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RETRIAL: Two LA County Sheriff’s Deputies to be Retried for Assault on Inmate

February 4th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



Two days after an unusually mixed verdict was handed down on Tuesday
afternoon, following the two-week federal trial of two Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies, Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez, on Thursday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker and federal prosecutors Jennifer Williams and Mack Jenkins announced they would retry Aguiar and Ramirez on Count Two of the four original charges.

If you’ll remember, the deputies were acquitted of Count One which was the conspiracy charge.

But Ramirez was convicted on Count Three and Aguiar on Count Four, both pertaining to charges of falsifying reports to portray Bret Phillips, the inmate the deputies allegedly assaulted, as the aggressor.

On Count Two, which charged the deputies with assaulting Mr. Phillips, the jury was “hopelessly deadlocked,” with 10 jurors voting to convict, two voting to acquit.

Aguiar and Ramirez are to be retried on Count Two.

Posted in LASD | 4 Comments »

Probation Oversight, the SFPD Review, Homelessness in LA, and a Bill to Help Homeless Kids

February 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

SUPERVISORS VOTE YES ON EXPLORING OVERSIGHT COMMISSION FOR LA COUNTY PROBATION DEPARTMENT

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supes Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas to form a working group to look into establishing a civilian oversight commission for LA County Probation Department similar to that of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

The working group will report back to the board in 90 days with a plan for moving forward.

“This motion is an essential next step in ensuring that the County’s Probation Department is willing and able to provide services needed to support the new and innovative criminal justice policies being adopted at the County and state levels,” said Supervisor Kuehl, the motion’s primary author.

The Supes’ decision follows the release of a fiscal audit two weeks ago that found problematic spending (and non-spending) in the probation department. The largest red flag was an unspent $161 million that should have gone to much-needed rehabilitation and re-entry efforts for adults and kids.

Probation has also gone through a pile of probation chiefs in the last ten years.

The county’s most recent probation chief, Jerry Powers, was persuaded to resign after allegations surfaced that he was involved romantically with another probation employee, whom he hired, and who was inappropriately placed in charge of the department’s $820 million budget without any prior related experience.

Cal Remington, who took over as interim chief upon Jerry Powers’ exit, expressed his support of creating oversight. “The Probation Department is making a commitment to this Board and the public that we will become more transparent, and this is one way to do that. I’m looking forward to this period of study.”

Supe. Ridley-Thomas pointed out that the mission of probation—rehabilitation—has, in some ways, been forgotten. “The fundamental mission [of probation] is to engage in rehabilitation of the youngsters and, for that matter, the adults who are under the supervision of probation,” said Ridley-Thomas. “It is almost as if the language of rehabilitation is an afterthought, in many respects. And I would like to see us return to that fundamental mandate and mission.”

Alex Johnson, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of California, said the timing is right for a “bold” effort to reform probation in LA County as the state and the rest of the nation shift into a focus on rehabilitative reforms. “There’s a climate shift—a national climate shift, and a statewide climate shift—for the criminal justice and juvenile justice reform era,” said Johnson. Government agencies, advocates, community-based organizations, and the public at large already demonstrated care and commitment to coming together for reform.”


DOJ’S REVIEW OF SAN FRANCISCO POLICE WILL NOT FORCE REFORMS, ONLY SUGGEST THEM

Earlier this week, the US Department of Justice announced it would launch a review of the San Francisco Police Department following the controversial shooting of Mario Woods.

Normally, when the feds step in, they address patterns of civil rights violations, in part, by forcing the re-training of officers and policy changes, only leaving when the law enforcement agencies comply with most of the DOJ’s demands.

But this time, the DOJ will be conducting the SFPD review via a Collaborative Reform Initiative run by the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) that was used for the first time in 2011. This form of review, rather than forcing reforms upon an agency, makes recommendations and then leaves the rest up to city or county officials.

Frontline’s Sarah Childress has more on the collaborative review process, including where it has worked, and where it has failed. Here’s a clip:

The reform process doesn’t preclude federal officials from opening a pattern-or-practice investigation later on, if they deem it necessary, as they did in Baltimore last year.

In October 2014, the Justice Department began a review of the Baltimore police department amid residents’ complaints of police misconduct. But then in April 2015, after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man, died in police custody, federal officials decided to open a pattern-or-practice investigation.

In explaining the decision at the time, Lynch told reporters that the collaborative review process needed support from the police and city officials, but also local residents. Community trust in the police had been “severed” in Baltimore, she said, and the issues facing the police department were “much more serious, and they were much more intense” than when the review process began.

Lynch said that federal officials would seek a court-enforceable agreement in Baltimore. The investigation there is still ongoing.

The Justice Department has had the ability to investigate departments since 1994, but the collaborative reform initiative only started in 2011. Just one department, the Las Vegas Metropolitan police, has completed the process so far, and data there suggests some progress.


LA CITY AND LA COUNTY: WHERE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR TACKLING HOMELESSNESS LIES

The LA Times’ Robert Greene says LA County, rather than city, holds the largest share of culpability for—and obligation to reverse—LA’s homelessness crisis. Although in the past the supervisors have avoided the responsibility, the county’s current homelessness plan, which the board is expected to consider next week, looks promising. Here’s a clip:

Los Angeles County government handles jails, foster care, emergency rooms and, in large portions of the county, law enforcement. But the county — with its 100,000 employees, its $26.9-billion budget and its five-member Board of Supervisors — is almost unknown compared with the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council. The city gets the headlines for its emergency declarations and its promises of funding. The county is mistakenly seen as an obscure bystander.

Yes, the city of Los Angeles has an important role in meeting the homelessness challenge. City laws and police practices determine whether people living on streets and sidewalks will be arrested and whether their belongings will be confiscated. City leaders have to figure out how to meet the need for housing units, how to pay for them and how to overcome community resistance to new buildings and new neighbors who have histories of homelessness and, perhaps, mental illness or addiction.

The same is true for Long Beach, the next most populous city in Los Angeles County. And for Glendale, the next biggest after that. And for the next, and the next – Santa Clarita, Lancaster, Palmdale, Pomona and in fact each of the county’s other municipalities. Their local policing and land use ordinances have a direct bearing on the fate of people who live on the streets of each of those cities. Any solution to L.A.’s homelessness necessarily includes all 88 city halls.

