view of the world,” Pratt said. “What we’re trying to do for these kids is to show them there are people in positions of authority who do care.”

When the girls are ready and able to leave the life, she can order their juvenile criminal records sealed, allowing them to start over.


DENYING CHILDREN THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY

Rolling Stone Magazine has an interesting story by Molly Knefel that looks at the reasons indigent kids often go unrepresented by an attorney in courts across the nation and what one state is doing to remedy the issue. Here’s a clip:

…In juvenile courts across the country, children often face the full weight of the criminal justice system without the protection of a defense attorney. According to a report from the U.S. Attorney General’s office, “Some systems ensure that every child in the system is represented, while others allow 80-90 percent of youth who are charged with offenses to appear without counsel.” Children may be unrepresented for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to a public defender or pressure from judges or prosecutors to waive their constitutional right to an attorney.

Earlier this month, Colorado scored a victory for juveniles in criminal proceedings by passing House Bill 1032, a law that will ensure that all children will be represented by counsel when they appear in court. The Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition (CJDC) found in 2012 that at least 45 percent of juveniles did not have a defense lawyer at any point throughout their case, with many more receiving counsel late in proceedings. Kim Dvorchak, CJDC’s executive director, says that early advocacy is crucial for children who have been arrested. “There are many places statewide where kids are showing up in a jumpsuit and shackles and the judge is deciding whether they get to go home,” she says, “and no one is there making an argument for them.”

Dvorchak says there’s a similar problem for children who receive summonses and have to appear in court. Those are called “first appearances,” and many children face them with literally no defense attorney in the room. “You’ll have a busload of kids and families in the room,” she says. “There will be a prosecutor there who calls out their names, talks to them right there in open court in front of all the families, let’s them know, ‘I’ve reviewed your case and I’m offering you a plea bargain.’” Without a lawyer, she says, those families have no one to tell them the potential impact of accepting a plea – and they may feel pressure to plead guilty even if their child is innocent. “They may think, ‘Oh probation, that sounds good, you’re not putting my kid in jail.’ But they’re not understanding what probation will mean for their lives.”

Read on.


LOS ANGELES SHERIFF CANDIDATES’ NEW AD CAMPAIGNS

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey has recorded a radio advertisement in support of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell for Los Angeles County Sheriff.

Paul Tanaka also has a new radio ad, and Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold had a glossy insert in the Sunday LA Times last week.


OREGON BECOMES 18TH STATE TO LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE

On Monday, a U.S. District Judge Michael McShane tossed Oregon’s ban on gay marriage. His ruling will likely not be challenged. (Hooray!)

The Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes has more on the ruling (in addition to some lovely photos of gay couples finally allowed to get marrried). Here are some clips:

Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriages was struck down Monday by U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, who ruled that the prohibition violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

Jubilant couples who anticipated a favorable decision from the judge began the rush to officially wed at locations around the state. McShane ordered that his ruling take immediate effect.

“Because Oregon’s marriage laws discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest,” McShane wrote in his decision, “the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, two of the plaintiffs in the case, were the first couple to marry in Multnomah County following the ruling.

Oregon becomes the seventh state where a federal judge has struck down a gay marriage ban since the U.S. Supreme Court last year invalidated key sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Unlike in the other states — Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas — there was no one with the immediate standing to appeal the decision.

[SNIP]

The judge said gay and lesbian families and their children were harmed by Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage in “a myriad of ways,” including adoption rights, tax laws and spousal benefits granted by employers.

McShane said that preserving the traditional definition of marriage was not a strong enough argument for Oregon’s law to stand. If that were the case, he wrote, tradition could be used as a “rubber stamp condoning discrimination against longstanding, traditionally oppressed minority classes everywhere.

Posted in juvenile justice, LASD, LGBT, parole policy, School to Prison Pipeline | No Comments »

Former Boston Prosecutor Gets Self Arrested in NY to Examine System…..Sheriff Admits to 80 Bad Hires, Talks Reform….LA County Plans to Lobby CA for Realignment $$$.

December 18th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


FORMER BOSTON PROSECUTOR GETS SELF ARRESTED TO LOOK INSIDE THE JUSTICE SYSTEM, DOESN’T LIKE WHAT HE SEES

Former Boston prosecutor Bobby Constantino decided to find out first hand what New York’s criminal justice system looked like from the perspective of a lawbreaker, and if he—as an upscale-looking white guy—would be treated differently than someone who looked less affluent and/or was non-white.

The answers Constantino got are both interesting to read and disturbing.

Here are some clips from Constantino’s story, written for the Atlantic.

Ten years ago, when I started my career as an assistant district attorney in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, I viewed the American criminal justice system as a vital institution that protected society from dangerous people. I once prosecuted a man for brutally attacking his wife with a flashlight, and another for sexually assaulting a waitress at a nightclub. I believed in the system for good reason.

But in between the important cases, I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed – shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings – I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out.

