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The Conservative War on Prisons, The LAPPL Challenges Riordan to a Debate….and Petraeus (Sure. Why not?)

November 14th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon



CONSERVATIVES GO TO WAR AGAINST PRISONS

In brilliant, must read article for Washington Monthly, reporters David Dagan and Steven M. Teles explain how “Right-wing operatives have decided that prisons are a lot like schools: hugely expensive, inefficient, and in need of root-and-branch reform.”

“Is this,” the authors ask, “how progress will happen in a hyper-polarized world?”

Well, perhaps so. Dagan and Teles do a good job of analyzing how government-drowning antitax activists like Grover Norquist are coming together with evangelicals and formerly tough-on-crime conservative advocates—and, in some cases, even (gasp) liberals—to take some solid steps in the direction of real criminal justice reform, with more potentially on the horizon.

Moreover, it is reform that liberal criminal justice advocates have been unable to accomplish on their own, nevermind that facts, common sense and a host of research was on their side.

Here’s how the story opens:

American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.

Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”

None of Gingrich’s rivals in the vicious Republican presidential primary exploited these statements. If anything, his position is approaching party orthodoxy. The 2012 Republican platform declares, “Prisons should do more than punish; they should attempt to rehabilitate and institute proven prisoner reentry systems to reduce recidivism and future victimization.” What’s more, a rogue’s gallery of conservative crime warriors have joined Gingrich’s call for Americans to rethink their incarceration reflex. They include Ed Meese, Asa Hutchinson, William Bennett—even the now-infamous American Legislative Exchange Council. Most importantly, more than a dozen states have launched serious criminal justice reform efforts in recent years, with conservatives often in the lead.

Skeptics might conclude that conservatives are only rethinking criminal justice because lockups have become too expensive. But whether prison costs too much depends on what you think of incarceration’s benefits. Change is coming to criminal justice because an alliance of evangelicals and libertarians have put those benefits on trial. Discovering that the nation’s prison growth is morally objectionable by their own, conservative standards, they are beginning to attack it—and may succeed where liberals, working the issue on their own, have, so far, failed….

Read the rest.


LAPD UNION CHALLENGES DICK RIORDAN TO A DEBATE OVER HIS CONTROVERSIAL PENSION REFORM

Last month, former LA Mayor Richard Riordan proposed a ballot measure for the May 2013 election that would change the pension structure for all city employees, including police and firefighters. Without such reform, Riordan says, the city will soon face a cashflow nightmare.

As the LA Weekly’s Hillel Aron described it in his story on the topic:

The Riordan plan does three key things: forces people to contribute far more cash to their own retirement plans; places all future city hires — but not current employees — into a 401(k)-style system mimicking the private sector; and freezes automatic pension increases (now tied to salary increases) if the pension fund investments aren’t doing well.

Naturally the city’s labor unions are dead against the proposed measure, and they have some very valid points—which they fear are being drowned out by the former mayor’s appearances on local talk radio.

And so, on Tuesday afternoon, LAPPL president Tyler Izen challenged Riordan to a debate—-or rather a series of debates—on the pros and cons of the would-be ballot measure, which must have all its signatures gathered by December 7. Here’s a clip from the union’s statement:

“I am challenging Richard Riordan to three debates between now and December 7 because he has yet to offer any independent analysis that supports his wild claims. Riordan has chosen to hide behind carefully orchestrated radio talk show appearances where no challenging or insightful questions are asked, appearances before groups where he knows his ideas won’t be challenged, and well-crafted media releases that lack any pretense of substance,” said Izen.

We hope Riordan accepts.

Certainly some kind of pension reform is needed, but it must be the right plan, not merely something that Dick Riordan jams through because he can, and because it sounds good to a fed-up, and recession-worn public. (By the way, Joe Matthews writes for NBC “5 reasons” that Riordan’s plan won’t work.)


PETRAEUS SCANDAL ROUND UP – WLA STYLE:

Hey, we’re riveted too. So, with that in mind, three quickie stories you might not have seen yet:

1. FRIENDLY FIRE IN THE SPYING SECTOR

The New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe writes about what happens when the “Surveillance State takes friendly fire.

