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LA County Approves Prop. 47 Outreach….Questions About CA’s Upcoming Foster Care Reform…and Kids with Leukemia Become Deputies for a Day

July 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS POTENTIALLY ELIGIBLE FOR PROP. 47 STILL NEED TO SUBMIT REQUESTS—COUNTY BOOSTS OUTREACH EFFORTS AS DEADLINE LOOMS

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by County CEO Sachi Hamai to allocate $6.6 million from the county’s budget to help approximately 500,000 people with felonies that qualify for reduction to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. The vote was 4-1 with Supe. Michael Antonovich dissenting.

The money will go toward services and outreach so that as many people as possible take advantage of the legal relief Prop. 47 offers before the law’s November 2017 deadline. (There’s also a bill working its way through state legislature that would extend the deadline, if there were good cause to do so.)

The Public Defender’s Office will kick off the outreach by mailing letters to potentially eligible people. “County departments, community-based organizations, advocates, and interested public and private agencies will also receive posters and flyers to advertise the opportunity for Prop 47 legal relief and services,” Hamai’s letter reads. And if a 10% response rate is not achieved, “then the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) will insert Prop 47 flyers into their regular correspondence to clients and advertisements will be placed on public transportation routes.”

As of April, the Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender’s Office had received over 54,000 Prop. 47 petitions, and filed over 31,000 petitions. This doesn’t include applications filed by private attorneys, but is certainly a far cry from the estimated 500,000 eligible people who still haven’t submitted requests. Part of the money will be used to add paralegals to the Public Defender and District Attorney’s offices to help with the anticipated increase in workload.

The funds will also be used to connect Prop. 47ers with mental health and substance abuse services, medical care, housing, and employment resources from community-based businesses and organizations.

NOTE: The Supes passed a separate motion that would task the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Probation, the District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Office of Diversion and Re-Entry, and other government entities and external organizations to research ways to reduce recidivism, including probation for misdemeanor offenders. We’ll have more on the motion later this week.


POTENTIAL PITFALLS FOR CALIFORNIA’S UPCOMING GROUP HOME AND CHILD-PLACEMENT REFORM PLAN

In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 403, a bill that will overhaul counties’ child welfare placement systems by eliminating traditional group homes, and by focusing on long-term placements with foster families, as part of a larger effort called the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). The changes are slated to go into effect by January 2017, and so far, California’s not ready for the switch.

At that time, the current controversial group home model will be thrown out in favor of short-term residential treatment centers (STRTCs) which will have to meet much higher standards of care than today’s group homes. Kids placed in the STRTCs will stay a maximum of six months while receiving specialized therapeutic treatment for mental health and other needs.

But what will happen to LA County’s high-needs foster children when the long-term group homes vanish and there are not enough foster families to go around? (USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism students Sara Tiano & Brittany Reid explored the issue in a story for WitnessLA.)

Writing for the Chronicle of Social Change, human services veteran and founder of the Family Care Network, Jim Roberts, reports that CCR was not designed specifically to improve the lives of children in the welfare system…it was designed to save California money. And unfortunately, without a major (and unlikely) boost to currently depleted foster parent ranks, the plan may be doomed before it even begins. Part of the problem, says Roberts, is that the state isn’t substantially increasing payments to foster families and foster family agencies, which would help with recruitment.

Roberts also points out that, so far, the state has been unwilling to pay foster parents an appropriate amount to take care of teenagers and hard-to-place high-needs, challenging foster kids who are extremely hard to place (and who often end up in group homes). Here’s a clip:

For the past couple of years, the state has been doling out more money to the counties to improve resource family retention and recruitment, but I can guarantee you, these are not the families who will be taking the youth coming out of group homes, many of which have significant behavioral, mental and emotional problems. The majority of these kids went into residential treatment because they needed it, not because there was a lack of placement options elsewhere.

Of equal concern is the fact that the state is not willing to appropriately pay foster parents what it takes to serve high-needs, challenging foster youth. The “new” CCR rates include, at best, a paltry rate increase, but actually decrease some rates to foster parents who provide certain levels of care, including those who care for teenagers. We should be doubling or tripling the amount paid to our foster parents who are working with challenging youth 24/7.

My agency, the Family Care Network, has been successful in working with the county to cobble together multiple funding sources in order to pay foster parents one of, if not the, highest rate in the state. But it is still not enough, nor has it helped much in our recruitment efforts.

One ray of hope in the resource family reimbursement debacle is therapeutic foster care (TFC). Yes, TFC will provide additional payment to “therapeutic foster parents” working with an FFA. But they must meet stringent vetting and training requirements, they must participate in the clinical process and complete required daily documentation, and the foster youth must meet “medical necessity” in order to qualify for mental health services. Plus, the FFA must be a qualified specialty mental health services provider with a contract to receive reimbursement. The long and short of this is that it will benefit a handful of foster parents at best, providing that you can find these families.

Another demonstration of the state’s lack of insight concerns probation youth within the juvenile justice system. These kids are one of the higher consumers of group home services and the plan is to move many of them into the community. Again, the “new” rate structure does not provide any accommodation for serving this high-risk, offender population. Most of these youth do not “meet medical necessity” and would not qualify the foster parent to receive the TFC rate augmentation. And I rather doubt there will be many – if any – foster families willing to take in a juvenile offender without substantial reimbursement and the necessary intensive services and supports.


A 13-YEAR-OLD WITH LEUKEMIA TO BECOME DEPUTY FOR A DAY, THANKS TO A CARING DEPUTY AND HER COWORKERS AT THE LASD INDUSTRY STATION

Today (Wednesday), Julian Cardenas, a 13-year-old with leukemia, will become an honorary deputy for a day at Industry Sheriff’s Station.

When Deputy Marianne Oliver responded to a call to help Julian back in May, she connected with the boy, who she learned was struggling with the fact that he could not play with his peers outside, or regularly attend school while undergoing treatment. Oliver, who felt she needed to do something beyond the standard call for service, shared Julian’s story with her fellow deputies, who decided to surprise Julian by making him honorary deputy at their station.

Today, Oliver will pick Julian up in an LASD Camaro show car, and take him to the station, where we will be sworn in, receive a tour of the station, train in the weapons training simulator, and visit the Special Enforcement Bureau Special Weapons Team, K-9 and Aero Bureau deputies. Oliver and her coworkers will also present Julian with a bunch of challenge coins and souvenirs from different LASD departments.

The Industry Station will also host a barbecue fundraiser to help Julian and his family.