But county government has by far the largest responsibility for homelessness and for solutions meant to address it. The county is on the supply side, because county institutions feed the streets and stoke the misery when they discharge people who have nowhere to go: Young adults who age out of foster care with no home and no income. Medical patients who are discharged from county hospitals. Inmates leaving jail. Patients leaving mental health clinics. And the county bears at least partial responsibility for people such as domestic violence victims who leave shelters but can’t go back home, and young sex trafficking victims who flee from their abusers.

Because it operates the jails, foster care and all those other institutions, it is the county as well that holds the key to ending much of the misery. County government is the chief provider of social services and has the obvious responsibility for people who are discharged to the streets. The county has the same responsibility that cities do to site and build affordable housing; but it also has the ability to craft solutions that require no new housing and little new money for people like the inmate returning from jail, wanting to get his kids back.

The county may lack the tools to deal with more systemic problems like poverty and inequity, both of which push people to the streets. But apart from the federal government, the county has the chief role in dealing with the fallout.

There are many ways the county can abdicate that responsibility, and it has tried most of them…


CA BILL TO HELP HOMELESS AND EXPLOITED KIDS

On Wednesday, Assemblymember Young Kim (R-Fullerton) announced a bill that would ramp up emergency services, including temporary housing, for California’s homeless and trafficked kids.

The money will go specifically to the Homeless Youth and Exploitation Program and the California Youth Crisis Line.

According to California Homeless Youth Project estimates, in 2014, over 298,000 kids in grades K-12 experienced homelessness at some point during the year.

Together the two programs only receive $1.3 million in state funding, which allows the programs to serve around 5,000 kids per year. Kim’s bill would increase that number by $25 million.

“The number of homeless youth in California is staggering. In my district alone, there are nearly 8,600 homeless public school children,” said Kim. “Current services for homeless youth aren’t getting the job done in providing them with the basic necessities like food, shelter, job training, and basic life skills. By providing them with our love and support while young, we can put our homeless youth on the road to successful careers and bright futures.”

Posted in Probation | No Comments »

A Mixed Verdict of Guilty & Not-Guilty in the LA Sheriff’s Deputies Jail Abuse Trial Causes Confusion

February 3rd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


A MIXED MESSAGE

The verdict in the jail brutality trial of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez, came in around 3 PM on Tuesday, and when the decidedly mixed results were announced in the downtown federal courtroom of Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, the news seemed to surprise nearly everyone present.

The 12-person jury found each of the deputies not guilty of one count, guilty on anther count, and on a third count—which is arguably the most important charge of all—the jury split, with 10 jurors voting for guilt, two holding out for not guilty.

The details of the verdict are as follows:

Not guilty for both deputies on Count 1, which was the charge of conspiracy to violate inmate Bret Phillips’ civil rights by agreeing to “injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate” him.

Guilty on Counts 3 and 4, which means that both Ramirez (in Count 3) and Aguiar (in Count 4) were found to have written false reports saying that inmate Phillips had attempted to attack the deputies.

On Count 2, which was basically the count alleging that Ramirez and Aguiar had assaulted Mr. Phillips, 10 of the jurors voted that the deputies had committed assault-to-produce-bodily-injury, two voted that the deputies had not. Thus a mistrial on Count 2 was declared.

This means the federal prosecutors could choose to try the assault count again—or not.

Outside the federal court building, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams said that the government is thinking “very carefully” about whether to try the two deputies again.

Despite the mixed verdict, prosecutor Williams pronounced the jury’s decision a “win.”

On Count 2, the assault charge, she noted that “the jury was at 10 to 2,” to convict. “I think that’s very encouraging,” Williams said.


HOW THE JURY SAW IT

The moment after the first verdict of not guilty on Count 1 was read by jury forewoman Janet Giampaoli, Deputy Ramirez put his head in his hands, and began to sob, while his codefendant, Joey Aguiar was far more stoic, and mostly stared straight ahead. Then came the announcement of the mistrial on Count 2, and finally the guilty verdict on counts 3 and 4, and both deputies’ expressions turned grim.

The conviction of the charge of falsifying records with the intent to obstruct justice could mean as much as 20 years in federal prison.

After the crowd in the courtroom dispersed, forewoman Giampaoli, did her best to explain the jurors’ reasoning on the divergent verdicts.

On Counts 3 and 4, which found the two deputies guilty of lying on their official reports, Giampaoli said that jurors were concerned by what they saw as glaring similarities in the deputies’ reports. For example, she said, they used identical “adverbs and adjectives,” and very specific “phraseology,” which jurors found suspicious.

“And in general we didn’t feel that [the incident] happened the way they wrote it,” she said. “It couldn’t have.”

Okay so, if the jurors voted unanimously to convict Ramirez and Aguiar of falsifying their reports about Phillips having tried to attack them, while at the same time admitting to repeatedly striking Phillips with fists and a flashlight, plus squirting him in the face with pepper spray, why then did two of the jurors decline to vote to convict on Count 2, which alleged the deputies had improperly beaten Phillips?

In answer to the question, jury forewoman Giampaoli said there were a number of things that made it hard for the holdouts to convict on that 2nd count.

“The injuries that we were shown did not match up with what the prosecution claimed,” Giampaoli said. “In the medical records all we saw was one laceration and two to three superficial abrasions, and a bruised elbow.”

She said the two holdouts were also bothered by what they believed to be inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution’s two primary witnesses, jail Chaplain Paulino Juarez and prison inmate John Maestez, who is serving a 21-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter and who was bussed down from Delano state prison to testify in leg chains.

Speaking personally, Giampaoli admitted that she was not impressed by Maestez, adding that she did think Chaplain Juarez “definitely saw something. But I don’t that what he said he saw was the same thing as what he saw.”

According to the forewoman, the jury arrived at their 10-2 deadlock on Count 2 on Monday, and no one budged after that.

She said that the jurors also agreed on acquittal on Count 1, the conspiracy, on Monday as well. “We just didn’t think it was something that was planned out, or that they got together and decided to do.”

“We had a discussion this morning about staying unbiased and fair, and we all did take it very seriously,” Giampaoli said.


VERDICT CONFUSION

Still, many with interest in that trial said they found the verdict perplexing. George Hofstetter, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), was among them.

“We are mystified by how the jury, upon finding the deputies not guilty of conspiracy, and not finding them guilty of extensive use of force, nonetheless concluded that the deputies filed a false police report regarding the incident.” Hofstetter said in a written statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

Defense attorney Vicki Podberesky, who represented Ramirez, told ABC 7 reporters she too was puzzled by the jury’s uneven decisions. “I’m somewhat confused about how they found him guilty on a false report, and hung on the use of force,” Podberesky said.