2. GOV’T REQUESTS FOR DATA GO UP, POST SCANDAL, SEZ GOOGLE

Over at Wired Magazine’s Threat Level blog, the Threatistas note that post-Petraeus scandal Google has released stats showing an uptick in government requests for data.

3. HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE INVOLVED

Back to the New Yorker again, Andy Borowitz helpfully explains how you can tell whether or not you are involved in the Petraeus scandal. (In case you’re concerned.) For instance, according to Borowitz, these are some questions that a CIA Public Information Officer recommends that you ask yourself:

“Have you ever met David Petraeus? Have you ever received and/or sent shirtless photos of an F.B.I. agent? Have you ever exchanged e-mails with Jill Kelley? Under five thousand pages of e-mails and you’re probably O.K., but anywhere between ten thousand and fifteen thousand pages of e-mails could potentially mean you’re involved in some way….”

Posted in LAFD, LAPD, LAPPL, prison policy, Propositions, Right on Crime | No Comments »

Three-Strikes Reform, Former Inmates & The Joy of the Right to Vote

November 7th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


Norman Williams, who is in the photo above, was voting for the first time when the picture was snapped.
Williams is a former 3-striker who was sentenced to life in prison for a third strike of petty theft. (He stole a floor jack out of a tow truck.) Williams’s other two strikes were not as minor as jacking a jack. But nor did they signal he was a man who so threatened public safety that he needed to be removed from our midst forever and post haste, as the 3-strikes law—passed in 1994– had dictated.

As the NY Times reported in 2010:

In 1982, Williams burglarized an apartment that was being fumigated: he was hapless enough to be robbed at gunpoint on his way out, and later he helped the police recover the stolen property. In 1992, he stole two hand drills and some other tools from an art studio attached to a house; the owner confronted him, and he dropped everything and fled

Fortunately for Williams, in 2005 when Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley had instructed his office to look for 3-strikes cases for whom a 25-to-life sentence clearly didn’t fit, they found Williams, and the Stanford 3-strikes Project at Stanford Law School subsequently agreed to take him on as a client and eventually gained his release.

And so it was that he cast his first vote on Tuesday, and thus was able to vote YES on Proposition 36, the state ballot measure to reform the over-broad law that had once put him behind bars for life. (As it happens, the Stanford 3-Strikes Project co-sponsored the measure.)

On Tuesday night, Prop 36 passed handily, gaining support in both conservative and liberal California counties.


I don’t know Williams personally, but I do know Wil Lopez, a bright, personable man and a former inmate who is now on staff for Homeboy Industries. While not a three-striker, on Tuesday Lopez was another joy-filled first time voter who marked his ballot for Prop 36 with a strong sense of purpose.

Here’s what Lopez wrote about the matter on Facebook on Monday of this week.

“I remember being in the ASU [Administrative Segregation Unit] in Corcoran state prison in 2005 and my cell mate from El monte was telling me how he had received a third strike for possession of burglary tools, which were regular tools in his car, and now he’s sentenced to life. I sat there and said I wish people would change the laws by voting. Wow, it’s been over five years and I never thought this day will come but I can honestly say I’m doing my part. I’m voting tomorrow, first time in my life, I’m f***ing voting tomorrow. Please, friends, go out and vote. Help make a change.”

Above is a photo of a euphoric Lopez taken on Tuesday after his own voting experience.


Luis Aguilar is another man I know who, like Lopez, was never a 3-striker himself, but who, through his own stints in prison, got to know people who were.

“Some guys deserved to be there, but for other guys I saw, it was just a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Luis told me when he called on Tuesday night from his job site to ask if I knew how the various ballot propositions were faring. Aguilar is former gang member who is now married with a family and a good union career working massive construction projects for LA County. Luis works the night shift so he and his wife had voted before he left for the job. He was relieved when I told him it looked like 36 was winning.

“I had this cellie one time when I was locked up who got struck out for stealing three pairs of Levis from Sears,” he said. “His other strikes weren’t nothing violent either. He was just an addict, and when he was using he did stupid stuff.”