ANOTHER HONORARY DEPUTY: TWELVE-YEAR OLD BOYLE HEIGHTS BOY FIGHTING LEUKEMIA

Upon hearing the story of Alfonso Hoffman—a 12-year-old in Boyle Heights who is fighting leukemia, and who dreams of one day becoming a K9 officer, the LASD’s Transit Policing Division swore Alfonso in as an honorary deputy for a day. Alfonso was given a tactical vest, rode in a armored truck, and trained with the department’s explosives detection dogs.

Alfonso, who faces three years of chemotherapy treatment, thanked the transit deputies officers with tears in his eyes. “It’s been an honor,” Alfonso said.

(We also recommend heading over to ABC7, where you can watch a video of Alfonso being sworn in.)

Posted in Propositions, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

What to Expect When Lee Baca To Be Sentenced Monday Morning

July 18th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


On Monday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson will announce
what sentence he believes is appropriate for former Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca.

There are a number of factors that could influence Anderson’s decision.

But, we’ll get to all that in a minute. First let’s quickly review how we got here:

In late 2015, it became fairly clear to Baca and his attorneys that the former sheriff was very likely going to be indicted for some part of his alleged participation in obstructing the FBI’s investigation into corruption and brutality by deputies in the LA County jail system. With this in mind, toward the end of last year—according to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office—Baca’s people floated the idea of a deal. However, it took until the first week of February 2016 for the final language of the plea deal to be nailed down in a flurry of negotiations.

Finally, it was agreed that Baca would plead to one count of lying to federal officials. Specifically, according to the feds, the former sheriff replied falsely to certain questions when he was interviewed in April 2013 by members of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office, having to do with Baca’s knowledge of alleged attempts by LASD personnel working under him to obstruct the aforementioned federal investigation.

In return for the plea, the government would recommend a sentencing range of between zero to six months, but not to exceed six months. Additionally, Baca would agree not to contest certain other accusations, but would not plead guilty to them.

For their part, prosecutors would agree not to bring charges based on those acts that the sheriff would not contest.

And so it was that, on the morning of February 10, 2016, the deal was announced, and in the afternoon Baca pleaded guilty to that one count of lying before Judge Percy Anderson. All that remained was for Anderson to actually sentence Baca.

There was one small caveat: for the deal to remain in place, Anderson’s sentence must stay within the agreed upon 0-6.

Until the plea hearing, it was pretty much assumed that Anderson would stay within the 0-6 boundary because, should Anderson decided to give Baca a sentence greater than six months, this would effectively dynamite the deal, bringing everyone back to pre-deal conditions where the government was prepared to indict Baca and take him to trial, an outcome that nobody really wants.

But during that February hearing, while the judge didn’t say he’d exceed the 0-6 boundaries, Anderson also made it clear that he legally could go as high as five years, leading some court watchers to wonder if the judge might be toying with the notion of going at least a little higher.

Or then again, maybe not.


NO PRISON TIME, PROBATION ONLY

As one might expect, Baca’s team of attorneys, led by Michael Zwieback, has asked the court to sentence the former sheriff to probation only.

Baca “did the unthinkable,” wrote Zwieback and company in a 30 plus-page sentencing memo. But “he accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty to a crime.”

Baca is seventy-four years old, his attorneys wrote of their client. “He has early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He needs constant monitoring, prescription medications, and any treatment that may slow or stall the progression of this degenerative disease. No one contends that he is a threat to the community. He will not offend again. All conditions support a probation only sentence.”

(Lead defense attorney Zweiback is, by the way, a former assistant U.S. attorney.)

The former sheriff’s attorneys also told the judge that, if Baca was not sentenced to prison, he would be accepted into a clinical study at UCLA that might change the course of his disease, plus as a former high profile member of law enforcement, along with his medical condition, he would be a target for victimization in a federal prison.

The 36-page brief was accompanied by scores of letters from supporters that include sports personalities, religious figures, former jail inmates, at least two former California governors, and a lot of other names that you would know.

The elephant in the room, however, when it comes to Baca’s sentencing, is the fact that seven people to date working under the former sheriff, and to whom he directly, or through the chain of command, gave orders, have already been given federal prison terms by Judge Anderson ranging from 18 months to 41 months. And those sentences are arguably, at least in part, a consequence of the orders Baca allegedly gave. And then there is former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, who received a sentence of 60 months.

Baca’s attorneys argue that those other cases and sentences don’t apply because their client is to be sentenced for the crime of making a false statement in connection with a single interview, not with obstruction, bribery or any of the other alleged Illegal acts on which the other “Related Cases” are based.


A STUDY IN CONTRASTS

The prosecution, in contrast, wants Judge Anderson to give the former sheriff a sentence of six months in a federal prison.

“Defendant Leroy Baca is a study in contrasts,” prosecutors Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes, and Eddie Jauregui wrote in their most recent sentencing brief. “He was a champion of certain reforms in the criminal justice system, yet ignored warnings that his deputies were committing serious abuses in the Los Angeles County jails” and became “angry that the federal government was investigating his department”

Baca, they wrote, issued orders that,” taken literally, may not have been corrupt,” but were carried out, without Baca’s objection, in a manner that was corrupt.

And then he “lied to the federal government.”

As for the matter of the former sheriff’s Alzheimer’s, the prosecutors contend that, while Baca “suffers from a mild cognitive impairment” it should not preclude a sentence like the six months they propose.

In a separate 10-page declaration, Dr. James Pelton, Regional Medical Director for the Western Region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, assured the judge that “Mr. Baca’s medical condition is not unusual in the BOP.”As discussed below,” Pelton wrote, “there are hundreds of inmates who have cognitive impairment that is more severe than Mr. Baca’s condition. Additionally, contrary to the assertion of Mr. Baca…it is very likely that Mr. Baca would continue to be able to take medication prescribed to him to treat his disease while incarcerated. I make this statement as the person who would be deciding whether Mr. Baca 2 would receive this medication….”


ABOVE THE LAW

Near the end of their brief, the prosecutors pointed to an incident that they said suggested that the former sheriff still felt he had done nothing wrong, and that he was “above the law” and that he “refuses” even now “to acknowledge the problems within the Los Angeles County jails.”

The were referring to Baca’s May 29, 2016, speech and interview given when he was honored on May 29, 2016, by a Jewish organization.

At that time, Baca stated he was not afraid of jail. “I’m not afraid of
anything….” he said. “I can serve time, I don’t care what the circumstances are…I’ll stand on my record proudly, anywhere, whether it’s in the free world or in jail.”