On April 29, 2012, I put on a suit and tie and took the No. 3 subway line to the Junius Avenue stop in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville. At the time, the blocks around this stop were a well-known battleground in the stop-and-frisk wars: Police had stopped 14,000 residents 52,000 times in four years. I figured this frequency would increase my chances of getting to see the system in action, but I faced a significant hurdle: Though I’ve spent years living and working in neighborhoods like Brownsville, as a white professional, the police have never eyed me suspiciously or stopped me for routine questioning. I would have to do something creative to get their attention.

[LARGE CLIP]

I walked up to the east entrance of City Hall and tagged the words “N.Y.P.D. Get Your Hands Off Me” on a gatepost in red paint. The surveillance video shows me doing this, 20 feet from the police officer manning the gate. I moved closer, within 10 feet of him, and tagged it again. I could see him inside watching video monitors that corresponded to the different cameras.

As I moved the can back and forth, a police officer in an Interceptor go-cart saw me, slammed on his brakes, and pulled up to the curb behind me. I looked over my shoulder, made eye contact with him, and resumed. As I waited for him to jump out, grab me, or Tase me, he sped away and hung a left, leaving me standing there alone. I’ve watched the video a dozen times and it’s still hard to believe.

I woke up the next morning and Fox News was reporting that unknown suspects had vandalized City Hall. I went back to the entrance and handed the guard my driver’s license and a letter explaining what I’d done…

[BIG SNIP]

In the end I was found guilty of nine criminal charges. The prosecutor asked for 15 days of community service as punishment. My attorney requested time served. The judge—in an unusual move that showed how much the case bothered him—went over the prosecutor’s head and ordered three years of probation, a $1000 fine, a $250 surcharge, a $50 surcharge, 30 days of community service, and a special condition allowing police and probation officers to enter and search my residence anytime without a warrant.

At my group probation orientation, the officer handed each of us a packet and explained that we are not allowed to travel, work, or visit outside New York City.

“Wait, what?” I blurted out. “This is true even for nonviolent misdemeanors?”

“Yes, for everyone. You have to get permission.”

After the orientation, I went straight to my probation officer and requested permission to spend Christmas with my family in Massachusetts. I listened in disbelief as she denied my request—I’d worked with probation departments in several states, and I knew that regular family contact has been shown to reduce recidivism. My probation officer also refused to let me go home for Easter and birthdays……

Read the whole thing.


SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT SAYS IT MADE 80 BAD HIRES, WILL REFORM HIRING PRACTICES, BLAMES BAD CHOICES ON PEOPLE CONVENIENTLY RETIRED

In a letter to the LA County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca explained to the board members the broad strokes of the hiring practices that resulted in a list of questionable hires three years ago when the department merged with LA County’s Office of Public Safely—or OPS—and was asked to absorb what officers it could from that small county police force.

According to an LA Times investigation into the matter, out of 290 new hires, around 100 were inappropriate candidates for law enforcement. Some were droppingly inappropriate. like, for example, the woman who had a fight with her husband then, in a fit of pique, blasted away at the man with her service weapon as he frantically ran a zig-zag-pattern in order to dodge her bullets.

The supervisors were not at all thrilled with Baca’s one-and-a-quarter-page letter, which did not answer many of the question that the board deemed pertinent—namely how in the world did this happen? The letter mostly blamed the hires on retired undersheriff Larry Waldie. This was not an explanation that the board members appeared to find satisfying, particularly Supervisor Antonovich who made a motion that Baca be required to report again to the board in two weeks.

In the meantime, LA Times reporters Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston talked to Assistant Sheriff Todd Rodgers about the matter and Rogers said that he and the sheriff admit that there had been 80 bad hires, but that reforms were being put into place to prevent such a thing from happening in the future.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore reiterated to WitnessLA that former undersheriff Larry Waldie had been an extra layer in addition to the usual hiring protocols, and it was he who made the improper hiring selections.

“The sheriff takes full responsibility, and has decreed that we will do what is necessary to reform the system,” said Whitmore. “But it was Undersheriff Waldie who was in charge of that project.”

Former LASD commander Bob Olmsted, who is running against Baca in the 2014 sheriff’s race, said that from what he knows of the situation, the problems with department hiring practices are “systemic,” and not limited to merely those 80-100 problem hires from the OPS.

Olmsted also said he’d spoken to another retired undersheriff who told him that the sheriff would have had to sign off any and all people hired from the county police.

“All the paperwork absolutely would have gone straight to the sheriff,” Olmsted said.

AND FOR ONE MORE TAKE ON THIS ISSUE:

In an LA Times editorial about the bad hires that ran on Tuesday morning before the board meeting, editorial board member Rob Greene writes that the hiring issues point to other problems in the department.

Here’s a clip:

Sheriff Lee Baca had his hands full last week responding to the arrests of 18 of his current and former deputies amid a continuing investigation into abuse of inmates at Los Angeles County’s jails, so let’s hope he hasn’t forgotten that he is due to report today on the previous week’s scandal: the hiring of dozens of deputies with personnel records that showed lying, cheating, excessive force and irresponsible use of firearms.