Luis first voted in 2004 when he was still on parole and I was writing a series of articles for the LA Weekly about him and his family during his first year out of prison. I remember the seriousness with which he took his newly acquired enfranchisement then, a seriousness that appeared now to have only deepened—as demonstrated when he called multiple times to ask for updates.

He was most interested in Prop. 36, but wanted to know about rest too, especially the union-hobbling Prop. 32 (He was against it), and Prop. 30, Gov. Brown’s sales tax raise to benefit education, which Luis strongly favored. “I voted against everything else that the voting pamphlet said would cost the state more money,” he said. “But on 30 I voted yes, because schools are important.”

In terms of candidates, he voted a straight Democratic ticket, Luis said. “The only time I didn’t look at parties was for DA, then I voted for the lady—I don’t remember her name…”

“Jackie Lacey.”

“Yeah. That’s right. Because I liked the way she talked better than the guy, who looked like he mostly wanted to show he was all tough.”

Luis rang me for the last time Tuesday night just as Obama was beginning his victory speech. He said the radio in the county truck he was driving was broken. I told him CNN had just called a victory for Prop 36, then put him on speaker phone so he could hear the president talk. We listened silently for the duration:

….I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions…

“He was good, right?” Luis asked when Obama had finished and the pundits were beginning their commentary.

I took the phone off speaker and put it back to my ear, muting the TV as I did so. “I thought he was really good,” I said.

There was a pause.

“It feels good to vote,” I said, “It matters.”

“Yep,” he replied. And with that I heard his county-issued walkie-talkie squawk in the background. He thanked me for my help, and he had to go.

Posted in 2012 Election, crime and punishment, criminal justice, elections, Homeboy Industries, Propositions, Sentencing | No Comments »

The WitnessLA November 2012 Elections Endorsements

November 2nd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


With voting day looming on Tuesday,
a quickie rundown of our thoughts and recommendations.


THE BALLOT PROPOSITIONS


30 – YES! Jerry Brown’s must-pass initiative is a desperately needed budget patch providing funds for California’s educational system—both K-12 and higher education—while also funneling fiscal aid to other crucial state programs.

Prop 30 looked like it would pass easily, mainly because most Californian’s understand that our schools and other essential programs are in need of $$$, and the governor has devised the least painful way to raise the necessary bucks.

Unfortunately, wealthy Californian Molly Munger muddied the water by floating a competative ballot proposition (Prop. 38) then, along with her brother, using tens of millions of her own money to blast voters with TV ads designed to shake confidence in 30, in the hope of getting voters to embrace 38. Now, while 38 looks unlikely to pass, it has managed to erode just enough of Prop. 30′s support to put it in serious jeopardy.

So here’s the deal: Not only should you vote for Prop 30, but you should threaten, cajole, emotionally blackmail everyone you know, are related to, or pass randomly on the street into voting for it. Otherwise, we’re in for some dark days in terms of public education. (Not to put too fine a point on the matter.)


31 – NO. A messy and badly conceived attempt to reform the way the state legislature behaves. Heaven knows some serious reform is needed, but this ain’t it. Prop 31 will cut money from schools and other vital programs and create a pile of bureaucracy. Read what the Courage Campaign has to say here.

Even CA’s conservative newspapers are fleeing from this badly written item.


32: NO WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE – If you loved Citizen’s United then you’re going to adore Prop 32. Listen, many of us are furious when certain unions (cough) CCPOA, prison guards (cough, cough) swing their weight around to ill effect. But this proposed law is a union-hating, Koch Brother’s special that pretends to rein in corporate campaign spending and special interests. Instead, it favors big corporate interests and hobbles everybody else.

For a humorous (and kinda scary) look at Prop 32 supporters read our own Matt Fleischer’s account of what he heard when he parachuted in behind the lines of Prop. 32 central—namely the Lincoln Club.


33: NO! – This creepy little piece of work is auto insurance bait and switch that is the baby of Mercury Insurance founder George Joseph, and does not have your and my best interests at heart. Run!


34: YES – Replaces the death penalty in California with life without the possibility of parole.

I’ll let Jeanne Woodford (the former head of the CDCR and former Warden of San Quentin who oversaw four executions), plus my friend Frankie Carrillo speak on the topic, as they each are uniquely qualified to do so.