Similarly, although it was too recent to make it into their brief, the prosecution was also reportedly very interested in a panel with which the former sheriff participated this past Friday, July 15, entitled Every Life Matters – Solving the Imbalance of Race Relations From Both Sides.


WHAT WILL ANDERSON DO?

So will Anderson go with six months, or probation only? Or will he blow up the deal?

Those reading tea leaves, point to Anderson’s harsh remarks after he sentenced Gilbert Michel (the deputy who accepted a bribe to bring in the cell phone to inmate/FBI informant Anthony Brown), and then the scorched earth lecture he gave to Paul Tanaka before he handed down the undersheriff’s sentence.

If by some chance Anderson decides to go above the 0-6 boundary on Monday, Baca and his attorneys will have a decision to make. They can roll the dice and go to trial where, in addition to the public spectacle, if Baca loses, the judge can give him up to 5 years, which is what he gave Tanaka.

Or, if the sentence isn’t too excessive, Baca could elect to cut his losses and decide to keep the deal in place.

In any case, Monday morning all speculation will end, and we will learn what sentence Judge Percy Anderson considers just.

So…stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

LA Board of Supes Votes to Speed Up Use of Body-Cams for Sheriff’s Deputies

July 13th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



CITING RECENT EVENTS, SUPERVISORS VOTE TO PUSH FOR LASD BODY-CAMS ASAP

On Tuesday, members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to speed up the full implementation of body-worn cameras by LA County Sheriff’s deputies.

Although the motion, which was sponsored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, had been in the works for a few weeks, the events of the past week in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, gave Tuesday’s vote an unusual urgency.

That sense of urgency multiplied by several factors as, a few blocks away from the where the supervisors met, hundreds of demonstrators reacted to a decision by the Los Angeles Police Commission, which found that the highly controversial 2015 fatal shooting of a 30-year-old black woman named Redel Jones by an LAPD officer did not violate the department’s deadly force policy.

“Today’s action signals the Board’s commitment to making whatever investments are necessary to minimize the unnecessary loss of life and to heal tension between law enforcement and the community,” said Supervisor Solis. “Body worn cameras protect our officers and members of the public, and they must be implemented without delay….”

Co-author Sheila Kuehl, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (who offered an amendment to the motion having to do with finding secure data storage methods) both addressed the issue directly.

“Concern about police use of force is very high,” said Kuehl. “We need to better address allegations of misconduct and increase public trust of law enforcement. I believe use of body-worn cameras will help move us in that direction,”

Ridley-Thomas was even more specific, mentioning “controversial officer-involved shootings,” including the shooting of Philando Castile in Saint Paul, MI.

“The point is,” he said, “to get to the truth and to justice. These tools will help us.”

The motion requests that Sheriff Jim McDonnell report back to the board in four months with a reasonable plan to equip all patrol deputies with body-worn cameras as quickly as possible.


DEPUTIES WANT BODY-CAMS TOO

The push is also expected to be widely welcomed by LA County deputies, as well

In September 2014, the department began an eight-month volunteer pilot program to test body cams at four LASD stations—namely, Carson, Century, Lancaster, and Temple. The program tested four brands and five models of body-worn camera systems, deploying a total of 96 cameras. Over the course of the eight months of the pilot program, the department solicited detailed feedback from the participants, through both electronic questionnaires and focus groups that were held at each of the four stations. T

The Inspector General’s office monitored the program and issued a report in September 2015.

According the report, although some of the stations were located in high crime areas, while others dealt with somewhat less intense crime levels, the feedback from the deputy participants was remarkably similar in all four stations.

All of the deputies who participated in the pilot program’s focus groups said that the body cams “would be a huge asset.” Deputies believed that the cameras would protect them from “baseless civilian complaints,” explaining that, on patrol, “you’re being recorded everywhere you go.” So having a body-worn camera would, deputies felt, more accurately document events from the officers’ perspectives.

Deputies also felt that viewing footage from an event after the fact, helped them write more accurate reports.

According to the report, a number of deputies told examiners that they missed the cams when the program was over.

ALADS, the deputies’ union, has also been vocally in favor of getting a department-wide body cam program going.


A TOOL FOR REFORM

“Video recording is a critical component of modern urban policing,” concluded the OIG in the 2015 report. “Video technology is now so advanced that it is present in almost every pocket, attached to the heads of skateboarders, and hovering above us as part of what we once called model aircraft. Failure to incorporate that technology is not just a missed opportunity, but a shortcoming that the public is increasingly unwilling to accept…”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Inspector General Max Huntsman renewed his recommendation that the board move on the matter, ASAP.

If the board was “looking to reform the sheriff’s department,” Huntsman told the supervisors, the body cams were the best place to begin. “It’s a win-win.”


TRENDING BODY-CAMS

Not surprisingly, the push for body-worn camera gained traction elsewhere in the nation this week as Boston officials announced—also on Tuesday—that up to 100 Boston patrol officers will begin wearing body cameras likely next month, after a deal was reached between the city and the police department’s largest union to launch a six-month test of the devices.

“The agreement,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Jan Ransom, “means Boston police will join a growing number of departments across the country that have chosen to outfit their officers with cameras, at a time when controversial police shootings have prompted complaints about misconduct in several communities.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Two Homeboy Industries Trainees Bring Water to Flint, MI, on Independence Day Weekend

July 11th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


EDITOR’S NOTE: As we make our way through these difficult, division-haunted days, take a break to read a story that offers some much-needed light.



UNLIKELY ACTIVISTS

Over the 4th of July weekend, two Los Angeles teenagers flew a round trip of nearly 5000 miles to bring water and various other supplies to around 200 undocumented residents of Flint, Michigan. The two had spent months raising the money necessary to pay for their trip to Michigan, and to buy the goods they would deliver once they got there.

On the surface, the twosome—Bryan Martinez, 18 and Carizma Brown, 19—were an unlikely pair to take on the challenge. For one thing, neither one of them, had flow in a plane before. Nor had they been out of LA, for that matter. And they had exactly zero experience in fundraising, or any kind of activism.

Bryan’s family is from El Salvador and Carizma is African American, yet the two have been best friends since they were 11, in part because they have a lot in common, much of it painful.

Bryan has been in and out of foster homes for most of his childhood, and has struggled to have have any kind of safe home environment.

Carizma lived with her mother for at least part of her growing up but, like her best friend Bryan, her homelife was anything but stable.

