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Double Charged: CA’s Unlimited Juvie Restitution…Supes Votes Put Off On LASD Citizens Commission & Mental Health Diversion…John Oliver on America’s Prisons….& More

July 22nd, 2014 by Celeste Fremon

The Cost of Court Involvement


WHEN KIDS ARE DOUBLE CHARGED: SHOULD RESTITUTION CHARGES FOR KIDS HAVE A CEILING?

In an investigative series called Double Charged: The True Cost of Juvenile Justice, Youth Radio has looked into some of these suprise costs that suddenly are levied against a kid and his or her parent when that kid finds himself caught up in the juvenile justice system, as the infograpic above shows. (We highlighted an earlier segment here.)

The newest Youth Radio show segment, written and produced by Sayre Quevedo, and co-published by the Huffington Post, looks at how, for many kids in California, in addition to the myriad court and lock-up charges, there is restitution, which can be staggaringly high priced.

Here’s the story:

It is generally agreed that restitution is, in principle anyway, a good and healthy idea for both victims and lawbreakers. For victims, restitution makes up, at least in part, for whatever damage was done them. For lawbreakers it is a tangible reminder that their actions did harm to an actual person or people, and provides them an opportunity to take real world responsibility for their acts.

The principle holds true for juvenile lawbreakers as well as a adults. But when it comes to kids, should there be a limit? States like New York and Missouri say yes. In Missouri caps restitution for juveniles at $4000. New York sets the limit at $1500.

In California, there is no limit—a policy that many juvenile justice activists contend can result in unpayable amounts that do far more harm than good.

Here are some clips:

Ricky Brum stood with one of my producers in an alleyway behind a furniture store in Manteca, California, and to be honest, it was a little awkward. He didn’t really want to be there. Last February, Brum set some cardboard boxes on fire just a few feet away.

“Just that right there,” he said, pointing to a black spot on the pavement. “Just a little burn mark on the floor.”

One match did the trick, said Brum. “Like I just sat there and was like ‘Bam!’”

That “bam” changed Ricky Brum’s life. He was 15 when he set the fire. It was his first time getting in trouble with the law. He was lucky: his charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. Brum went on probation, and didn’t serve any time in juvenile hall.

Brum, and his mom Leanne, thought the worst was behind them. But then, while meeting with their public defender, they found out about restitution.

“We thought it was a joke,” said Leanne Brum.

Sitting at his kitchen table, Ricky Brum flipped through the restitution claim. Even though the fire department report said there was no damage to anything in the furniture store, the owner claimed his entire inventory of nearly 1400 items was smoke damaged.

The bill came out to $221,000….

[SNIP]

Payment is rare. There are no statewide statistics on juvenile restitution, but Youth Radio collected numbers from three of California’s largest counties and found that less than 30% of restitution amounts are paid.

“I think that people recognize there are certain dollar amounts that are not going to be paid at all, ever,” said Roger Chan, who runs the East Bay Children’s Law Offices in Oakland. Juvenile law, said Chan, is about reform, giving young people a chance to start over. However, Chan argues that restitution too often gets in the way because it saddles kids with unreasonably high debt.

“If you order such a huge amount of restitution to a young person who has no ability to pay it, how meaningful is that as a consequence,” asked Chan. “Is that really an effective way for the young person to be rehabilitated and is that really beneficial to victims?”

Chan is trying to change California’s law to let judges consider a kid’s ability to pay. It’s not just for the benefit of young offenders. Chan says it’s for victims too, because when restitution sums are realistic, he says victims are more likely to get paid.


BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ VOTES PUT OFF BOTH ON MENTAL HEALTH DIVERSION…AND A CITIZENS COMMISSION TO OVERSEE THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

The members of the LA County Board of Supervisors were originally scheduled to vote on two closely watched motions, but both votes have now been postponed:

First of all there was Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s motion of last week, which would cause the Supes to allocate at least the beginning sum of $20 million to launch a “coordinated and comprehensive” mental health diversion program in the county. It has been postponed until next Tuesday, July 29. (You can read the motion here.)

The motion has already attracted letters of support from such organizations as the National Alliance for Mental Illness Los Angeles County Council, and others, urging the board to commit the funds necessary to the kind of diversion programming that has been shown to save money—and suffering—in other counties, most notably Miami-Dade.

(We’ll update you on how the vote is looking as we get closer to next Tuesday.)

At the same time, the vote on the motion to create a citizens commission to provide community oversight for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department—which is co-sponsored by Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Gloria Molina—has been put off until August 5.

This column by the LA Times’ Jim Newton looks at topic of the citizens commission, whether is a good idea or not, and whether the motion has a chance of passing.