A veteran criminal defense attorney who had been tracking case was another who expressed confusion. “If false reports were filed, that means the deputies were covering up something—like a beat-down of an inmate,” she said.

United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell scheduled a sentencing date for April 25. And in a statement released early Tuesday evening, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker confirmed that federal prosecutors have yet to decide if they will retry Aguiar and Ramirez on the unresolved civil rights charge.

Tuesday night, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins, like his co-prosecutor, Jennifer Williams, said he was actually encouraged by the mixed verdict.

“Ten people on that jury were clear that something terrible happened to Brett Phillips on February 11, 2009, because members of the sheriff’s department abused their power by doing exactly the opposite of what they were sworn to do,” he said.

“And the prosecution was able to convince the jury that the deputies couldn’t just wipe what happened under the rug” by lying about what occurred.

The case against Aguiar and Ramirez is the result of an investigation by the FBI into corruption and civil rights abuses at county jail facilities in Los Angeles. As a consequence of the FBI’s investigation, 17 current or former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department have now been convicted of federal charges.


EDITOR’S NOTE:

WLA is in the process of obtaining a copy of the video showing Bret Phillips on a gurney immediately after his encounter with LA County sheriff’s deputies Ramirez and Aguiar, and others. However, ABC 7 has already received the video, some of which they broadcast late Tuesday night. You can find the broadcast here if you scroll to the second video on the page. Both the ABC 7 broadcasts are worth watching.

Also, Joel Rubin at the LA Times has his own good write-up on the verdict.

Posted in LASD | 25 Comments »

LASD JAIL BRUTALITY JURY HAS A (VERY MIXED) VERDICT: Not Guilty, Guilty & Can’t Agree

February 2nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



In a decidedly mixed verdict that came in just around 3 PM
in the downtown Los Angeles federal courtroom of Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, the 12-person jury in the jail brutality trial of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez, found each of the deputies not guilty of one count, guilty on anther count, and on a third count—which is arguably the most important—the jury split, with 10 jurors voting for guilt, two holding out for not guiltY.

The specifics of the verdict are as follows:

Not guilty for both deputies on Count 1, which was the charge of conspiracy to violate inmate Bret Phillips’ civil rights by agreeing to “injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate” him.

Guilty on Counts 3 and 4, which means that both Ramirez (in Count 3) and Aguiar (in Count 4) were found to have written false reports saying that inmate Phillips had attempted to attack the deputies.

On Count 2, which was basically the count alleging that Ramirez and Aguiar had assaulted Mr. Phillips, 10 of the jurors voted that the deputies had committed assault-to-produce-bodily-injury, two voted that the deputies had not. Thus a mistrial on Count 2 was declared.

This means the government could choose to try the assault count again—or not.

Prosecution attorney Jennifer Williams stated that the government was thinking very carefully about whether to try the two deputies again.

Posted in LASD | 8 Comments »

Jury In LASD Jail Brutality Case “Hopelessly Deadlocked” on 1 Count for Each Defendant, Judge Uses Legal Crowbar

February 2nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



Just before lunch, the jury in the latest jail brutality case
involving members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell a note saying they were “hopelessly deadlocked” on one count for each of the two defendant. (There are four counts total.) Presumably, we are to believe they are unanimous on the rest of the counts.

This is the trial in which LASD deputies Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez are charged with assaulting an allegedly non-resistant Men’s Central Jail inmate named Bret Phillips on February 11, 2009, then covering up their actions by writing false reports that depict Phillips as the aggressor.

Judge O’Connell responded with a judicial tool that is legal in California called the Allen Charge.

Specifically, the Allen Charge is an instruction given by the court to a deadlocked jury to strongly encourage it to continue deliberating until it reaches a verdict. Some states prohibit Allen charges, because they see them coercive, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their use in Allen v. U.S., 164 U.S. (1896). The Allen Charge is variously known as the dynamite charge, the nitroglycerine charge, the shotgun charge, and the third-degree instruction.

To remind you, here are brief descriptions of the four counts on which the jury has been deliberating.

1. Conspiracy to violate Mr. Phillips’ civil rights by agreeing to “injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate” him.

2. This is basically the assault-to-produce-bodily-injury count.

3. In this count, Deputy Ramirez is charged with writing false reports stating that Phillips attempted to head butt Deputy Aguiar in the face, and also attempted to “violently kick” Aguiar.

4. Similarly, in the final count Deputy Aguiar is charged with writing false reports stating that Phillips had “viciously kicked his legs at deputies” and continued to do so.

Posted in LASD | No Comments »

CA’s Crossover Kids, DOJ to Review SFPD, LA County Probation Oversight, and Bills to Battle Sex Trafficking

February 2nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

DATA-GATHERING, TRAINING, AND TRAUMA-INFORMED PRACTICES ARE MUSTS FOR GIVING CROSSOVER KIDS BETTER OUTCOMES

The California Child Welfare Co-Investment Partnership has released an analysis of the abysmal outcomes of kids involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, as well as recommendations for improving outcomes for the state’s so-called “crossover youth.”

There are around 67,000 California kids with open child welfare cases and 40,000 kids in the juvenile justice system, according to the report. Unfortunately, there’s not an exact tally on how many kids fall into both categories, but some studies have estimated that 50-65% of kids in the juvenile justice system have had contact with child welfare through reported or substantiated neglect or abuse, and there are 4,000 kids in probation-run child welfare.

Crossover (or “dual-status”) kids often face trauma, neglect, and instability. And communication between agencies serving crossover youth, including school districts, can be patchy or nonexistent, making it hard for kids to access important services and enroll in school. The kids are more likely to face jail time, less likely to finish high school or college, and less likely to be able to consistently hold down a job than their peers who are involved with just one system.

“We are beginning to understand the complex factors that result in so many youth from the child welfare system ending up in the juvenile justice system,” said Neha Desai of the National Center for Youth Law. “These factors include underlying, unprocessed trauma, lack of consistent adult support, as well as unintended consequences of system involvement. Deepening our understanding of these issues will enable us to both more effectively disrupt the path from child welfare to juvenile justice as well as better respond to youth who do end up crossing over.”

The report recommends bringing health, education, and law enforcement agencies into collaborative discussions and interventions, as well as greatly increasing the amount of data gathered on the crossover population and what strategies are working to improve their outcomes.

The report also recommends providing targeted training to judges and court appointed counsel on how to best help these vulnerable children.