35: NO – The sex trafficking and slavery initiative is extremely well meant but is a morass of unintended consequences. Yes, of course, we must do everything possible to take the predators it targets off the streets and put them behind bars. But this problematically-structured law, the project of former Facebook privacy officer, Chris Kelly (who would like to ride this law into the office of CA Attorney General), causes more problems than it solves—sadly.

The good news is that it opens the dialogue on this pressing issue, where victims remain tragically unprotected.


36: YES – Reforms 3-Strikes so that bad guys get put away, and the people who don’t need to be the guests of the state for the rest of their lives (on our tab) don’t. Even LA DA Steve Cooley & SF DA George Gascon like this prop that fixes the flaws in a well-intentioned but overbroad law.


37: YES– Requires that genetically engineered foods (GMOs) be labeled before being sold in California.. The LA Times is against it. We disagree.

The issue is not whether GMOs are good or harmful. Many likely are not, and may have great benefit. The point is that, as a consumer, I’d like the right to know what’s in my food and whether or not the items I buy contain GMOs. Wouldn’t you?

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and some of the most famous chefs in America are in favor of GMO labeling.

So is the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsico and Dow are not and have thrown upwards of 40 million to try to persuade you that their opinion is the righteous one.

For a lengthier and highly informed counter-opinion to that expressed by the LAT and some of the other CA papers that are urging a NO vote, read what NY Times food writer Mark Bittman has to say about Prop. 37—and the missinformation put out by its mega-buck-funded opposition.

You also might want to read this also from the NY Times, by Michael Pollan (one of the gurus of the food movement, and author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, among other food-related books)

Oh, yeah, and if you don’t believe those guys, you might want to see what Bill Moyers has to say on the topic.


38: NO/YES.or WHATEVER. This prop, which has set itself up as the alternative to Jerry Brown’s Prop 30, is a scheme to raise some taxes in order to fund the state’s ailing public school system. The prop, as mentioned above, has been almost exclusively funded by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger. Munger is the co-head of the Advancement Project, along with the excellent Connie Rice, and we really, really like Munger for that, and for her many other accomplishments as a lawyer and an advocate. However, we are extremely vexed at her I-know-better-than-all-of-them-Sac’to-fools-do attitude in this instance, which could mean that neither prop passes, and that California schools suffer terribly as a result.

Karin Klien, the editorial board writer for education lays the matter out perfectly:

Proposition 30 is a superior measure on several fronts. It would avoid trigger cuts that would cause immediate and drastic harm to schools, which would probably be forced to cut the school year by up to three weeks, as well as $250 million in cuts to the University of California and an equal amount to the California State University system.

Beyond that, one aspect of Proposition 30 that has been little noticed is that it also provides money for community colleges; right now, more than 200,000 students at those colleges cannot find a seat in a single class, let alone enough courses or the courses they need to graduate. There’s little point to rescuing only K-12 schools when the graduates would have nowhere to go.

Polls suggest that Prop 38 doesn’t have a chance. And, yet, Munger’s ads and those of her conservative brother, wrongly claiming, as Klien writes, “…’politicians’ would get their hands on money intended for schools..” are still running. The non-passage of 30, once a sure thing until the Mungers threw tens of millions at the issue, is now hanging by a thread.

So vote for 38, don’t vote for it. Just make sure you vote for Prop. 30.


39: YES – Would remove a tax break that mainly benefits multistate companies based outside of California, a tax loophole that has actually encouraged these companies to take their jobs out of state. As KCET points out, Prop 39 would level the playing field by making multistate companies play by the same rules as companies that employ Californians, and would produce an extra $1 billion for the state coffers.

That’s the short version. If you want more, KCET has the details.


40: YES - Basically re-approves California’s newly redrawn state Senate districts. Every major newspaper in the state, whether conservative leaning or liberal leaning, urges a YES vote. A few disgruntled politicians urge otherwise, but most of them have quietly gone away.



THE RACES:

In terms of candidates, we favor Janice Hahn, Howard Berman, Julie Brownley, Henry Waxman, if you’re in an area where they are on the ballot.

FOR DISTRICT ATTORNEY…..

We firmly recommend Jackie Lacey.

