LA County Losing Track of Parolees…..The Woeful State of Juvenile Defense… An Innocent Man…..Paying for LASD’s ProblemsNovember 11th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
Beatriz Valenzuela at the Daily Breeze has an interesting story on the fact that LA County Probation is losing track around 16 percent of its realignment probationers, a higher rate than many other California counties.
Here’s a clip from her story:
Los Angeles County has lost track of about 2,000 prison realignment probationers under its supervision, which is a higher rate than most nearby counties.
High recidivism rates among this population of offenders, coupled with the sheer number of those under supervision, may have led to 1,844 criminals, or slightly more than 18 percent, of 10,142 being lost from the system, Los Angeles County Probation officials said last month. San Bernardino County, by comparison, has one of the lowest rates, with 489, or about 6 percent, of its 7,485 prison realignment offenders having warrants out for their arrest.
Under the 2011 Assembly Bill 109, or prison realignment, the responsibility of monitoring lower-level offenders shifted from the state to county agencies to comply with a court order to reduce the state prison population and improve health conditions for inmates. These special type of probationers are classified as “post-release community supervision,” or PRCS.
UPDATE: As you can see, I have deleted the quotes below from LA County Probation spokesperson Carol Lin as, after a conversation with Lin, I’ve learned that she was misquoted, and her statements taken out of context.
As Lin said when we spoke, the issue of revision is complicated, as is the matter of absconders. To put it another way, there is a lot more to this story than can be adequately told by the simple numbers you see here. The topic is something WLA will assuredly delve into in the future.
The majority of these criminals came to Los Angeles County, said Carol Lin, spokeswoman for the probation department. “You can expect they’re going to recidivate,”she said.
The Daily Breeze report also explores possible reasons that LA (along with a few other counties like Riverside) has such a high rate of disappearing PRCS probationers.
For instance, San Bernardino County, which has a much lower rate seems to have a program in which the contact with the PRCS probationers is more frequent, creative, and rigorous.
San Bernardino County Probation regularly conducts compliance check sweeps in various cities with the assistance of local law enforcement.
Chris Condon, spokesman for San Bernardino County Probation, credits that partnership as well a number of initiatives for keeping their number of lost PRCS probationers low, including a process for immediately contacting all probationers in a day-reporting center, making early referrals to treatment, vocational and other support programs, classifying them with an assessment tool to determine who is most likely to reoffend, coupled with in-field and home contacts.
Los Angeles County officials say they also use some of those programs, but since Los Angeles County receives the highest number of PRCS probationers of any county, that can mean a higher potential number of people who will abscond.
That in LA County we use “some” of the programs, is not as encouraging as it might be.) This a topic we’ll be exploring further.
THE WORRISOME STATE OF JUVENILE DEFENSE
This week, the Juvenile Justice Exchange is launching a series on the state of Juvenile Defense in the U.S.. Here are some clips from their opening story, which gives an overview of the state of legal representation for kids who can’t afford to hire private lawyers:
“Due process is the primary and indispensable foundation of individual freedom,” Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote in the majority opinion of the Court’s landmark 1967 juvenile justice decision, In re Gault — a decision that established that under the Constitution, juveniles in delinquency proceedings are guaranteed many of the same due process rights as adults in criminal trials
But today, nearly a half-century after the Gault case began, due process rights remain elusive for thousands of juvenile defendants facing felony charges that could lead to years of incarceration. Attempting to fill the void when possible are the often over-worked juvenile public defenders. But in many jurisdictions, juveniles are not even appointed a defense attorney until after their first hearing — a hearing in which a judge will decide if the youth will be held in detention or released.
“The idea that a kid can be in front of a judge and could be locked up with no lawyer there to defend him – I think most people are shocked by that notion,” said Timothy Curry, NJDC’s managing attorney. “The fact that that happens every day in courtrooms around the country is just the reality.”
And research has shown that defendants held pending trial are far more likely to be convicted than those who aren’t held, and, if convicted, those who had been held pending trial are far more likely to be incarcerated than those who were not held.
In some jurisdictions, it’s permissible for a prosecutor, in the absence of a defense attorney, to make a plea offer at the initial hearing, and if the child does not accept the plea, he or she may be detained.
