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CA Prisons Letting Some Prisoners out of Solitary…..George Will on Solitary as Torture… Denver Schools Attempt to Break “School to Prison Pipeline”….

February 22nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


As more and more civil rights organizations and some lawmakers, push for a reexamination of prison policies that keep certain inmates
in solitary confinement for years, even decades, in October the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) revised its own policies regarding what can land an inmate in the SHU—or Special Housing Unit—which is solitary confinement. Since then it has been slowly letting some SHU inmates back into the general population.

Critics say the the revised policy doesn’t got nearly far enough.

Yet it’s a start.

The LA Times Paige St. John has more on this story.

Here’s a clip:

Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton this week said the agency has so far reviewed 144 inmates who were placed in the SHU because they allegedly associated with prison gangs, an activity that now no longer merits segregation. Of those reviewed, she said, 78 have been released into the general population and 52 have entered the “step down” program. An additional seven inmates have been retained in segregation, Thornton said, “for their safety,” and the remaining 10 have agreed to debrief, the term the corrections department uses for providing prison investigators information on gang activity.

Thornton said the department intends to eventually review all SHU inmates for possible release, though there are about 1,200 in segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison alone, some held there more than 20 years.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a federal lawsuit against the state contesting the indefinite stays, and Amnesty International last year released a report contending SHU conditions are inhumane.


GEORGE WILL WRITES ABOUT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AS TORTURE

Conservative columnist George Will writes a strongly worded column about why solitary confinement qualifies as torture.

Here’s how it opens:

“Zero Dark Thirty,” a nominee for Sunday’s Oscar for Best Picture, reignited debate about whether the waterboarding of terrorism suspects was torture. This practice, which ended in 2003, was used on only three suspects. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of American prison inmates are kept in protracted solitary confinement that arguably constitutes torture and probably violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.”

Noting that half of all prison suicides are committed by prisoners held in isolation, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) has prompted an independent assessment of solitary confinement in federal prisons. State prisons are equally vulnerable to Eighth Amendment challenges concerning whether inmates are subjected to “substantial risk of serious harm.”

America, with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of its prisoners. Mass incarceration, which means a perpetual crisis of prisoners re-entering society, has generated understanding of solitary confinement’s consequences when used as a long-term condition for an estimated 25,000 inmates in federal and state “supermax” prisons — and perhaps 80,000 others in isolation sections within regular prisons. Clearly, solitary confinement involves much more than the isolation of incorrigibly violent individuals for the protection of other inmates or prison personnel.

Federal law on torture prohibits conduct “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” And “severe” physical pain is not limited to “excruciating or agonizing” pain, or pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death.” The severe mental suffering from prolonged solitary confinement puts the confined at risk of brain impairment.

Supermax prisons isolate inmates from social contact. Often prisoners are in their cells, sometimes smaller than 8 by 12 feet, 23 hours a day, released only for a shower or exercise in a small fenced-in outdoor space. Isolation changes the way the brain works, often making individuals more impulsive, less able to control themselves. The mental pain of solitary confinement is crippling: Brain studies reveal durable impairments and abnormalities in individuals denied social interaction. Plainly put, prisoners often lose their minds.

I was happy to note that Will references “Hellhole,” the excellent 2009 article New Yorker article by surgeon/writer Atul Gwande that explores whether or not solitary confinement is torture. (If you’ve not read it, I strongly, strongly recommend it.)


DENVER SCHOOLS LEAD NATION WITH SMART DISCIPLINE POLICIES

This article by Julianne Hing in Colorlines Magazine has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Already home to one of the most progressive school discipline policies in the country, Denver has set out to best even its own record. On Tuesday, Denver Public Schools and local and county police departments inked a five-year agreement specifically designed to limit student interaction with the juvenile justice system. The agreement offers a rare example of a school system that is bucking the national trend toward criminalizing student misbehavior.

Just two months after the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., and in a state that has had its share of mass shootings, the Denver pact comes at a pivotal point in the national debate on firearms and school security.

The school system had already articulated a commitment to minimizing police contact with its students. But because of a lingering zero-tolerance framework that required harsh and automatic penalties for student misbehavior, the 15 officers assigned to the city’s schools were functioning as disciplinarians, meting out suspensions, expulsions and tickets for minor infractions like chewing gum, fighting in the schoolyard and exposing their tattoos.

