Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry)

Noteworthy New Laws, and Bills on the Governor’s Desk….and Policing Skid Row


On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill giving all female state prisoners access to contraceptive counseling and their birth control of choice, upon request. The bill’s author Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) notes that some women incarcerated in California can have conjugal visits.

“This law means that an inmate will be able to more fully engage in family planning before she’s released, enhancing the likelihood of a successful re-entry into society,” said Mitchell.

The bill, SB 1433, will require corrections facilities to provide incarcerated women who can become pregnant with information about the availability of family planning services behind bars. SB 1433 requires those services and contraceptives to female inmates at least 60 days before their scheduled release from prison.

Another bill Brown signed into law on Monday, AB 2083, will authorize disclosure of otherwise confidential information—like mental health records, child abuse reports, and criminal background information—to interagency child death review teams.

These teams help local agencies look into suspicious child fatalities, in order to identify child abuse and neglect-related deaths. The teams also work to make sure that siblings and other non-offending loved ones are connected with appropriate services following the death of a child. The bill passed through both the Senate and Assembly with full support before receiving the final stamp from Brown.

The LA Times Editorial Board has listed several bills—so-called “stinkers”—that have reached Brown’s desk, but (according to the board) should not be signed.

The first bill the board believes Brown should veto is AB 2888, a well-intended bill introduced in response to the very unpopular six-month jail sentence given to Stanford rapist Brock Turner.

Under current law, many felony sex crimes—rape by force, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and others—disqualify those convicted from receiving a sentence of probation. Prison time must be served. But sexual assault of someone who is unconscious or too intoxicated to consent (a la Brock Turner) does not carry a mandatory prison sentence. That would change if the governor chose to sign AB 2888.

By prohibiting probation, the bill would create new mandatory minimum sentencing, as justice reformers and lawmakers work to reduce the prevalence of mandatory minimum sentencing, which disproportionately affects people of color.

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board also criticize the “heavy-handed” bill, which would take sentencing discretion away from judges and give it to prosecutors.

AB 2888 is also running in opposition to Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57, which voters will decide on in November. Prop. 57 increases non-violent felony offenders’ access to early release credits. The ballot measure would bar inmates accused of violent felonies included in Penal Code Section 667.5, which does not count rape of an unconscious person as a violent offense.

A group of 25 feminist organizations wrote a letter to Brown, calling for a veto of AB 2888. In the letter, they explain that while raping someone while they are unconscious isn’t any less harmful than raping a conscious person, “mandatory minimum-term laws are a harmful, mistaken solution to our rightful anger over the Brock Turner case and the many others like it.”

In the letter, the women’s groups argue that mandatory minimums can even dissuade victims, particularly those assaulted by a family member, partner, or friend, from reporting assault. “When survivors do come forward, mandatory minimums deter prosecutors from pressing charges against particular defendants—namely those who, like Turner, are white and wealthy—and make juries less likely to convict,” the letter reads. And the threat of mandatory minimum sentences doesn’t actually reduce assault. “Studies have shown that the severity of sanction does not deter violence,” the letter continues.

Vice’s Tess Owen has more on the letter.

Another bill the Times editorial board believes Brown should veto is SB 813, the bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual assaults (which is currently 10 years).
The bill was triggered by the fact that the statute of limitations has been up for many of the dozens of women who have come forward and accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Proponents believe the bill would get rid of “arbitrary” deadline for seeking justice. Opponents of SB 813 argue that removing the statute of limitations would make wrongful convictions more likely.

Read the rest.


On Tuesday, Brown also signed budget bill AB 1628, which officially authorizes the state to issue up to $2 billion in bonds to fund the “No Place Like Home” Initiative.

The “No Place Like Home” money will go to counties to pay for permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people suffering from mental illness.

Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) says developing supportive housing “will improve the quality of life in our communities and give hope to thousands of Californians currently living in despair across our state.”


In spite of law enforcement efforts to provide compassionate “relationship policing”, relations between police and Skid Row’s homeless are tenuous, says sociologist Forrest Stuart.

In his new book, Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row, sociologist Forrest Stuart explains why law enforcement’s “therapeutic policing” model may seem more like punishment to LA’s homeless, rather than compassion.

Stuart argues that giving people who commit minor infractions—like entering a crosswalk after the countdown clock has started ticking—a choice between receiving a ticket and taking advantage of available services, does not build trust between Skid Row residents and officers, even if the strategy is well-intentioned. Instead, Stuart believes ramping up permanent affordable housing—with those services—is a better strategy.

Stuart discusses his book on KPCC’s Take Two with hosts A. Martinez and Alex Cohen. Here’s a clip:

Police in Skid Row would target people who do that and give them a ticket.