“These are two youngsters who have been impacted by ongoing poverty and violence,” said Dr. Cesar Cruz, who did his Harvard University doctoral residency at Homeboy Industries, where the teenagers are involved in a job training program. Cruz also became Bryan and Carizma’s mentor for the project, and their chaperone when they flew to Flint. “They’re not in gangs,” explained Cruz, “but a lot of times people think they are. And they’re impacted by gangs, trauma and instability, because of where they live.”

Although both teenagers are clearly bright, neither did well in traditional schools. Thus they wound up at Learning Works Charter School, an individualized learning program that operates in partnership with Homeboy Industries.

Even at Learning Works, according to Cruz, the teens struggled in the beginning to recover enough credits to get firmly on the road to graduation. (They expect to graduate next June.)

“But they wanted to be challenged,” Cruz said. “And they had a strong interest in social justice.” Thus when, as part of their studies, they read about the water contamination catastrophe in Flint, they became fascinated by the fact that the residents of an American city didn’t have enough of a basic necessity of living—water.


NO IDENTIFICATON, NO WATER

It was Carizma who first got the idea of turning their interest into action, said Cruz. She began bugging her best friend Bryan, “and they cooked up a plan.”

Bryan, in particular, was stunned by the idea of people in the U.S. without safe drinking water. “Water is an main need in life,” he said,”and seeing that people were having trouble getting it…it made us want to do something. We wanted to show that young people were concerned with other people, not just ourselves.”

They were also interested in the fact that, while Flint had been a big story, it had fallen out of the headlines. Most of the famous people had gone home. But the problem was far from over. People were still suffering.

Among the sub-issues within the crisis that Bryan and Carizma discovered was the fact that many among Flint’s undocumented population of several hundred residents were having trouble getting water and other crucial supplies that were being provided to those in need, because they had no valid IDs and, even when they did, they were fearful about disclosing their immigration status.

The idea of helping out Flint’s comparatively small undocumented population made the project seem manageable, according to Cruz.

But, how to find Flint’s undocumented residents?


FORMING A PLAN

In one of the news stories they found in the course of their research, they noticed the name of a Catholic Church located in Flint: Our Lady of Guadalupe. Having no other leads, they the two called the church. The parish secretary, a woman named Mary Mosqueda, happened to answer the phone. Bryan and Carizma explained what they wanted to do.

By the end of the conversation, Ms. Mosqueda had agreed to help the twosome.

“Don’t worry so much about water,” she told them. “People need baby wipes and adult wipes” in order to bathe.

Now that they had an on-the-ground contact and a reasonably practical plan, their next step was to make a budget. After doing the math, they determined they’d need to raise around $5000 to accomplish their goals. After that, they printed flyers for their project, which they handed out at the yearly Homeboy picnic, which draws about 300 Homeboy employees and supporters.

“They hit everyone up for donations,” said Cruz.

But, while Bryan and Carizma’s enthusiastic badgering of the picnic attendees did produce results, it wasn’t anywhere nearly enough.

Next, they turned to social media. With the help of Cruz and others, they made a promotional video and pitched their cause on IndieGoGo.

It worked. They didn’t raise the full $5000, but they managed to pull in $3825. Homeboy and Learning Works agreed to loan them the rest, until they could gather the remaining cash.


SAM’S CLUB STEPS UP

Bryan and Carizma flew to Flint on Friday July 1, and hit the ground running. They liked the symbolism of doing their outreach on Independence Day weekend, said Cruz.

On Saturday morning, they went into Sam’s Club to buy the needed water and wipes—after comparison shopping and finding that Sam’s had had the best prices for what they wanted to purchase in bulk. It turned out to be a felicitous choice because, at Sam’s Club, persuasive Carizma was able convince the store’s manager to match any of the money they spent in the store, dollar for dollar.

“The manager cared because this was her town,” said Cruz.

On Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday, they delivered the supplies to the church, and at other locations that their new Flint friends suggested. They also spoke at Our Lady of Guadalupe in front of the congregation. “They were powerful. Afterward, all these people came up and hugged them,” said Cruz.

Prior to coming to Flint, Carizma and Bryan decided they wanted to make a documentary covering what they experienced, so they came armed with cameras.

During their time in Flint, they were stunned by the poverty and the suffering they saw around them. .

As difficult as their own lives have been, they saw greater suffering in Flint, he said. It affected them to the point that they had trouble sleeping.

“I was talking to kids while I was giving out water,” explained Carizma, “and they weren’t eating good, they had rashes on their skins. And these are kids who are, like, seven years old.”

One antidote to their upset, seemed to be to film the pain they saw, with the idea of showing spreading the word beyond Flint. But it wasn’t all suffering, they were quick to note. They found significant pockets of hope provided by the many instances of local activism Bryan and Carizma witnessed.

“They filmed everything,” said Cruz. “They had no fear. They went into crack houses, they went into housing projects. They went everywhere, and talked to everyone.”

Bryan and Carizma hope to have a half-hour documentary ready in time to present at an event held at the California Endowment in August that draws leaders who work with populations like those at Homeboy, from around the globe.

And they’ll do it, said Cruz. “They’re on fire right now. They’re ready change the world….”

In the meantime, on July 5, Bryan and Carizma’s first day back at Homeboy, the two agreed to give the “Thought of the Day” at Homeboy’s morning staff meeting.

Carizma, normally the most facile public speaker of the two, grew suddenly shy, but still persevered, telling those assembled that her thought for the day was “Be grateful for what you have, because in Flint they don’t even have water.”

Posted in Homeboy Industries, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Sentencing Day Arrives for Former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka

June 26th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



Paul Tanaka, the former undersheriff of the Los Angeles County,
will be sentenced on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. by U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson.

The arguments have been made and remade by the prosecution and the defense regarding what kind of sentence Judge Anderson ought to hand down to the man who was, for years, considered the real power behind the throne of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.

Tanaka’s legal team, Dean Steward and Jerome Haig, asked (not surprisingly) that their client be given probation—arguing that, far from being the “ringleader” that the prosecution had portrayed him to be, Mr. Tanaka was completely peripheral to the crimes of which he was convicted.

(The former second in command of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice pertaining to allegations that Tanaka personally directed and oversaw deliberate efforts to upend the FBI’s investigation into a culture of brutality and corruption inside the LA County jails, which began in 2010.)

Tanaka and his lawyers further argued that it was Sheriff Lee Baca who ran the show. Any crimes that were committed, they wrote, were “planned, directed and carried out by Leroy Baca, the former Sheriff for the County of Los Angeles.”