The new agreement—the result of a collaboration between law enforcement, school officials and a Denver-based community organization called Padres y Jovenes Unidos—turns the concept of minimal police contact into an official, districtwide policy.

“This is a historic collaboration between a school district, a police department and an organization [that] represents parents and young people of color who are most impacted by these policies,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group that partnered with Denver-based Padres y Jovenes Unidos to secure the agreement.

With the new agreement, police officers are now being directed to know and observe the difference between disciplinary issues and criminal acts. Law enforcement officials have agreed that they will only respond to serious offenses. The district will use restorative justice practices to address routine student misbehavior.

“It’s not, ‘You did something wrong, go home for five days and watch television,’ ” Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the Washington Post. “It’s, ‘What did you do wrong? Who did you harm? How are you going to make them whole, and what are you learning from this?’ ”


SOCIAL TRENDS DRIVING GUN AND GANG VIOLENCE

The Atlantic’s Ta-nehisi Coates has a very interesting discussion about trends in gun violence with the Chicago Crime Lab’s Harold Pollack.

Here’s a clip:

Like everyone, we at The Atlantic have spent the weeks since Newtown thinking about the role of guns in America. In our ongoing effort to broaden the conversation, I spent some time talking to Professor Harold Pollack, who co-directs the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago. Pollack is one of the foremost voices on gun violence from a public health perspective. Pollack and his colleagues at the Crime Lab have done yeoman’s work in helping us understand how guns end up on the streets of cities like Chicago, and how precisely they tend to be used.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Hi, Harold. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us over here at The Atlantic. We’ve had several off-line conversations which have been illuminating to me. I greatly appreciate your willingness to take some time to do this for the Horde, as we say on the blog.

Harold Pollack: It’s great to correspond with you, Ta-Nehisi, regarding what can actually be done to reduce gun violence. I’m a big fan of your work. I should mention by way of self-introduction that I am a public health researcher at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Here in Chicago, we have become the focus of much national attention because we had our 500th homicide [of the year in 2012]. We’re sometimes called the nation’s murder capital — though this mainly reflects the fact that we are a big city. We’re more dangerous than L.A. or New York, but we’re actually in the middle of the pack when it comes to homicide rates. Still, we’re dangerous enough. The declining homicide rates in many prosperous and middle-class neighborhoods casts a harsh light on the high rates facing African-American (and to a lesser-extent) Latino young men on the city’s south and west sides. Lots to talk about. I am looking forward to talking. So let’s get to it.

I don’t know if I’ve told you how I come to this issue, but I should say for everyone reading this that I am from Baltimore — the West Side, as we used to call it. I came of age in the late 1980s and early 90s, a period in which violence spiked in our cities. I don’t know if Chicago today is as bad as it was in, say, 1988, but this was a period of deep fear for everyone in the black communities of Baltimore. And the fear was everywhere.

It changed how we addressed our parents. It changed how we addressed each other. It changed our music. The violence put rules in place that often look strange to the rest of the country. For instance, the mask of hyper-machismo and invulnerability — the ice-grill, as we used to say — looks strange, until you’ve lived in a place where that mask is the only power you have to effect a modicum of safety.

I’m in my late 40s. I was a typical suburban kid graduating high school outside New York. It wasn’t as tough for me as it was on the west side of Baltimore, but crime certainly touched my life. On one occasion, I was in Washington Heights on my way to an AP class at Columbia University. A group of middle-school or early-high-school kids jumped me in the subway station, and they attempted to wrest away my watch. My high school sweetheart had just given it to me; I didn’t want to give it up. So a kid grabbed me by the hair and smashed my head against the concrete floor until I finally relented. As you know, my cousin was beaten to death by two teenage house burglars a few years later.

So I remember very well both the fear and the anger that accompanies one’s sense of physical vulnerability. Of course this anger often comes with a race/ethnic/class tinge that poisons so much of what we are trying to do in revitalizing urban America.

Read on.

Posted in Gangs, guns, prison, prison policy, School to Prison Pipeline, solitary, torture, Uncategorized, Violence Prevention, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

On Warren Olney’s Which Way LA? About Releasing Women Inmates

September 15th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon


I was on Warren Olney’s Which Way LA? on Wednesday night talking about the impending transfer of women inmates
to various California counties—LA most prominently included—in order to finish their prison sentences at home. I was on along with California Department of Corrections spokesperson Terry Thornton and Don Thompson from the Associated Press.