At the same time, however, those officers will say the ticket can go away IF that person gets assistance from one of the nearby social service providers.

“There’s this notion that people have chosen to be poor, that people have chosen to have chronic addictions,” says Stuart. “When we talk to officers, one of the ideas is, ‘I want to make this place as uncomfortable as physically possible so people don’t want to live here.'”

Stuart says that officers, themselves, see that they are acting out of compassion for the people of Skid Row and that those social services will help get them off the streets and out of the neighborhood.

“What I was hearing time after time was that these officers would have to throw their hands up and say, ‘I’m not a social worker, I’m not a case worker. But yet the city has asked me to deal with all of these social issues,'” says Stuart.

Meanwhile, the people of Skid Row getting those citations viewed service organizations with suspicion and distrust, according to Stuart.

Couples would need to be apart because shelters and services are separated by gender, for instance, or shelters would force residents to abandon most of their belongings to bring in just one bag with them.

“These spaces – people look at them as not a real, viable alternative,” he says, “but now they’ve got police saying, ‘Either you go into these places or else we’re going to arrest you.'”


  • Instant Ghettos “The “No Place Like Home” money will go to counties to pay for permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people suffering from mental illness.” Show me Gov housing that works well.

  • Hmm…pardon me…and we don’t want to build “asylums” for folks who are severely mentally ill, unable to take care of themselves, won’t take their medications and continue to either break the law or represent a public nuisance? Oh..the answer is to house them in concentrated, government funded housing and provide them on-site resources and services at tax-payer expense. Didn’t this happen during and after WWII with the building of projects or should I say slums across the country. On top of that, those folks weren’t identified as having mental illness or disease. That bit of social engineering proved to be ineffective whereas the mental asylums just proved to be to costly. We are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past if we do not study and learn from them. Just another temporary, feel good, politically correct fix to a problem that will fester long after the “fixers” have left the scene.

  • Questions (#1), you’re bang on with the observation as usual. The great economist F.A. Hayek – a guy who runs circles around the sociologist they roped into validating the policy – called this kind of socialism a “fatal conceit.” There are rational, historical, empirically proven market-government policy answers to the problem of homelessness, but there is little political will. Am going to keep my powder dry, enjoy some fine beverages, and see how this conversation develops. But I propose that Alasdair MacIntyre’s question be answered (Social Structures and Their Threats to Moral Agency): “Always ask about your social and cultural order what it needs you and others not to know.” Regarding the homelessness public policy, what do ‘they’ need us not to know?

  • Not yet, John. Am looking forward to you laying some track. Personally, would love to hear more from our present day practitioners. How they size up the situation. I’m not a young man working a black and white anymore.

  • 3: Books by Hayek should be required reading in schools, starting at seventh (7th) grade. All of us want to see better outcomes but every time the government gets involved the problem gets worse. We have spent over a TRILLION dollars on the so-called War on Poverty and what have we got? More poverty!

    Example; Between 1890 and 1950 the marriage rates for African Americans was higher that those for White America. In comes the government and look what has happened to families! The government has a plantation mentality and ensures that these folks never leave!

  • Okay, John. Before the thread runs bare, pull up a chair, son, and allow me to spin a brief yarn about why our colleagues in state/city/county government are mucking things up. It’s no Ayn Rand novel, so I’ll use numbers to track staccato points so our friends here, downtown, don’t get lost in the windy, unedited chain of analysis.

