Program Helps Kids in CA Lockup Repay Victims While Learning a Trade…LASD to Propose Early Release Risk Assessment Program…Sheriff Candidate Updates…and MoreMarch 10th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
PROGRAM IN CALIFORNIA YOUTH FACILITY ALLOWS KIDS TO LEARN TECH INDUSTRY WHILE EARNING MONEY AND PAYING BACK VICTIMS
Through a tech business program called Merit Partners operating in a California juvenile facility, kids receive training and experience in the tech industry while repaying victims. The program at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility gives kids a way to take responsibility for their crimes, and becomes a healing process for many young participants.
Workers earn $8.00 an hour recycling and reselling electronics. Twenty percent of the money they earn goes into a victim fund, another portion to their own restitution fines. The rest goes into a savings account to help kids learn about personal finances and budgeting, and to help them get on their feet when they leave “Chad.”
Alice Daniel has the story for KQED’s California Report podcast. Here’s a small clip from the transcript:
Michael Casaglio introduces himself and some of his colleagues at Merit Partners, an environmentally certified electronic recycling business that’s located within the walls of the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility. There’s floor leader Terrance Turner, upcoming floor leader Jordan Rutkes and IT tech Chandler Luce.
“Cables, wires, computers, laptops, computer chips, motherboards,” says Casaglio, as he reels off the types of electronic equipment they resell and recycle.
Merit Partners is the only operation of its kind in a California correctional facility. The incarcerated youth do most of the work; a small support staff trains them. The job pays $8 an hour and teaches valuable skills, Casaglio says.
It’s a far cry from his drug-dealing past. He spent his youth in and out of foster care; his own parents were addicts, he says. He smoked pot at age 9, used hard drugs at 11 and, at 15, held his gun to another dealer.
“And during the course of the robbery, somebody tried to prevent us from getting away, so I shot him five times,” says Casaglio, who has been at Chad five years.
The murder haunts him. “I took somebody’s grandparent away,” he says. “I took somebody’s husband, I took somebody’s dad, and there’s nothing I can do to repay or replace that.”
But he is giving back. Twenty percent of the money he and his peers earn goes directly to victims. The youth contribute to a local victims fund every year, and also compensate the people harmed by their crimes by paying restitution fines.
The compensation is mandatory, but 18-year-old Chandler Luce says he would donate some of his earnings to make up for his past, even if it were optional.
“You look in here, and this is a place full of people who caused harm to the world. And I was part of that,” he says.
(The clip doesn’t do it justice. Go listen to the whole story.)
LASD CONSIDERS NEW PROGRAM TO IDENTIFY LOW-RISK INMATES FOR EARLY RELEASE
The LA County Sheriff’s Department plans to propose (to the Board of Supervisors) a new system for selecting low-risk inmates for early release by predicting the likelihood of each inmate reoffending.
Currently, the state system looks only at the inmate’s last offense, and fails to take into account any previous offenses, even those of a serious nature. Critics (WLA included) have long thought that there should be a more nuanced form of risk assessment that looks at a variety of elements, rather than the broad strokes system that is presently in place.
It is therefore good news that interim Sheriff John Scott and Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald want to try an inmate release strategy that they say will be more finely calibrated.
The LA Times’ Abby Sewell and Jack Leonard have the story. Here’s a clip:
The proposal calls for a significant shift for the nation’s largest jail system, which currently determines when inmates get released by looking at the seriousness of their most recent offense and the percentage of their sentence they have already served. Officials say the current system has weaknesses because it does not take into account the inmate’s full record, including serious crimes that occurred years ago.
Supporters argue the change would help select inmates for early release who are less likely to commit new crimes. But it might also raise some eyebrows. An older offender convicted of a single serious crime, such as child molestation, might be labeled lower-risk than a younger inmate with numerous property and drug convictions.
The Sheriff’s Department is planning to present a proposal for a “risk-based” release system to the Board of Supervisors.