Look: Alan Jackson is a skilled prosecutor, but he does not appear to have the temperament or the experience to manage the District Attorney’s office effectively. During the campaign, he has consistently tailored his message to the crowd, rather than giving us a clear idea of what his policies would be, if elected.

Lacey is more conservative than we would like, but she’s a listener, and has already appeared to grow in the course of the campaign. In short, she’s up to the job now and we believe would become stronger and better, while in office.

For more, read the very smart LA Times endorsement that I’m guessing was written by our pal Rob Greene.


OH, YEAH, AND FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, WE RECOMMEND: Barak Obama.

(But you probably knew that.)


In any case, whatever and whomever you vote for: PLEASE VOTE


Posted in CCPOA, Civil Liberties, crime and punishment, CTA, District Attorney, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), elections, Innocence, Presidential race, Propositions, Springsteen, unions | 8 Comments »

LA Rolls Out an Are-U-Ready-to Get-Out-of Gangs? Test….& other Must Reads

January 9th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon



This month LA’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development office (GRYD)—which runs the city’s gang intervention and prevention programs
—will roll out a brand new strategy ostensibly designed to determine how ready a gang member is to get out of his or her gang, and thus how ready they are to receive services that might aid them in turning their lives around.

With this in mind,some well known gang researchers who have been working working with GRYD, came up with a written test. Christina Hoag of the AP has a story on the new tactic. Here’s a clip:

USC researchers came up with measures of the strength of a gang member’s allegiance and to what extent he derives his identity from the gang.

“The group exerts a powerful influence on the individual. With gangs, we want to try to reduce that group influence,” said Karen Hennigan, assistant psychology professor at USC who developed the questionnaire. “So the question is ‘how well can you hold your own against the group?’ We call it the ‘I position’.”

Anti-gang counselors, who are often former gang members, will ask questions ranging from participation in sports and church groups to the number of family dependents to reactions to such statements as “being in a group is an important part of my life.”

One challenge may be finding gang members willing to take the survey, particularly if it’s perceived as judgmental.

Hennigan said anti-gang counselors will approach gang members saying the survey will be used to help improve their lives. At the very least, the aim is to get gang members to stop violent behavior, if they can’t exit the gang altogether.

I’ve heard some about this new test, but I’ve not actually seen the thing. I do know that it is similar, in intent and nature, to the existing GRYD questionnaire that at risk kids are asked to take to determine if they are at risk enough to merit receiving the city’s gang prevention services.

Matt Fleischer reported for WitnessLA on this earlier test—known as the YSET (Youth Services Evaluation Tool) or “The Tool”—and we found that many experts were critical of the strategy. (We were pretty critical ourselves.)

There is a list of reasons why this “tool” is potentially problematic too. In order to better determined its possible pros and cons, we’ll be reporting on it further in the days and weeks ahead.

In any case, stay tuned.


HAS CALIFORNIA’S LAW-AND-ORDER MADNESS FINALLY STARTED TO ABATE

Our state has been in a law and order frenzy since the mid 1980′s, but the law-passing part of the frenzy reached a fever pitch up in the past 15 years.

The Sac Bee’s senior editor, Dan Morain (who is in general a smart writer and savvy about the political winds that cyclically blow through the state) has a column that suggest that the madness may finally be beginning to play itself out.

Here’s a clip:

Not that many years ago, California legislators worked themselves into a law-and-order frenzy, and with voters’ help, infused the justice system with steroids by approving the nation’s toughest “three-strikes” sentencing measure.

How the pendulum has swung.

After unrelenting prison growth dating back decades, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a budget last week that would slash $1.1 billion from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, paring its annual budget to $8.7 billion. Brown is calling on the Legislature to reduce the 66,000-position corrections department by 3,782 spots in the coming year and contemplates reducing the number of jobs by 10,200 over the next five years.

The inmate population never reached the 230,000 projections made in 1994 when California adopted the three-strikes law. But the number of inmates did top 174,000 in 2006. Now, the population sits at 132,000, and will to 112,000 if all goes as planned in the next five years.

“I cannot think of a word that would overstate it,” said Stanford professor Joan Petersilia, a criminal justice expert who has long studied California’s prison system. “We have never seen anything like this in California.”