You can listen to the podcast here.


AN INSIDER’S VIEW OF THE 9/11 PRISONER INTERROGATIONS

While we’re on the topic of podcasts, be sure to listen to the fascinating segment of NPR’s Fresh Air featuring former FBI agent and interrogator Ali Soufan who explains how it was that the U.S. government missed key opportunities to prevent terrorism attacks and find Osama bin Laden sooner because of “mismanaged interrogations and dysfunctional relationships within the government’s counterterrorism agencies.”

Then, as long as you’re on a roll, you also might want to listen to the Fresh Air interview with actress Margo Martindale, who absolutely must, must, MUST get a supporting actress Emmy for her role as Mags Bennett on the FX series Justified.

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

The Morality of “24″

May 25th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


After 8 seasons, Monday night was the last night of the series, “24.”

Most times, no matter its popularity, a TV series is just a TV series. But in the case of this TV show, when the series’ main character, Jack Bauer, was referenced more than once on the floor of Congress, and Bauer’s actions were trotted out as an exhibit A in the middle of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, by none other than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and then in 2007, the Dean of West Point, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, along with some FBI interrogators and representatives of Human Rights First, traveled to LA to ask the show’s creative team to tone down the torture scenes because of the impact they were having both on troops in the field and America’s reputation abroad. ….I think we can safely say that we’re in some other kind of realm that transcends the “it’s only a TV show” trope.

The series showrunner and exec-producer, Howard Gordon, was on Fresh Air on Monday and had his own answer to the controversy:

“To say that we’ve been some … mouthpiece for some political point of view — it’s not only specious — but I promise you, it is insane. Any fly on the wall and anyone who’s been there would tell you the same. So unfortunately, look — the show is a show for one thing. It’s a thriller in the vein of Bourne Identity or Rambo or Dirty Harry. And the hero finds the bad guy and shakes out of him where the bomb is. And again, the real-time scenario lent itself really well to that. Frankly, for the first five years, I don’t think you could find a single article or op-ed piece that used the word ‘torture’ or described that this was somehow morally repugnant or corrosive or anything. I think what happened was, when Abu Ghraib happened and Guantanamo happened — the show certainly benefited from some kind of post-9/11 wish fulfillment; you had a guy who cut to the chase, who did whatever was necessary, and again there was some wish fulfillment involved — I do think the show experienced some of the blowback. We did understand that the climate had changed, because of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, it had changed. … [A]nd it put us into a conundrum. Honestly, at the end of Season 6 — where Jack had been acting a certain way — we had a choice: Either we renounce the series and admit we’re a bunch of torture-mongering, morally corrosive torture pornographers or we find a way of confronting this issue and this changed world that we’re in. And, in a strange way, it gave us fodder for the seventh season.”

Yes, well…

As a die-hard “24″ fan I have long been ambivalent about some of the show’s script choices, but have hung in faithfully because the delights of the series seemed always to outweigh its unsettling downsides.

(That is with the exception of 2007′s notorious Season 6, which went completely and creepily off the rails, both in terms of its over embrace of brutality, and frankly, in terms of the quality of the writing in general. But then, as Gordon said, it recovered in Season 7 where it articulated some of the moral issues around torture, plus had some very nifty plot twists, so all was forgiven.

Or sort of forgiven. It was somewhat vexing that both Fox and Friends and Glenn Beck—whose moral compasses, such as they ever were, seem to have long ago rusted—became so ooozily enamored of the show in Season 7, that they failed to perceive its ambiguities and still managed to use it as ajustification for torture not a caution against it.)

And, nearly any pronouncement from former “24″ producer, and co-creator, Joel Surnow, was enough to make some of us wonder if we were, oh, I don’t know, risking the health of our immortal souls by watching the show at all. But Surnow is thankfully long gone.

Now the last few hours of Season 8 have taken us into what is, in many ways, the darkest place of all.

In hour 20, we had to watch as Jack coldly executed the latest CTU insider traitor, Dana Walsh. (“24″ has pioneered a whole new class of evil broads—13 female villains in total. They have ranged from the queen of them all, Nina Myers, through the very, very bad first lady, Sherry Palmer, to this season’s Dana Walsh, who managed to project a sort of sloe-eyed, sexy spawn of Satan look that became its own kind of special effect.)