“When it comes to dealing with crossover youth, there is so much yet to be done,” said Judge Michael Nash, who after 20 years of presiding over the Los Angeles Juvenile Court and supervising the Juvenile Dependency Court, was selected to be LA County’s child welfare czar. “It’s one thing to have adequate protocols developed and agreed to at the high levels of administration. It’s another thing to adequately train judicial officers, attorneys, social workers, probation officers and others on proper implementation, and yet another thing to get the players in both systems to understand the importance of the need for consistent communication and collaboration at every stage of the proceedings with respect to each and every crossover youth.”

The report also recommends employing cultural, gender-specific, and trauma-informed programs and services to help crossover kids succeed.

“These outcomes affect all of us,” said Sue Burrell, a policy director at Pacific Juvenile Defender Center. “Involvement in juvenile court contributes to a horrible cycle of poverty and involvement in the criminal justice system. By perpetuating a system in which youth are unable to succeed, we deprive our community of the energy, skills and creativity that young people would contribute if they were not so hobbled by their juvenile pasts.

(The Partnership is a group of organizations invested in improving outcomes for foster kids, and is comprised of the Casey Family Programs, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Stuart Foundation, Walter S. Johnson Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, the California Department of Social Services, the Judicial Council of California, and the County Welfare Directors Association.)


DOJ TO STEP IN AND REVIEW EMBATTLED SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT

On Monday, the US Department of Justice announced it would launch a review of the San Francisco Police Department’s policies and practices, via its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The announcement follows the controversial shooting of Mario Woods, which led to ongoing protests and requests for DOJ intervention by SF Mayor Ed Lee, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, and the ACLU of Northern California.

“In the days and months ahead, we will examine the San Francisco Police Department’s current operational policies, training practices and accountability systems, and help identify key areas for improvement going forward,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “I am confident that together we can make certain that our officers have the tools and training they need to do their jobs, and that every member of the San Francisco community has the protection and service they deserve.”

The DOJ is also employing it’s COPS program, called the Collaborative Reform Initiative, in Salinas and Calexico.


WHAT RESTRUCTURING PROBATION SHOULD LOOK LIKE

Today (Tuesday), LA County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl are expected to introduce a motion to form a working group to look at the feasibility of a civilian watchdog group to oversee LA County Probation. The scope would likely be similar to that of the commission created to oversee the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Later this month, the Board of Supervisors is also slated to consider splitting probation into two departments, one for juveniles, and one for adults.

In advance of the Board of Supervisors meeting, an LA Times editorial says the commission’s primary function should be to address misconduct and mistreatment of probationers (rather than just the department’s problematic spending and hoarding). The editorial also suggests providing the same level of rehabilitative care to young adults that is offered to juveniles. Here’s a clip:

…There is no consensus on how probation should be structured or managed. Some counties have two separate departments, one for juveniles, one for adults. In some counties, the chief probation officer is appointed by the presiding judge of the superior court, in others by the board of supervisors.

Los Angeles County’s department is monitored not just by the board, but also by numerous commissions, committees and councils. Yet the department is currently without a chief probation officer — no surprise, given that the board has moved leaders in and out at a rate of one every other year — so it’s the right time to think about mission, structure and oversight…

It may seem a bit odd to add a layer of supervision over probation, a department that already reports directly to the board. If the supervisors are unhappy with the operations and administration of the department, including the way it spends (as some of the their recent statements suggest), they have only themselves to blame. But if they are instead seeking the kind of oversight that can examine allegations of mistreatment of probationers, misconduct of officers and poor conditions of confinement, an oversight commission may well be in order. As would, perhaps, an inspector general.

And it may seem strange to ask whether there should be separate oversight commissions for the juvenile and adult sides of the department, when the board hasn’t even taken up the question, broached on this page last month, of whether the department should be split — and whether supervisors ought to be looking for one new leader or two. But they are expected to vote later this month on whether to study splitting probation into two departments, one for juveniles and one for adults.


CA BILLS WOULD PROVIDE HOUSING AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES TO EXPLOITED KIDS AND CREATE A TASK FORCE TO COLLECT TRAFFICKING DATA AND TRAIN LAW ENFORCEMENT

California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has introduced two important bills to combat sex trafficking. The first, AB 1730, would set up temporary housing, trauma-informed mental health care, and mentoring services for children (many of whom are involved in either or both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems) rescued from the sex trafficking industry.

A companion bill, AB 1731, would form a task force to gather and report data on sex trafficking victims, the people who run trafficking operations, and those who buy sex. The group would use this information to train law enforcement to recognize and stop trafficking enterprises.

“Human trafficking is modern day slavery and, unfortunately, this crime is growing rapidly in our state,” said Speaker Atkins (D-San Diego). “According to the FBI, the San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas comprise three of the nation’s 13 areas of ‘high intensity’ child sex trafficking exploitation in the country. Victims of human trafficking are some of our most vulnerable members of society, and we cannot allow this injustice to continue.”

Posted in Crossover Youth | No Comments »

Jury in LASD Jail Brutality Case Agrees on 1 Count, Still Dithers on the Other 3

February 1st, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


At 4:30 pm on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell
received a note from the jury that has been deliberating for more than seven hours in the trial of two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who are indicted on four counts of federal charges.

This is the trial in which LASD deputies Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez are charged with punching, kicking, pepper spraying and whacking with a flashlight an allegedly non-resistant former Men’s Central Jail inmate named Bret Phillips on February 11, 2009, then covering up their actions by writing false reports that depict Phillips as the aggressor.

Judge O’Connell read the note in open court in the presence of government prosecutors, Jennifer Williams and Mack Jenkins, and defense attorneys, Evan Jenness and Vicki Podberesky, plus their clients, Aguiar and Ramirez.

As for the contents of note itself, the jurors wrote that they had agreed on one count, but had not agreed on the other four.

There was no mention of “hopelessly deadlocked.” Instead, the note seemed to be more of a status report.

So which count did the jurors agree on, and did they agree to convict or acquit?

Nobody knows, although speculation abounds.

The 4 counts are, in brief:

1. Conspiracy to violate Mr. Phillips’ civil rights by agreeing to “injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate” him.

2. This is basically the assault-to-produce-bodily-injury count.

3. In this count, Deputy Ramirez is charged with writing false reports stating that Phillips attempted to head butt Deputy Aguiar in the face, and also attempted to “violently kick” Aguiar.