Here’s a clip from Newton’s column:

The board is split: Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Gloria Molina have expressed support for the commission; supervisors Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich have indicated their opposition. (Jim McDonnell, leading candidate for sheriff, announced his support for the commission this month; Ridley-Thomas endorsed McDonnell a few days later.)

That leaves Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. When we spoke last week, he said he was still pondering the matter, but he’s clearly leaning against it. “I’m reluctant to create structures that have no power and no authority,” he said, adding that such a commission “will ultimately disappoint.”

That may be enough to scotch the idea for the moment, but perhaps not for long. Yaroslavsky is termed out, as is Molina. Molina’s replacement, Hilda Solis, has indicated she supports establishing a commission, so one supporter will arrive as another leaves. More important, the two challengers in a runoff for Yaroslavsky’s seat, former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver and former state legislator Sheila Kuehl, both told me last week that they too support a citizens commission. So even if Ridley-Thomas falls short this time, his third vote may well be on the way.


JOHN OLIVER ON AMERICA’S PRISON SYSTEM

Almost certainly the year’s best 17 minutes of news and information on the American prison situation was contained in a segment shown on Sunday night on….a comedy show, specifically John Oliver’s new-this-spring Last Week Tonight, on HBO.

Oliver hit nearly all the important points brilliantly and hard—using humor to carry all his sharpest points:

“We have more prisoners than China. China. We don’t have more of anything than China, except of course debt to China.”

“Our prison population has expanded 8 fold since 1970. The only thing that has grown at that rate since the ’70′s is varieties of Cheerios!”

And why has it grown? For a number of reasons, he says.

“…From the dismantling of our mental health system, to mandatory minimum sentencing laws….to, of course, drugs. Half the people in federal prison are there on drug charges. And it counts for a quarter of the admissions to state prisons. And, of course, it’s tricky to know how to feel about this because, on the one hand, the war on drugs has completely solved our nation’s drug problem, so that’s good!

“But on the other hand, our drug laws do seem to be a little draconian and a lot racist. Because while white people and African Americans use drug about the same amount, a study has found that african Americans have been sent to prison for drug offenses up to 10 times the amount—-for some utterly known reason.

From there Oliver brought up the prison system’s reluctance to deal with prison rape, the tidy profit made by prison venders—many of whom have been found to boost their bottom line by horrific cuts to basic services, like…um. food—to the inherent unholy conflict of interest that occurs with prison privatization—and more.

In short, the segment is filled with excellent reporting and commentary combined with excellent comedy, all of which serves to illuminate some crucial issues that many of us are unfortunately too content to ignore. Watch and you won’t be sorry.


NEW WEBSITE URGES LA SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT MEMBERS TO GIVE $$$ SUPPORT TO LASD 6 CONVICTED BY FEDS OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

A new website called Support Our 6 has appeared in the past few days, urging LASD members to give monetary support to the six members of the LA Sheriff department who were convicted earlier this month.

(Although the website mentions Deputy James Sexton, whose trial ended with a hung jury but who is being retried by the government in September, it isn’t clear if he is included in the fundraising efforts.)

The site’s organizers contend that the 2 deputies, 2 sergeants and 2 lieutenants were following lawful orders, which was not at all what the jury concluded.

We don’t yet know who is behind the website, but we’ll let you know when we know more.

In the meantime, the organizers’ POV is presented here.

Posted in Jim McDonnell, juvenile justice, LASD, mental health, Mental Illness, prison, prison policy, race, race and class, racial justice | 14 Comments »

14 Responses

  1. jim hitchcock Says:

    Al Franken asking the Federal Director of Prisons about cell size:

    “Uh, er, hmmm, uh, 4×6?”

    Also, WTF are the Commenwealth Games?

  2. Read it and Weep Says:

    The website for the Tanaka 6 is well intended, but very misguided. The slant on the story of the 6 is half-baked an insult to the intelligence of the good folks working at LASD. These 6 defendants, all of them, went into this operation with their eyes wide open, period. I will give it to the two deputies they may not have been initially “fully aware” of what was going on, but it was abundantly obvious to them and a jury of 12, the time came early on when they all knew exactly what was going on. They knew they were obstructing justice, they knew they were hiding this inmate in a shell game from the FBI. And this ridiculous notion they were “protecting” this inmate from deputies is yet another insult to our intelligence. They were so worried about his safety that when they were done pumping Brown for information, they put him back at MCJ for 10 days (GP?) and then on the chain to the Big House? Oh, they were really concerned for his safety. Keep telling yourself and others you were just following orders, you were doing the Lord’s work, just keep up with the self hypnosis, I’m sure it will make you feel good down the road.