In hour 21, there was the matter of Jack disemboweling the Russian sniper/assassin who killed FBI agent and Bauer paramour, Renee Walker—AKA Jack’s Last Chance for Happiness. Now most of us might honestly have wanted to disembowel the guy too, but most of us also, I trust, would have stopped short of it (even if there was the vague justification of getting the guy’s recently swallowed cell phone sim card).

Hour 22 featured Jack clad in an Imperial storm troopers-like outfit as he prepared to kidnap the divinely Nixonian ex-President Charles Logan who, after seeing the scarily helmeted Bauer approach in the distance, screams in high hysteria to his secret service agent “That’s Jack Bauer, he’s coming to get me!” (A great “24″ moment, as were nearly all of actor Gregory Itzin’s scenes this season.)

Finally, there was the very last two hours—which I am reluctant to give away here if you haven’t yet watched the finale. I can tell you that the poet Rumi was quoted well in a crucial moment of foreshadowing—and that, in the end, everything came down to Jack and Chloe O’Brien—Mary Lynn Rajskub’s sour-faced and fabulously courageous character creation.—which was exactly as it should be.

I can also tell you that, for me anyway, the finale was a worthy two hours with which to cap the best of the eight seasons—complicated, multi-shaded, possessed of the courage of its convictions, and fraught with the knowledge that cleaving to what is just and right and true is the only worthwhile path, no matter the cost (and that there will be a cost), but when the cleaving grows too single-minded and brittle, it has its own soul corroding moral dangers.

So what, in the end did it all mean? Was it only a TV show as its producers say? Was it a pop cultural reflection of our desire for good and evil to be clearly demarcated with bright, shining lines in a manner that real life rarely provides? Or did it start to actually affect in troubling ways the culture it purported to merely reflect in fantastical broad strokes (with no meal times or bathroom breaks)?

Or was it all of the above—and, on occasions, like Monday night, satisfyingly more.

I’ll go with the latter.

What do you think?

Posted in art and culture, arts, Civil Liberties, torture, US Government, writers and writing | 30 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts

March 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Prison-Health-Care-2

SHOULD THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA TAKE OVER PRISON HEALTH CARE?

No, I’m not kidding. The AP has the story.

The University of California will form a special committee to study whether it should take over inmate health care for the state’s troubled prison system, the chairman of the university system’s Board of Regents said this week.

Regents Chairman Russell Gould announced the committee, which university officials said will study issues including the cost, effect on labor relations, and the university’s liability in inmate lawsuits. Health care has been so bad in the state’s 33 adult prisons that a federal judge appointed a receiver in 2006 to make improvements.

A study by a company affiliated with the University of Texas has criticized the receiver for running up costs as part of the improvement effort. It projected California could save more than $4 billion over five years and $12 billion over 10 years by shifting control to the University of California…..

Scott Henson, of the always stellar Texas criminal justice blog, Grits for Breakfast, has some thoughts on the matter.


A COUNTERFACTUAL HISTORY OF THE US POLICY OF “ENHANCED INTERROGATION”

In the current New Yorker Magazine, Jane Mayer, author of the award-winning The Dark Side, reviews Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack, by former Bush speechwriter Marc A. Thiessen—and yanks the wings and legs off Thiessen’s “facts” one by one. To do so, Mayer uses solid, verifiable, reality-based information that she has acquired the old fashioned way—through real reporting.

The last ‘graph of Mayer’s review is clearly what she means to be the takeaway:

Thiessen’s effort to rewrite the history of the C.I.A.’s interrogation program comes not long after a Presidential race in which both the Republican and the Democratic nominees agreed that state-sponsored cruelty had damaged and dishonored America. The publication of “Courting Disaster” suggests that Obama’s avowed determination “to look forward, not back” has laid the recent past open to partisan reinterpretation. By holding no one accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did and didn’t protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to whitewash it.

Read the whole thing.


MEANWHILE, THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS DIVIDED ABOUT HOW TO HANDLE DETAINEES

Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times on Monday about the dueling secret memos dealing with how the US is—and isn’t—legally empowered to handle detainees who are deemed to be terrorism-related.

Here are the relevant 2 ‘graphs:


….behind closed doors, the debate flared again that summer,
when the Obama administration confronted the case of Belkacem Bensayah, an Algerian man who had been arrested in Bosnia — far from the active combat zone — and was being held without trial by the United States at Guantánamo. Mr. Bensayah was accused of facilitating the travel of people who wanted to go to Afghanistan to join Al Qaeda. A judge found that such “direct support” was enough to hold him as a wartime prisoner, and the Justice Department asked an appeals court to uphold that ruling.