The two matters aren’t related in any formal sense; none of those arrested Dec. 9 was among the group that moved over to the Sheriff’s Department in 2010 when the county’s public safety police force was dissolved. But it doesn’t take a leap of imagination to recognize a link between bad hiring practices and bad deputy conduct, especially if the sheriff’s hiring of those 280 public safety officers three years ago followed standard policy….


LA COUNTY TO LOBBY FOR MORE REALIGNMENT MONEY FROM STATE & PROBATION CHIEF POWERS OUTLINES PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES 2 YEARS IN

The serendipitously-named Luke Money of the Santa Clarita Signal reports about LA County’s determination to get a larger slice of California’s realignment dollars. Here’s a clip:

With state savings likely totaling more than $2 billion and county resources strained to provide adequate services for thousands of offenders, county supervisors voted Tuesday to ask the state to dole out more dough to fund the cost of the controversial state prison realignment program.

Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided during their meeting Tuesday to request more funding from the state to help supplement services that have been strained by an influx of inmates under the 2011 law, which shifted responsibility for some criminals from the state to counties.

“Realignment resulted in a 25 percent increase in the jail population over the first two years of the program,” reads a board report. “The population count was 15,463 on Sept. 30, 2011, and 19,225 on Sept. 30, 2013.”

The state will likely save in excess of $2 billion as a result of realignment, according to Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka, while sending out less than $1 billion to California’s 58 counties to help offset the cost of the prisoner shift.

AND… PROBATION CHIEF JERRY POWERS REPORTS ON THE UPS AND DOWNS OF REALIGNMENT IN LA COUNTY

On Tuesday, Probation Chief Jerry Powers presented an extensive two-year report on how realignment is going in LA County, which Powers said, gets 30 percent of the realignment prisoners. Among his points, Powers outlined some parts of the county’s approaches to the realignment challenges that are beginning to succeed, such as the use of “flash incarceration,” short jail terms of around 10 days, that are used for small infractions instead of parole revocation.

Allison Pari of KHTS AM Radio has more on Powers’ lengthy and comprehensive report:

Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers opened the report by explaining that L.A. County is currently the only county in the state that has created a year two report on the results of AB 109.

He and the other presenters also emphasized that some of the data from year two is not complete, because those offenders released during 2013 may not have completed their probation or treatment.

During the first two years, more than 18,000 prisoners were released into the county under the Post-Release Community Supervision program, but the active probation population peaked at 10,300, according to the Probation Department’s full report, available here.

Powers said that of those 18,000 who have gone through the program so far, 1,900 have outstanding warrants, a similar ratio to other counties in the state.

He also said that flash incarcerations have significantly increased between years one and two–from more than 2,500 to more than 9,700–primarily because the Probation Department has become more comfortable with using this method of dealing with probation violators.

Flash incarcerations are seven to 10 day sentences given to AB 109 offenders for technical violations, such as failing to report to their probation officer.

Concerning recidivism, Powers said that the percentage of rearrests has been cut in half between years one and two– 43 percent rearrested vs. 21 percent rearrested…

Posted in Board of Supervisors, CDCR, crime and punishment, criminal justice, LASD, parole policy, Realignment | 9 Comments »

Are Californians on Probation or Parole Committing the Majority of the State’s New Crimes?

January 23rd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



THE ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION MAY SURPRISE YOU

It has long been assumed by many law enforcement and corrections officials, politicians and pundits, that people on parole and probation are the biggest contributors to the overall crime rate. To put it another way, those under state or county supervision for a previous crime, account for a big, bad chunk of all new arrests.

We hear some version of this assumption whenever the topic of state prison realignment comes into the conversation.

But is it true?

The Chiefs of Police for Los Angeles, Redlands, Sacramento, and San Francisco (this list obviously includes the LAPD’s Charlie Beck), along with some other criminal justice experts and leading law enforcement officials in California, decided they’d like to find out. So in 2010 they commissioned a rigorous study to learn the reality of the matter.

Between then and now, researchers at the Council for State Governments Justice Center collected and matched more than 2.5 million arrest, parole, and probation records generated between January 1, 2008 and June 11, 2011, in those four different areas. Along with the four police forces, data and help was provided by four matching probation departments, the California Department of Corrections, and two sheriff’s department, most notably Lee Baca and the LASD.

The resulting report, which was released Tuesday afternoon, had some surprising results:


COUNTER TO EXPECTATIONS, THE BIG ARREST NUMBERS DID NOT COME FROM PAROLEES OR PROBATIONERS

It turns out that a startling 78 percent of those arrested for a crime in these four California areas, between Jan. 2008 and June 2011, were not on either parole or probation.

And 62 percent of those arrested had no parole or local probation history at all.

That, of course, left 22 percent—or one out of every five arrestees—that came out of the parole/probation pool. Interestingly, the majority were on probation, not parole. And the crime those probationers or parolees were most likely to commit was drug related.

The time period covered by the 52-page study [which you can access here], stopped just short of when California’s prison realignment kicked in during October 2011, opening the door for a similar study to be done a year or two years from now, using this one as a baseline.


