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Why Voters Liked Prop 36, Media Ethics in Child Dependency Court…and More

November 15th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

SURVEY LOOKS AT WHY VOTERS PASSED PROP 36

A new survey from Californians for Safety and Justice asked over 1,300 California voters how they voted on Prop 36 (Three Strikes reform), why they voted for or against, and what their thoughts were on other CA criminal justice issues.

Here are just a handful of the survey statistics:

Who Voted for Prop 36

Across political lines: In addition to strong support from Democrats (81 percent) and independent voters (74 percent), a slight majority (51 percent) of Republicans also voted for Prop 36.

All races and ethnicities: Even more than the two-to-one support from whites, Prop 36 garnered high numbers of votes from Latinos (76 percent), African Americans (84 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (89 percent).

Women: 74 percent of female voters (compared to 66 of males) voted for Prop 36.

Why Voters Changed Three Strikes

Of those who voted yes, major factors for doing so were because Prop 36 will:

75 percent – Eliminate unnecessary and ineffective life sentences currently imposed for non-violent, non-serious crimes.

70 percent – Save California millions of dollars every year by reducing the amount of prison resources devoted to warehousing non-violent offenders.

52 percent – Reduces the negative impact of unnecessarily long sentences on people and their families.

Be sure to read on, as there are many other interesting findings regarding Realignment and looking beyond Three Strikes reform.


EXAMINING THE IMPORTANCE OF MEDIA PRESENCE IN CHILDREN’S COURT

Later today, Thursday, Fostering Media Connections (FMC) and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy are holding a public forum at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall to talk about how to take advantage of the openness of the Los Angeles dependency court without compromising the privacy of the vulnerable kids within the system.

The discussion starts at 1:00p.m., and will be streaming live here.

Here’s a clip from the director of Fostering Media Connections, Daniel Heimpel’s blog:

Journalists, judges, attorneys and foster youths themselves will examine the costs and benefits of increased transparency with examples from Los Angeles County, where a controversial court order issued earlier this year increased media access to traditionally closed courts.

On the state and national level, attempts to open the courts to journalists through legislation have repeatedly failed – largely driven by understandable fears that the confidentiality of vulnerable children will be compromised. But, through this forum, FMC will insert a clear ethical framework into the debate offering the opportunity of eased access while protecting the best interests of children.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  When in late January of this year Judge Michael Nash ordered that Los Angeles County’s juvenile dependency courts be open to the press, thereby allowing fresh air into the workings of the hyper-secretive foster care system, those advocates and officials who had worked energetically against opening of the children’s courts predicted that insensitive and sensation seeking reporters would rush to invade the courts thus doing damage to kids who were already emotionally tempest tossed by being in the system I the first place. 
Those of us who had covered aspects of the foster care system in the past laughed sadly at the fear of hordes of reporters.

There would be no hordes. Covering the complexities of the foster care system and watch-dogging cases that go disastrously wrong for kids and families in the system is a time consuming affair that is unsuited to the headline and sound-bite-driven 24-hour news cycle.

And as we’d predicted, since the courts have been open, only a handful of LA reporters or news teams have produced stories, most notably KCET’s So Cal Connected, and LA Times columnist Jim Newton.
Therefore it was heartening to hear from advocate/journalist Daniel Heimpel that he was organizingThursday’s forum, in part, to discuss how LA can be a model for ethical media coverage of the system, but also to promote more coverage of children’s’ court in general by discussing exactly what is at stake, and how much the media’s presence can sometimes matter in the life of a child and/or a family when the system is doing them wrong.


VOTERS LEANING AWAY FROM TOUGH ON CRIME STANCE

Huffington Post’s Radley Balko takes a look at outcomes of controversial criminal justice ballot initiatives this year and whether they point to a trend of voters rethinking the tough-on-crime position. Here are some clips:

In California, voters reined in the state’s infamous “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law, passing a measure that now requires the third offense to be a serious or violent felony before the automatic life sentence kicks in. The results don’t negate the law, but they do take some of the teeth out of it. And the margin — the reform passed by more than a 2-to-1 margin — has significant symbolic value. Three Strikes was arguably the most high-profile and highly touted of the get-tough-on-crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s. It epitomized the slogan-based approach to criminal justice policy that politicians tended to take during the prison boom.

Eric Sterling served on the House Subcommittee on Crime in the 1980s. Today, as president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, he works to reform many of the laws he helped create. Sterling is encouraged by what he saw last week. “I definitely think we’re seeing a shift in the public opinion,” he says. “This election was really a game changing event.”

[SNIP]

The recent results seem to indicate that at least in some parts of the country, the electorate is paying more attention to criminal justice issues, is more willing to hold law enforcement officials accountable and is less credulous when it comes to tough-on-crime posturing.

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