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Case Against LASD Deputy Dismissed…Different Views on Capital Punishment in CA…Jobs for Foster Youth

September 9th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

DEADLOCKED JURY LEADS TO DISMISSAL OF CASE AGAINST DEPUTY WHO REPORTEDLY LIED ABOUT ARREST

On Wednesday, LA Superior Court Judge C.H. Rehm dismissed a criminal case against Gregory Rodriguez, an LA County Sheriff’s deputy accused of perjury and of filing a false police report justifying the arrest of Christopher Gray by claiming that the man attempted to free people who were in police custody. Following a week-long trial that ended in a deadlocked jury (eight of twelve jurors voted not guilty), prosecutors from the LA County DA’s Justice System Integrity Division announced on Wednesday that they could not proceed and would drop the charges against Rodriguez.

The trial, which started July 29, included video evidence that prosecutors said proved Rodriguez lied about Gray’s actions leading up to the arrest. In the video, Gray appears to be calmly watching deputies make an arrest before Rodriguez confronted him and arrested him. (You can watch clips from the video footage here.) In an interview with NBC LA, Roger Clark, a police procedures consultant and former LASD lieutenant called the false reporting intentional, saying, “This should have been caught early, early on.”

Gray, who reportedly sustained a serious shoulder injury during the arrest and lost his job while he spent five days in jail on a felony charge, settled with the sheriff’s department for around $550,000. The LA County Board of Supervisors still has to approve the settlement amount.

If Rodriguez had been convicted, the (former) deputy would have faced up to four years and eight months behind bars.


CONSIDERING CALIFORNIA’S COMPETING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT BALLOT MEASURES

In November, California voters will decide between two competing ballot initiatives—one to abolish the death penalty in the state, and the other to speed up the appeals process for those sentenced to death.

The two measures have created considerable buzz. Critics of Proposition 66 argue that truncating the appeals process could lead to the execution of innocent people.

In an op-ed for the San Diego Union Tribune, co-founder of the California Innocence Project, Justin Brooks, tells the cautionary story of Bill Richards, a former death row inmate who was exonerated after 23 years. The decades it took to prove that Richards did not kill his wife and to free him from death row is not unusual, either. Seven of the last ten death row exonerations nationwide occurred after inmates had been on death row for more than 25 years. And more than 150 people have been declared innocent after a death sentence in the United States. Here’s a clip:

The jury in the third and final trial relied on highly questionable evidence: a thread allegedly found under the victim’s fingernail that matched Bill’s shirt; unscientific blood splatter evidence; and testimony by an expert that an alleged bite mark on Pamela’s body matched Bill.

After years of litigation, the California Innocence Project was finally able to get access to and testing of all of the crime scene evidence. Based on photos taken during the autopsy, there was substantial evidence that the blue fiber from Bill’s shirt was planted under Pamela’s fingernails. DNA testing of hair found under Pamela’s fingernails proved it did not match her nor Bill. Male DNA found on the murder weapon also did not match Bill. Finally, the actual prosecution expert who testified at trial that Bill’s teeth matched the bite mark recanted his trial testimony and admitted it was false.

After a lengthy habeas hearing, where all of this evidence was presented, a judge who was a former tough-on-crime prosecutor reversed Bill’s conviction. That was nine years ago. Shortly thereafter, the reversal was reversed with the California Supreme Court ruling that expert testimony cannot be deemed false, even when the expert himself admits it was false. Bill remained in prison for nine more years, battling cancer, while the California Innocence Project and others fought to change the law which finally resulted in Bill’s release this past June — after 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The same opportunity to prove innocence in California may not be available to defendants sentenced to death in the future if Proposition 66 passes this November. Under Proposition 66, arbitrary timelines will be established and there may not be time within those timelines to prove innocence. The initiative would also require inexperienced attorneys to represent individuals facing the death penalty, even though ineffective assistance of counsel is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

Another example of alleged prosecutorial misconduct leading to questionable convictions is the scandal-plagued Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Read the latest in that saga: here.

Gary Tyler, a black man who was wrongfully convicted at 16 in 1974 of murdering a white high school cheerleader, supports Prop. 62—the bill to get rid of the death penalty. The Supreme Court overturned Tyler’s death sentence within two years, but Tyler spent more than four decades in prison with a life sentence before he was exonerated. Listen to Tyler speak out in support of Prop. 62 on Midday Edition.

For the most part, the death row reform bill has the support of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and other justice system groups.

But some inmates used to death row after spending decades behind bars, are anxious about the potential of rejoining the general population of prisoners, the LA Times’ Paige St. John reports. Here’s a clip:

Perry’s worries include being moved from San Quentin, where he has struck up friendships with a college professor and a poet who visit and mentor him in theology and prose. How, he wonders, does that happen if you are a lifer locked away in the north woods at Crescent City’s Pelican Bay?

And he worries that men, “after being here chained up like monkeys and animals in a cage,” will have trouble adjusting to yards where violence is frequent.

“I’ll have to hurt someone,” was the immediate reaction of James Thompson, 64, grizzled and sitting in a tennis-court-size exercise yard. A guard stood overhead with a loaded rifle while a line of aging, heavily tattooed men in white boxer shorts paced in military precision.

On a new yard he will have to “re-establish” himself. After 20 years, Thompson is “comfortable” on East Block.

He is experienced in the differences between death row and ordinary prison. Before he robbed and killed a man in California, Thompson served a long stretch locked up in Texas, also for murder. What rubs him about California is the 20 years his appeal has been in limbo. He agrees with other condemned inmates who favor the ballot proposal to keep the death penalty but speed appeals.

“If you are going to execute me, execute me,” Thompson said. “But if you are going to let me go, let me go.”

Death row experts said states that have repealed the death penalty have successfully absorbed the condemned into their general populations, though in Connecticut, two killers had to be sent to Pennsylvania to ensure their safety.


BILL INTRODUCED IN HOUSE WOULD INCENTIVIZE THE HIRING OF FOSTER YOUTH

Under a new House bill employers would be eligible to receive annual tax credits for hiring current and former foster youth.

The Improved Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act, introduced Thursday, would grant federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit up to $2,400 per year for employers who hire people between the ages of 18 and 27 who were in foster care on their sixteenth birthday.

If an employer kept a hire from the time the employee was 18 through 26, a total of $21,600 in credits could be claimed.

The bipartisan-supported bill, which was introduced by five members of the House Ways and Means Committee, was inspired by a partnership in California between a non-profit, iFoster, and Raley’s, a grocery chain, which has grown to include a manufacturing company called Mondelez International and Starbucks.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s John Kelly has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

“We pursued this path and the creation of this bill because when we talked to employers, they were not interested in the subsidized work internships or subsidized employment,” said Serita Cox, the co-founder and executive director of iFoster, who has helped develop the legislation. “Instead, they felt strongly about the tax credit offered to veterans.”