The arguments over the case forced onto the table discussion of lingering discontent at the State Department over one aspect of the Obama position on detention. There was broad agreement that the law of armed conflict allowed the United States to detain as wartime prisoners anyone who was actually a part of Al Qaeda, as well as nonmembers who took positions alongside the enemy force and helped it. But some criticized the notion that the United States could also consider mere supporters, arrested far away, to be just as detainable without trial as enemy fighters.


THE CHURCH CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL AND SHOOTING THE MESSENGER

More than just a few Catholic church higher-ups have suggested in the last few days that the criticism leveled at the church and at Pope Benedict XVI for actions not taken to protect kids from pedophile priests—here and in Europe—amounts to Catholic bashing, or things even more conspiratorial

LA Times editorial board member Michael McGough blogs about the issue here.

He concludes (and I agree):

The pope may have plausible deniability in the cases reported by the New York Times. But the best defense for the Vatican and its supporters is to contest the accuracy of these and other reports, not to accuse journalists (or activists) of selective criticism, let alone an ignoble conspiracy. Playing the anti-Catholic card just won’t work. The sex-abuse scandal in the United States should have demonstrated that.

Posted in medical care, Obama, prison policy, Social Justice Shorts, torture | 5 Comments »

Social Justice Shorts: Thursday

December 17th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

Picture-4

(NOTE: The HP ad above was featured on the same page that contained Emily Bazelon’s Slate article below about the sexting and cyberbullying cases, and the juxtaposition struck me as…..um….amusing.)

LOOK, I TOO THINK JOHN YOO IS IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN, BUT GET A GRIP!

A group of lawyers and law students are demanding that Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, who works in AG Jerry Brown’s office, drop his plans to teach a constitutional law class with the UC Berkeley professor John Yoo next semester.

In case you’ve dozed off on the matter, John Yoo is the guy who wrote the infamous torture memos to justify the actions of the Bush administration when he was a US Justice Department lawyer from 2001 to 2003.

The SF Chronicle has the story. Here are some clips.

By instructing a class with Mr. Yoo, you are helping to legitimize his illegal and unethical actions,” organizations led by the National Lawyers Guild said Tuesday in an open letter to Deputy Attorney General David Carrillo, a doctoral candidate and instructor at the university’s Boalt Hall law school.

They asked Carrillo either to teach the course by himself, if the school will allow it, or to leave it to Yoo. Signers included the law school’s chapter of La Raza Law Students Association and the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture.

Oh, please. I’m all for prosecuting Yoo. If someone can find a legal way to wrap the law around him and squeeze a bit, that’d be excellent. (Unfortunately, I don’t think they can.)

But, otherwise, if some nice liberal guy from the AG’s office wants to teach with him, leave them the heck alone. Good education—particularly a law school education—-thrives on differing points of view.


IN FLORIDA, CLEMENCY IS NOT DEAD

The horrible murders committed by Maurice Clemmons , and the subsequent attacks on Mike Huckabee, have not exactly encouraged the notion of clemency. Nevertheless, Wednesday a Florida woman named Jennifer Martin who was serving 16 years for manslaughter, was set free by a four person parole board that included Florida governor Charlie Crist.

ABC news has the details.

The video of Martin’s first day out is from the St. Petersburg Times.


THE 9TH CIRCUIT, THE SUPREMES & THE “PERILOUS FRONTIER OF CYBERLAW”

(I just like writing that: “….the perilous frontier of cyberlaw.“)

Anyway, regarding the two new Supreme Court cases we’ve already talked about here: the Ontario cop sexting case, and the issue with the rights of mean kids who cyberbully, Slate’s legal writer, Emily Bazelon, has written a good column that explores the two cases recently accepted by the Supremes, and notes that the California’s 9th Circuit of Appeals is smack in the middle of both of them. In each instance, the judges of the 9th came down on the side of the rights of the individual.

(In the case of the mean girls, I think they’re right. In the case of the sexting cop…. hmmmmm… maybe yes, maybe no.)