BUT WHAT ABOUT VIOLENT CRIMES?

The percentages were even more dramatic when it came to adult violent felony arrests.
In Los Angeles, out of 51,749 violent felony arrests, 6,001—or 11.5 percent—of those arrested were on probation.

A far lower amount 3,653—or 7 percent—of those arrested for violent felonies in LA were on parole.

The remaining 42,095—or 81 percent—were not under any supervision.


PREDICTING THE PROBLEMS

The report has a lot more in the way of intriguing information for those who take the time to read it closely.

For instance, obviously, there is a “subset” of probationers and parolees who do commit more crimes and get rearrested—for drug, property and/or violent crimes.

So the question is, how successful are we in picking which people are the most likely to go off the legal rails again—and thus who needs the most supervision and help.

The answer turns out to be mixed. Weirdly, the systems in place for parole classification—designating the high risk people who need lots more controls, and those who are generally low risk, and all in between—turn out to be fairly accurate most of the time:

Of those on parole, the people who were labeled high risk were more likely to offend than lower risk people. Specifically, 51 percent of those parolees who were arrested were in the high risk category. The moderate risk category made up 33 percent of the parole re-arrests. Those labeled “low risk” accounted for 13 percent.

However when it came to those on probation in the various counties, all predictive powers and effective assessment tools seemed to go out the window. Only 5 percent of those probationers who were arrested for new crimes had been classified as high risk, 38 percent of the new arrestees were labeled medium risk, while 37 percent were labeled low risk.

San Francisco was the one exception. Their risk assessment methods paid off. Their arrestees were: 73 percent from the high risk category, 11 percent moderate, only 2 percent were labeled “low risk.”


WHAT ABOUT THOSE “NON-REVOKABLE” PAROLEES?

In January 2010, CDCR instituted a parole supervision policy known as Non Revocable Parole.
The strategy was, to a large degree designed to lower the prison population because, for years, approximately 40 percent of those coming into California prisons were not coming in because they had been convicted of new crimes, but because they had violated a technical condition of their parole. These “conditions” were strictures that varied from testing dirty on a required drug test to showing up in the area of town where you weren’t allowed to be because it’s where your former gang hung out, never mind that your mom and your girlfriend also lived on those same blocks—plus a list of other infractions.

The idea of Non-Revocable Parole (or NRP) was to reserve that laundry list of ways that you could land back in prison for the high risk people who needed the structure the most, and lift it from the low-risk people who were then, it was hoped, were more likely to start just living their lives.

To be eligible for NRP, the parolee could not have a criminal conviction for any one of various serious offenses (sex offenses, murder, voluntary manslaughter, robbery, 1st degree burglary), and had to be assessed as low risk.

Releases of prisoners to NRP began in earnest in March 2010 and by October 2010 there were nearly 17,000 NRP parolees in California communities.

So, how did the NRPs do? Obviously, more study is needed, but contrary to The Sky Is Falling pronouncements from many, of the 170,336 adult arrests that occurred in the four jurisdictions during the 15-month period of the study that overlapped with the implementation of NRP, 216 arrests involved people on NRP. That’s under 2 percent.


Surely there is much room for improvement when it comes to screening for risk. And we need to become more effective at helping people successfully reroute the trajectories of their lives so as to avoid returning to prison.

But this study—The Impact of Probation and Parole Populations on Arrests in Four California Cities— is a good, smart, informative place to begin the next stage of work.

So a round of applause for the 4 Chiefs of Police and 2 Sheriffs who made it possible.


AND IN OTHER NEWS, BE SURE TO READ THE LA TIMES’ STEVE LOPEZ’S COLUMN ON CARDINAL MAHONY—AND AND THEN READ PATT MORRISON’S

Here’s a clip from the column:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in CDCR, Charlie Beck, LAPD, LASD, parole policy, Probation, Sheriff Lee Baca | 2 Comments »

Sen. Ted Lieu Says It Should Be a Felony if Parolees Cut Off GBS Devices

December 12th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


According to State Senator Ted Lieu,
around 800 California parolees who were assigned GBS monitoring have either cut off their devices, or never kept their appointments to get the things put on the first place.

With these GPS scofflaws in mind, Lieu told KPCC’s Rina Palta, that there needs to be a bigger, badder consequence for not wearing your GPS on when you’ve been assigned one. In January, Lieu plans to introduce a bill to fix the matter.

Here’s a clip from Palta’s story in which Lieu explains the problem:

“It is not a crime, it is a parole violation, and you will get up to 180 days in county jail,” Lieu said. He notes: “when you count in the overcrowded county jails and good time, sometimes they don’t serve any time or sometimes it’s just a few days.”

Under California’s realignment policy, most parole violations are no longer punished with prison time, to avoid overcrowding. But Senator Lieu wants to change the law in this case. He plans to introduce legislation next month to make it a felony to cut off a GPS monitor. Lieu says the threat of serious prison time would be a powerful deterrent.