The iFoster program worked with transition-age, kinship and crossover youth ages 16 to 24 in a seven-step program that involves a screening and interview process. iFoster completes a pre-employment phase with a cohort of potential employees before they interview and start working at the company.

“The caliber of the youths and the success they’re having on the job has been tremendous,” said iFoster co-founder Reid Cox. “One of the key issues here is that none of this is trying to offset that these kids are bad employees. It’s just to level the playing field.”

Sean Hughes, a child welfare consultant who helped develop the legislation, said “at least” 100,000 youths and young adults who spent time in foster care would be WOTC eligible. The number might be far higher, based on federal foster care data from 2014.

There were 22,392 exited foster care due to “emancipation” in fiscal 2014, according to federal data. Assuming that is about average, approximately 201,000 workers would be eligible in any year.

Posted in LASD, Uncategorized | 23 Comments »

Discipline for Oakland Officers Involved in Sex Scandal…Rising Number of Defendants Declared Incompetent…and More

September 8th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

FOUR OAKLAND OFFICERS FIRED, SEVEN SUSPENDED AFTER SEX SCANDAL INVESTIGATION

On Wednesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth announced the conclusion of a year-long administrative investigation into a wild sex scandal within the Oakland Police Department, involving a minor.

Four OPD officers will be terminated (if they have not already left the department) and seven OPD officers will be suspended without pay for their roles in the exploitation of the young woman who calls herself Celeste Guap. One officer—who presumably played a lesser role in the scandal than those fired or suspended— will undergo counseling and training.

In June, Guap told a television station that she had sex with more than a dozen OPD officers, three of whom she reportedly had sex with in 2014 while she was 17. After the news broke about the OPD passing around an underage girl for sex, the police chief resigned. Six days later, Schaaf sacked the interim chief. A few days after that, the mayor sacked the second interim chief. Fed up and vowing to weed out “toxic, macho culture,” Schaaf then placed the City Administrator in charge of the OPD. (Backstory: here.)

During the course of the administrative investigation, led by the City Attorney’s Office and several members of the OPD, investigators interviewed 50 witnesses, conducted 11 interviews with Guap, and reviewed 28,000 texts and 78,000 pages of social media posts. There’s also a separate, independent review by a law firm to “ensure the integrity” of the city review.

Landreth said that the four terminated officers had each committed one or more of these offenses: attempted sexual assault, lewd conduct in public, assisting in the crime of prostitution, assisting in the evading arrest for the crime of prostitution, accessing law enforcement databases for personal gain, being untruthful to investigators, failing to report a violation of law or rules by not reporting allegations of officers’ sexual conduct with the underage Guap, and bringing disrepute to the OPD.

And the seven suspended officers committed one or more of the following offenses: failure to report the officer-minor sexual contact, misusing the databases, and bringing disrepute to the department.

The report highlighted the need for more training to help officers identify and assist victims of sex trafficking. In July, the Special Victims Unit teamed up with Bay Area Women Against Rape to teach officers ways they can better respond to people committing trafficking-related offenses and other victims.

The report also found that officers were misusing criminal databases for personal benefit, and recommended stricter oversight moving forward. Officers reportedly leaked information to Guap about prostitution stings and shared police reports and individual criminal records with her.

After announcing the results of the investigation, Mayor Schaaf said she was “deeply sorry”, particularly to communities that already have trust issues with the department.

“We care deeply about this community and its officers and believe that the outcomes in this case will root out misconduct, encourage a culture of transparency and continue the work of restoring trust.”


IN LA COUNTY, FAR MORE DEFENDANTS DECLARED UNFIT TO STAND TRIAL THAN LAST YEAR

Mid-year estimates predict that there will be 1000 more defendants declared incompetent to stand trial in Los Angeles County in 2016 than in 2015, according to a draft audit from LA County’s Health Agency commissioned by the county Board of Supervisors.

Mental health competency cases in LA County jumped from 944 in 2010 to 3,528 in 2015. Now, LA appears to be on track to hit 4,500 by the end of 2016.

For defendants who may be too mentally ill to understand the charges against them, defense attorneys can seek a competency hearing. Then, if doctors find a particular defendant to be unfit to stand trial, the defendant must submit to treatment in mental hospitals, residential facilities, or in jail. In California, hundreds of mentally ill inmates declared incompetent to stand trial languish in jails waiting for beds to open up at the five state hospitals who can admit them.

Experts and officials are not sure what’s behind the spike in competency cases.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, director of Community Health & Integrated Programs at the L.A. County Department of Health Services called the surge a “symptom” of the justice system acting as a mental health system.

The report recommends boosting community services for the county’s mentally ill.

KPCC’s Rina Palta has more on the numbers. Here’s a clip:

Between 1995 and 2010, California lost about 30 percent of its psychiatric hospital beds.

In L.A. County, acute inpatient capacity has remained constant, and other less acute residential care has grown slightly, but “not at the rate or capacity needed.”

The trend, the report noted, goes beyond Los Angeles County. Referrals for competency evaluations have increased statewide in Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. But the report noted that those states did not see the high numbers seen in L.A. County.

Nationally, it said, some 900,000 people “with serious mental illness” are admitted to jails in the United States every year, most of them awaiting trial on various charges. Jails are ill equipped to meet their needs, and they end up getting referred out to mental hospitals through programs designed for restoring mental health to the level where a person can meaningfully participate in their own legal defense.

The vast majority of competency cases are people who’re charged with lower-level nuisance crimes, like vandalism, trespassing and resisting arrest.


PROP. 47 DEADLINE EXTENSION BILL MAKES IT TO GOV. BROWN’S DESK

A bill to extend the deadline for Proposition 47-eligible Californians to get their low-level felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors has passed out of both the state Senate and Assembly and landed on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval. If passed, the bill would give Prop. 47ers seeking to reduce their felony convictions would—upon a showing of good cause—have an extra five years to apply beyond the current November 2017 deadline.

Back in July, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by County CEO Sachi Hamai to allocate $6.6 million from the county’s budget to help approximately 500,000 people with felonies that qualify for reduction to misdemeanors under Proposition 47, but have not yet taken advantage of the retroactive law.

We’ll keep you updated on the status of this bill and other justice-related measures as Gov. Brown progresses through bill-signing season.

Vice’s Rebecca McCray has more on the bill and its importance. Here’s a clip:

“We already have other statutes that don’t have time limits,” David Greenberg, the chief deputy district attorney of San Diego County, told VICE. “Why are we putting a time limit on this?”