“So you have kids around the country pleading guilty to crimes without ever seeing a lawyer, having no real understanding of the consequences involved with that or whether there was a defense or whether they were actually guilty of what they’re being charged with,” Curry said.
Juvenile defenders are often paid less than other defense attorneys, with juvenile defense seen as a steppingstone to a better-paying position.
Nonetheless, many juvenile defenders choose juvenile defense as a career and are renowned for their passionate dedication to defending children against the power of the state.
And quality representation is essential to indigent children facing serious charges.
In the Gault decision, the Supreme Court said: “The child requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him.”
But today, Casey’s Bart Lubow said, “We fall woefully short of that ideal. … We are nowhere near where we need to be, certainly nowhere near where we need to be if the standard that’s going to apply is the ‘my-child’ test. And the my-child test would ask: What would you want and have for your kid if it was your kid facing the power of the state?”
WRONGLY CONVICTED, KASH REGISTER EXPERIENCES HIS FIRST DAYS OUT AFTER 34 YEARS IN PRISON
When 53-year old Kash Register walked out of LA’s Twin Towers’ jail at around 4:30 on Friday afternoon after spending 34 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, he was wearing a brown Popeye t-shirt and blue jeans, clothes that the jail staff had rustled up for him.
“When he was here, he just had his jail jumpsuit,” said one the various LASD supervisors and deputies who had contact with Register on the afternoon he was released. “His other clothes were probably sent home to his family from state prison.”
Just the day before, Thursday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge had tossed his 1979 murder conviction, and now suddenly he was free to go.
One department member remarked later on how sweet-natured and lacking in anger or bitterness Register seemed when any of the jail personnel happened to speak to him—despite the horrific miscarriage of justice that had put him behind bars for nearly three and a half decades.
“The only reason he was convicted was that some witnesses lied, and the police and the prosecution hid some valuable evidence,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, who is part of the school’s Project for the Innocent, which provided the team of lawyers and law students who worked to get Register out.
The LA Times’ Ashley Powers has a good story on the circumstances behind Register’s 1979 conviction and his release on Friday. Here’s a clip:
In 1979, Brenda Anderson testified that a young man with whom she had gone to high school shot her elderly neighbor to death.
Thirty-four years later, Anderson’s sister Sharon took the stand and said the account, which helped send the young man to prison, was a lie.
On Thursday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sided with Sharon Anderson and threw out the conviction of Kash Delano Register, who maintained his innocence during more than three decades as inmate No. C11693.
Judge Katherine Mader’s ruling eviscerated the case against Register, 53, who was convicted mainly on eyewitness testimony that his attorneys say was false. They also said police and prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have helped Register’s defense, accusations that Mader found credible.
Frank Stoltze of KPCC also reported on Register’s release. Here’s a clip:
“What really broke this case were the sisters of the first witness, Brenda Anderson, coming forward, saying, ‘she lied,’” said Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson, who worked with the school’s Project for the Innocent on Register’s case.
“Prosecutors and police did not play by the rules in this case,” said Levenson. “One of the rules is, if there’s evidence in the prosecution file that helps the defendant, they’ve got to turn it over.”
Levenson said there were two eyewitnesses to the murder who could not identify Register, but that evidence was never presented to the jury. Register was convicted mainly on eyewitness testimony. None of the seven fingerprints found on Sasson’s car matched Register’s, and police never recovered the murder weapon….
And then the LA Times Kate Linthicum has a narrative report on Kash Register’s first days out this past weekend—which is a nice read.
Prosecutors said they would decide next month whether or not they would refile on Register.
SHOULD LA COUNTY TAXPAYERS BE INFINITELY ON THE HOOK FOR THE LASD’S HIGH TICKET LAWSUITS?
LA Times Editorial Board member, Sandra Hernandez raises the question in the wake of the $740,000 damages awarded on Friday for a “cell extraction” in Men’s Central Jail, which resulted in 19 inmates being hospitalized. Since more punitive damages in that trial are expected to be announced on Tuesday.
Photo courtesy of the LAPD