All the while, according to the defense, Tanaka was “…a fearless executive in the Department who fought to weed out problem deputies, not encourage them. The only culture he fostered was excellence and he made daily efforts to accomplish it.”

In response to this rosy portrait of defendant Tanaka, the prosecution— namely Assistant United States Attorneys Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes and Eddie Jauregui—reiterated in scathing detail the reasons why they have recommended a sentence of 60 months—or five years—in a federal lock-up:

Defendant Paul Tanaka’s defiance is on full display in his sentencing brief,” the prosecutors wrote. “Rather than accept the judgment of the jury based on the mountain of evidence against him, defendant attempts to shift the blame, minimize his role, and redefine himself. He takes no responsibility for his actions and shows no remorse….

“Despite his claims in his sentencing memorandum, “defendant is the same person who: (a) led the conspiracy that sought to obstruct an investigation into deputies physically abusing inmates; (b) protected rogue deputies who trampled on the rights of those they encountered inside the jail and on the streets; and (c) encouraged deputies everywhere to operate in the ‘gray area’ of the law.”

in the end, of course, it really only matters what Judge Anderson thinks.

Whatever the outcome, Monday promises to be a strange and historic day in the life of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, and of the County of Los Angeles.

So….stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Prosecutors Call for 5 Years in Prison for Former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka

June 13th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



THE RINGLEADER FROM THE BEGINNING

“Defendant Paul Tanaka is responsible not only for obstructing justice, but also for fostering the culture that led to the significant problems in the Los Angeles County jails….While defendant claimed at his and three previous trials that he had only limited involvement in the conspiracy, the evidence showed instead that he was the ringleader from the beginning.
”

So begins the 23-page sentencing memorandum filed last week, in which government prosecutors ask U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson to sentence Paul Tanaka, the former second in command at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, to 60 months—or 5 years—in federal prison.

Tanaka, as most readers know, was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, on April 6. He is due to sentenced by Judge Anderson on Monday, June 27.

The government’s sentencing memorandum makes for interesting reading. In it U.S. Attorneys Brandon Fox, Lizabeth Rhodes, and Eddie Juaregui not only reiterate the crimes for which Tanaka was convicted, they also paint a picture of a rogue supervisor who fostered a toxic culture that allowed for a pattern of civil rights abuses and corruption in the LA County jail system, and beyond. This pattern of abuse, say the prosecutors, led to the multi-year FBI investigation that Tanaka was convicted of obstructing.

And Tanaka wasn’t just any participant, the prosecutors write. He was “in charge of” the obstructive operation, was “involved in all aspects of the obstruction,” and he “set the tone of the operation early and repeatedly with his ‘F**k the FBI’ statements.”


THE CONTEXT AND THE CRIME

This attitude of Tanaka’s was not a new one, according to the prosecutors. It was, they contend, his signiture style as a supervisor that created the context for the crimes of which he and other department members have been convicted:

“During his time as an executive,” they write, “[the} defendant threatened to discipline supervisors who frequently referred deputies to Internal Affairs, transferred Captains who tried to reduce deputy abuse and break up cliques, instructed deputies to work in the ‘gray area’ of law enforcement, and expressed his desire to gut Internal Affairs. Defendant’s actions caused deputies to believe that they could act with impunity, which, unfortunately, they did much too frequently.”

Moreover, according to the prosecution, Tanaka “chose as his co-conspirators those who were ordinarily supposed to investigate the same type of crimes that they began covering up.”

The specifics of crimes of which Tanaka has been convicted are as follows: from mid-August 2011 through September 26, 2011, in a series of actions that came to be known, unofficially, Operation Pandora’s Box, Mr. Tanaka and department members under his direction, devised a scheme to hide a jail inmate turned-confidential informant from his FBI handlers through a complicated strategy of multiple name changes that made the federal informant, Anthony Brown, appear to vanish from the LA County jail system by making his name and distinguishing details vanish from the jail database.

The government also described how department members under Tanaka’s command attempted to intimidate potential witnesses, who had information about deputy wrongdoing, into refusing to cooperate with the FBI. Then the same group falsely threatened an FBI agent with arrest in an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate her into giving them information about the ongoing federal investigation.

For all these actions, say the prosecutors, Paul Tanaka was “the ringleader.”


COMPARATIVE SENTENCING

In the memo, the government notes that the other seven former department members who were convicted of obstruction of justice for participation in the same actions that Tanaka has been convicted of directing and influencing, have been given sentences ranging from 18 months for then-deputy James Sexton, to 37 and 41 months, respectively, for former lieutenants Greg Thompson and Stephen Leavins, at the top end, with former deputies Gerard Smith and Mickey Manzo, plus former sergeants Maricela Long and Scott Craig, receiving sentences in between.

The government makes the logical case that since Tanaka was the guy in charge, the shot caller, he must get the longest sentence.

The prosecutors also address the Baca factor, which the defense will undoubtedly point to vigorously when they argue for a lower sentence.

Former sheriff Lee Baca, as most of you are aware, made a plea deal with the feds in early February of this year, in which he admitted to lying to federal agents about his part in this whole mess. In return, the feds have agreed to a sentence of between 0 to 6 months in federal prison.

(Anderson will be sentencing Baca on July 11, at which time the judge is theoretically supposed to hand down a sentence between those guidelines. Yet legally, Anderson could sentence Baca to as much as five years, or anything in between. However if Anderson goes at all outside the 0 to 6 parameter, then the plea deal becomes null and void—unless Baca and his attorneys decide to accept a higher sentence rather than lose the plea deal, and move to an indictment.)

In the Tanaka sentencing memo, the prosecutors don’t exactly argue that Baca is less guilty than Tanaka, but that the “quantity and the quality” of the evidence they have against Lee Baca is less than the mounds they have against Tanaka. In other words, you charge what you can dead bang prove.

Then, in a curious sentence near the end of the memo, in which the prosecutors call the judge’s attention to “the issues raised in Baca’s PSR. Those issues place him in a very different position than the others involved in this case,” they write.

“PSR” stands for Pre Sentencing Report, the report written up by probation officials with a sentencing recommendation, that the judge may follow or disregard. We don’t know what “issues” to which the government is referring in their reference to the “PSR,” but our best guess is that the former sheriff is claiming health issues that he and his attorney maintain should preclude him from going to prison.

We’ll see what Judge Anderson makes of all this on June 27—And then again, on July 11, when he sentences former sheriff Baca.

In the meantime, former Deputy Gilbert Michel will be sentenced Monday morning.