4. Similarly, in the final county Deputy Aguiar is charged with writing false reports stating that Phillips had “viciously kicked his legs at deputies” and continued to do so.

So what if anything does this portend for a final verdict? Or is the jury leaning toward hanging?

It’s anybody’s guess.

“But they didn’t look bored,” observed an informed trial watcher.

Posted in LASD | No Comments »

WHO WILL THE JURY BELIEVE? The Latest LA Sheriff’s Department Brutality Case is Now in the Jurors’ Hands

February 1st, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


WHO WILL THE JURY BELIEVE?

Assistant U.S. attorney Mack Jenkins began his closing arguments for the latest federal trial of members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department by describing what he called an “unlikely trio” of witnesses on which the government’s case depends.

“A chaplain who worked by choice for almost 20 years to help those” in Men’s Central Jail “who others forgot or wished to forget,” Jenkins said on Friday afternoon as he listed his trio. “A gang dropout marked by his own gang for death” who “had nothing to gain,” but who was a “captive front row witness,” and finally “a mentally ill” inmate who is the victim or the aggressor in this story, depending on whose account one believes.

“Three men who never met before that day, who’ve never met since that day,” said Jenkins to the rapt jury. But each of the three were bound by having experienced a “terrible thing.”

The defendants in the jail brutality case that began in federal court two weeks ago are two LASD deputies, Joey Aguiar and Mariano Ramirez, who are charged with punching, kicking, pepper spraying and whacking with a flashlight an-allegedly non-resistant former Men’s Central Jail inmate–Bret Phillips—on February 11, 2009. Aguiar and Ramirez are also charged with falsifying reports after the beating to portray Phillips as a violent, out-of-control aggressor whose actions required multiple deputies using various kinds of legal force to bring him back under control, and who should be prosecuted for his actions.

Phillips—who, according to his own testimony has been formally diagnosed as being both bipolar and schizophrenic—was not on his medication at the time.

Unlike last year’s jail brutality trial involving former department members who were convicted for brutally beating jail visitor, Gabriel Carrillo, then falsifying reports that resulted in a felony charge against their victim, this trial depends almost entirely on which group of witnesses the jury thinks is telling the truth.

In contrast, the jail visitor trial was less of a they said/they said conflict, since two of the five deputies originally charged with the beating and cover-up, agreed to testify for the government in return for a deal. Plus, the defense contended that Carrillo had never been fully handcuffed, thus had been able to assault deputies by swinging an unsecured handcuff chain attached to one wrist. The prosecution, however, had a photo of Carrillo’s hands and lower arms taken shortly after the incident, which clearly showed injuries on both wrists of the kind that over tight cuffs typically produce—visual evidence that jurors later said they found persuasive.

Yet, in this case, there was never any doubt that inmate Phillips was waist-chained and handcuffed. However, the defense argues that the cuffs and chains did not in any way deter the inmate from attempting to head butt Deputy Aguiar. Then later, when he was face down on the ground with three deputies on top of him, the “agitated” Phillips was still “violently gyrating,” and “viciously kicking” toward deputies, thus had to be struck multiple times with “personal weapons,” in other words, the deputies’ fists, then struck additional times with a standard issue flashlight, then sprayed in the face with pepper spray, and ultimately hogtied and “tarped,” each of which is another form of restraint.

“They wanted to make him a monster,” prosecutor Jenkins told the jury. “They made him the Incredible Hulk.” There were, Jenkins said, 600 lbs. worth of deputies on top of the 5’10” 158 lb. “physically frail” Phillips. “And yet they were afraid for their lives.”


STAR WITNESSES FOR THE DEFENSE

The defense too had their star witnesses, most notably Sgt. Ernie Barbosa, who was likable and calmly professional in his demeanor, and persuasive on the stand, and Deputy Renee Madrid, who also came across as calm and clear-eyed. Neither man saw the main part of the incident. Madrid gave an account of the encounter’s beginning. Barbosa described what he saw at the end. Both maintained that the force used was entirely necessary.

The other main eyewitness for the defense was retired MCJ nurse, Marjorie Roseen, but her testimony was less even, and seemed at times at odds with some of the medical reports from the 2009 use of force, and her own hand written notes.

“Is Sergeant Barbosa lying?” asked defense attorney Vicki Podberesky when it was her turn to present closing arguments. “That’s what the government wants you to think. ….The government wants you to believe that not only are Deputy Ramirez and Deputy Aguiar” lying, “but also Deputy Madrid and Sgt. Barbosa were part of the cover-up, and even Nurse Roseen.”

Defense attorney, Evan Jenness, reminded the jury that former inmate Phillips was bringing a civil lawsuit against the department. “He’s got a motive. He wants to get money.”

Jenness and Podberesky both contend that Phillips’ injuries were minor and not consistent with the vicious beating that the government’s witnesses describe. And indeed there were no fractured limbs or shattered orbitals, the eye-socket injury that has sometimes been a feature of other jail beatings. But the video shown multiple times during the trial that depicts Phillips being wheeled on a gurney toward MCJ’s medical clinic—then later being interviewed by Sgt. Barbosa,—shows a man who initially appears disoriented and groaning in pain, although the defense has portrayed the footage as visual proof that Phillips was not, in fact, all that injured.

What matters, of course, is what the jury sees.

Yet, in the end, it will likely not come down to videos and written reports, it will come down to the witnesses.

On the side of the defense there were the two sworn department members, who were intelligent and specific in their descriptions of events, and not easily rattled on the stand. (The defendants themselves declined to testify.) For the prosecution, there was “the unlikely trio.”

In brief, here are the prosecution’s three:


THE UNLIKELY TRIO

First there was Chaplain Paulino Juarez, who has been working as a Catholic chaplain at LA County’s Men’s Central Jail since 1998, who told the jury he was treated for PTSD after witnessing the beating, which at the time, he said he thought might have killed Phillips. “I saw something inexplicable,” he testified that he blurted to a fellow chaplain minutes after he witnessed the alleged beating. “Something I never expected to see. Something that should not happen at all.”

Then there was Phillips himself who said he’d been fearful of retaliation because he’d tossed milk cartons toward Deputy Aguilar earlier in the day after being left in his cell in waist chains and what he described as painfully tight handcuffs for thirty or so minutes. As for the incident itself, that occurred when Phillips was being returned from a routine visit to the medical clinic, the former inmate said he remembers nothing after having his head slammed into the wall by Aguiar and being put in a chokehold by Ramirez and passing out. Yet when he woke up, he said, he was on a gurney and felt the affects of pepper spray. He was in pain in various parts of his body from the alleged beating. And the next day, he was in far more pain, he said, to the point that walking was very difficult. By that time, he’d been transferred to “the hole” as punishment. “But the hole was better. It was safer,” he told the prosecution. “You’re by yourself.”

