Juvie Solitary Confinement, College in Prison, Alleged Boot Camp Abusers Arrested, and Kelly Thomas’ Death Violated Police PolicyAugust 7th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
A BIPARTISAN PUSH TO BAN THE PSYCHOLOGICALLY HARMFUL USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ON KIDS LOCKED UP IN FEDERAL FACILITIES
On Wednesday, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bipartisan bill to end solitary confinement for kids in pretrial facilities and juvenile detention facilities.
The Maintaining dignity and Eliminating unnecessary Restrictive Confinement of Youths Act of 2015 (MERCY) is cosponsored Rand Paul (R-KY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mike Lee (R-UT).
Specifically, the bill would ban solitary confinement except as a temporary placement when a kid poses a serious threat to themselves or others and after less restrictive methods (like deescalation techniques and meeting with a mental health professional) had been tried.
The bill would also require facility staff to explain to a confined kid why they have been placed in isolation, and that they will be released after they have calmed down or after a specific amount of time. And the isolation of kids believed to pose a risk to others would be limited to three hours (thirty minutes for kids who pose a risk to themselves).
“Not only is solitary confinement cruel and demeaning, it’s a violation of one’s human dignity,” said Sen. Booker. “When imposed on adolescents, it can cause serious long-term psychological and physical harm.”
Noting the increased risk of depression and suicide for kids locked in solitary confinement, Sen. Durbin said, “I am glad to join Senators Booker, Paul and Lee in introducing this legislation and look forward to working with them as we consider how to fundamentally reform our approach to this controversial practice.”
PROGRAM TAKES COMMUNITY COLLEGE TO CALIFORNIA PRISONERS
Four community colleges are launching classes inside nearby California state prisons as part of an 18-month, $2 million pilot program starting this fall.
The colleges will offer between two and three business-related classes each semester, through which inmates will have the opportunity to earn an associates degree in liberal arts.
Lassen College will hold classes at High Desert State Prison, Folsom Lake College at Folsom Women’s Facility, Antelope Valley College at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, and Chaffey College at California Institution for Women.
The push for education in prisons is also happening on the federal level. Last week, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed a pilot program to give federal Pell Grants—college grants for low-income students—to thousands of prisoners, reversing a 22-year ban on giving such grants to inmates.
The LA Times’ Carla Rivera has more on the program. Here’s a clip:
The state also has been moving to boost education access for inmates, after a 2014 law that allowed community colleges to receive the same level of state funding for educating students behind prison walls as they do for students on college campuses.
The legislation called for collaboration between prison and community college officials to provide college instruction, resulting in a $2 million, 18-month pilot program launching this fall…
“Part of the proposal was to look for innovative programs that are not only face-to-face but offer a full student experience of orientation, advising, counseling,” said BJ Snowden, director of inmate education in the community college chancellor’s office. “We want this to be a sustainable and replicable model with real goals.”
One of the state’s most successful prison education programs, the Prison University Project, will provide training for community college faculty.
The privately-funded project operates at San Quentin and was founded after inmates lost Pell eligibility. Instructors come from the faculty ranks at UC Berkeley, Stanford and San Francisco State University, said executive director Jody Lewen.
Obama’s Pell grant initiative could greatly aid programs like hers, Lewen said, providing it is focused on offering a quality education.
“It could be fantastic, but if we allow institutions to come in and do it as cheap as possible with little investment, it will be garbage,” Lewen said. “It will be one of those things in the prison system that’s called better than nothing.”
LA-AREA OFFICERS ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH ALLEGED ABUSE AT SAN LUIS OBISPO BOOT CAMP FOR TEENS
Four Los Angeles-area officers were arrested this week in connection with alleged abuse of kids participating in a boot camp called Leadership Empowerment and Discipline (LEAD) in San Luis Obispo.
Investigators identified fifteen kids who said they were victims of abuse at the hands of the officers leading the camp.
The program, which purportedly teaches discipline and leadership to 12 to 16-year-olds, ran for 20 weeks, seven days of which were spent at Camp San Luis Obispo, an Army National Guard base. The kids said that officers, especially the two men known as “the Gomez brothers,” verbally and physically abused and threatened them.
The program leaders would take the kids into a “dark room,” where the they would hold them against the wall by their necks, and punch them in the sides, stomach, ribs, and face, according to Gregory Owen, the attorney representing the children’s families. One boy allegedly suffered broken fingers after an officer stepped on his hand.
Marissa Larios and Patrick Nijland of the Huntington Park Police Department, and brothers Carlos Gomez-Marquez and Edgar Gomez of the South Gate Police Department were each arrested and released on $20,000 bail.
In June, at least two of the officers, the Gomez brothers, were still on patrol despite being subjects of investigation.
Here’s a clip from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department:
After a two month investigation which involved interviewing 37 participants at the camp, Sheriff’s Detectives were able to identify 15 male and female victims ranging in age from 12 to 17 years old who claimed they were assaulted by the drill instructors while at the camp….
Gomez and Gomez-Marquez were arrested on the following five charges: 1. Willful cruelty to a child (felony), 2. Criminal threats (felony), 3. Criminal conspiracy (felony), 4. Criminal battery (misdemeanor), 5. Abuse under color of authority (misdemeanor).
Larios was arrested on four charges: 1. Willful cruelty to a child (felony), 2. Criminal conspiracy (felony), 3. Criminal battery (misdemeanor), 4. Abuse under color of authority (misdemeanor)
Nijland was arrested for: 1. Willful cruelty to a child (felony), 2. Criminal battery (misdemeanor), 3. Abuse under color of authority (misdemeanor).
All charges will be filed with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.
KTLA’s Kennedy Ryan and Eric Spillman have more on the arrests.
JUST-REVEALED INDEPENDENT REPORT SAYS FULLERTON COPS ACTED OUTSIDE OF DEPARTMENT POLICY IN BEATING DEATH OF KELLY THOMAS
Three former Fullerton police officers, Jay Cicinelli, Manuel Ramos, and Joseph Wolfe, violated department policy when they beat Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, to death (while he screamed for his father), according to an independent report released as part of a civil lawsuit.
KPCC’s Erika Aguilar has the story. Here’s a clip:
Former Corporal Jay Cicinelli violated the Fullerton Police Department’s deadly force policy when he kneed 37-year-old Kelly Thomas in the head twice and beat him in the face with his Taser “multiple times” on July 5, 2011, according to the report by independent auditors. The incident was caught on street surveillance video.
Former officers Manuel Ramos and Joseph Wolfe violated the department’s use of force policy when they used their body weight to subdue and arrest Thomas, the report said.
Thomas died five days after the beating. The coroner’s report determined Thomas died as a result of mechanical chest compressions and cranial-facial injuries.
“Ramos’ weight and the body weight of other responding officers on Thomas may have been partially responsible for Thomas’ ultimate demise,” according to the report. It used similar language for Wolfe.
In January 2014, an Orange County jury acquitted Ramos and Cicinelli, and the charges against Wolfe were later dropped. All three are still fighting to get their jobs back after being terminated.