Morain also points out that the new proposition likely headed for the ballot that is aimed at modifying California’s ultra strict 3-Strikes law , does not seem to be garnering all the usual opposition. (Surely there will be opposition, but some of the usual suspects may not be part of it.)


CONNIE RICE SAYS : “POWER CONCEDES NOTHING”

An autobiographical book by LA civil rights attorney Connie Rice titled Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman’s Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones is being released on Tuesday. More on this tomorrow (after I go to the book party celebrating its publication). In the meantime, here’s a clip from Carolyn Kellogg’s review of the book for Sunday’s LA Times.

Yet from a young age, she was aware that not everyone shared her fortune. The light-skinned Rice tells the story of a darker boy on an Arizona playground who asked, “What IS you?” — he couldn’t believe that they were both black. With an uneasy sense of commonality, she pushed — something she does again and again in her life — and visited his home; it was her first genuine encounter with the deprivations of poverty. Rice looks back to that encounter not because of their shared identity but for what it revealed to her: the disparity of opportunity and circumstance. By her teens, steeped in the teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and moved by Rep. Barbara Jordan, she was convinced she must “end the inequality conspiracy, not join it.”

This passionate conviction drove her to Harvard-Radcliffe, then law school at New York University. The summer internships that law students take their second year have classically been thought of as a tacit line to a career with that firm, and Rice landed one at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. That was 1982, the summer that decisions by the Supreme Court meant that states could renew their pursuit of death penalty cases. “We had vowed to do whatever it took to keep everyone alive,” Rice writes of the stance that she and a pair of determined fellow interns took. “We were too inexperienced to know that it could not be done.” She recounts their near round-the-clock work, including late-night filings and Southern court conflicts, with breathless detail.


STATE INMATES ARRIVE IN LA COUNTY (AND OTHER CA COUNTIES) WITH COSTLY MENTAL ILLNESSES

The LA Times’ Anna Gorman reports on this problem, which is neither easy nor cheap to solve.


NOT QUITE AMERICAN ENOUGH

Luis Luna has lived the U.S. since the age of three when his mother smuggled him across the border from Mexico. Then at 20, he was deported after a cop stopped him for a broken headlight. Now he’s trying to slip back in to the only country he sees as home. Be sure to read the LA Times’ Richard Marosi’s excellent story of Luna’s dilemma.

Posted in Gangs, Must Reads, prison policy, Propositions, Sentencing | No Comments »

What the Newest Field Poll Favoring 3-Strikes Reform Really Means

June 17th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


On Thursday a new Field Poll was released that indicated
Californians favor a reform of the state’s Three-Strikes law by a 3 to 1 margin. Specifically, Field showed that 74 percent of Californians would like the law to be modified.

While more Democrats than Republicans favor the reform, the majority of Republicans and independents are ready to retool the law too— with 46 percent of voters favoring reform “strongly.”

This week Tracey Kaplan of the San Jose Mercury News reported that a Three-Strikes reform initiative is, indeed going forward for the November 2012 ballot. (Kaplan has the details about the Stanford lawyers and others who have thus far signed on to launch the initiative).

The Field poll would appear to bode well for the 2012 effort.

However, in 2004 there was an earlier attempt to reform the Three-strikes law through the initiative process. Then too, the idea scored very high in a series of Field polls, and yet when election day came the initiative went down to defeat.

I called Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo, and asked him about the 2004 gap between the opinion polling and the vote.

“Yeah,” DiCamillo, said, “the proposition had a 40 point lead until one month before election. Then Governor Schwarzenegger and some other respected figures including, as I remember, Jerry Brown, came out strongly against it, and I watched opinion change on a dime. That’s what happens when you have credible sources arousing fear. Often the public can be greatly swayed.

“I don’t think public opinion has changed all that much.” DiCamillo continued. They favored reform then by a big margin, and they favor it now. “But right before the election they got scared. It was a little like [George H. W.] Bush with Dukakis and that whole thing with Willie Horton.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens this time.”