Frankly, I completely agree. As we’ve made clear here at WLA, we believe that realignment is a positive step forward in much needed corrections and parole reform. BUT, there are parts of realignment that are going to need a lot of fine tuning, this business with the GBS devices being a prime example.

(Non-revokable parole is another important reform that still needs some rejiggering as this new proposal from the LA County Board of Supervisors indicates. But lets us hope that we do it with a scalpel, not a meat cleaver wielded in response to the latest crime. More on that soon. In the meantime, the Daily News has this report)


TUESDAY MORNING I WAS ON AIRTALK WITH LARRY MANTLE, briefly discussing Senator Lieu’s proposed bill.

You can find the podcast here. I’m in the second half of the segment, after my pal Frank Stoltze.

(However, as you will note, I was so stuffy-headed and miserably cold ridden that, at one point, I suddenly called Larry Mantle “Warren”—as in Olney. Note to self: Avoid doing live radio after taking large doses of over-the-counter cold medicine.)


Posted in parole policy, Realignment, Reentry | 5 Comments »

Continued LGBT Military Inequalities, Money Incentives for Corrections Facilities, and Dismissing Parole Violations

November 13th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

LGBT SERVICEMEMBERS STILL BRAVE INJUSTICE IN MILITARY

A year after the landmark repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (and a day after Veteran’s Day), the LGBT military community—and their partners—are still faced with the harsh discrimination of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the continued ban on transgender servicemembers serving openly.

The above video was recently released by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Freedom To Marry.

Think Progress’ Zack Ford has the story. Here’s how it opens:

It has been more than a year since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was implemented, ending a legacy of blatant discrimination in the U.S. military. Unfortunately, it did not mark the end of inequality. As the nation honors Veterans Day, various other policies continue to treat the LGBT community second-class citizens. For example, though gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers can now serve openly, the Defense of Marriage Act still prevents them and their families from receiving the same protections and benefits as their straight military brethren.

…In addition, the military still does not allow transgender individuals to serve openly, deeming them “disordered.” Given the American Psychiatric Association is declassifying trans identities as a disorder in the coming year, this could be an important opportunity to advocate for change within the military.


CASH INCENTIVES FOR CORRECTIONS FACILITIES’ PERFORMANCE

A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice takes a look at a new concept to help reduce prison recidivism called Performance Incentive Funding programs or (PIF)s. These PIFs provide funding incentives to local jurisdictions—in other words, cities and counties—to persuade them to provide services that keep men and women from going back to prison. The fewer inmates that return from any given county, the larger their PIF reward.

As it stands now, perversely, local jurisdictions have fiscal and political incentives to allow parolees to return to the state’s care, rather than the reverse. Vera charts how this new system can benefit public safety, both state and local budgets, and the actual human beings who would have otherwise been caught in the revolving prison door cycle.

Here are some clips from the Vera report:

America’s tough-on-crime sentencing policies are often cited as the primary reason the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Yet there is another contributing factor that is often overlooked: a structural flaw in the way most states fund their criminal justice systems that discourages local decision makers from supervising offenders in the community and makes it easier to send them to prison.

It is the state corrections agency that bears the cost of incarcerating people in prison. However, both the decision to send an offender to prison and the cost of keeping an offender in the community almost always rest with a different state agency or a local jurisdiction. This is true for either a new conviction or a revocation from probation or parole. In the eyes of local decision makers and in cases involving low-level offenders, sending someone to prison is all too often the preferred option because it saves the actual expense of supervision and avoids the political cost should an offender commit a serious crime while in the community.

[SNIP]

PIF programs are premised on the idea that if the supervision agency or locality sends fewer low-level offenders to prison—thereby causing the state to incur fewer costs—some portion of the state savings should be shared with the agency or locality. With PIF, agencies or localities receive a financial reward for delivering fewer prison commitments through reduced recidivism and revocations that, in turn, must be reinvested into evidence-based programs in the community.

Here’s a clip from what the report has to say about the California PIF program:

In the first year of its PIF program, California experienced a 23-percent drop in prison commitments of felony probationers and a savings of almost $180 million. Nearly $88 million of the savings was distributed to county probation agencies to fund new or expanded supervision programs.


CA TO DROP SOME PAROLE VIOLATION WARRANTS

In an effort to combat the severe overcrowding in CA correctional facilities, next week, state corrections officials will consider releasing certain parole violators from state supervision.

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

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation intends to begin a massive review next week of more than 9,200 outstanding warrants, starting with individuals who were convicted of nonviolent crimes and absconded from supervision. Over the next eight months, parole field offices across the state will be given lists of missing felons, 200 at a time, to review and determine if retaining them on parole “would not be in the interest of justice.”

The mass purge is an attempt to ease the burden on counties in July, when the state hands off responsibility for parole revocations to local courts, said agency spokesman Jeffrey Callison. Weeding out cases that are years old, or of parolees nobody is looking for, will make it easier to focus on those who pose a threat, he said.

“It will not,” Callison said, “allow some parolees to ‘get off the hook.’”