You can find the government’s Tanaka sentencing memo here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments »

THE LASD SAGA CONTINUES: Another LA Sheriff’s Deputy Soon to be Sentenced….Retired Sheriff Lee Baca Unconcerned with “Jail”….LASD & DA Investigated Baca & Pal, Bishop Turner

June 6th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



Former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Michel will be sentenced next week.

Michel, if you remember, was caught in an FBI sting inside Men’s Central Jail in 2011.

At the time, the FBI was investigating multiple reports of what sounded like credible accounts of inmates being brutalized by deputies, or observing others being brutalized, to the point that “there appeared to be a pattern,” as Assistant U.S. Attorney Liz Rhodes explained during one of the government’s criminal cases against former sheriff’s department members.

But such allegations are tough to prove. “Inmates could be discredited,” Rhodes pointed out. “And the jails were controlled by the very people the FBI wanted to investigate.”

So the feds launched a number of quiet strategies, one of which was an undercover sting involving inmate/informant Anthony Brown, who said that he knew deputies who would bring in contraband in return for money.

And so it was that deputy Gilbert Michel was paid by a supposed Brown confederate, but in fact an undercover FBI agent, to bring a cell phone to Brown inside Men’s Central Jail, in return for a cash bribe. For additional money, Michele continued to charge Brown’s new cellphone.

A week or so later, the cell phone was discovered by a deputy in a routine search, Brown was found to be a federal informant, all hell broke loose, and the feds pounced on Michele who eventually made a plea deal with the government in return for his cooperation.

Now it remains for him to be sentenced.

The question is, will he get more or less time than the 0 to 6 months that has been offered to former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca in return for his plea deal.

The prosecution has asked for four months of home confinement citing a great many factors including his cooperation, his important and affecting testimony “against more senior deputies, sergeants,
lieutenants, and ultimately the Under-sheriff of his former department. The government believes that his testimony was important to securing those convictions.”

Baca, just to remind you, is due to be sentenced on July 11. Paul Tanaka is due to be sentenced on June 27.


FORMER LA COUNTY SHERIFF BACA SAYS “NOT AFRAID OF JAIL,” STANDS ON RECORD “PROUDLY”

And on the topic of Baca’s sentencing…..

“I’m not afraid of jail. I’m not afraid of anything.”

(By the way, we think Baca meant “prison,” not “jail,” a distinction one would think he’d have mastered by now. But, no matter.)

That’s what former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca told the Jewish Journal’s Ryan Torok in an interview published last week, which took place after the former sheriff was honored at a celebratory breakfast by Congregation Bais Naftoli for “his years of friendship to the Jewish community.”

Some of the notable quotes from Baca’s post-breakfast interview with Torok are as follows:

“I’m one that believes if you know how to suffer properly, you don’t suffer at all. I’m an individual who does not suffer because of mistakes. I’m someone who learns from mistakes. … I’ll stand on my record proudly, anywhere, whether it’s in the free world or in jail.”

“I’m not asking for forgiveness for the mistakes that I’ve made. I’ll let God decide to forgive me. I can serve time, I don’t care what the circumstances are, I’m not afraid of that, because I know who I am, I know why I do what I do and I know the people who work for me know that I love them…And I love my critics, as well.”

Torok also writes that, regarding the multiple former department members who have been convicted on charges related to abusing jail inmates or jail visitors, Baca said “that jailing deputies will not solve the problem of inmate abuse.”

Alrighty then. Good to know.



THE LASD AND DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE WERE INVESTIGATING BACA AND BISHOP TURNER—AND FOUND NOTHING TO SEE

Last week there was one more Lee Baca-related story that you should not miss.

This intriguing story, by ABC7′s investigative producer Lisa Bartley, revealed that both the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the LA District attorney’s office were investigating Baca and his former paid buddy, Bishop Edward Turner..

Turner, to remind you, was one of the former sheriff’s four “civilian field deputies,” and had a county-paid salary of $114,584 a year, a county-paid car, and a deputy sheriff assigned to him as his part-time aide, and other perks. In return for the taxpayer-supplied salary and goodies, Turner was tasked with a list of slightly fuzzy responsibilities, prominently including “constituent outreach” (which sounds a lot like year-round campaigning, but no matter), and facilitating some drug prevention programs.

In 2013, Bartley and ABC7 reported on various extravagantly questionable activities engaged in—or allegedly engaged in—by Turner while he was on the LASD payroll.

The ABC7 investigations evidently triggered investigations by the sheriff’s department, and subsequently the DA’s office, into possible criminal wrongdoing by Baca and Bishop Turner. Then, a few weeks ago, writes Bartley, the DA’s office concluded there was nothing shady going on after all—a conclusion that seems to bring up as many questions as it attempts to put to bed.

The District Attorney’s office “Charge Evaluation Worksheet,” released last month and obtained by producer Bartley, makes for fascinating reading. (You can find it here.)

But to better appreciate the DA’s report, it will help to have a refresher on ABC7′s 2013 investigations, which looked at the activities of Baca’s field deputies in general, and turned up a bunch of curious facts about Turner in particular:

1. For example, ABC7 reporters learned that Turner was the landlord for property across the street from his South LA Church, the Power of Love Christian Fellowship, and it turned out that one of Turner’s tenants on the property was a marijuana dispensary, at a time when Baca had been vocally against medical marijuana dispensaries.

When asked about the dispensary—which is illegal in that it is not one of the 134 dispensaries then sanctioned by LA’s Measure D—-Turner claimed he didn’t really know anything about the operation, or its illegality. However, when ABC7 talked to the dispensary’s owner, the man said he walked the rent check across the street to Turner’s church every month.

2. In addition to his church, Turner was running a nonprofit organization called H.O.P.E. for Life. ABC7 tried to look into the organization’s financials, which, due to its tax exempt status, should have been publically accessible. They found that H.O.P.E. for Life had its nonprofit status revoked in 2009 for its failure to file the proper yearly disclosures with the IRS.

This information was problematic for the LASD because Baca had repeatedly raised money for H.O.P.E for Life with the department’s yearly “Multi-faith Prayer Breakfast,” an event that many upper-level department supervisors were reportedly strongly urged to attend. Yet, ABC’s report found that was not at all clear where the money for the LASD-sponsored event(s) eventually wound up—all of which suggested fraud.

3. Then, weirdest of all, Bartly and ABC7 obtained a highly suggestive sheriff’s department incident report, circa 2005 involving a mysterious package addressed to Turner’s church containing large amounts of cash.