This time, the reformers may be developing sharper elbows. Tracey Kaplan reports that political consultant Averell “Ace” Smith will be leading the campaign, a signal that the initiative’s backers are gearing up for hardball. Smith, who has run California campaigns for such successful candidates as Antonio Villaraigosa, Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris, has a well-earned reputation for being a very tough adversary.

California’s Three Strikes law is the harshest of the 24 similar laws in the nation in that any felony—even the theft of a video game—can qualify as a third strike.


Q: IN THIS LOUSY ECONOMY WOULD YOU LIKE TO PAY MORE TAXES IN ORDER TO MOVE FELONS AROUND?

CALIFORNIA VOTERS: UH, NO.

Elsewhere in the Field Poll, California voters were asked if they agreed withGovernor Brown’s proposal to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling by transferring lower-risk inmates from state prisons to local county jails and other community-based facilities.” (The majority agreed.)

But then they were asked if they: “…agree or disagree with the governor that taxes will have to be increased to pay for this or not?”

Naturally most people said, Nope. Don’t think so.

All well and good—except for the fact that Jerry Brown has not suggested raising taxes, but is asking to extend some existing taxes. Second of all, the tax extension money would go to support a list of programs, education being the most prominent among them. And, yes, it would would also help pay for the inmate transfers.

‘Twould have been nice if the Field folks had asked the question a bit more accurately.


SUPREMES SAY THAT AGE MATTERS WHEN POLICE QUESTION STUDENTS

The LA Times’ David Savage has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Supreme Court bolstered the rights of juveniles for the second year in a row, deciding by a 5-4 vote that police officers who remove a student from class for questioning about a crime usually must warn him or her of the right to remain silent.

The decision Thursday did not set a strict rule for all cases involving police questioning of minors, but the justices said young people deserved extra protection because they would feel they had no choice but to answer….


WHY IS THE STUPID, SEXIST, RACIST ANTI-JANICE HAHN VIDEO TAKEN SERIOUSLY?

When an anti-Janice Hahn video surfaced early this week, many of us exchanged emails about the thing, but concluded that it deserved merely to be roundly ignored for the attention-seeking, tasteless, talent-free stunt that it was.

But, for some reason the normally sensible Larry Mantle devoted part of Wednesday’s Air Talk show on KPCC to discussing the thing. (Even my wonderful reporter pal Frank Stoltze contributed to the show’s discussion.)

Guys: Just ignore the children until they stop spitting their food on the floor.

Here’s the video. You tell me if you think it merits a serious discussion.

(Okay, here’s what we’re going to do: Let’s make a campaign ad that has the heads of Charlie Mason and some unidentifiable gangsters from the 1930′s randomly floating past a white lady pole-dancer’s bouncing butt while some embarrassed-looking rappers wearing 4th-of July shirts and plaid golfer hats yell “KILL! KILL!” And then we’ll show Janice Hahn with devil eyes and that cool, red, blood-drippy typeface! Yeah! Awesome, dude! This going to make our careers, I’m telling you!!!)

(sigh.)

Posted in prison policy, Propositions, Sentencing | No Comments »

THURSDAY MUST READS

November 13th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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FOUR IMPORTANT READS from the LA Times:

1. FINALLY SOMEBODY HAD THE GUTS TO SAY IT: DAVID BREWER NEEDS TO GO

Everybody’s known this for what now seems like ever. But no one would say so publically: LAUSD Superintendant David Brewer is way, way over his head, and has been from the get-go. Now he needs to step down. Here’s the opening of LA Times editorial calling it for what it is.


The Los Angeles Unified School District is not without accomplishment.
It has recently seen student test scores improve, and it is on track with a vast, long-term effort to build enough schools for all of its students. But along with much of California, the district is heading into troubled times — largely financial — that threaten its classrooms and students, and that will test its management and educational skills. This is a treacherous moment for a school district that has long operated on the edge of failure, and it demands unimpeachable leadership. In such a moment, the district cannot afford a superintendent who holds the title but isn’t up to the job.

2. PROP 8 STRATEGIES—-BEFORE AND AFTER

The LA Times’ Jessica Garrison writes a smart, thoughtful news story about the evolving nature of the strategies used by the Prop. 8 opponents—then and now. Here’s how it starts:

Leaders of the campaign against Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, raised nearly $40 million and ran a careful, disciplined campaign with messages tested by focus groups and with only a few people authorized to speak to the media.