“That’s the smart way to do it,” interim Sheriff John L. Scott said. “I think the percentage [system] leaves a lot to be desired.”
Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald said at the center of the new system would be a computer program that uses each inmate’s criminal history to calculate the chance he or she will reoffend, and release those deemed lowest-risk first.
In addition to making release decisions, the tool could be used to assign inmates to education and treatment programs while in jail, and to decide which are eligible for alternatives to jail such as home confinement.
“It’s more sophisticated to look at risk,” she said. “It makes common sense to most people.”
The department could choose to override the automated risk scores for inmates convicted of certain crimes, but McDonald said it’s too early to say whether it would.
The Sheriff’s Department has not calculated the cost of the system but hopes to seek bids on the project soon if the Board of Supervisors approves.
(Read more about the proposed program, and how Riverside County is faring with its own version of early-release risk assessment.)
GETTING TO KNOW LA SHERIFF CANDIDATE JAMES HELLMOLD
KPPC’s Frank Stoltze has a new profile of LA County Sheriff hopeful James Hellmold (currently an assistant sheriff) that’s worth reading. Here’s how it opens:
A few years ago, when James Hellmold commanded L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies in the gang-riddled Lynwood area, he drew the ire of some colleagues.
“They had a legitimate question,” Hellmold recalled. “Why [was I] speaking at a gang member’s funeral?”
Hellmold attended the services for 25-year-old Branden Bullard, who’d been shot by rival gang members, to focus, he said, not on the “the negativity” in the young man’s life, but on the good things.
“In more recent days he had mentored some kids who were athletes, and trying to stay away from gangs.”
When the questions persisted from deputies, Hellmold challenged them.
“I asked them what they’ve done to help somebody else.”
Hellmold, 46, now one of four assistant sheriffs in the sprawling L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, seems just as interested in lending a hand to the needy as handcuffing criminals. Asked for a war story from the streets, he doesn’t talk about the time he shot an armed bank robber. He tells of taking foster kids to UCLA football games….
And as for the ongoing, controversial department issues, Hellmold says he is in favor of more civilian oversight, but denies the notion of “systemic misconduct” within the LASD:
“There have been some mistakes made, and there are some more reforms that need to occur,” Hellmold said. “But it is not true that there’s systemic misconduct happening.”
Hellmold once served as a personal assistant and driver for Baca. He owes his rise in the department in part to the retired sheriff and to another candidate, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka. They groomed and promoted him. Baca and Tanaka also faced scathing criticism in a blue ribbon report for failing to stop abuses in the jails. But Hellmold remains reluctant to criticize them publicly.
“It’s very trendy right now to jump on the bandwagon of talking negative of Undersheriff Tanaka,” Hellmold said. “But we can’t deny some of the good things that he’s done for the department.”
Author Joe Domanick, who has written extensively on law enforcement in Los Angeles, wonders how much an insider like Hellmold can reform the agency.
“If he’s risen that high in the department, it’s a rare bird indeed who hasn’t been part of the problem,” said Domanick, adding that Hellmold likely wouldn’t have the big picture view of the department a candidate from outside the agency would bring.
“He’s part of that culture,” Domanick noted. “He’s trained to think, and act within the culture of that department.”
IN OTHER SHERIFF CANDIDATE NEWS: CALIFORNIA AG KAMALA HARRIS THROWS HER SUPPORT BEHIND JIM MCDONNELL
Late last week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her endorsement of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell in the Los Angeles Sheriff race.
Here’s a small clip from AG Harris’ announcement:
“Chief Jim McDonnell is an excellent choice, and the best choice to lead the Sheriff’s Department into a new era,” Harris said. “McDonnell has the integrity, experience and professionalism necessary to protect public safety and earn the trust of the people of Los Angeles.”
FEDERAL ATTENTION ON STAFF RESPONSE TO SUICIDES BY MENTALLY ILL INMATES IN CALIFORNIA PRISONS
Questionable handling of two successful suicide attempts by mentally ill inmates in California prisons has prompted internal investigations and caught the attention of U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton (also on the three-judge panel enforcing California’s prison population reduction).