Here’s what reporter Marc Brown reported in 2013:

We also had questions about a 2005 sheriff’s department “incident report.” A package that was addressed to Turner’s Power of Love church was intercepted by a sheriff’s department narcotics team. The package contained $84,020 in cash.

Detectives wrote in their report that based on their expertise, that the cash was the “direct proceeds from the sale of controlled substances, or illegal narcotics.”

“I was totally appalled and upset about that situation,” said Turner.

According to the report, Turner called a detective and said he wasn’t expecting a parcel and didn’t know anyone in New York who would send him a box of money.

In 2013, WitnessLA spoke to then-Baca spokesperson, Steve Whitmore, who told us that the sheriff was “taken aback” by news of the marijuana dispensary.

Whitmore also said that Baca moved quickly to cancel all future donations to Turner’s non-nonprofit.

About the box of cash, Whitmore said that the matter had been “fully investigated” by the department, and that, despite the fact that the package was addressed to Turner’s church, “they couldn’t connect the package to Bishop Turner.”

“But we’re still going to look into all that again in our investigation.”

And while, indeed, there were two investigations into Turner and the drug money-–one in 2005, and one after the ABC7 reports—the handling of said investigations have raised some concerns.

Most troublingly, a number of present and former LASD officials—including former undersheriff Paul Tanaka—have suggested, or outright stated, that Lee Baca spiked the 2005 investigation into Bishop Turner and the mystery drug money.

Yet when the department—and subsequently the DA’s office—decided to look into whether or not the the former sheriff had actually shut down a criminal investigation into his pal Bishop Turner’s activities, according to Bartley, at least two of the most crucial LASD players in that alleged drama declined to talk to ICIB, the LASD’s internal criminal investigative arm, or anyone else, about the 2005 Turner investigation, and why it was closed.

Yet, instead of pushing further with those important potential witnesses, the DA’s report repeatedly floated a rumor that then candidate for sheriff, Robert Olmsted, started the rumor about the spiked 2005 investigation to discredit Baca whom he was challenging politically.

However since, thus far, there are multiple instances in which Mr. Tanaka and/or Mr. Baca have been accused of triggering retaliatory IA investigations against people with whom they disagree, and shutting down or minimizing investigations into the actions of people whom they favored, and exactly zero instances that we know of where Olmsted has been accused of retaliatory witch hunts, or the like, we found this tack on the part of the DA’s report to be….perplexing.

Anyway, read Bartley’s report, and then read the DA’s report, and let us know what you think.



Lee Baca photo by Saxon Brice

Posted in LASD, Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

Muhammed Ali: Simply, The Greatest – January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016

June 4th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

― Muhammad Ali


“The Service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

― Muhammad Ali


“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.”

― Muhammad Ali


“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

― Muhammad Ali


“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

― Muhammad Ali


“The man with no imagination has no wings.”

― Muhammad Ali


“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

― Muhammad Ali


“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”

― Muhammad Ali


“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me.”

― Muhammad Ali


“I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.”

― Muhammad Ali

Posted in Life in general, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca Reportedly Suffering From Alzheimer’s, Could Affect Sentencing

May 31st, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


IS FORMER SHERIFF LEE BACA SUFFERING FROM ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

According to sources who have met recently with former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, the former sheriff said he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, along with Parkinson’s,** and believes his condition may persuade U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson not to give him any prison time when Anderson sentences Baca in July.

Baca’s sentencing hearing, which was originally scheduled for May, has been delayed twice at the request of the prosecution, and is now scheduled for July 11 at 8:30 a.m. in Judge Anderson’s courtroom.

If you’ll remember, in February of this year, Baca signed a plea deal with federal prosecutors in which he formally pleaded guilty to one felony count of lying to federal authorities when they questioned him in the course of a wide-ranging investigation into “corruption and civil rights violations” in the department he’d led for fifteen years.

Specifically, Baca admitted to Judge Anderson that he lied to the FBI and members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office during a round of questioning three years earlier on April 12, 2013. At that time, among other denials by Baca, the former sheriff falsely claimed ignorance of the fact that, in 2011, two LASD sergeants were going to approach FBI special agent, Leah Marx, and threaten her with arrest, hoping to get information about the feds’ rapidly expanding investigation into brutality by deputies in the county’s large jail system.

In fact, Baca has now admitted, he gave instructions that the officers “should do everything but put handcuffs on her.” Her being Agent Marx.

Baca’s attorneys sought the plea agreement with the feds in lieu their client facing a federal indictment for his alleged part in obstructing the government’s probe into LASD wrongdoing.

But although the former sheriff pleaded guilty in February, the plea will not be finalized until Baca’s July sentencing. The terms of the plea deal specify that Baca’s sentence will fall between 0 to 6 months in a federal prison.

Yet, as Judge Anderson informed Baca and his attorney, Michael Zweiback, during the February plea hearing, the court “is not bound by advisory guidelines,” but is able to impose a sentence that “could be greater or lessor than the guideline range,” up to a maximum of five years in prison, plus three years of post-prison oversight, and a cash fine of up to $250,000.

But if Anderson was to go above the 0 to 6 guidelines, then the plea deal would become null and void—unless Baca and his attorney elected to take the higher sentence rather than go to trial.

Still, there has been much speculation about the possibility that Anderson could to go above the guidelines in order to give Baca a sentence that can be measured in years, not months.

But now there is the new—but not officially confirmed—-talk about Baca’s possible condition.

Baca’s sentencing date has been postponed twice, and both times the postponement was requested by the prosecution.

In the most recent written request for a delay, prosecutors referred to “issues raised” in the “Pre-Sentence Investigation Report” that has been submitted by probation.

Here’s how that works: After Baca submitted his plea, representatives from federal probation met with Baca and company, then submitted a report recommending a sentence within the federal guidelines—specifically that 0 to 6 months we mentioned earlier–-for the crime to which he has pleaded. Then once in receipt of the probation report, the prosecution must make its own recommendation that could be higher or lower than whatever probation suggested, but that—–according to the terms of the plea deal—–must remain within the 0-6 month parameter.

It seems, however, that there are some unnamed “issues” raised by the probation report that the government feels it needs more time to address:

The government has identified, retained and consulted with an expert witness regarding the issues raised in paragraph 65. This expert witness then asked for additional material from defendant in order to fully assess the issue.

Defendant provided most of this material to the government late last week, which the government forwarded on to its expert witness today. Defendant, however, is awaiting additional results sought by the government’s expert witness. Defendant expects to receive these results in the next week. Once the government receives the additional material, it will need time to consult with its expert witness on the issue and determine the extent to which it affects the government’s [sentencing] recommendation, if at all.

