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Big Problems With Idaho’s Private Prison…. A New Sheriff Candidate Debate!….CA Needs Sentencing Reform…Out of Control Prosecutors…..& Paul Tanaka Has a Plan – UPDATED

March 11th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


The FBI has launched an investigation into Idaho’s largest and most violent prison, a for profit facility run by the private prison behemoth, Corrections Corporation of America—or CCA. The chronically understaffed prison has a reputation for being so out of control that inmates reportedly call it “Gladiator School.”

The facility got bad enough under CCA’s management that, in January of this year, Idaho decided to take back oversight of the place.

And now the FBI is stepping in.

It is sobering to note that California also contracts with CCA. Right now they house approximately 8000 of our state’s inmates, with that number scheduled to rise, making us CCA’s second largest customer.

Rebecca Boone of the Associated Press has the story on this latest CCA scandal Here’s a clip:

The Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA has operated Idaho’s largest prison for more than a decade, but last year, CCA officials acknowledged it had understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center by thousands of hours in violation of the state contract. CCA also said employees falsified reports to cover up the vacancies. The announcement came after an Associated Press investigation showed CCA sometimes listed guards as working 48 hours straight to meet minimum staffing requirements.


The understaffing has been the subject of federal lawsuits and a contempt of court action against CCA. The ACLU sued on behalf of inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center in 2010, saying the facility was so violent that inmates called it “Gladiator School” and that understaffing contributed to the high levels of violence there.

In 2012, a Boise law firm sued on behalf of inmates contending that CCA had ceded control to prison gangs so that they could understaff the prison and save money on employee wages, and that the understaffing led to an attack by one prison gang on another group of inmates that left some of them badly injured.

The Department of Justice requested a copy of a forensic audit done for the Idaho Department of Correction earlier this year. That audit showed that CCA understaffed the prison by as much as 26,000 hours in 2012 alone; CCA is strongly contesting those findings. CCA’s Owen has said the company believes the audit overestimates the staffing issues by more than a third.


The debate will take place this Wednesday night starting at 7:00 pm.

It will be held at the Van Nuys Civic Center, at 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., on the ground floor of the building.

The only candidates for LA County Sheriff who are, at the moment, not coming are Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.

Perhaps that will change. Let us hope so.

UPDATE: Paul Tanaka is now confirmed and, with luck, they’ll also get Hellmold. (Note to Jim: Call these people back. Now!)

PS: THIS NEWLY ANNOUNCED VAN NUYS DEBATE IS DIFFERENT FROM THE ACLU/LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTORS DEBATE that will take place next week on March 20. We’ll remind you again when we’re closer to the date.


We may have modified our Three Strikes statute, and that’s a welcome step, but California still has a great many laws on the books that are not in the best interest of public safety, and which have much to do with why we have been struggling with overcrowded prisons.

The NY Times weighs in on the topic of our need for sentencing reform.

Here’s a clip:

California should move quickly to set up a commission. Over the past few decades, the federal government and about one-third of the states, from Alabama to Washington, have established commissions to address overcrowding and other issues. By using data-based assessments of who is more or less likely to re-offend, they help correctional systems both protect public safety and save money. A 2010 report by the California state auditor estimated that the longer sentences imposed under the three-strikes law will cost the state an additional $19.2 billion.

As important as reducing prison populations is making sure that people don’t go right back in. That will require postprison programs focusing on jobs, housing, and treatment for drug addiction and mental illness. California has budgeted for this as part of a statewide reform initiative, but the money needs to be spent wisely. (A report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office criticized Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to move prisoners to county jails and private prisons. It said the state should focus on longer-term solutions, like reducing sentences for some crimes and diverting more offenders away from prison.)

Governor Brown, who has thwarted meaningful reform in the past, has begun to show some openness to change — for example, in signing off on parole releases at a far higher rate than any governor in decades…


It is fairly well established that American prosecutors have too much power, and too little accountability.

A 2009 study that looked at the primary causes for wrongful convictions overturned based on DNA evidence found that prosecutorial misconduct was a factor in from 36% to 42% of the convictions. And what happens to those prosecutors whose shaving of the legal dice has resulted in someone doing time for something he or she didn’t do?

For the most part, nothing.

Finally, however, a few judges in various areas of the country are starting to speak out against prosecutorial misconduct. Last year, Alex Kozinski of California’s 9th Circuit did so memorably.

Radley Balko writes for the Washington Post about other judges who have also spoken up—basically saying that prosecutors have to abide by the law.

And how have prosecutors reacted to this criticism? Not well, writes Balko.

Here’s a clip:

….Late last year, South Carolina State Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty joined Kozinski. At a state solicitors’ convention in Myrtle Beach, Beatty cautioned that prosecutors in the state have been “getting away with too much for too long.” He added, “The court will no longer overlook unethical conduct, such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence. You better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example. The pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction for too long and now it’s going in the other direction. Your bar licenses will be in jeopardy. We will take your license.”