The answer, according to Greenberg, is “politics.” He helped draft the amendment, which was ultimately authored by Shirley Weber, an Assembly member. Yet in testament to the state’s evolving attitude toward crime, despite his support for extending the deadline, Greenberg was actually a strong opponent of Prop. 47 from day one—and remains one.

“It took away a lot of options for us,” Greenberg, who argues that prosecutors already used their discretion to reduce certain felonies to misdemeanors, told me.

But when San Diego County Public Defenders office told the DA it would have to file 150 to 250,000 petitions before the November deadline, Greenberg said, he knew the burden on the court and his office would be untenable. In Los Angeles County, which is the largest in the state, the number of petitions would be at least twice that, Greenberg added.

“The vast majority of people have no idea their felonies could be reduced,” he told me. “You would think with all this publicity that those folks who are cleaning their life up and are eligible would be reaching out, but that’s just not the reality.”

That’s where record-change fairs and “reclassification clinics” come in. Organized by advocates and volunteer attorneys, events like the one on the flyer that caught Duncan’s eye have become a vital way to reach Californians who have never heard of Proposition 47.

“The hurdle is really just getting the word out,” said Lenore Anderson, coauthor of Prop. 47 and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit that has hosted record change fairs. “Hundreds of thousands of Californians have [eligible] felony record convictions, but a lot of folks are infrequent voters or may not be aware of the law change.”



The above video of the mayor’s press conference was taken by CBS SF.

Posted in Rape, Sex trafficking | 9 Comments »

A Close Look at the Final Five in the Running for LA County Probation Chief

September 7th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon



It’s down to five finalists for the critically important position
of chief of Los Angeles County’s embattled Department of Probation, the largest such agency in the nation.

The county’s board of supervisors interviewed some of the final five on Tuesday and will finish interviewing on Wednesday. Then, according to our sources, the board may make its choice as soon as by the end of the week.

The finalists are—in alphabetical order:

Donna Groman, supervising judge of the LA County Juvenile Delinquency Court in South LA
Terri McDonald, former assistant sheriff in charge of LA County’s Jail System
Dave Mitchell, Acting Deputy Chief for Residential Treatment Services for LA County Probation
Sheila Mitchell, former head of Probation for Santa Clara County
Margarita Perez, former Assistant Chief of LA County Probation Field Services operations

As of this past weekend, Terri McDonald and Sheila Mitchell are the front runners. But the Supes are a mercurial lot. Plus, after cycling through 5 probation chiefs in just over 10 years, plus ongoing revelations pointing to the fact that the agency’s problems are still, unfortunately, far from solved, the board knows it needs to get this particular choice right.

We will get to the front-runner issue in a minute. First here are some upsides and downsides on each of the five finalists.

A quick note: As we compiled our list of candidates’ pros and cons, we talked to a varied list of well-placed sources who requested not to be quoted directly at this moment, out of respect for the selection process.


TERRI MC DONALD

Terri McDonald was in charge of LA County’s massive and troubled jail system during the recent post-scandal period in which a great deal of reform took place.

During her tenure as Assistant Sheriff heading up the custody division for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, McDonald had a reputation as a hands-on administrator who walked the floors of the facilities, talking to staff and to inmates, encouraging everyone—inmates and deputies both— to let her know where they saw problems.

She also already has a good relationship with the board of supervisors, which is a big plus.

McDonald has spent most of her career in the field of adult corrections facilities, beginning as a corrections officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and working her way up. When former sheriff Lee Baca recruited her to come to the sheriff’s department in March 2013, after the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence issued its scathing report in Sept 2012, she had spent 24 years with the CDCR. How well that experience translates to what will be required at probation, which is different than an agency concerned purely with custody, is not clear.

On one hand, McDonald is definitely reform minded, and has broad experience instituting reform in the state’s prison system, in addition to what she has accomplished in LA County.

“I was raised by lifers,” McDonald once told us of her tenure at the CDCR, which we took to mean that inmates had taught her a great deal that was of value and formative. This same POV was evidenced in the way she interacted with jail inmates, whether they were locked-up on something minor, or had just been adjudicated on a serious criminal case, and were waiting to be shipped to state prison: McDonald offered basic respect to the jail inmates in the county’s care whom she encountered, and expected respect in return, and generally got it. As a consequence, she made the LA County jail system more humane, both for inmates and staff.

Yet, certain distressing problems, while lessened, still remain in the county’s jails. Extravagant uses of force went down, but inmate attacks on deputies went up, as did lower level uses of force by deputies. And there were the “tethering’ incidents. Some line staff blamed what they felt were unclear policies.

Those who question whether McDonald is the ideal fit to head the county’s probation agency, point to the fact that the supervisors have been saying for months that redefining LA County’s juvenile system to focus on rehabilitation and effective treatment, not behavior control and punishment, is job one, and will be the issue topmost in the board’s collective mind when they are choosing a new chief.

McDonald has scant experience in the juvenile field. So while she has obvious skill and breadth of experience on the adult side of things, some of those whom we spoke with asked if she can be the transformative leader so sorely needed when it comes to kids under the county’s supervision. Maybe she can. But the question needs to be asked.

Moreover, some justice advocates point out that when McDonald was reforming the jails, she had help in the form of a looming federal consent decree, the ACLU’s giant Rosas lawsuit—the settlement of which, forced certain changes—and the 197 pages of criticisms and recommendations from the CCJV, which the board—and the new sheriff, Jim McDonald—wanted instituted.

At probation, the new chief—whether it is McDonald or someone else-–will, at this point, have no such legal instruments that she—or he— can use as levers to counter the inevitable resistance that accompanies any systemic change—although, with any luck, there will be an oversight body soon created that will help a new chief drive reform. (More on that at another time.)

As KPCC’s Rina Palta pointed out when McDonald was first hired at the LASD, her former boss, Matt Cate, at the CDCR described her as a highly ethical administrator who “does not suffer fools well.” All this is very good—or can be.

Yet, whoever becomes chief is going to have to deal with the county’s labor unions, without either alienating their hard-working members, as former Chief Jerry Powers did with calamitous results, or being mowed down in every disagreement with union leadership, as was the case with Powers’ predecessor, Donald Blevins.

At the same time, according to those close to the department, there are some problematic players in leadership positions in probation, along with pockets of toxic culture that have been allowed to remain among the staff. Whoever is selected to lead the organization will need to have the clarity, guts, and management skill to successfully roll the necessary heads.

Is Terri McDonald that person? And can she also provide the necessary leadership on the juvenile side? Again, these questions are among those that must be answered before the board should move ahead with its selection.