Finally, there was John Maestaz, 48, who is serving a 21-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter and who was bussed down from Delano state prison to testify in leg chains. A former eastside gang member, Maestaz, is in protective custody after a conflict with “my own people,” and now has a “green light,” meaning, in Mexican Mafia terms, he is marked for death.

On February 11, 2009, Maestaz said he was in the unit’s inmate shower, where there is also a payphone, talking on the phone to his wife when—like the chaplain—he witnessed what he described as a “very, very violent altercation.” When he crept next to the bars to look, he said, he saw the inmate lying flat on the ground, unresisting, while two deputies were on top of him, and later more deputies joined in. The taller deputy, said Maestaz, meaning Aguiar, had a “knee on his shoulder,” and “kept slamming” the back of Phillips head. “We call it ‘hammer fisting,’ “ he said, then demonstrated using the soft bottom of a closed fist to pound downward.

Maestaz said, at some point, he saw a shocked-looking Chaplain Juarez also watching events unfold, but that he—Maestaz—kept ducking back behind the wall of the shower cell to avoid being seen by deputies.

As for Phillips, “he was not moving. They kept hitting and hitting him.” According to Maestez, Phillips “had a blank look on his face…..he wasn’t there. He was helpless. “ Yet the deputies, said Maestaz, were shouting “stop resisting.”

Maestaz said that, until he eventually learned otherwise, he believed “I watched a man get beat to death.”

As to why he was testifying, Maestaz said, “I don’t want to be here. It goes against everything, to tell on someone. I didn’t want to testify.”

Maestaz also said that he had been promised nothing by the prosecution for his testimony.

The descriptions of events by the three prosecution witness are very similar, yet there are also inconsistencies.

So who will the jury believe?

Presumably soon we will know the answer to that question.


EDITOR’S NOTE: While trial exhibits are not yet available to the press, readers can, at least, get an idea of the testimony by Chaplain Paulino Juarez by listening to the audio of his 2012 testimony in front of the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, which you can find here.

His general testimony begins at the 3:18 mark, but the testimony pertaining to the Aguiar-Ramirez case begins a few seconds after the 3:30 mark.

Posted in LASD | 12 Comments »

Riverside Probation Tackles Recidivism, a Second-Chance Firefighting Program, Mental Health in Schools, and Father Greg’s Humanitarian Award

January 29th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

RIVERSIDE COUNTY RUNS THE NUMBERS TO FIND AREAS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN NEED OF REFORM

With the help of CA Fwd’s Justice System Change Initiative, Riverside County has been proactively searching for ways to reduce a jail population inflated by California’s prison realignment. CA Fwd’s project focuses on reducing incarceration by finding areas of the criminal justice system in need of recalibrating, and helping counties adopt alternatives to lock-up for the mentally ill, substance-abusers, and juveniles.

When Riverside’s Probation Department gathered and analyzed data regarding probationers’ recidivism rates, the numbers revealed that most arrest warrants for probationers were for violations like missing a meeting with their probation officer, not for committing a new crime. And 80% of those probation violators later appeared in court, and exhibited a desire to fix the issue.

The data led Riverside Probation to refocus probation officers’ efforts toward helping people complete the terms of their probation and successfully re-enter their communities. Since the county started working with CA Fwd on these issues, arrest warrants for probation violations have dropped 25%.

(San Bernardino County is also working with CA Fwd to reduce incarceration.)

CA Fwd’s Nadine Ono has more on Riverside’s reform work, and the Probation Department’s culture-shift. Here’s a clip:

The data analysis showed that the probation department was cycling thousands of people through the courts and jails for violating the conditions of their release, not for committing a new crime. The most common violation was failing to show up for a meeting with their probation officer. Not only was this increasing the demands on a costly and overcrowded jail, but it meant increased work for the probation staff and increased caseloads for the court system.

“If you have data, data will make the decision for you,” said Riverside County Chief Probation Officer Mark Hake. “It just allows us to more effectively manage the resources that we have. It allows us to target the specific problem areas or it allows us to better focus resources where they’re most needed.”

Chief Hake was not surprised by the results, but it did make him and his staff think about what their department could do to lessen the burden on the jails. Using the numbers from the report as a baseline, the probation department assembled a workgroup to determine how to tackle the problem.

One of the main areas on which the workgroup focused was the need for a department culture change for both supervisors and line staff. The data showed that staff needed to be more engaged with their probationers and become a positive resource to help them re-enter society. The analysis also allowed the staff to redouble some of their earlier efforts to help the probationers successfully complete their probation and stay out of jail…

“I think for Riverside County, it’s a shift in the mindset,” said Chief Hake. “It’s a shift in the focus from processing cases and moving files across your desk without much concern on how it gets off your desk to one of we want to see people succeed and in order to see people succeed, you’ve got to do more than just push paper.”

In the year since the report was issued, the probation department has realized a 25 percent decrease in warrants issued for probation violations. Without the baseline numbers, this data point would not have been discovered. And, without this discovery, jails beds would continue to be filled by probationers returning for technical violations, probation staff would continue to spend hours processing paperwork, and the courts would continue to be overbooked handling the cases.


JUSTICE-SYSTEM-INVOLVED OAKLAND YOUTH GET SECOND CHANCE THROUGH FIRST RESPONDER PROGRAM

A documentary called In the Red follows three young Oakland men, Joseph Stubbs, Dexter Harris, and Justin Mayo, as they complete an 18-week free fire camp for at-risk 18-24-year-olds put on by Bay EMT.

The program participants, many of whom are recruited from an Alameda County’s Probation Camp, say they find new hope and a sense of purpose in the job training Bay EMT provides. The program was founded by firefighter Wellington Jackson, whose secondary purpose in founding Bay EMT was to boost diversity in first responder jobs. Since the program’s inception three years ago, 41 young men have graduated, five have gotten jobs as firefighters, and many others are in the middle of the hiring process (or completed the EMT course that’s also offered).

Chronicle of Social Change’s Melinda Clemmons has more on the program and the documentary. Here’s a clip:

With a soundtrack by Raphael Saadiq—who grew up in East Oakland with Lieutenant Sean Gascié, director of the fire academy—Chakarova’s film documents the rigor of the program as well as minute details of the cadets’ personal lives, filming them at the training ground and also in their off-hours at home, in the barbershop and at family gatherings.