In both instances, guards would not allow medical staffers to enter the cell and attempt to intervene or revive the inmate.
Judge Karlton has held hearings on the treatment of mentally ill prisoners, and will address one of the two incidents in a court session today (Monday).
The Sacramento Bee’s Sam Stanton and Denny Walsh have the story. Here’s a clip:
At 6:10 a.m. on Oct. 15, a medical technician handling the morning “pill pass” at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Fresno County spotted inmate David Scott Gillian hanging inside cell No. 164 from a bedsheet tied to an air vent.
“Gillian is hanging in his cell,” the tech called to a nearby guard, then rushed off to grab the “cut down scissors” and begin the process – mandatory under corrections department policy – of trying to revive the inmate through cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to an internal department review of the incident.
Guards and medical staff converged at the cell door, according to the internal report. A sergeant and the medical technician entered the cell where Gillian was housed alone and found no pulse or signs of breathing.
“We need to cut him down, we need to do CPR,” the tech told the sergeant.
Instead, the sergeant refused, according to the review team report; he ordered the cell door closed and locked, even after a doctor and another medical staffer demanded they be allowed to perform CPR. Gillian, 52, would remain hanging for nearly four hours before he was cut down.
The confidential corrections department report, obtained by The Sacramento Bee, summarizes the findings of a suicide review team assigned to investigate Gillian’s death. All suicides in California state prisons are reviewed by a team of corrections officials. The report obtained by The Bee, based on the review team’s interviews with prison staff and inmates, chronicles events leading up to and following Gillian’s hanging.
Gillian’s death has sparked a series of internal investigations at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In the review team report, corrections officials investigating the suicide express “several concerns” about the circumstances. Among the concerns cited: that prison guards prevented medical staffers from trying to revive Gillian; and that guards may not have made their regularly scheduled rounds that day, possibly causing a delay in discovering his suicide.
The incident is at least the second documented case in recent months of disputes between medical staffers and guards over when a cell door should be opened to provide emergency medical care and assistance to an inmate.
On Sept. 7, Joseph Duran, 35, an inmate at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County who suffered from mental illness, died hours after he was blasted in the face with pepper spray, according to an internal department review of that case. Duran had undergone a tracheotomy years before, and breathed through a hole in his throat. Agitated and coated with spray, he yanked out the tube he relied on for air, according to the review team report. Guards refused to intervene, despite repeated demands from medical staffers to allow them to enter his cell, decontaminate him and reinsert the tube, according to staff interviews contained in the internal report. Duran was found dead, alone in his cell, seven hours later.
That incident, laid out in a January story in The Bee, prompted U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton to reopen an evidentiary hearing in Sacramento federal court inquiring into the alleged use of excessive force on mentally ill inmates in California prisons.
The two cases come as the corrections department battles legal action on several fronts tied to medical and mental health care inside California’s 34 adult prisons. Last month, a three-judge court agreed to give California two more years to reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of capacity, a benchmark designed to reduce the overcrowding that the court in 2009 found is the primary reason for subconstitutional levels of medical and mental health treatment for inmates.
Revelations about Duran’s death have complicated matters for the department in a separate inquiry: the hearing before Karlton involving use of force on mentally ill inmates. Attorneys representing the state’s mentally ill inmates did not learn of the circumstances of Duran’s death until they were contacted by The Bee in January, and they have accused the state of covering up his death and the fact that pepper spray was used. The hearing on use of pepper spray and discipline against mentally ill inmates began Oct. 1 and went into November in Karlton’s court in Sacramento, during the same period that corrections officials were reviewing Duran’s death.
Corrections officials deny they were suppressing the Duran incident, but Karlton ordered a hearing on use of force reopened and has scheduled a court session partially devoted to Duran’s death for Monday afternoon.