LA Times’ Sheriff Stories, Lower Recidivism Rate for Kids on In-Home Probation vs. Probation Camp…and MoreApril 16th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
TWO NOTEWORTHY LASD-RELATED LA TIMES STORIES
The LA Times has two worthwhile sheriff’s department-related stories we don’t want you to miss:
CHECKING IN WITH SHERIFF JOHN SCOTT AND THE POST-BACA LA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Since he replaced Lee Baca in February, Sheriff John Scott has made significant adjustments to the scandal-plagued Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. One of Scott’s first acts as sheriff was to turn the controversial members-only smoking patio into an open barbecue space for all LASD employees. It was a symbolic move.
Since then, Scott has dismissed seemingly politically-placed field deputies and reserve deputies, and bolstered the department’s hiring requirements and academy, among other changes.
The LA Times’ Cindy Chang takes a look at how (interim) Sheriff Scott has started the task of turning the department in a new direction. Here’s a clip:
Soon after taking office, Scott got rid of the four politically connected field deputies who drew six-figure salaries and answered directly to Baca.
Recently, his housecleaning extended to some volunteer reserve deputies who carry badges and, in some cases, guns. About 40 of the department’s roughly 800 reserves have been let go, officials said. The reserve program came under scrutiny several times during Baca’s tenure, often over allegations of politically connected people being given special treatment to become reserves.
In 2010, a state report found that the department gave reserve badges to people who flunked mandatory law enforcement tests. As a result, 99 reserves were stripped of their badges.
One of the reserve deputies who recently was asked to resign was Gary Nalbandian, a Glendora auto shop owner and Baca fundraiser. Nalbandian made headlines in 2006 when as head of Baca’s homeland security support advisory board, he distributed official-looking photo identification to 48 local business owners and political donors who made up the group.
In a letter to The Times, Nalbandian said he was being forced out because he is not supporting the candidacy of two sheriff’s captains seeking to replace Baca. “It is my strong belief that I was politically targeted,” he wrote.
Scott did not say why he pushed Nalbandian out. But in describing several of his moves, Scott argued that he was trying to take the politics out of the department.
“There were a lot of people brought into this department for political reasons,” he said.
Scott is both an insider and an outsider, a 36-year department veteran who retired in 2005, then became undersheriff in Orange County. After Baca resigned, the Board of Supervisors brought Scott, 66, back to lead the troubled agency until the winner of a seven-man election takes over at the end of the year.
Nearly three months into his tenure, Scott has ruffled a few feathers but is generally winning praise as he treads the line between not doing enough and doing too much.
PATRISSE CULLORS AND THE COALITION TO END SHERIFF VIOLENCE IN LA JAILS
The LA Times’ Abbey Sewell has an excellent profile on Patrisse Cullors, an activist against the “culture of violence” in LA County Jails. Spurred on by her brother and father’s encounters with the LASD and jail system, Cullors formed the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in LA Jails. The advocacy group has kept meaningful pressure on the LA County Board of Supervisors to establish civilian oversight.
Here are some clips:
Outside the bunker-like county jail complex, bail bondsmen hover by the visitors’ entrance, thrusting fliers at potential customers as they file in to see husbands, sons and friends. Along the sidewalk, taxi drivers hustle for fares among newly released inmates who pace about, dialing cellphones, reconnecting and searching for rides.
A young woman with a short shock of dreadlocks atop a mostly shaved head set off by chunky gold earrings joins them. She has a brisk walk, a broad smile — and a clipboard.
Patrisse Cullors, self-described “freedom fighter, fashionista, wife of Harriet Tubman,” comes to the jail complex regularly in search of recruits to her 18-month-old campaign to upend what she contends is a culture of violence among deputies inside the walls.
Cullors and a small group of fellow activists have helped gain new respect and momentum in the halls of power for a once-floundering idea: creating a civilian commission to oversee the troubled L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
For more than a year, Cullors’ Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails has applied steady pressure on the county Board of Supervisors, in part by trying to organize a large and unlikely bloc of county voters — former jail inmates. The coalition hopes it can become a constituency with clout in the June election to replace former Sheriff Lee Baca, who unexpectedly stepped down in January.
His department had been under scrutiny by media and advocates for years over alleged abuses in the county jails. A federal investigation led to criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies late last year.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has pushed for civilian oversight of the department, lent support to Cullors’ effort from the start. But others are skeptical of setting up a commission with no legal power over the elected sheriff.