In any event, Baselon’s column engages in an informative discussion of both cases. Here’s a clip:

Before Jeff Quon got a pager from the Ontario Police Department, where he’s a sergeant, he signed a blanket statement that he had he had “no expectation of privacy or confidentiality” when using city equipment for e-mail or the Internet. But then his supervisor put in place an informal policy that undercut the official one. The supervisor told cops who had the pagers that they could send 25,000 characters worth of text messages a month and then after that, pay for the extra messages—and if they did, avoid an audit. Quon went above the character limit a few months in a row, paying each time. Then his chief started to wonder about whether Quon was wasting time on the job and asked the pager service for the texts. It turned out that lots of them were notes about sex Quon had written to his girlfriend. Quon sued, arguing that the search of his texts was a violation of his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches at work.

In June 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with him.
He had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court said, given what his supervisor told him about paying for extra messages—the department’s “operational reality.” The court also found that there were other, less intrusive ways for the police chief to figure out whether Quon was frittering away his time: Warning him ahead of time to quit sending so many messages, asking him to count the characters himself, or asking him to cross out the personal parts before the department reviewed them.

This ruling, by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw for a panel of three judges, implicitly recognizes that company pagers and e-mail accounts often turn into personal ones. Sometimes, that saves employees’ time: If I’m not toggling back and forth between my Slate e-mail account and Gmail, my day is more streamlined (or so I tell myself). If your boss says you can use company technology for your own business, then you should be safe from unnecessarily intrusive searches—even if he’s contradicting some official blanket disclaimer in which you signed away your privacy rights without really paying attention.


SF SUPERVISOR CHRIS DAILY DROPS F-BOMB ON GEORGE GASCON’S HEAD

Also in the SF Chron, it seems that new San Francisco police chief, George Gascon, was roundly cussed out by Supervisor Chris Daly.

(Gascon, if you’ll remember, a longtime LAPD cop, used to be the Assistant Chief under Bill Bratton. Before he took the SF job, Gascon was rumored to be the front runner to replace Bratton as the L.A.C.O.P. So we in LA we are justified as viewing him as one of ours.)

In any case here’s a clip that explains the situation:

Supervisor Chris Daly got up from his seat, approached Gascón, cut him off to introduce himself and was heard dropping the f-bomb as he left the chambers in a huff. Gascón looked surprised, said it was nice to meet Daly and continued testifying.

[SNIP]

Apparently Gascón hasn’t reached out to Daly since taking the job several months ago, despite his focus on cracking down on drug dealing in the Tenderloin, the heart of Daly’s district.

“I don’t know if it’s good politics or not, but if I was a new department head, I would certainly reach out to every decision maker,” Daly told us.

He said he appreciates the focus on the Tenderloin, but disagrees with the “nickel and diming” approach of going after low-level users which is overcrowding jails and causing the Sheriff’s Department to go over budget. He’d like to see the bigger fish nabbed instead.

We heard reports that Daly said “F- you, F-you!” as he left the chambers. So was the f-bomb directed at Gascón? “I was muttering to myself, yes,” Daly confirmed. “I think probably it was more like f-ing a-hole. It wasn’t directed at him, and you know, I’m sure very few people could hear it.”

Evidently it was more than a few.

Posted in social justice, Social Justice Shorts, torture | 18 Comments »

Asking the Really Tough Questions About Torture

August 27th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?


(Favorite line: “We could use griffins
but we don’t use griffins and I think that’s what separates us from them.”)

(Second favorite line: “I’m Juliana McCannis filling in for Clifford Baines…who is vacuuming.”)

Posted in torture | 5 Comments »

Monday Social Justice Shorts

July 13th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

wendell-potter

MAYOR’S OFFICE RE-PROMISES THAT $500K TO HOMEBOY…BY SEPTEMBER

After reading Thursday’s blogpost about the money that the mayor’s office had promised—and not delivered—to money-strapped Homeboy Industries, Tim Rutten called Rev. Jeff Carr about the matter and Carr told him that Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy would have the money by September. Intending to hold Carr and the mayor to the promise, Rutten put it in his Saturday column.

Whether or not Homeboy will be able to keep its doors open until September, remains to be seen.

(In the meantime, don’t forget Homeboy’s virtual car wash.)

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SUMMER NIGHT LIGHTS SHOUT OUT FROM NY TIMES

On Sunday, the New York Times had a very nice story about the mayor’s Summer Night Lights program. Here’s a clip:

“I used to stay away and stay at home at night,” he said. “But I’m really not an indoor type. Now we can be here and have support.” Maybe Maximum, he said, “could grow up more free.”