The young men share their challenges, those they faced growing up and those they are still striving to overcome. For Harris and Stubbs, both of whom spent time at Camp Sweeney, Bay EMT provides that rare second chance. Their classmate Justin Mayo is just looking for a first chance. In one scene, he makes his grandmother a cup of coffee, then sits down to describe how he believes a firefighter uniform will change the way people see him.

“I would get on BART with a backpack,” he says, “and I could be dressed in something simple… people just looked at me as a Black kid, didn’t know what I was about…people would rather stand up for forty-five minutes than sit down next to you, and that’s kind of depressing, honestly…if I’m wearing that uniform, people could see me, I don’t know, as possibly a hero.”

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who previously served as the presiding judge of the county’s juvenile court and is a central figure in the film as well as in the lives of many young people who have participated in Bay EMT, told The Chronicle of Social Change she has seen young people transformed by the program.

“Transitioning into stable employment means people are happy to see them as opposed to clutching their purses,” Thompson said. “To walk into a room and know that people are glad to see them translates into enormous and intangible benefits for these kids. It’s something you can’t even quantify.”

Joseph Stubbs, who describes getting arrested during a chaotic time in his adolescence, says, “I’m trying to do something other than the streets.” He later explains that he wants to be a firefighter “because I want to show my kids that they can become anything they want to be.”

“These are kids who want to do something. They are trying to find the road map to get there,” Thompson said. “And the film shows the transformation that can take place when the community stops long enough to listen to our young people, give them something to say yes to and make a commitment to be present in their lives.”


CA BILL WOULD PROVIDE CRUCIAL MENTAL HEALTH AND TRAUMA SERVICES FOR YOUNG STUDENTS

An important California bill introduced earlier this month would reintroduce trauma-informed mental health services for kindergartners and students in grades 1-3, as part of the Early Mental Health Intervention program, which was defunded in 2012.

AB 1644 introduced by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would require the state health and education officials to launch a state-funded 4-year pilot program, that would provide outreach, training, and technical help to schools providing the mental health services to young students.

The bill would be an important step toward identifying and treating California kids’ trauma and toxic stress. In a recent youth well-being report card, Children Now (a national, state and local research, policy development, and advocacy group) gave the state a D- in the category of childhood trauma and resilience.

California HealthLine’s David Gorn has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

The medical community uses a scale of ACE indicators — for adverse childhood experiences — to measure that higher risk category. People with four or more childhood traumas, such as physical abuse or having a family member with a drinking problem, have a much higher prevalence later in life for a host of health issues — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, kidney disease, stroke, depression, dementia and other maladies.

“We see childhood trauma and ACEs as a public health crisis that is critical for the state to address,” said Ben Rubin, senior associate of neurodevelopment and health at Children Now, a children’s health advocacy group based in Oakland.

“More and more ACE indicators have been gaining traction,” Rubin said, not just in the medical community but in criminal justice and legislative circles as well. “We think [addressing] this has been a big deficit in the state. This bill is a good step toward providing services.”

Bonta’s legislation would establish a four-year pilot program to help some schools and communities provide mental health services with the state chipping in funds, training and technical assistance. It also would commit state money for the Early Mental Health Initiative, which was cut by the governor in 2012.

The benefits for the state are many, he said:

- School classrooms would be more effective if teachers are better able to screen and help children who exhibit symptoms of adverse childhood experiences;

- Dealing with children’s trauma now could mean big savings in health care spending in the future, as ACE indicators are one of the telling signs of those who are the heaviest users of the health care system; and

- The ability of children to become adults who contribute to society goes down among those with a number of ACE indicators, so there are a strong economic and workforce reasons to address those problems earlier.

“It’s true, it’s our moral imperative to do something about it, to protect our children,” Bonta said. “But there’s also a financial imperative, because early prevention saves dollars down the road.”


FATHER GREG BOYLE OF HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES TO RECEIVE HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

The James Beard Foundation has chosen Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries to receive its 2016 Humanitarian of the Year award. (If you’re unfamiliar, Homeboy Industries is a Los Angeles gang recovery program that has helped thousands of men and women find healthy alternatives to gang life.) According to the foundation’s website a recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award is someone “whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large.” Father Greg’s nurturing leadership has grown Homeboy’s culinary presence from it’s Homeboy Bakery origins to include Homegirl Cafe (and catering), Homeboy Diner in LA City Hall, and beyond.

Here’s a clip from the Beard Foundation’s announcement:

A Jesuit priest, Father Boyle has dedicated his life to helping those in need. In 1992, in the aftermath of the civil unrest in Los Angeles, he launched Homeboy Bakery, where former rival gang members worked side by side and learned both business and baking skills. Its success laid the groundwork for additional social enterprises within the Homeboy brand, including Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Diner in Los Angeles City Hall, and a retail presence at Los Angeles–area farmers’ markets. Every year more than ten thousand formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women come through Homeboy Industries’s doors.

“I am honored and humbled by this recognition,” Father Greg said, “but also heartened, because it acknowledges, as well, a community on the margins that has long been demonized. This award, then, imagines a circle of compassion outside of which no one is left standing.”

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Gov. Brown’s Justice Reform Ballot Initiative, TEDxSanQuentin, and Which Way, LA? on LAPD

January 28th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

GOV. JERRY BROWN’S NEW BALLOT INITIATIVE HANDS POWER TO CHARGE KIDS AS ADULTS BACK TO JUDGES AND INCREASES MERIT-BASED EARLY RELEASES

On Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a November ballot initiative that would give judges sole discretion over whether a child defendant is transferred to adult court.

The initiative could have huge implications for teens who come into contact with the justice system. California is one of just 15 states in which prosecutors hold the power to decide whether a kid (as young as 14) will be tried as an adult. Human Rights Watch points out that since 2003, nearly 7,200 of the 10,000 transfers to adult court happened without oversight from a judge.

“A decision to try a youth as an adult is a decision to give up on that young person and deny them the education, treatment, and services the juvenile system provides to help turn their lives around,” said Elizabeth Calvin, senior children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch, in response to Gov. Brown’s announcement.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in November, kids transferred to adult court have a 3.5 times higher risk of early death than the general population.

The measure would also make it easier for the prison officials to award credits toward early release to low-level offenders who have fulfilled their primary sentences. Inmates would earn credits through educational and rehabilitative efforts and good behavior.