“They have a legitimate point of view, a point of view that I actually agree with,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “Where we have a parting of ways is, doing what they want to do is not going to accomplish what they want to accomplish.”
Still, Cullors’ group made sure the issue stayed on the supervisors’ radar — in part by recruiting dozens of former inmates to call Yaroslavsky’s office.
Miriam Krinsky, executive director of the board-appointed blue ribbon commission that studied jail violence in 2012, appreciates the group’s efforts:
“The constant drumbeat that they were able to sound underscored for everyone on the commission the importance of the work we were doing.”
LOS ANGELES KIDS SERVING IN-HOME PROBATION HAVE LOWER RECIDIVISM RATES THAN THEIR PEERS IN PROBATION CAMPS (AND GROUP HOMES)
Kids who are sentenced to in-home probation are far less likely to re-offend than kids sentenced to time in probation camps, according to a paper published in Social Work Research, by scholars Joseph Ryan (University of Michigan), Laura Abrams (UCLA), and Hui Huang (Florida International University). Using data predominantly from the LA Department of Child and Family Services and the LA County Dept. of Probation between 2003-2009, the paper’s authors found that kids in probation camps and group homes were more 2.12 and 1.28 times more likely to re-offend than kids serving probation at home, respectively.
Alexandra Raphel of Journalists’ Resource has a helpful summary of the paper, which is stuck behind a paywall. Here are the key findings:
Rates of re-offending varied significantly relative to youths’ punishment and treatment: “Compared with in-home probation, the likelihood of recidivism was 2.12 times greater for youths assigned to probation camp and 1.28 times greater for youths assigned to group homes.”
“Within the first year only, 13% of youths assigned to in-home probation experienced a subsequent arrest. Twice as many (26%) probation camp youths and 17% of group-home youths experienced a subsequent arrest within the same time period.”
“At five years, 39% of in-home probation cases, 47% of group-home placements, and 65% of probation camp placements were associated with a new offense.”
“Male youths are significantly more likely to recidivate [re-offend] as compared with female youths, and African American youths are significantly more likely to recidivate as compared with both Hispanic and white youths.”
However, “African American and Hispanic youths were more likely to receive placement in either a probation camp or group-home setting as compared with white youths adjudicated for a similar offense.”
Certain family-related factors were correlated with negative outcomes: “The risk of recidivism was 1.36 times greater for youths with an open child welfare case.”
A WELCOME MOVE BY THE LA DA’S OFFICE TO BOOST ELECTRONIC REPORTING OF SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE
In anticipation of the forthcoming recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, the LA County DA’s office has been hearteningly proactive, requesting the hiring of three paralegals and an attorney to the office that manages the Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System (E-SCARS). This software, a crucial inter-agency (DCFS, LASD, DA, LAPD, etc.) database for reporting child abuse, is currently underfunded and under-utilized.
Daniel Heimpel has the story in his publication, the Chronicle of Social Change. Here are some clips:
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has asked the county’s chief executive to pay for three paralegals and an attorney to beef up the underfunded unit that oversees electronic tracking of suspected child abuse.
The request suggests that officials are anticipating increased costs and accountability for electronic reporting, which is expected to be one of many recommendations offered by the county’s Blue Ribbon Commission at the end of the week.
The allocation, which was not included as a line item in CEO William Fujioka’s recommended budget released on April 15, would be used “to create a unit within the Department’s Family Violence Division to more efficiently and accurately comply with its duty to audit Suspected Child Abuse Reports (SCARS) cross-reporting in the County, as recommended by the Board-approved Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.”
Since being launched in 2009, the system – which provides a database for all child abuse allegations and the disposition of follow up investigations – has been administered by one full-time and one part-time employee in the district attorney’s Family Violence Division.
There has been no money to pay for software updates. Further, there has been little capacity to ensure that DCFS, the district attorney, the Sheriff’s Department and the county’s 45 other law enforcement agencies were acting on the child abuse reports coming into their computer terminals.
ESCARS “can tell the operator how long it took law enforcement to open a SCAR [child abuse report] and close it,” [Commissioner Dan] Scott said. “We saw huge discrepancies.”
Scott pointed to the percentage of calls of suspected child abuse that wound up being charged as crimes. At some agencies, “six to seven percent turned into crimes, while at other agencies the number was around 30 percent. There is something wrong there.”