Laura Lomeli, 24, waiting in line for popcorn nearby, agreed. “It’s not just for the kids; parents come and get to know each other,” she said. “We start to know who lives next door.”

After the softball game ended, two women pushed strollers across the empty field under bright lights. A toddler ran ahead into the shadows. Juan Duran, 13, and Joey Martinez, 16, stood near small skateboard ramps on an outdoor stretch of asphalt.

“My school doesn’t have summer school this year,” Juan said. “So it’s pretty cool having this.”

“You meet more friends here” than by “having nothing better to do and getting in trouble,” said Joey, one foot on his board. “I always stay here until midnight.”

******************************************************************************************************************

MORE ON ERIC HOLDER & THE POSSIBLE TORTURE PROBE

As news continued to break about former Vice President Cheney keeping information about…well…a whole lot of things from Congress, over the weekend both the Washington Post and Newsweek reported that Eric Holder may appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation practices—something that Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel is dead set against.

The Newsweek piece is the one to read if you haven’t already.

(SIDE NOTE: When I was in D.C. last month, I saw Holder speak on an entirely different issue in a small-ish venue, and found him, at least in that instance, to be intelligent, cautious, deliberative to a fault—overly so, if anything—not in the least arrogant, and very thoughtful in his reasoning.

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BILL MOYERS TAKES ON THE MEDICAL INSURANCE LOBBY

Friday night on his show, Bill Moyers was as fierce as any time within memory as he spent the hour showing the way that the big medical insurers like CYGNA and Blue Cross Blue Sheild have effectively controlled the discussion—and in some cases the media— when it comes to healthcare reform, while denying more and more Americans more and more coverage.

Moyers most impressive guest was former CYGNA executive-turned-whistle blower, Wendell Potter.

The whole program may be watched online—and I strongly recommend it.
Moyers is furious. We all need to be enraged. And do something about it.

Posted in Antonio Villaraigosa, Civil Liberties, Gangs, Public Health, Social Justice Shorts, torture | 4 Comments »

Why “Let’s Just Move On” Won’t Work

May 17th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon



One of the things I’ve learned in nearly 20 years of writing about street gangs,
is that for a man or woman who has been involved in gangs to truly rescue his or her life—and to heal from the scarring that deep involvement in gang life produces—one has to face the bad stuff, the damage that has been done—both by and to oneself. There are no short cuts. A reckoning is needed, a facing of the hard truths, a dark night of the soul, a clear-eyed assessment of whatever wreckage has occurred.

Anybody who’s been through therapy or some 12-step program or other knows that same rule: healing and health require that you take a good look at the wounds—both those caused, and those received.

The same is true for a nation. One cannot just sweep harmful acts under the rug and hope that they will all vanish. They won’t. The poison comes out one way or the other. Sunlight cleanses. A lack of open air merely causes festering.

That’s also what Frank Rich says-–only using other words— in his Sunday NY Times column.

Here’s how it opens:

To paraphrase Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

That’s why the president’s flip-flop on the release of detainee abuse photos — whatever his motivation — is a fool’s errand. The pictures will eventually emerge anyway, either because of leaks (if they haven’t started already) or because the federal appeals court decision upholding their release remains in force. And here’s a bet: These images will not prove the most shocking evidence of Bush administration sins still to come.

There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security. The piece is not the work of a partisan but the Texan journalist Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” the 2007 Bush biography that had the blessing (and cooperation) of the former president and his top brass. It draws on interviews with more than a dozen high-level Bush loyalists….

Read on.

(PS: Last night’s opening skit from SNL—embedded above— was pretty funny,
and, in it’s own tangential way, relates.)

Posted in National issues, National politics, Obama, torture | 30 Comments »

What Will We Do About the Matter of Torture?

May 11th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

torture-memo

As the once-taciturn Dick Cheney gallops from cable news show to cable news show
yammering about how many American lives would have been lost if the Bush Administration hadn’t ditched its morals and its regard for international law in order to enhancedly interrogate, the discussion about what if anything will be done about said interrogating continues to heat up.

NOTE: I really, really, really hope the White House releases
all the paperwork that Cheney says he wants released.

UPDATE: It looks like at least some of that material is indeed going to be released in the not terribly distance future.