SHEILA MITCHELL

Sheila Mitchell is considered a juvenile justice hero by many because of the notable reform she instituted as chief of probation in Santa Clara County on the juvenile side of the agency she ran for nearly ten years.

Although Santa Clara is obviously much smaller than LA County, the department that Mitchell took over in 2004 was reportedly a hot mess, strongly emphasizing punishment over anything that resembled rehabilitation on the adult and the juvenile side. The DOJ was investigating the department’s juvenile hall for alleged civil rights violations, there were dozens of reports of “staff-inflicted injuries” in the place, and the place had turned into a lawsuit factory.

When Mitchell left her post as Santa Clara’s chief, the county’s main juvenile facility, the William F. James Ranch, was considered the state’s most innovative and highly successful residential program for kids, which used as its inspiration the nationally lauded “Missouri model.” Whereas, for the first 50 years of its life, the James Ranch had been focused only on behavior control.

Plus under Mitchell, probation made good use of community alternatives—like a well run treatment-oriented day center—to keep kids out of residential facilities altogether, and dramatically lower recidivism rates.

In addition, Mitchell and those she put in top positions, managed to work with the county’s unions in such a way that a highly problematic staff culture in juvenile probation was able to be substantively transformed to the point that the James Ranch was being run by treatment-oriented, kid-centered staff members, not guards.

On the adult side of probation, Mitchell instituted such system changes as improving education outcomes for Santa Clara County adult probationers and parolees, thus easing their successful transition back into their communities.

But, could Mitchell’s Santa Clara experience apply to LA County’s huge, troubled and complicated probation goliath? (She was Assistant Chief Probation Officer at Alameda County probation, the state’s closest analogue to LA, and prior to that she was the Deputy Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, all of which should help.)

Moreover, does Mitchell really want the job? Since she retired from Santa Clara’s top spot in 2013, she has consulted with various probation departments, (which she has been doing for LA County’s Camp Kilpatrick project, which like Santa Clara’s James Ranch, aims to create its own treatment focused, “trauma-informed” model). Then in April of this year, she took the job of Chief Operating Office for an agency called Unity Care, which provides services for “at‐risk and foster youth.”

The Unity Care experience has reportedly imbued Mitchell still more insight and fervor to help fundamentally change the way we deal with the kids who wind up in our various county systems.

Yet, according to some well-placed sources, Mitchell may not be sure if she wants to jump back into an all-consuming situation that leading LA County Probation would require. And there have been doubts about whether she’d be willing to relocate to Los Angeles.

Is that true? If so, has it changed? Is she now all in? Getting those questions answered will be important part of the Supes selection task.


DAVE MITCHELL

Dave Mitchell’s supporters contend that, save interim probation chief Cal Remington, Mitchell is the person in the high echelon’ of the probation department who is most committed to and best understands juvenile reform.

According to those who have worked with him, Mitchell is intelligent, highly capable, cares very much about kids, and knows a great deal about the problems that need to be solved in the agency, particularly in the juvenile realm.

Yet those who are rooting for one of the other four candidates suggest that, while Dave Mitchell is likely someone to groom to be chief in the future, he may not have the ideal experience to move into the top spot just yet, but that he is one of the people most necessary to a new leadership mix, to help take the department in a new and healthier direction.


MARGARITA PEREZ

Margarita Perez was recruited by former probation chief Jerry Powers to leave her position in state parole and come to Los Angeles to head up probation’s new responsibilities as the agency was tasked with overseeing men and women who, through state legislation known as AB109, suddenly landed on the county’s doorstep instead of that of the state, as part of California’s prison realignment strategy, which began in October 2011, a few months before Powers was sworn in as chief.

Before she retired last year, Perez was generally well respected inside the department by the rank and file, who saw her as someone unafraid to put on a flack vest, and get her hands dirty, so to speak, in order find out how the folks working the front lines were doing.

She is also viewed by many as a talented and respected administrator and supervisor who is firmly reform-minded on the adult side of probation. They point to her emphasis on rehabilitative services designed to help probationers do better when they reenter their communities, with the idea of lowering return trips to jail or prison.

By the way, Perez was selected to serve as chief briefly (after Jerry Powers “retired” under a cloud) until interim chief Cal Remington could free his schedule and take over the reins.

Although Perez was hired by Powers, when she left the department she reportedly wrote a sober-minded, no-punches-pulled exit letter about what was wrong at the agency, and who inside it had to go if it was to move forward toward health.

Those who do not favor Perez for the job of chief, point to her lack of any experience on the juvenile side of things, which is in desperate need of a visionary leader. Also, as is the case with Dave Mitchell, this is a moment when anybody promoted from within is going to be a tough sale.


DONNA GROMAN

Judge Donna Groman, is the supervising judge of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Delinquency Court at the Kenyon Juvenile Justice Center in South LA. Groman was named the California Judges Association Juvenile Court Judge of the Year for 2012, and is a very well-regarded as a jurist who cares very much about the well being of the kids who pass through her courtroom, and through the juvenile system generally.

For instance, Groman is known for making sure that planning for the future is a big part of managing each kid’s case that comes before her, which means assessing things such as a kids’ behavioral and mental health needs, along with educational needs, and other basic issues that must be in place if a kid is to thrive after he or she leaves a probation facility.

Groman has also been an important advocate for such issues as school discipline reform, pushing for kids to be kept in school rather than cited and/or suspended for such minor school-related infractions as tardiness, or truancy. In addition, she been a strong and effective voice for reforming the role that school police play on campus, for the treatment of sexually trafficked children, restorative justice, and for extended foster care and independent living services for youth aging out of the foster care system.

Yet, the role of chief is an administrative position. So is Groman’s experience on the bench, as an attorney, and as an effective juvenile reform advocate enough to make her the right candidate to run a law enforcement agency of the size and complexity of LA County probation, which has more than ‪6500 employees—ninety percent of whom are sworn peace officers—and supervises ‪12,000 state parolees, 60,000 adult probationers, and around 2,800 kids, either in its various facilities or in home placement, all on a budget of $830 million?

Well, maybe so. But, this is yet another question that the supervisors need to carefully consider of Groman and every other candidate as the board moves forward with its selection process.

So stay tuned.


POST SCRIPT

Jeremy Loudenback, writing for the Chronicle of Social Change, first broke the story that Sheila Mitchell and Terri McDonald were among the top five being considered. Then we ferretted out the rest of the list, plus who was supporting whom. We recommend you read Loudenback’s informative story, plus this story in WLA he wrote earlier in the process that was adapted from a still earlier story produced for CSC.