Gov. Brown was joined in his announcement by law enforcement and religious leaders including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, San Diego County DA Bonnie Dumanis, Amador County Chief Probation Officer Mark Bonini, Napa County Chief Probation Officer Mary Butler, and California Catholic Conference of Bishops Deacon Clyde Davis.

When asked if he would finance the measure himself, Brown (who has a stockpile of $24 million in left-over campaign funds) said he would “do whatever it takes.”

The Sacramento Bee’s David Siders has a helpful explanation of the ballot initiative and the systems it seeks to reform. Here’s a clip:

Brown, announcing the measure in a conference call with reporters, said the “determinate sentencing” law he signed when he was governor before “had unintended consequences.”

“And one of the key unintended consequences was the removal of incentives for inmates to improve themselves,” he said, “because they had a certain date and there was nothing in their control that would give them a reward for turning their lives around.”

Though his measure would not change sentencing standards, Brown said “it does recognize the virtue of having a certain measure of indeterminacy in the prison system.”

“The driver of individual incentive, recognizing that there are credits to be earned and there’s parole to be attained, is quite a driver,” he said.

[SNIP]

Brown, who helped create the state’s “determinate sentencing” system when he was governor before, has said for years that it should be revisited. In a speech to judges in Sacramento in November, Brown said he didn’t foresee the dramatic impact determinate sentencing would have on the growth of California’s prison population. The policy scaled back judicial discretion in prison sentences.

“The more we can introduce some indeterminacy into the punishment, the more we can incentivize better behavior,” he said last year.

By 2003, when he was mayor of Oakland, prisons had become so crowded that Brown told the Little Hoover Commission the reform he signed turned into an “abysmal failure,” giving inmates facing long, fixed terms little incentive to reform themselves.

“The prisons started building up about the time I was leaving,” Brown said in an interview in 2010. “But they didn’t stop. They just kept on going. We see now that the determinate sentence, which I signed, needs substantial revision.”


THE MARSHALL PROJECT VISITS PROGRAM-RICH SAN QUENTIN STATE PRISON FOR TEDX CONFERENCE

Reporters from the Marshall Project, including founder Neil Barsky, visited San Quentin State Prison for two days last week for a TEDxSanQuentin event. (Barsky was one of the outside speakers featured at TEDxSanQuentin.) The Marshall Project team met with locked-up members of the San Quentin News staff, and inmates participating in the progressive prison’s many other educational and rehabilitative programs.

(TEDxSanQuentin took place January 22. The videos of the event have not been posted online. We’ll keep you updated.)

Neil Barsky and TMP’s editor Bill Keller offer a sneak peek at the trip to San Quentin and the TEDx talks. Here are some clips:

What if, instead of building prisons in remote locations, we put them near cities, accessible to family members and to the resources — educational, vocational, therapeutic, recreational, cultural — that are scarce in most prison towns?

What if, instead of walling out the world, we invited in volunteers by the hundreds to help prepare inmates for life outside – to put the correction in “corrections?” What if we offered public tours, during which visitors could chat with prisoners beyond the earshot of guards?

What if we allowed the inmates to publish a newspaper and produce a radio program?

What you’ve just imagined is San Quentin, California’s oldest prison, housing the state’s felonious since 1852.

[SNIP]

Because San Quentin is embedded in affluent/liberal Marin Country, and because it has had some progressive wardens, it is rich in programs. The prison has 3,000 volunteers donating time to an incarcerated population of about 3,700. The men can sign up to do Shakespeare, therapy, yoga, meditation, music, newspaper and radio journalism, college courses — even a computer coding program aimed at generating contract work from nearby Silicon Valley and preparing the students for employment when they get out.

Most prisons, fearful of a political backlash if prison seems too comfortable, offer at most some high-school GED classes and manual-labor training. San Quentin, attentive to the reality that upwards of 90 percent of the incarcerated are eventually set free, makes an effort to prepare its residents for a civilized reentry to society. “Like I told my father,” one resident said, “this is like a men’s liberal arts college, except there’s less violence and less drinking.” Also bleaker food options; we shared the standard San Quentin lunch — plastic-wrapped slices of bread, squeeze sacks of peanut butter and jelly, cookies and a piece of fruit.

Research on the results is spotty, but studies of some programs in San Quentin indicate that participants have recidivism rates a fraction of the state average, which is around 60 percent.


WWLA?: WHERE IS THE LAPD ON THE ROAD AWAY FROM THE AGGRESSIVE POLICING OF THE 80′S AND 90′S?

Monday’s episode of Which Way, LA? takes a closer look at whether the Los Angeles Police Department’s shift toward community policing has been successful in winning the public’s trust back through efforts like community policing since the Rodney King era.

Producer David Weinberg starts the show with a visit to one of the LAPD’s community policing training sessions, where veteran officer Michael Carradine tells Weinberg that during his early days on the force, he patrolled the Nickerson Gardens housing project, and felt ostracized by fellow officers for treating the residents (including the gang members) like humans. The LAPD has come a long way since then, but there is still quite a bit of room for reform, experts say.

Warren Olney discusses the history and future of Los Angeles policing with author and UCLA professor of history and African American studies, Brenda Stevenson, civil rights attorney Connie Rice, and Joe Domanick, journalist and author of Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.

Take a listen.


BIDDING FAREWELL TO WHICH WAY, LA?

After 23 years, this Thursday, KCRW’s Which Way, LA? will air its final episode. In an op-ed for the LA Times, David Lehrer, president of the non-profit Community Advocates, Inc., thanks WWLA? host Warren Olney for serving as an “extraordinary catalyst for our civic self-examination” by teaching “multiple generations of Angelenos how to honestly, civilly and fairly debate contentions issues — and in the process learn about what makes democracy work.” Here’s a clip:

Olney and the program have been a unique keeper of L.A.’s historical record — our triumphs, our crises, our travails and our failures. From gang warfare to the 1992 riots, from water shortages to traffic, from government boondoggles to elections analyses — Olney was there, discussing the issues with his guests thoroughly, fairly and civilly.

But it isn’t simply the chronicling of events that has made “Which Way L.A.?” so special. Even more importantly, the show has been an instrument for people of opposing viewpoints coming together as guests of the show and engaging in a dialogue. By virtue of the show’s format and Olney’s firm, friendly and thoughtful demeanor, they were compelled to express their views without rancor or bile — a true rarity in our era of partisan bickering.

Posted in Justice Reform, juvenile justice, parole policy | No Comments »

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