They lost.

In the week since, California has seen an outpouring of demonstrations ranging from quiet vigils to noisy street protests against Proposition 8, including rallies outside churches and the Mormon temple in Westwood as well as boycotts of some businesses that contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Many of those activities have been organized not by political professionals and established leaders in the gay community, but by young activists working independently on Facebook and MySpace.

The grass-roots activism is a tribute to political organizing in the digital age, in which it is possible to mobilize thousands of people with a few clicks of a mouse. It has generated national attention — and set up a series of Saturday demonstrations that organizers hope will attract tens of thousands of people to city halls throughout California.

But the demonstrations also have raised questions about whether the in-your-face approach will alienate voters
….

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, LAUSD, LGBT, Propositions, State government | 5 Comments »

Prop 8 Demonstrations Go Nationwide- UPDATED

November 12th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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This Saturday, November 15, the Prop 8 Protests
are scheduled to go nationwide.

The largest of the protests is expected to be the Los Angeles march, which begins at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall.

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This time, word of the march seems to be spreading rapidly. Notices are speeding around Facebook and other venues. (I’m already hearing from actor and writer friends who are going.)

For more LA info, go here.

UPDATE: Taking at least one step in the direction of answering the question, What will elections-centric Blogs Like FiveThirtyEight do now that Obama has won? FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver does an excellent analysis (best one I’ve seen to date), of who voted for an against Prop 8, so that we can stop with this Who’s the Most to Blame? business and get back to solving the problem.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Propositions | 19 Comments »

PROP 8 and Equal Protection

November 10th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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The fury and the hurt continues to grow
in response to the passage of Proposition 8, and to the fact that, on the same night that the nation made a historic step away from bigotry, over half of those voting in the State of California opted to take rights away from their fellow Californians, if those Californians happen to be gay or lesbian.

Most recently, however, some members of the state’s black gay and lesbian community–and some blacks generally—are speaking out about what they feel is unfair and corrosive blame being leveled at California’s African American voters—particularly on the part of the media.

Blogger, writer Jasmyne A. Cannick had an Op Ed on the issue in yesterday’s LA Times.

Bloggers sparkymonster and Shanikka over at Daily Kos and Browne at LA Eastside also have posted angrily on the subject.

(I should warn you that some of these posts are a bit over the top. But that isn’t the point.)

It does seem, that if one wants to place blame, a better focus would the Morman Church that behaved like a political PAC and urged its members to both donate money and to go to California to work for the passage of Prop. 8. It is estimated that somewhere between 40 percent and 70 percent of the tens of millions of dollars spent on passing the measure came from donors in the state of Utah.

Most to the point, of course, is how the rights that Prop. 8 took away, might most effectively be restored.

In today’s LA Times, UC Berkeley law school professor and associate dean, Goodwin Liu, outlines the various possible legal considerations at play in the battle to get Proposition 8 tossed out by the courts.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is also quoted this morning as saying the Prop. 8 battle is far from over.

In the meantime, the kind of harm done by this proposition was perfectly and sadly demonstrated by the ten-year-old boy whose two moms were among the 18,000 who got married this year. “Why…?” asked the boy the day after the Tuesday vote when he was talking to a friend of mine who knows his moms.

“Why do all these people want to ruin my family?”

Why indeed?

Posted in Civil Liberties, LGBT, Propositions | 25 Comments »

Still Hoping For Prop. 8 to be Miraculously Gone by Morning

November 5th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


So tell me again why letting other people get married threatens your marriage?

Posted in Elections '08, Propositions | 5 Comments »

Proposition 8: Too Close to Call

November 4th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon



Proposition 8 is running very, very close right now
.

Talk to people you know. Walk up talk to strangers, if need be. Ask them very kindly to do the right thing.

Do not allow the lies and fear—spread by commercials bought with millions of dollars in out-of-state money—to talk our fellow Californians into taking away the right to marry the person one loves from our sons, our daughters, our brothers, our sisters, our friends. Please.

Posted in City Government, Elections '08, LGBT, Propositions | 3 Comments »

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