THE POLITICAL RISKS OF TORTURE HEARINGS

Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle has a story that looks at the risks of having hearings on the Bush Administration’s interrogations policy—and the risks of not having them.

Of interest are the Chron’s couple of sidebars, one that details possible solutions to this political push-pull, and another that shows what California Dem politicians favor which torture probe solution.

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THE CRUELTY OF DENYING SLEEP

A front page article in Sunday’s LA Times talks extensively about how and why sleep deprivation, as an interrogation technique, is WAY creepier than we might have originally thought.

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LAWYERS WHO AUTHORIZED TORTURE DISGRACED THEIR PROFESSION

Over the weekend Ted Sorensen, former special counsel to US President John F. Kennedy, gave a commencement address at the University of Nebraska in which he said that the lawyers who authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques had “disgraced not only their country but their profession.”

And then the 81-year-old Sorenson really got irritated. Here’s just one small clip from the body of the speech:

One apologist for those mindless Justice Department opinions authorizing and justifying torture said by way of excuse: “Remember it was a time of high danger.”

High danger? Almost 47 years ago, the President of the United States
learned that the Soviet Union had suddenly, secretly rushed nuclear intermediate-range missiles onto the island of Cuba, 90 miles from our shores, with the apparent intent of using them for either nuclear obliteration or nuclear blackmail; and we entered a period that historians have subsequently called the most dangerous 13 days in the history of mankind. President Kennedy did not seek or claim extraordinary emergency legal authority. He did not order the imprisonment, much less the torture, of all Communists or Cubans in our country, nor have their telephones tapped without a warrant. Mindful of international law, he took America’s case to the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and he redesigned a proposed blockade of Cuba into quarantine against offensive weapons, carefully balancing deterrence and defense with dialogue and diplomacy, thereby avoiding both nuclear war and a diminution of our security or our adherence to international law.

There’s more here in Jurist.

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Earlier in the week, Jurist reported on Judiciary Committee chair, Patrick Lehey’s renewed call for a bi-partisan “Truth Commission.”

“I know some people say let’s turn the page,” said Lehey. “Frankly, I’d like to read the page before we turn it.”

Yep. A lot of us feel that way. In fact we deem it essential for the health of the country.

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PS: I hope that all of you who are mothers, have mothers, or know mothers had a delight-filled day yesterday. I had a wonderful day with my brilliant and handsome son, (plus his terrific girlfriend and a couple of happily beach-going dogs).

Torture was not discussed at all.

Posted in torture | 33 Comments »

RAPE, TORTURE…AND ISOLATION

May 1st, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

water-torturedm

I’m neck deep in writing and student paper correcting,
but here are some quick things to draw to your attention:

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RAPE AND RAPE KITS: WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM?

In the past I’ve written a little about the issue of the thousands of unprocessed rape kits , but yesterday, the NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof took quite a different angle in his interesting column on the problem titled, “Is Rape Serious?”

Here’s how it opens:

When a woman reports a rape, her body is a crime scene. She is typically asked to undress over a large sheet of white paper to collect hairs or fibers, and then her body is examined with an ultraviolet light, photographed and thoroughly swabbed for the rapist’s DNA.

It’s a grueling and invasive process that can last four to six hours and produces a “rape kit” — which, it turns out, often sits around for months or years, unopened and untested.

Stunningly often, the rape kit isn’t tested at all because it’s not deemed a priority. If it is tested, this happens at such a lackadaisical pace that it may be a year or more before there are results (if expedited, results are technically possible in a week).

Then Kristof goes on to say that he believes tthat, much of the problem is the fact that rape isn’t treated as seriously as other violent crimes. Read it. Then tell me what you think.

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SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AS TORTURE

Then earlier in the week, Wired Magazine’s Brandon Keim posed the same question that Atul Gawande posed so eloquently in the New Yorker a month ago in his remarkably elegantly written article Hellhole—namely: is solitary confinement torture?

However, Keim links his question to the discussions going on in the wake of the release of the infamous torture memos. Read it.

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WATERBOARDED IN WWII: A SURVIVOR WRITES ABOUT IT

As we continue to talk about what is or is not torture, last year
a former Japanese POW, who was a victim of waterboarding in 1943, recounted the damage it did to him.

“The physical damage suffered by victims of torture can usually be repaired,” he wrote. “But the psychological damage can never be repaired.”

Read the rest.

Posted in Civil Liberties, LAPD, torture | 31 Comments »

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