    If anyone should be donating money to this fund, it should be Paul Tanaka, Lee Baca, Tom Carey. And every single executive who was aware of this stupid “investigation” and said nothing as well. Other than those holding tarnished Cigar Club coins and wearing faded red Tanaka for Sheriff T-shirts, (Yes, Paul no doubt will be issuing orders for his posse to help “the fellas” out with a five dollar donation), don’t expect much dough to roll in from the troops. Read it and weep.

  3. Stuff Says:

    Regarding the Support Our 6 website, I find it odd that it never mentions anything about Tanaka giving “lawful orders” to the (6). It states that Baca should have manned up and testified that he gave the orders and is the one responsible for Pandoras Box. Now, Tanaka testified, because he was subpoenaed to do so, and got on the stand and sounded like a 2 month trainee with his I don’t recall and I don’t remember answers to everything they asked him and getting his arse chewed my the Judge. I think it is admirable that this website wants to raise funds for these families, I just want to see a bank statement from Tanaka indicating how much HE donated to the Support Our 6!!!

  4. Kool-aid Allergy! Says:

    Kudos to post one and two. I think you said what a lot of people are thinking. They followed orders because it made them feel like they were in the car and when the driver bailed they’re trying to act like they didn’t notice the “screwdriver in the ignition!

  5. Investigative Mind Says:

    Fyi….interesting background check on who is owner of this web page. Doesn”t surprise anyone on who is really behind this site. Just wondering who shows up at the comedy club. Even more insulting to our sense of human decency.

  6. Oh Well Says:

    To Greg Thompson, Steve Leavins, Scott Craig and Maricela Long.
    You can’t use the babe in the woods defense. You were a Lt. or Sgt. at ICIB. Are you going to look at me with a straight face and tell me that you didn’t know you were going down a very slippery slope, legally speaking, by participating in this clusterfuck? Are you going to look me in the eye and tell me that you never even considered that if it all went bad, a prosecutor could present a case to a jury that could lead them to believe you participated in obstruction of justice? Are you going to tell me that even though you were a Lt. or Sgt., at ICIB mind you, that you weren’t aware of the law that gives the feds the leeway to smuggle the cell phone in if it’s in furtherance of an investigation?
    Really? You didn’t know it COULD end up with you being convicted of obstruction of justice?
    If you want to look me in the eye and tell me the above, then I’ve got something to tell you.
    You’re not too sharp, and I’m putting it mildly. You had no business ever being promoted beyond the rank of deputy and you surely, above all, had absolutely no business being assigned to ICIB.
    But I digress. Let’s get real. I don’t think you’re that stupid. I think you got caught up in wanting to be the go to guy and gal for the little guy, who was really the big guy running the show at that time. You saw the power he had and you knew you needed to stay in favor with him if you wanted to keep that assignment or even dream of getting promoted in the future. You made a conscious decision to do what he told you, even if it was “a little bit shaky” from a legal standpoint. You rolled the dice. You lost. Yes, it’s a tragedy. But you played a willing part in it. You subjected yourself to it. I don’t think you belong in prison. You are not a threat to society. That’s not my call to make. You put your assignment and career aspirations ahead of your common sense and sense of self preservation. You placed too much loyalty and confidence in the little big guy. Now you’re looking at going to prison. It’s a sad, tragically sad, tragically hard lesson that you have learned.

  7. The Past Says:

    Andre Briotte to the Federal Bench today. You suppose that this is the out for Baca & Tanaka? Makes one wonder!

  8. Where's the NEW Patio? Says:

    What’s the new coin look like? Is the patio at his mom’s house in Gardena? Does she yell “PAUL, you have visitors” when members (mindless followers) show up at the front door. Does he yell back (cause you know he’s YELLING), “Not now Ma, I’m plotting to become the Sheriff of LA County.” Or is it at his pad in the east part of the county, closer to San Dimas where the Non Profits listed address is? Or maybe it’s a gazebo at Gardena City hall, where the Mayors personal Police force can protect the wolf’s layer. You probably have to pass through the Mayors offices to get to the patio.

    OMG where to start. I feel like a comedian who just found out the president got a BJ from an intern and she kept his stain on her blue dress. Just ENDLESS material…..
    This effort HAS to be at the guidance of the ACCOUNTANT, aka, Mr. T, aka Tall Paul, aka they call me MISTER TANAKA!!! Not undersheriff, Listen to me roar (aka yell uncontrollably as I jump up and down during my tantrums). Minion says, “Yes Sir, we’ll call it support the Tanaka six. What’s that you say Mr. Paul, oh, you don’t want your name on it. Ok Mr. Tanaka, we’ll just call it support the six convicted felons, I,I,I,I…. mean support our six. Oh and thank you for my new coin.” “Mr. T, what do I do when someone asks for the IRS non-profit number for their donation that I DON’T have to put on the WEB page I designed? What’s that you say Mr. Paul? Oh tell them IT MEET WITH NEGATIVE RESULTS, ok.” “Get all the coin holders you promoted to lieutenant, captain, commander, chief, to start taxing every deputy in region 2 to pump the fund, AWESOME idea Sir, I’m on it, one Executive Planning email group message coming up.” “May I suggest some car washes sir, they seem quite popular and profitable when the gangsters do them to raise money for a homie killed in a drive by.”

    These six should have saved some of the taxpayer’s monies Paul back-doored them through overtime and undeserved promotions. But, hey, Paul’s gotta be a millionaire by now with all his accountant schemes and executive jobs. Why can’t Paul just order up some dough from a Cayman island account and get the BACKS of his most trusted coin holders. I’m sure he’ll make all things clear to the ice house crowd when he gives the keynote address prior to introducing the comedians, never realizing he’s the biggest JOKE on stage. I can’t wait to see the local news footage of the Sheriff’s candidate setting straight how in his administration criminal behavior is rewarded, not punished.
    What’s that you say, he won’t be there, he’s merely the evil puppeteer, and EVIL stays in the shadows……. WOW!

  9. Read it and Weep Says:

    @The Past. My friend, I will bet the farm that Tanaka and/or Baca will take a cannon ball right in the ten-ring. Offers are being made, silver dollars are being dropped and deals are being cut. B&T are on the radar like an F-18 tracking a SAM. And in the end, one or both of these guys are going to take a sidewinder. If the only thing hanging over B&T was Pandora’s Box, those guys would have been indicted long ago and a trial date would have been set. No my friend, there is so much more in the hopper right now regarding those two and many others. Opera singers have been performing behind the scene, songs have been sung and score cards are being kept. As we all know, who can give up the ghost and who can give up the graveyard is the name of the game. This is all going to make for one hell of a concert.

  10. Imagine this Says:

    Paul Tanaka is worried that the convicted six have no reason not to give him up in hope of a sentence deal . I’m sure the Support our Six web site/ organization is an attempt by Paul Tanaka to keep the six in line (away from the Feds). What does the web site include? 1) A lot of “happy talk” about an eminent appeal victory (wonder what the real odds on that are?) 2) Well deserved blame heaped on Baca with Paul Tanaka conspicuously omitted. 3) A sort of direct market scheme promising hundreds of thousands of dollars to the six ( if deputies only kick in 5 dollars each!) sounds like good old hush money to me. I wonder if one of the six were to cooperate with the Feds would the support our six turn into the support our five?

  11. Oh Well Says:

    You won’t see the little guy at any debates. He knows he won’t be the next sheriff. Why would he go to a debate? What can he say when asked about Pandora’s Box?

    Tanaka: “In my 33 years I have never participated in, condoned or tolerated misconduct”.

    McDonnell: “You said that you didn’t give the orders to play the games with Anthony Brown but you didn’t disagree with them. A jury decided it was not only misconduct but a crime. A crime that led to seven members of the department being indicted, six of which have been convicted. I’m here to tell you that not disagreeing with criminal conduct, even if it was Baca that gave the orders and not you, is not only tolerating misconduct, it’s also condoning it. You didn’t disagree with the decision to have members of the department commit crimes during Operation Pandora’s Box,

    Tanaka: “I’m really good with budgets. I saved the city of Gardena from bankruptcy. I will run the Sheriff’s Department in a fiscally responsible manner”.

    The little guy is just trying to think of a way to save face while bowing out of the race. Be patient. It was just a short time ago he was on cloud nine, running the department and waiting for Leroy to fall out during a run or disappear to Burma in search of the truth for the universe.
    The little guy is in shock right now. It’s going to take time for him to process his fall from grace. He’s going to hold out hope initially because denial is part of being in shock. After the shock, denial and anger wear off he will take a realistic look at his predicament. He’ll see that he’ll only be embarrassing himself and his supporters further if he continues to campaign for sheriff. He’ll realize that it’s hopeless. He’s a smart guy but he’s human. It’s going to take time.

  12. Investigative Mind Says:

    To “Where’s the NEW Patio”….that has got to be one of the best posts I have read in quite a long time. Pretty comical too.

  13. