EDITOR’S NOTE: After a few months hiatus, Taylor Walker is back posting at WLA. And we’re delighted to have her!
(Matt Fleischer is working on some new WLA stories so you’ll be seeing him back here shortly, as well.)
THE AFFECT OF CA’S HUGE MENTAL HEALTH CUTS ON INCARCERATION
Amid all the kerfuffle last week over the interview with You-Know-Who, we missed a few important stories, most notable among them was a Mother Jones feature on cutting mental-health funding across the US, and the collateral affect on crime and incarceration. California was ranked among the highest budget-cutters with an alarming 21% cut over the last three years. The unintended consequences of those cuts that Mother Jones outlines should cause every policy maker to take note.
Here are some of the highlights:
California ($3,612.8 million in 2009 to $2,848 million in 2012, -21.2 percent): Inmates with severe mental illness often wait three to six months for a state psychiatric hospital bed. In 2007, 19 percent of state prisoners were mentally ill. By 2012, 25 percent were.
For every $2,000 to $3,000 per year spent on treating the mentally ill, $50,000 is saved on incarceration costs.
Prisoners with mental illness cost the nation an average of nearly $9 billion a year.
In 1955, there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans. In 2010, there was one psychiatric bed for every 7,100 Americans—the same ratio as in 1850.
LASD PERMANENT CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT PANEL
In 1992, the Kolts Commission recommended that a civilian oversight panel be established for the LA Sheriff’s Dept. In an Op-ed for the LA Times, civil rights attorney R. Samuel Paz points out that two decades—and a few more recommendations—later, there is still no permanent civilian oversight. The LAPD has the police commission; the LASD has nothing equivalent.
Here are some clips from Paz’s essay.
The Kolts Commission then, just as the jails commission now, rejected the sheriff’s argument that civilian oversight was unnecessary because, as an elected official, he was accountable to the public. The commission noted: “Indeed, we know of no major metropolitan police department in the United States which is not subject to some civilian oversight — except the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”
The jails commission found the present oversight systems ineffective and inadequate. L.A. County Special Counsel Merrick Bobb’s frequent reports on systemic problems and the necessary reforms to fix them were ignored by the sheriff and lacked any enforcement mechanism or follow-up capability. The oversight by the Office of Independent Review, which was created in 2001 to monitor use-of-force and misconduct investigations, was found to be ineffective, ignored or changed by management. It also has been hampered by Sheriff’s Department officials withholding key documents on use of force in jails, in violation of the understanding that the Office of Independent Review was to have “unfettered access” to records. The ombudsman, which the jails commission described as the “clearinghouse for public complaints,” was found to be woefully inadequate in identifying patterns in complaints by civilians.
MILLION DOLLAR DETAINEE
The Pentagon spends an astronomical $900,000 on each Guantanamo detainee per year. Eek and egad! Surely this money can be put to better use elsewhere?
Reuters has the story. Here’s a clip:
The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects. With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.
By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say. And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.
LAPD INTERNAL AFFAIRS CHANGE-UP
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is reassigning three deputy chiefs, including the head of Internal Affairs, Deputy Chief Mark Perez, to bring in “fresh perspective” to that bureau. It is not yet clear what the tweaking means regarding the department’s discipline policy, but we’ll keep an eye on it.
LA Times’ Joel Rubin has the story. Here are some clips:
Perez’s departure from the Professional Standards Bureau, which investigates officers accused of misconduct, is certain to raise some eyebrows within the department. Appointed to the post in 2006 by Beck’s predecessor, William J. Bratton, Perez moved the department away from its traditional approach to disciplining officers that was centered on giving officers incrementally harsher punishments for repeat offenses.
Instead, Perez put in place a system that, as he frequently said, emphasized “strategy over penalty.”
In a brief interview, Beck said he is not looking for McCarthy to dismantle the current discipline system. Except in extreme instances in which he wants the officers fired, Beck said, “I still believe in using methods that reform behavior instead of punish it.”
By the way, today, May 6th, is the cut-off to register to vote in the Los Angeles mayoral runoff on May 21st. Go register! Quick! You can fill out the online application here.