“I have been told that discharging people is not the point of the exercise,” he said Friday.

EDITOR’S NOTE: While this program is potentially a good idea, the key to its success is wise triage—aka looking clearly at parolees’ entire records to determine who should be relieved from these warrants, and who still needs close supervision. In other words, the guy who has no violent convictions anywhere in his (or her) past, but who fails to report to his parole officer because he knows he’s going to test dirty for weed, might not be the guy we need to lock up for another 6 to 10 months. There are more productive approaches.

Nor do we really need to lock up the guy who failed to report because his brother-in-law offered him a job in Riverside, after he could find nothing in South LA where he grew up. Then when he couldn’t get his parole transferred from LA County to Riverside, he stopped reporting. (We’ve seen multiple cases like the two we just describe. Most parole officers have seen a lot more.) However, if a PO thinks the guy on his caseload is truly a danger to public safety, so should be kept under supervision, it would likely behoove us to listen.

Posted in LGBT, parole policy, prison | 1 Comment »

The Push for Clemency for Former Radical Judy Clark….and Related Topics

January 17th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


The cover story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is a profile of Judy Clark,
one of a group of militant radicals who, in 1981, tried to rob a Brinks truck and ended up killing two police officers, and one of the Brinks guards, before getting caught. Clark was one of the getaway drivers for the group. As it turned out, she was an inexperienced and untalented driver and so managed to smash the car in which she and two of her crimeys were escaping into a concrete wall, at which point she and they were arrested.

Clark compounded her mistakes by insisting upon representing herself in trial and hectoring the jury with phrases like “Revolutionary violence is necessary, and it is a liberating force.”

As a consequence, she was sentenced to 75 years in prison—more than several of her co-defendants, most famously, Kathy Boudin, who let her private attorney do the talking. Boudin got 20 to life, and is already out, while Clark has thus far done 30 of her 75-year sentence.

The NYT Mag story on Clark and her subsequent “transformation,” written by former Village Voice investigative reporter, Tom Robbins (not to be confused with the novelist), is clearly intent on making the case for Clark’s release, without actually saying as much. Robbins, who knew Clark in her pre-Brinks robbing days, is much too smart a journalist to be that obvious (even if the NY Times editors would go along with it, which they wouldn’t). Instead, he makes the case that she has changed profoundly. And certainly by all accounts Clark seems to be a very positive force at Bedford Hills, the maximum security women’s prison where she has been for the past three decades.

(Read the article for the details.)

As Robbins notes, Clark has drawn to herself a long list of people pleading for clemency in her behalf, several of whom are very persuasive.

Speaking personally, however, I find I have a slew of mixed feelings about this matter.

Sure, I believe the warm looking, grey-haired, school-teacherish white lady has likely done enough time. Moreover, many of the prison officials who know her well describe her potential as a positive force who could better contribute to society on the outside, rather than being locked up on the public’s dime.

And the truth is, we incarcerate way too many people in this country for way too long. It is a practice is corroding our collective soul as well as our state budgets.

But—again just speaking personally—there are quite a number of people I’d put on the clemency list ahead of Clark. Yet none of them happens to be a cozy-smiled, well-educated, white woman.

They are instead former gang members whom we are content to put on the throwaway list.

(I’d wager that most working public defenders have their own special shortlist of former clients they’d put on the clemency list. Ditto prison chaplains, and so on.)

One more thing: I’d have felt a lot more comfortable with Robbins’ article if he and the Times’ editors thought to spend just a paragraph or two on the three victims: Edward O’Grady, Waverly Brown, and Peter Paige—all of whom had kids.

I’m just sayin’.


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF RACIAL DISPARITIES IN INCARCERATION….LEGAL SCHOLAR MICHELLE ALEXANDER EXPLAINS THE NEW JIM CROW

In the last two years, Michelle Alexander’s important book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has been the #1 must read for criminal justice advocates.

Monday, NPR’S Fresh Air ran an interview with Alexander for Martin Luther King Day. The broadcast is worth listening to in its own right. And, by happy coincidence, it is also a good contextual framework with which to view the NY Times Judith Clark story.

Here’s a clip from Fresh Air’s write up on the show.

Under Jim Crow laws, black Americans were relegated to a subordinate status for decades. Things like literacy tests for voters and laws designed to prevent blacks from serving on juries were commonplace in nearly a dozen Southern states.

In her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, legal scholar Michelle Alexander writes that many of the gains of the civil rights movement have been undermined by the mass incarceration of black Americans in the war on drugs. She says that although Jim Crow laws are now off the books, millions of blacks arrested for minor crimes remain marginalized and disfranchised, trapped by a criminal justice system that has forever branded them as felons and denied them basic rights and opportunities that would allow them to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Just listen.


…THEN ON THE ISSUE OF PEOPLE GETTING OUT OF PRISON IN GENERAL…..

Former Daily News editor of the Daily News, Ron Kaye, wrote an Op Ed for the Glendale News Press about his friend Nyabingi Kuti, a community organizer and activist with the MLK Coalition, who is working to bring together reentry services and programs for those getting out of prison.