    1. To answer MacIntyre’s question, ‘they’ need us not to know that they are approaching the public policy of homelessness instrumentally (expediently), and not substantively (see 16 below). Put differently, government is not wrestling with different ends (outcomes, solutions) related to the problem, but merely dicking around with limited means of allocating some temporary money that will not solve the fundamental problem. This short-term political thinking is incompetence. Leadership requires anticipating a world or circumstances that don’t yet exist. It’s called due diligence, hard research, and being ahead of the curve.
    2. No one appears to be examining the primary causes of homelessness, only the symptoms and effects of homelessness. (Gov. Reagan emptied the asylums purportedly to lower government costs, promote individual freedom, avoid the horrors of the Cuckoo’s nest, e.g., read Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, yet cost-shifting the mental illness problem toward the lower end of the political hierarchy. From here, I’ll address homelessness generically without the mental illness component, which is complex and needing more digital ink than I can give here.).
    3. Consequently, the role and culpability of government policy in the cause of homelessness has largely been ignored and government actors too often assign greed in markets as the chief cause (ignoring greed in government).
    4. Be that as it may, the public and private sectors of California and Los Angeles do have an interest in alleviating some of the effects homelessness.
    5. Government has a balancing test to perform in order to protect the public spaces and environments for all of the public, not merely the homeless. This is one of its functions: to promote rational, ethical conditions that give rise to individual freedom, civilization, human flourishing, and public order.
    6. Market organizations on this question are motivated by diverse interests, from the salvation of souls, the loving of one’s neighbor, to the non-religious (secular) motivations of Thomas Paine’s ‘rights of man.’ Market organizations offer subtle mechanisms for social intervention, as some have recognized.
    7. Concerning government, as an intermediary step, an effective way to bring order, health, and safety to the existing problem of homelessness in Los Angeles is to continue to make it in the self-interest of the homeless to comply with a rational, common-sense set of laws that apply to every citizen in that jurisdiction. The issuance of traffic and misdemeanor citations – maintaining the criminalization of certain activities – by law enforcement personnel is the most direct, reasonable way to secure a deterrence against certain activities, e.g., public defecation, urination, drunkenness, minor drug use, sexual activity, vagrancy, disturbing the peace, petty theft, et cetera.
    8. De-criminalizing such activities – effectively lowering the cost of engaging in them, lowering the standard of public comportment for one category of persons – arguably lowers the dignity of individuals occupying that category, and seems to violate the overarching purpose of the social contract (inculcating, incentivizing long-recognized civic, moral, and intellectual virtues of civilization—JFK’s ‘Ask what you can do for your country, not what it can do for you’). Present day socialist calculation to exempt select populations from the responsibility of citizenship is foolish.
    9. A traffic or misdemeanor citation is effectively a tax levied against a person for objectionable conduct in particular circumstances.
    10. Even where the homeless man or woman does not feel bound by a particular community’s social mores (even Los Angeles has social mores, minimal though they are now), he or she has a real economic incentive not to engage in behavior that the community (or state) finds objectively unreasonable and objectionable, or it becomes a violation of the social contract.
    11. The homeless man or woman remains free in the sense that, if they comply with the normal expectations and responsibilities of citizenship, their libertarian freedom is only modestly curtailed, but in a reasonable way.
    12. Deterrence against a set of objectionable acts, set A, often requires not merely penalties and taxes against set A, but a set of incentives that nudge people toward alternative sets of acts B-E. If acts B-E comport with normal, common sense aspects of civilization and promote human flourishing, they are appropriate for government to promote. Homeless people operate with self-interest like everyone else. “Trust” on Skidrow (WLA article) is often a term of manipulation that not only satisfies self-interest, it’s too often used to get more concessions, more stuff, necessitating confiscatory public policy, as public choice theorists tell us.
    13. Conspiracy (commenter #2) hit the bull’s eye. An enormous cross-cultural, international literature exists on the nature, conditions, and solutions of homelessness. From what I can tell, none of this literature has been appropriated to inform substantive California and Los Angeles public policy regarding homelessness. Yet many of the empirical answers lie in knowledge of that history and those case studies (North America, China, India, Europe, Africa). Instead, people are hiring/consulting gurus-of-the-moment to validate what appears to be more political empire building and capturing of a largely dependent population for political purposes.
    14. I fear we haven’t yet seen mass homelessness until the coming economic austerity disciplines the wild, socialist spending in municipalities and counties across our beautiful state.
    15. Since homeless public policy today deals with symptoms and not causes, Los Angeles is and will continue to be unprepared for the massive scale of homelessness likely to confront the city and county. In terms of preparation, California needs to be a little more like Utah and a little less like Illinois and New Jersey.
    16. Since a sociologist has been introduced into the Skidrow ‘trust problem,’ let me briefly cite sociologist Max Weber. Weber distinguished between substantive rationality and instrumental rationality, with substantive being the rationality of the end chosen relative to other ends, and instrumental as the relation between means and a given end (an end isolated from other ends). Public policy decision-making under substantive rationality – concerning ends – tends to occur along a longer time horizon, with considerable thought and research and public input. Instrumental rationality shortens the time frame of decision-making (a punctuated cause and effect sequence). Los Angeles and California have been using instrumental rationality, and avoiding substantive rationality for decision-making related to homelessness. Hence, LA’s approach is a band aid. A problem is the manner in which it is approaching public policy.
    17. Once homelessness scales, the effect of LA’s approach in its exclusive use of instrumental rationality will bear enormous human cost, and result in a loss of legitimacy and further government failure. It could be otherwise with competent people manning or steering (if you prefer) the government ship.

  • Cynicism re LASD leadership will only increase after people see the new promotion list. If LATBG can somehow come out of retirement to find a competent leader to run for Sheriff, he’ll never have to pay for a drink in LA County again. Retirement is looking pretty good after some of these ‘poor bastards’ get the nod.

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