Posted in Probation | 24 Comments »

Making Family Visits Easier…a $1.2 Billion Bond Initiative House Homeless…and Immigrants and Crime

September 7th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

THE LA COUNTY SUPES WANT TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR FOSTER FAMILIES TO GET KIDS TO VISITS WITH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to instruct the head of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services to develop a plan to help foster parents get kids to regular visits with their biological families. (These court-ordered visitations help kids and their biological parents bond and improve likelihood of future family reunification.)

LA County is facing a serious shortage of foster families. The hope is that by making required family visits easier for foster parents to fulfill, more people will choose to become foster parents.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Michael Antonovich, directs DCFS (with input from other county departments) to explore the feasibility of contracting with existing ride-sharing services, and providing thorough training, so that drivers can provide trauma-informed transportation services for foster kids.

Currently, foster children in need of transportation to parent visits, which can occur multiple times per week, rely on understaffed DCFS Human Services Aides (HSA) to facilitate the meetings. DCFS will also explore the possibility of hiring more HSAs to serve more kids.

DCFS will also look into expanding the number of available visitation sites to increase options for foster parents and kinship caregivers, and expanding existing “supportive visitation models” to help biological parents learn and practice parenting skills, to increase successful family reunifications.

“Because we already ask so much of our current and prospective resource families, it’s important that the county be as supportive as possible to those who are stepping up to provide a temporary, safe and loving home for our kids,” Supervisor Kuehl said.

DCFS will report back to the board in 90 days with a plan for improving the family visitation system to better serve LA County’s foster youth.


ANOTHER IMPORTANT MOTION APPROVED: SUPES IN SUPPORT OF CITY BOND MEASURE TO HOUSE HOMELESS

The LA County Supervisors also approved a motion to support the City of LA’s Proposition H—a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund large-scale construction of housing for LA’s homeless.

The proposition goes before voters in November, and if approved, would pay for 8,000 to 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for the city’s chronically homeless residents, as well as fund temporary shelters, affordable housing, and other efforts.

“Let’s get on with the business of making a significant dent in homelessness,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the motion’s author. “We cannot afford to allow the status quo to persist – our fellow Angelenos are depending on us.”

For more on the ongoing LA City-County collaborative effort to combat homelessness, read our previous post: here.


INACCURATE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT IMMIGRANTS AND CRIME, AND A RULING TO GRANT BOND HEARINGS TO DETAINEES WHO HAVE COMMITTED MINOR CRIMES

Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that immigrant detainees in California with prior convictions (and subject to noncitizen mandatory detention) must be granted a bond hearing.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the ACLU of Northern California, and the lawfirm Keker & Van Nest brought the class action lawsuit on behalf of immigrants held in detention for minor—and very old—crimes.

“People who have served their time, turned their lives around, and are supporting their families should not be condemned to mandatory lock-up,” said Michael Tan Staff Attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project (IRP). “In America, everyone should get a chance to see a judge before their freedom is taken away.”

Despite a surplus of discriminatory policies (like the bond-blocking practice reversed by the 9th Circuit) and recent political rhetoric that focuses on the criminality of immigrants, studies have actually shown that statistically, immigrants to commit less crime than native-born Americans.

And the numbers can’t be attributed to any immigrant-specific tendency to avoid self-reporting arrests and crimes committed, according recent research by Bianca Bersani, a sociology professor at UMass Boston, and Alex Piquero, a criminology professor at UT Dallas. The researchers found that first generation immigrants were slightly less likely to under-report their justice system involvement compared with their non-immigrant peers.

In an op-ed for the LA Times,
Bersani and Piquero call on lawmakers, officials, and others in positions of power to “drop the fear-based tactics,” that fuel unjust policies and practices. Here’s a clip:

In a recent study, we investigated whether immigrants have a greater tendency to underreport their offenses than native-born Americans. Over a seven-year period, a large sample of adolescent offenders were tracked and interviewed 10 times. At each interview they were asked if they had been arrested. We then compared these self-reports with official arrest records to check for accuracy.

Bottom line: We found no evidence supporting the idea that immigrants are especially prone to hide their criminal behavior. Over the seven years of the study, immigrants accurately self-reported their arrests 87% of the time, which is slightly more accurate, though not statistically different, than their native-born (86%) and second-generation (84%) peers. The finding that the foreign-born commit less crime than their U.S.-born peers is not a product of differences in reporting practices across these groups.

As the public’s views on immigration policy trend toward support for increased pathways to citizenship, the rhetoric on the immigrant-crime nexus appears particularly resilient to scientific evidence to the contrary. Interest in the rhetoric-reality divide is more than an academic puzzle as exposure to these messages exacerbates fears, fuels anxieties and provokes reactionary responses that are not well conceived, like mass deportation plans or broad stroke exclusionary practices.

Posted in Foster Care | 1 Comment »

“You’re in the Right Place, Brother:” Changing the Conversation About Prison & Post Prison Policy

September 2nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

In the past year, music star John Legend has become increasingly active in social issues, most prominently education reform and prison policy reform. His non-profit #FREEAMERICA wants to “change the national conversation” about about the country’s incarceration policies specifically, and the US criminal justice system in general, by focusing attention on what works and what does not.

In 2015, Legend engaged in a nationwide “listening and learning tour,” visiting with people who are incarcerated, law enforcement figures, legislators, academics and other experts “who’ve been thinking critically about America’s prison problem.”

More recently, #FREEAMERICA has launched My Potential, a digital storytelling project that highlights the experiences and perceptions of people affected by America’s criminal justice system, including leaders in the field, union workers, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, and their families.

The video above is a part of the My Potential series. It was produced together with Homeboy Industries and features Hector Verdugo, who is now the Associate Executive Director of HBI, but who was once very active in a high profile Boyle Heights gang, and has spent time in juvenile justice facilities, and then in prison, before finding the wherewithal to steer his life in a new direction. In this video Verdugo talks about his experiences—-both having to do with when he was himself in prison, and as a reformer as one who works with men and women coming out of gang involvement and incarceration settings.

We at WLA have known Hector Verdugo well for more than a decade, and he and his story are the real deal.

So, enjoy, and have a good Labor Day weekend.

Posted in prison policy | No Comments »

Questions Raised by Video Showing Body Being Moved in LAPD Shooting

September 2nd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


In February Los Angeles Police officers shot and killed a Boyle Heights
sixteen-year-old named Jose Mendez. According to the police, was driving a stolen car and carrying a sawed off shotgun.

The Los Angeles Times reported back in February that, according to Chief Charlie Beck, a description of the stolen car had been broadcast to LAPD officers. Several hours later, cops from the Hollenbeck station spotted the stolen vehicle and began following the car and its driver. The car pulled over and sixteen-year-old Mendez allegedly armed himself with a sawed off shotgun.

In a later account, an LAPD spokesperson said that Jose Mendez pointed the gun at one of the police officers, at which point police shot the sixteen-year-old multiple times and he died at the scene.