Here’s a clip:

…..the governor’s “realignment” plan that started Oct. 1,…has a lot of people worried that it will trigger a huge surge in crime after years of decline. After all, without effective rehabilitation programs re-entry into society is tough, which is why we have a 70% recidivism rate.

Many local politicians and law enforcement officials figure are howling for more money to hire more cops and build more county jails.

But others like Nyabingi {Kuti] are working hard to develop alternatives to jail and tough policing to actually turn realignment into a creative opportunity to bring resources together to help the “formerly incarcerated” — a preferred term for ex-convicts — stay out of trouble and lead productive lives.

Right—which is exactly what realignment can be—a creative opportunity. Let us hope more people in the city and county see fit to similarly rise to that challenge.


AND…LAST BUT NOT LEAST: THE LA TIMES CALLS FOR A CHRISTOPHER COMMISSION FOR THE COUNTY JAILS

It’s good that an LA Times editorial calls for a thorough review of the situation in the LA County Jails by the new Citizen’s Commission—a la the Christopher Commission.

(I believe that’s what WitnessLA called for early last March, but okay, why quibble?)

But then the Times editorial goes on to say….nothing new. They say that the commission “….could determine whether the deputy culture inside the lockups is part of the problem. It could consider whether rookie deputies, whose first job out of the academy is as jailers, receive appropriate supervision. And it could identify the shortcomings that allow excessive use of force to go unpunished….”

Y’think??? What the Times fails to mention, and what WitnessLA has repeatedly pointed out, is that the root elements that have allowed all of the above problems to flourish begin well upstream of the symptomatic issues that the Times ticks off.

Fortunately, I think there are at least a couple of people on the commission who know where and how to look beyond the symptoms.


Photos of Judith Clark: (right) Nan Goldin for The New York Times. (left) Associated Press.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD, parole policy, prison policy, Realignment, Reentry, Sentencing, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Lifelong Price of a Felony Conviction—& the Cost to the Rest of Us

January 13th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

For vast numbers of Americans who have been convicted of a felony, the punishment has no end point.

This essay in the New York Times by Carnegie Mellon professor, Alfred Blumstein, and University of Maryland criminologist, Kiminori Nakamura, gets to the heart of this issue that we as a nation can simply no longer afford to ignore.

Here’s a clip from their story:

IN 2010, the Chicago Public Schools declined to hire Darrell Langdon for a job as a boiler-room engineer, because he had been convicted of possessing a half-gram of cocaine in 1985, a felony for which he received probation. It didn’t matter that Mr. Langdon, a single parent of two sons, had been clean since 1988 and hadn’t run into further trouble with the law. Only after The Chicago Tribune wrote about his case did the school system reverse its decision and offer him the job.

A stunning number of young people are arrested for crimes in this country, and those crimes can haunt them for the rest of their lives. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Crime Commission found that about half of American males could expect to be arrested for a nontraffic offense some time in their lives, mostly in their late teens and early 20s. An article just published in the journal Pediatrics shows how the arrest rate has grown — by age 23, 30 percent of Americans have been arrested, compared with 22 percent in 1967. The increase reflects in part the considerable growth in arrests for drug offenses and domestic violence.

The impact of these arrests is felt for years. The ubiquity of criminal-background checks and the efficiency of information technology in maintaining those records and making them widely available, have meant that millions of Americans — even those who served probation or parole but were never incarcerated — continue to pay a price long after the crime. In November the American Bar Association released a database identifying more than 38,000 punitive provisions that apply to people convicted of crimes, pertaining to everything from public housing to welfare assistance to occupational licenses. More than two-thirds of the states allow hiring and professional-licensing decisions to be made on the basis of an arrest alone.

Employers understandably want to protect their employees and customers from risk. Yet at the same time, there is a growing public interest in facilitating job opportunities for those who have stayed crime-free for a reasonable period of time. The weak economy and a rethinking of the logic of mass incarceration — driven in large part by budget pressures — have also brought attention to the situations of ex-offenders like Mr. Langdon, who face the collateral consequences of conviction long after their involvement with the criminal justice system has ended. Federal authorities are beginning to pay attention. Last April, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. urged state attorneys general to review laws and policies “to determine whether those that impose burdens on individuals convicted of crimes without increasing public safety should be eliminated.”

Read the rest. to find out what Blumstein and Nakamura suggest as solutions.

PS: A former California prison warden friend of mine who originally drew my attention to this story, pointed out that the one aspect of this issue that the authors don’t mention is voting rights. “The United States is the only country that permits permanent disenfranchisement of felons even after completion of their sentences,” he wrote in an email.

This causes around two million Americans to be forever disenfranchised. However, each state has different rules. In California, thankfully, while voting rights are not restored upon release from prison, once someone is off parole or probation, they may register to vote again.