The probation report, including the mysterious “paragraph 65” and the issues to which it refers are under seal.

So do the “issues” causing the delay relate to Baca’s reported medical condition?

We asked Assistant U.S. Attoney Brandon Fox about the matter and he declined to comment.


TANAKA SENTENCING

The sentencing date for former undersheriff Paul Tanaka has also been delayed, and Tanaka will now be sentenced on June 27 at 8:30 a.m. For Tanaka too it will be Judge Anderson will be doing the sentencing. Tanaka faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

To remind you, the former undersheriff was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice pertaining to allegations that he directed and oversaw deliberate efforts to disrupt an FBI investigation into a culture of brutality and corruption inside the LA County jails, which began in 2010.

Seven other former department members have been convicted of charges of obstruction of justice for actions stemming from orders issued by Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Baca.

Judge Anderson, who will be sentencing both Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka, presided over the trials of the seven and handed down their sentences, which ranged from 18 months to 41 months

So, in view of the sentences Anderson has already ordered for department underlings, will he be willing to sentence the former top guy, Lee Baca, to no prison time at all? Or will he venture outside the guidelines to give Baca a more substantial prison sentence, despite the former sheriff’s reported medical issues.

Unless there are more delays, we will learn the answer to that question on July 11.

And in between the sentencing of Tanaka and Baca, the cases of the convicted seven will be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 5.


**CORRECTION: Although sources tell us former sheriff Baca has Parkinson’s, for a variety of reasons, we have become less sure about the reliability of this second reported diagnosis, hence the cut. We will keep you up to date as we learn more.

Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments »

California Budget Highlights: Prop. 47 Savings, $$ for Combatting Homelessness, and More

May 19th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

BROWN’S CALCULATED PROP. 47 SAVINGS INCREASES BY $10 MILLION

California Governor Jerry Brown has increased the estimated savings from Proposition 47 by $10 million—from $29.4 million to $39.4 million—in the latest budget revision for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

If you’ll remember, voter-approved Prop. 47 reduced six non-serious property and drug-related felonies to misdemeanors, and was supposed to save the state more than $100 million each year.

That savings is earmarked for mental health and drug rehab programs for criminal justice system-involved people, efforts to reduce truancy and help at-risk students, and for victims services.

The governor’s January budget calculated those Prop. 47 savings to be $29.3 million. A report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that Brown’s budget under-counted the dollar amount Proposition 47 saved the state by about $100 million, overestimated costs, and diverted money from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund—where all the Prop. 47 savings is supposed to end up—to send it back into the prison system. The ACLU and other advocates have also criticized Gov. Brown for trying to put Prop. 47 money back into prisons by subtracting certain supervision and court costs from the Prop. 47 savings total.

This latest budget draft now heads to the California Legislature, where it will go through a period of negotiations, during which time lawmakers will have to step in and decide what savings Prop. 47 is actually responsible for producing.

The LA Times editorial board says that Gov. Brown may still be undercounting the savings. The Times board points out that the LA City Council, LA County Board of Supervisors, and others have urged Gov. Brown to go with the savings calculated by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and calls on lawmakers to hold the governor’s bureaucrats accountable, and make sure the dollars go to the rehabilitation and anti-recidivism efforts, as voters intended. Here’s a clip:

…Proposition 47 is right on schedule, and local leaders know it. The state calculates prison savings on an annual basis, and the first full year under the ballot measure does not end until June 30. Counties and cities will then submit their requests, and funds will begin flowing later this year.

The problem is not that the money is late — it’s not — but rather that Gov. Jerry Brown may be lowballing the actual savings figure. Instead of the $150 million that the state legislative analyst projected would be saved, the governor identified only a small fraction of that in his January spending plan. In the revised budget he released last week, he upped the figure — but only to $40 million, well short of the mark.

There are many ways to crunch numbers. Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, for example, used to be an L.A. City Hall bureaucrat and learned to cover up savings in order to keep it on hand for other projects.

“I know how to hide money,” he told a gathering of residents and activists at the Community Coalition in South Los Angeles recently. “I know how to block budgets.”

Jones-Sawyer promised to use that savvy to press the governor’s bureaucrats for a larger, more realistic savings figure to be distributed under Proposition 47.

We take him at his word — and hold him to it. The same goes for other members of the Legislature, whose home counties and cities need the funding guaranteed under the ballot measure. It falls to them, in the few weeks before the budget is finalized, to go to bat for California voters who have demanded a fundamental shift in criminal justice spending from prison expansions to locally based crime prevention and anti-recidivism programs.


MONEY FOR REDUCING HOMELESSNESS

In the May budget revision, Gov. Brown has also endorsed a $2 billion bond plan to tackle chronic homelessness among California’s mentally ill population.

“Homelessness plagues communities across our state so I’m very pleased Governor Brown has embraced the Senate’s bipartisan ‘No Place Like Home’ proposal to direct $2 billion from the Prop 63 bond to bolster local efforts to tackle this crisis,” said California Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

The plan would have to win a two-thirds majority vote in the state Legislature to pass. Then, the state would use money from the bonds to fund affordable housing and homelessness services—via a Mental Health Services Act Supportive Housing Program and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program. Brown’s May budget revision calculates a first year funding for these programs of $267 million in bond revenue.


ADVOCATE GROUPS’ RESPONSES TO THE REVISED BUDGET

Gov. Brown also wants to add $2 billion to the state’s rainy day fund, with an eye toward an expected economic slowdown in California’s future. “The surging tide of revenue has begun to turn,” Brown said. “Quoting Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper: ‘It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.’”

Instead of putting that $2 billion toward the rainy day fund, Alex Johnson, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California, says that money should be spent on important programs for children and families that suffered during the recession.

“During the recession, Governor Brown and the California Legislature balanced the budget on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable children and families, by cutting basic needs CalWORKs grants for families, eliminating child care slots, and ending successful children’s health programs,” said Johnson. “Now is the time to use the state’s budget surplus to protect and invest in essential programs to level the playing field for California’s children…”

The revised budget does a disservice to poor communities of color by not increasing funding for “prevention-based services and early education,” according to the Advancement Project.

“The May Revise proposes to abolish transitional kindergarten, thereby eliminating early learning opportunities – rather than expanding them,” the Advancement Project said in a statement. “This is especially wrong headed in the light of the growing science supporting early learning as well as the recent polling showing that Californians overwhelming support greater early learning spending, not less.”

Posted in California budget, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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