Now LA Weekly reporter Jason McGahan has broken the news about a surveilance video that has surfaced showing officers dragging Mendez’ body immediately after the shooting, from the private driveway where he was shot, down the sidewalk a distance of approximately 30 feet, for reasons that are unclear.

Attorney Arnoldo Casillas, who is representing Jose Mendez family in a civil suit, shared the video with the Weekly on the condition that they agreed not to publish the video itself online. But the publication was allowed to excerpt screen shots for publication

Here’s a clip from the Weekly’s story:

The video in question — which Mendez’s parents, Juan and Josefina Mendez, discovered the day after the shooting while visiting the scene with Casillas — was filmed by a security camera from a nearby apartment complex. Looking north to an area on the downhill slope of East Sixth Street, the video captures the black Honda Mendez was driving coming to a stop in a residential driveway. Immediately, a patrol car pulls in behind it. The glare from the cruiser’s headlights obstructs the camera’s view of the shooting, but in the last clear sequence prior to the shooting, at 10:42 p.m. on the video timestamp, two officers can be seen rapidly exiting the patrol car, their guns drawn and pointed.

The officers quickly climb out of the patrol car and appear to point their weapons toward the vehicle with Mendez still at the wheel. One officer circles around to the right of the parked Honda, and the other to the left. The police car’s lights obscure the rest of the incident from view.

Four and a half minutes later, at 10:46 p.m according to the video timestamp, two police officers are shown dragging Mendez’s body by the shoulders down East Sixth Street and laying him face-down on the sidewalk, about 30 feet away from the driveway where the traffic stop was conducted and the shooting had taken place moments before.

After officers dragged Mendez’ body, the video then shows one officer fishing what appears to be a cell phone out of the boy’s pocket, after which time, another officer handcuffs him. More officers arrive. Mendez does not move, nor does anyone appear to check his condition.

So, what if anything does this video mean? The Weekly talked to several experts to whom they showed the video. These experts gave various circumstances that could necessitate the moving of a body at the scene of such an incident. However, none of those circumstances seemed to be in evidence after the Mendez shooting.

One a former prosecutor, a deputy district attorney for Riverside County named Ambrosio Rodriguez, told McGahan, “I was in many officer-involved shootings, when [the victim or victims] were dead, and they’re treated like a homicide scene. There’s lots of little differences, but you cannot move a body. That’s tampering with evidence. You can’t do that…”

LAPD officials have not yet commented on the video.

Read the rest of the Weekly’s story here.


Photo by Scott L, Wikimedia Commons

Posted in LAPD | 15 Comments »

Kids Penalized (and Even Locked-Up) for Inability to Pay Juvenile Justice Fees

September 1st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

A state-by-state analysis by Juvenile Law Center of costs levied against justice-system-involved kids and their families reveals a system that pushes poor families into serious financial strain and debt, and pushes kids further into the justice system.

These costs include court expenses—like witness fees, transportation, cost of prosecution, and cost of court operations—public defender fees (even for indigent defendants), probation supervision costs, money for participation in diversion programs, child support to the state, fees for mental health treatment, health care, and rehabilitative programming, the cost of GPS monitoring, and more. Courts in all states can impose restitution charges on juveniles.

Using JLC’s interactive maps, you can see what fees and fines states impose on kids and their families. (For example, California passes four justice system costs—not including restitution—on to youth and their parents. New York appears to only charge restitution.)

In addition to analyzing state statutes and other data, JLC researchers surveyed 183 people across the nation—most of whom were attorneys and other professionals working with justice-system-involved kids. The surveyed group also included over a dozen family members of kids in the justice system, as well as a handful of former youthful offenders.

Respondents to survey questions from JLC researchers reported that, in a majority of states, when kids fail to pay these fines and fees, they can be locked up in juvie camps and detention centers (and kids already in facilities may be locked up longer), kids’ cases can stay open longer, youth and families face more court visits, are unable to get their records expunged, and face civil judgements. Survey participants told researchers that these high costs often pushed their families into debt.

“Every day, we hear elected officials talking about racial injustice, mass incarceration, and the need for criminal justice reform,” said Jessica Feierman, Associate Director at Juvenile Law Center and report author. “This report identifies one key strategy to address those problems: eliminating or reducing the financial costs of juvenile court involvement on youth and their families.”

In fact, researchers found that these financial penalties actually led to increased recidivism and racial disparities. “Their inability to pay often leads to additional charges, extended probation, or additional punishments, taking them deeper into the justice system,” said criminologists Alex Piquero and Wesley Jennings.

There are several local jurisdictions making welcome changes to bring equity to their juvenile court systems. One of those trailblazing jurisdictions is Alameda County, CA.

Nearly every one of California’s 58 counties charge families for kids’ juvenile justice system involvement. In March, after UC Berkeley researchers revealed the significant burden these fees—which, in Alameda, include GPS monitoring, community supervision, nights in juvenile hall, and more—place on low-income families, Alameda County suspended the fees for its residents. The Berkeley report found that these fees were adding up to an average $2,000 per case, with many totals much higher. One survey respondent reported that many single moms of justice-system-involved kids “have difficulty scraping together $10 to $15 dollars out of their monthly budget to pay on these fees, fines, and costs.”

The report also highlights reform efforts in Washington state, where many of the fees and fines have been eliminated, and judges consider kids’ ability to pay other debts and restitution.

A bill introduced in California by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) would have eliminated administrative fees for kids locked up or placed on probation statewide, but the bill died in committee.

The JLC report calls for counties and states to stop gouging youth and their families in order to fund their court systems, and urges the prioritization of restitution payments that go straight to victims and are within kids’ ability to pay.

Posted in juvenile justice | No Comments »

OpenJustice Bill Heads to Gov. Brown, and Lenore Anderson on Crime Victims’ Push for Reform

September 1st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

CA LAWMAKERS UNANIMOUSLY PASS BILL TO MODERNIZE AND SPEED UP THE WAY CRIMINAL JUSTICE-RELATED IS REPORTED TO THE PUBLIC

On Tuesday, the California Assembly passed AB 2524, a bill that would change annual criminal justice summary reports published by the state Attorney General’s Office into incident-based digital data sets to be published on Attorney General Kamala Harris’ OpenJustice website. AG Harris praised both the Senate and Assembly for unanimously passing the bill to “bring criminal justice data reporting into the 21st Century.”

Last September, AG Harris launched the OpenJustice site to bring transparency to the state’s justice system by publishing crime and policing statistics. The website shows city, county, and state crime and arrest rates, deaths during arrest, deaths in custody, and the number of law enforcement officers killed or assaulted. Users can view data on interactive maps and graphs, and sort data groups by race, gender, and age.

