Gov. Brown Signs Youth Sentencing Bill…Supervisors to Vote on LASD Commission…and Corrections Corp. of America in Contempt of Court…and MoreSeptember 17th, 2013 by Taylor Walker
GOV. JERRY BROWN SIGNS YOUTH SENTENCING BILL (AND FILES OVERCROWDING TIME EXTENSION REQUEST)
On Monday night, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 260, a much-needed bill that builds on last year’s SB 9 and will give inmates who committed crimes as juveniles an earlier chance at parole. (Way to go, Jerry!)
The LA Times Anthony York has more on the passage of SB 260. Here’s a clip:
The new law will allow eligible inmates to have their cases reviewed for possible release as early as 15 years into their prison sentence.
Brown signed a bill last year that gave similar rights to juvenile offenders serving life sentences without possibility of parole.
The measure signed by Brown on Monday will cover thousands more inmates who were serving long-term sentences. There are more than 6,500 inmates in state prisons who were under 18 when they committed their crimes but were prosecuted as adults.
It seems many people found out about it by accident Monday night when Gov. Jerry referenced it in his latest filing to the federal three-judge panel requesting more time to deal with the prison overcrowding crisis.
Gov Brown’s filing mentions SB 260 on page 7. Here’s a clip:
Senate Bill 260 (2013). On September 16, 2013, Governor Brown signed into law a measure that allows inmates whose crimes were committed as minors to appear before the Board of Parole Hearings to demonstrate their suitability for release after serving at least fifteen years of their sentence…The law directs the Board to give “great weight to the diminished culpability of juveniles” and to consider evidence of their maturity and rehabilitation in prison.
REMINDER: LA SUPES VOTE TODAY (TUESDAY) ON NEW LASD COMMISSION
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will vote today (Tuesday) on whether to establish a new, permanent LASD citizens oversight commission. (If you missed the story on Friday, you can find it here.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: “In talking to various people with expertise in the matter of law enforcement oversight, we’d like to respectfully suggest some issues to contemplate as the Supes discuss and hopefully vote YES on the motion: (a) if a new Commission is crafted should the as-yet-to-be-chosen Inspector General, perhaps, report to that group (as in the LA Police Commission model)? (b) should the new Commission, if one is created, perhaps be the place to vet candidates for the new IG (again, calling on the LAPD model)? and (c) should the Board perhaps also be considering statutory changes that could lend more authority to such a group?
GOV. BROWN’S BACKUP PRIVATE PRISON IN CONTEMPT OF COURT FOR UNDERSTAFFING
U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled Monday that the for-profit prison company Corrections Corporation of America was in contempt of court for violating a legal settlement by continuing to vastly understaff an Idaho prison.
The Associated Press’ Rebecca Boone has the story. Here’s a clip:
Carter wrote that CCA had ample reason to make sure it was meeting the staffing requirements at the prison, yet the level of understaffing was apparently far worse than the company originally acknowledged. He is appointing an independent monitor to oversee staffing at the prison, and says steep fines — starting at $100 an hour — will incur if the company violates the agreement again.
The judge also rejected CCA’s contention that the former warden and other company officials didn’t know about the understaffing, saying that they had been warned of the staffing problems multiple times and at the very least failed to check it out.
“For CCA staff to lie on so basic a point — whether an officer is actually at a post — leaves the Court with serious concerns about compliance in other respects, such as whether every violent incident is reported,” Carter wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of inmates at ICC in 2010, contending that the prison was so violent inmates dubbed it “Gladiator School.” CCA denied the allegations but reached a settlement that required increased staffing levels and other operational changes.
That settlement was set to expire this month, but the ACLU asked the judge to extend it and find CCA in contempt for failing to abide by the agreement.
CCA acknowledged earlier this year that its employees filed reports with the state that falsely showed 4,800 hours of vacant security posts as being staffed during 2012. But during the contempt of court hearing, witnesses revealed that number only included the night shift during a seven-month span.
This is should make Californians somewhat nervous, as this is the same CCA that Gov. Jerry Brown will fall back on to house prisoners should the federal three-judge panel not accept the state’s request for more time. (Read more here.)
IN THE SAME VEIN: TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO FIX THE PRISON SYSTEM WITH SENTENCING REFORM, CALIFORNIA
A Times-Herald editorial says that if the federal judges grant the state three more years to ease overcrowding, lawmakers have to get serious about effective sentencing reform to fix the expensive revolving prison door. Here’s a clip:
The compromise between Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican and Democratic legislative leaders on prison overcrowding creates a rare opportunity for California to seriously address the issue.
“It’s pivotal,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said. “This deal takes the focus away from the capacity of our prison system and creates space for a real debate on sentencing reform.”
The challenge will be crafting new sentencing laws that deter crime, provide a fair punishment for criminal transgressions and reduce the state’s 65 percent recidivism rate — the highest in the nation. The national average is about 45 percent.
Fortunately, California can look to other states, including Minnesota, as models. Minnesota’s approach, endorsed by the American Bar Association, has produced one of the lowest imprisonment rates in the nation, and its prison system costs taxpayers only $457 million a year. This suggests California could save billions of dollars every year by taking a similar approach.