You’d think that there’s little here with which a conscientious prosecutor could quarrel. At most, a prosecutor might argue that Beatty exaggerated the extent of misconduct in South Carolina. (I don’t know if that’s true, only that that’s a conceivable response.) But that prosecutors shouldn’t suborn perjury, shouldn’t retaliate against political opponents, shouldn’t suppress evidence, and that those who do should be disciplined — these don’t seem like controversial things to say. If most prosecutors are following the rules, you’d think they’d have little to fear, and in fact would want their rogue colleagues identified and sanctioned.

The state’s prosecutors didn’t see it that way.


On Monday, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka released his eight topic plan for “changing the direction of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The plan divides its recommendations into eight categories: executive staff, accountability, transparency, budget, officer training, patrol, jail operations and crime.

Among its notable points, Tanaka pledges “100% cooperative effort with the Inspector General.” If elected, he also intends to “establish a promotional testing process, which will ensure that only the highest qualified employees are considered – based on experience, knowledge and effort,”

There’s lots more so read the details here.

Posted in 2014 election, Innocence, Paul Tanaka, prison, prison policy, Prosecutors, Sentencing | 12 Comments »

12 Responses

  1. LATBG Says:

    The only thing I saw notable in the plan is that it looks suspiciously like what the department is already doing in almost every category.

    And of course, the obvious denial of his central part in destroying the department. There are also a few elements lifted out of Olmsted’s plan, but then again imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  2. peacemaker Says:

    I love the testing process will go to the highest scores. So more cheating will be in the works to get his type of people promoted..same ole thing nothing new

  3. jingle bells Says:

    I agree. ….Olmsted should be prepared to take the helm, sometime this year. Deputies want nothing even close to all the dysfunction of the last regime. Let’s start 2015 with Olmsted.

  4. J.London Says:

    C: Am I mistaken but I thought you wrote that all candidates had confirmed their appearance at the debates? Did I misunderstand?

  5. Celeste Fremon Says:


    Good question about the debate. It’s confusing.

    The debate that we originally announced as the “first debate” is on March 20, next week. And everyone’s coming to that one.

    This newly announced Van Nuys debate is still in motion. I just learned that Tanaka has now confirmed. Plus I gave the Van Nuys people better contact info for Jim Hellmold, so hopefully he will confirm as well.

  6. The Past Says:

    I just went to the Pacific Design Center to look for a carpet bag and in looking in the first one, a striking blue color, I found a crumpled paper offering an endorsement by Bill Stonich. The paper though was quite rumpled seemingly rejected. The second bag, blood red with the initials IG had a letter to the Editorial Board of the LA Times and a job application by “The Chief of Detectives Retired” professing the unique ability to right the listing LASD.
    I can only compliment the owner of the blue bag on his wisdom and hope the blood red bag owner does his due diligence in selecting staff.

  7. Wild Turkey Says:

    I’m surprised nobody on the thread has mentioned Armando Macias getting rolled up from ALADS yet. Nobody interested in reading the tea leaves there?

    Celeste, what do you hear on this?

  8. J.London Says:

    Past: Interesting post. First, Stonich was never too smart. As for being ethical Stonich doesn’t know what the word means. But, Stonich does now about ambition and screwing everybody in sight. Any candidate would be stupid to accept the endorsement of Bill Stonich. But, McDonnell isn’t that smart either!

    I am interested on how can a bag (IG) from West Hollywood prevented Stonich and the other thieves from ruining LASD? By he way have you seen Waldie?

  9. Prophet Mo' Teff Says:

    A newly announced debate for candidates for the Office of Los Angeles County Sheriff which takes place tonight???

    By what reason should any candidate appear or participate in this debate of dubious origin?

    Let’s take a wild guess – the League of Women Voters won’t allow their debate hall to be rigged up for a 3 camera shoot with boom mike, audio playback, hair and make-up department, etc.
    Screw the League!!
    Shalman, Shimpock and Skelton need TV commercial quality footage as they have only weeks left to suck the candidates and their campaign donors dry of every last available cent.

  10. Searchlight Says:

    Two debate dates, tonight and the 20th, were given to the candidates around 4-6 weeks ago. It is nothing that just popped up. The League waited until the official closing date of candidate’s filing to make the invitations “official,” but all camps knew of this some time ago.

  11. IthacaBoomer Says:

    Searchlight, Perhaps you’re right. After all, your always so balanced. But you forgot one minor issue. This ACLU garbage of a debate is gamed for Olmstead. Sorry to leak it. I also heard there’s free deputy voodoo dolls for the first 100 observers paid for by Friends of Olmstead.

  12. real deal Says:

    #7 I smell Hay Hurst in the middle of the mess. Floyd,’re retired. Get a life outside of ALADS. GEE WIZ!

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