Posted in crime and punishment, parole policy, prison, prison policy, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

A Former Deputy Tells Another Jail Abuse Story, A View of Realignment, More Probation Chief Blevins’ Exit

October 7th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon



In the last few weeks, the LA Times’ Robert Faturechi
has been doing some fine and very welcome reporting on the issue of deputy abuse of inmates in the Los Angeles County Jails—which is important.

In Friday’s paper Faturechi tells of a young Sheriff’s deputy who says he was forced by his supervisor to beat a mentally disabled inmate in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A.

Here’s how the story opens:

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s rookie who graduated at the top of his recruit class resigned after only a few weeks on the job, alleging that a supervisor made him beat up a mentally ill jail inmate, according to interviews and law enforcement records.

The deputy, Joshua Sather, said that shortly before the inmate’s beating his supervisor said, “We’re gonna go in and teach this guy a lesson,” according to the records. The attack, Sather said, was then covered up.

Law enforcement records reveal that the incident caused tensions in the Sheriff’s Department. Sather’s uncle, a veteran sheriff’s detective, angrily confronted the supervisor about making his nephew “beat up ‘dings,’ ” slang for the mentally disabled. He then allegedly threatened to “put a bullet” in the supervisor’s head.

Sather’s case was pieced together by The Times from department sources as well as district attorney’s documents in which Sather’s uncle revealed his nephew’s allegations to investigators.

Sheriff’s officials launched an investigation and determined that an uncooperative inmate had been subdued by force, but concluded that no misconduct had occurred. They also asked the district attorney to review the uncle’s alleged threat, but prosecutors declined to file charges.

Sather’s allegation is among several first-hand accounts of unwarranted deputy violence against inmates in the nation’s largest jail system. Last week, two chaplains and a movie producer released sworn statements that they witnessed deputies abusing inmates. But Sather’s allegations are unusual because they come from within the department’s own ranks, from the point of view of a deputy.


AND WHILE WE’RE PRAISING THE LA TIMES, GEORGE SKELTON HAS A GOOD ESSAY ON ALL THE COMPLAINING OVER REALIGNMENT.

Here’s how it opens:

The boring, bureaucratic word “realignment” masks the truly dramatic change in locking up California criminals that Gov. Jerry Brown just pulled off.

“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, what’s new in Sacramento?’” Brown told a news conference last week. “Well, this is new. It’s bold. It’s difficult. And it will continuously change as we learn from experience.
But we can’t sit still and let the courts release 30,000 serious prisoners. We have to do something.”

In truth, the change was inevitable.

Either the state began to dump thousands of its lower-risk prisoners onto local custody or it would have been forced by federal courts to dump them on the streets.

“We’ve either got to reduce the prison population or release 10,000 inmates by Christmas Eve,” says Matthew Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “That’s [equal to] two prisons.”

Complainers — such as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — are being disingenuous, at best.

Villaraigosa called a news conference Monday to denounce the state for not providing “a single dollar to help with the burden” of incarcerating and monitoring more criminals. “That is not alignment. That is political malpractice.”

Not quite. The state is sending financial help to the counties, including $124 million to Los Angeles County. It’s up to the cities to request a share. The mayor has privately told people that he won’t “go begging” to county supervisors for money, according to one state official who requested anonymity because he was reporting a private conversation.

My favorite hyperbole, however, comes from Republican State Sen. Sharon Runner of the Antelope Valley: “Now is the time for Californians to get a dog, buy a gun and install an alarm system. The state of California is no longer going to protect you.”

Let’s be honest: The politicians and the voters simply could not continue their decades-long insistence on increasing criminal sentences and enlarging the prison population without raising the money to pay for more cells and guards.


PROBATION CHIEF DON BLEVINS SAYS DEPARTURE IS VOLUNTARY

Chief Blevins told KPCC’s Larry Mantle on Thursday’s Air Talk show that he is leaving Probation to…spend more time with his family.

The Daily News has a story on Blevins’ and his remarks. But you can also listen to the show, which included Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Among other things, Blevins said that he expects Probation to meet—or to nearly meet—all of the 41 reforms in the County’s juvenile camps required by the Department of Justice by October 31, whereas sources who work in an around the camps say this is simply not true, that the County won’t come close.

We’ll know which point of view was more factual very soon.

Zev Yaroslavsky said bluntly and quite rightly that kids in the Probation camps are simply not being given the mental health care or the education that they need.

Yaroslavsky also mentioned that probation needs a large cultural change “so that people [in probation] are expected to work for the hours that they are paid.

Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.


SCREENING FOR REALIGNMENT PAROLEES MAY NOT BE ALL THAT ACCURATE SAYS ZEV’S BLOG

Zev’s blog reports that cases are coming through where the so-called Non, Non, Nons
—people who have committed non serious, non violent, non sexual crimes—have larger crimes in their background, or inmates who should not be in the category are being accidentally sent through for county supervision when in reality they should be high control parolees.

The blog reports that the Probation Department is doing it’s own screening.

Let’s hope so. The realignment strategy is a necessary change, but to avoid problems there has to be quality control in the screening process. Otherwise we got trouble.

Posted in CDCR, LA County Jail, LASD, parole policy, Probation | 3 Comments »

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