The bill, introduced by Harris and Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), would also require the DOJ to work toward implementing a smoother, all-electronic collection of criminal justice data that would be updated on the OpenJustice site at least every quarter, rather than on an annual basis.

“…Only approximately 40% of local law enforcement agencies currently submit required data sets through electronic means, impeding the ability of the state to implement a uniform reporting structure through which information is made available to the public more frequently and more effectively,” the bill reads.

AB 2524 now moves to Governor Jerry Brown for final approval.


LENORE ANDERSON ON HER TEENAGE YEARS, CRIME VICTIMS’ VOICES, CRIME RATES, AND MORE

In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney, Lenore Anderson discusses her own personal journey from troubled teen punk rock drummer to big-time attorney and founder of Californians for Safety and Justice—the group behind CA’s Proposition 47. (If you’re unfamiliar, Prop. 47 downgraded six non-serious drug and property-related felonies to misdemeanors.)

Anderson tells the story of the transformative moment she realized that all the help and guidance she received during her teenage years from teachers and police—even as lawmakers pumped out tough-on-crime laws and laws born from fear of the juvenile “superpredator”—was an exclusive benefit of her white privilege.

Here’s a clip from the interview:

I was a troublemaker as a kid. I got in trouble with neighbors, parents, police, teachers, and it wasn’t until I was older that I understood that the help that was offered me is not the help that is offered to kids of color in my exact same position. In realizing that, I made a commitment to work on racial equity and criminal justice reform for my career.

I was in California in the 80s. During the exact same time that I was in high school, the number of tough-on-crime laws that were being passed in the legislature, the number of laws that were focused on the juvenile predator ― that was when it was occurring. And at that same time, I’m in high school ― middle-class white female ― doing things that are not that different from what a lot of young kids of color would be doing at that time in their lives, and the response to me was one of forgiveness.

Police would take me home instead of taking me to juvenile hall; my parents had resources to get me counseling and therapy; teachers let me pass classes that I didn’t actually pass. There was a perception that what I was doing were cries for help, and we need to figure out how to help her get on the right path; to see me as one that needed to be protected through my juvenile confusion to adulthood.

Fast-forward ten years and I’m talking to parents of incarcerated youth. These are young people whose stories are not that markedly different from mine, with the exception of the response ― the exception of what police did, what parents had resources to do, what teachers did. I think that’s really why I do the work I do.

I didn’t go straight to college after high school. Eventually I went to junior college, mainly because I needed health insurance, and I enjoyed it. I did really well and ended up at UC Berkeley, and there I was very much interested in social justice. I go to an event where one of the speakers is Cornelius Hall, whose son Jerrold Hall was shot in the back by a law enforcement officer working for BART [the Bay Area’s rapid transit system] upon suspicion that he had stolen a Walkman.

That was a pivotal moment for me because, you know, half my friends stole Walkmans. No doubt, no question, I was one of the many teenagers who could have been Jerrold Hall, with the difference being he’s an African-American male and I’m a white female. I think that was one of the key moments where I was clear on the privilege that I had benefitted from.

Anderson also talks about the often overlooked perspective of crime victims and changes they would like to see in the criminal justice system. Californians for Safety and Justice conducted a first-of-it’s-kind national survey of crime victims’ views on criminal justice, which revealed that while 25% of crime victims are in favor of locking people away for as long as possible, an astounding 61% of victims are in favor of shorter sentences and a focus on prevention and rehabilitation.

The common assumption is that crime victims want vengeance, or that they want the toughest possible longest sentence. What we found is actually quite different.

We found that the majority of crime victims want rehabilitation over punishment. The majority of crime victims want shorter sentences and prevention spending over long sentences. We found the majority of crime victims think that prosecutors should spend more time focused on neighborhood problem solving and rehabilitation, even if it means fewer convictions ― even if it means fewer convictions. Those kinds of findings really stand out, and these are diverse crime victims from all backgrounds across the country.

There are enough people at this point that have had direct personal experience with the failings of our current approach to criminal justice that pretty much everybody agrees that most people get worse in prison, not better. How can that possibly be a good investment? Hearing that from victims I think is a really powerful intervention on the conversation on what we should be doing.

Be sure to go over to the Huffington Post and read the rest of Anderson’s interview.

Posted in Kamala Harris | No Comments »

LASD Moves to Decriminalize Homelessness, an Interview with “Ghettoside” Author Jill Leovy, a Bill to Address Problems in Juvenile Court Schools, and More Commutations

August 31st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

INSTEAD OF ARRESTING HOMELESS, LA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES WILL CONNECT THEM WITH SERVICES

On Tuesday evening, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced that sheriff’s deputies will be instructed to refrain from arresting homeless people for minor crimes related to homelessness. Instead, the goal for deputies will be to connect homeless people with much-needed services. The department’s decriminalization initiative is expected to go into effect at the beginning of next year, after deputies receive training.

The initiative was discussed during a public forum held with the LA County Fire Department, and the LA Homeless Services Authority. Sheriff McDonnell said he is also “trying to get the funding to provide, across our department, crisis intervention training, so that we have the ability to give the tools necessary to our deputies, to our personnel throughout the organization.”

Decriminalization of the county’s homeless was one of 47 recommendations in a $100 million comprehensive interagency plan to combat homelessness, which was approved by the LA County Board of Supervisors Back in February.

“It’s going to take an active holistic effort from you, our non-profits, our churches, private and public entities to address this challenge,” LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said, addressing the audience.

Meanwhile, the county supervisors are still urging lawmakers to call on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis in California, in order to drum up $500 million in state funds for cities and counties grappling with serious homelessness.

The supes voted back in June to urge Sacramento to declare homelessness a state of emergency. The next day, Gov. Brown announced that he would not make the move. The governor’s press secretary said the issue of addressing homelessness is a task for local governments. Since then, the state Assembly, local officials throughout California, and more than 25,000 petitioners have joined the call for the governor to act.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urges the state Senate to join the push, and for Brown to take action. “If [Brown] can declare a state of emergency over a fruit fly infestation, doing the same for homelessness should be a no-brainer,” said the supervisor.

Ridley-Thomas also notes that while a governor declaring a state of emergency over homelessness is rare, it has been done before. “Hawaii did it last year and again this year, with a homeless population of 7,000—less than one-tenth of those in California,” Ridley-Thomas said.


FOR BLACK COMMUNITIES, TOO MUCH, AND NOT ENOUGH, POLICING

Jill Leovy, discusses the complex problem-–spotlighted in her 2015 book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America—of both under-policing and over-policing black communities in an interview with Vox’s German Lopez.

In Ghettoside, Leovy writes about the disproportionate number of black men who are murdered in Los Angeles and across the nation—most of them killed by other black men—and the fact that most of those murders go unsolved by law enforcement. Yet people of color are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and overrepresented in the justice system.

Leovy explained the issue in the context of a school playground: “…bullies beat you up every day on the playground. But the only time the playground supervisor comes around, he or she says, ‘Don’t chew gum on the playground.’ In this way, Leovy says, the playground supervisor is ignoring the much larger issue of the physical harm inflicted on the student. “You would cease to believe in the system,” Leovy said in the interview with Lopez.

Part of the problem, according to Leovy, is that we ask too much of law enforcement officers above their duty to protect the public from violence and other dangers and enforce the law. Police focus their time and resources dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, and classroom discipline, rather than public safety. Here’s a clip from the interview:

In fact, you’d probably cease to believe that it’s just the bullies picking on you, but rather that the system is a bully in and of itself. Pulling back to the criminal justice system, this is how Leovy described the situation in her book: “Like the schoolyard bully, our criminal justice system harasses people on small pretexts but is exposed as a coward before murder. It hauls masses of black men through its machinery but fails to protect them from bodily injury and death. It is at once oppressive and inadequate.”

The result, Leovy argues, is more violence. The fundamental basis of the law has long been to help people settle disputes without violence and through some sort of legal system instead. White communities have lived with this comfort, based on the higher number of crimes solved in those communities, for generations. Black communities — where people are often trapped due to severe residential segregation — have not, and that helps explain why they suffer from high homicide and general violent crime rates.

As Leovy writes, “Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened. Signal that no one cares, and fail to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.”

It’s not just homicide. The clearance rate for other violent crimes, such as robbery and assault, are generally even lower: FBI data shows that in the murder clearance rate in 2014 was about 64.5 percent in 2014, but 47.4 percent for violent crime overall — and just 29.6 percent for robbery. And these rates are much lower in minority communities.

“Ghettoside has been accused of being too reductive by hanging so much on the narrow issue of homicide clearances, which is a fair criticism,” Leovy told me. “I’m not arguing that you can hang everything on homicide clearances, or that [more clearances] alone would resolve the disparities in death rates in homicide on racial lines. But I do think it’s a big deal. And homicide is an indicator; it’s actually used by a lot of criminologists as an indicator of crime, where the numbers are thought to be relatively accurate.”

Homicide also shows the vicious cycle involved. Police need witnesses and cooperation from the community to solve crimes, including murders, and therefore build legitimacy that can help prevent future crimes. But if communities feel distrustful as a result of being both overpoliced for low-level crimes and underpoliced for serious crimes, they are going to be less likely to cooperate with cops.

So most murders will go unsolved, and those unsolved murders lead to more distrust. That leads to more murders, which will subsequently go mostly unsolved. And so on.

This is why so much of the work on policing reform, such as President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, focuses largely on rebuilding trust between the police and minority communities.


BILL TO HELP MORE LOCKED-UP KIDS FINISH SCHOOL GOES TO GOVERNOR FOR FINAL APPROVAL

A bill to help more justice-system involved California kids graduate high school on time has passed out of the state Senate and Assembly, and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for a final signature.

The bill, AB 2306, would exempt kids locked up in county juvenile detention facilities from having to complete locally required coursework (like health and language courses) beyond what the state requires for graduation. Other high-needs student groups—homeless and foster youth—are already exempt from having to complete additional coursework.

The Redding Record Searchlight’s Nathan Solis has more on the bill and the ongoing problems with the juvenile court schools in California. Here’s a clip:

As the system works now, students who transition from the Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility after finishing their sentences to local high schools can fall behind in their classes as they work to meet local graduation requirements such as health or language classes. Hartman said there is not enough time to fit all the necessary course work to meet both state and local requirements while a student is at the facility.

“Simply put there were so many holes in their educational path,” Hartman said.

With the proposed law, juvenile court students who complete their second year of high school would be placed in the same category as foster care and homeless students who are exempt from local requirements.

According to Frazier, the bill would “remove barriers experienced by at-risk students when making the transition” to public high schools.


EVEN MORE PRESIDENTIAL COMMUTATIONS

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of another large group of federal inmates—including several in California—serving outdated sentences for cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and other drug-related offenses.

With Tuesday’s 111 commutations, and 214 petitions granted earlier this month, Obama appears to be ramping up his clemency efforts as he nears the end of his second and final term as president. Obama has granted more commutations just in August than any president in an entire year in approximately 100 years. Tuesday’s clemency move brings Obama’s total number of commutations to 673.

Posted in Homelessness, LASD | 16 Comments »

Fewer Former Offenders Returning to Prison in CA…Bill to Protect In-Person Jail Visits Moves to Gov. Brown…and DOJ Training Video for Better Interactions with Trans People

August 30th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

CDCR REPORT SHOWS BIG DROP IN RE-INCARCERATION RATES FOR STATE PRISONERS IN 2015

Three-year recidivism rates for California’s prisoners has dropped significantly for the fifth consecutive year, according to new data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

The 87-page report revealed a 10% recidivism reduction—from 54.3% in 2014 to 44.6%—for inmates released during the 2010-2011 fiscal year compared with those released during fiscal year 2009-2010. Even lower than the statewide recidivism rate, was the rate for Los Angeles County: 32.3%.

Of the offenders who received substance abuse treatment both behind bars and post-release, just 15.3% returned to prison during that three year period following their release.

“Most offenders sent to prison are eventually released, and so rehabilitation is in everyone’s best interest—our staff, the inmates and the community at large,” said CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan. “The latest recidivism rate shows that we’re helping more inmates learn how to live a law-abiding, productive life.”


BILL TO ENSURE JAIL INMATES HAVE ACCESS TO IN-PERSON VISITS AWAITS SIGNATURE FROM GOVERNOR

As some jails gradually increase the use of video visitation and decrease in-person visits for inmates and their loved ones, a California bill aims to protect those face-to-face visits. The bill, authored by CA Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), which would require counties to provide in-person visitation in jails by 2022, has made it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval.

“Every year California releases thousands of jail inmates whose chances of staying out and straightening up rise in proportion to how closely they stayed in touch with family members while in jail,” said Mitchell, explaining the importance of keeping inmates and their families connected.


DOJ TRAINING VIDEO SHOWS LAW ENFORCEMENT HOW TO TREAT TRANSGENDER PEOPLE DURING TRAFFIC STOPS AND OTHER ENCOUNTERS

The US Department of Justice has released a video (above) for the nation’s law enforcement officers explaining transgender terminology and how to have respectful, kind interactions with transgender people with whom they come into contact.

Posted in prison | 3 Comments »

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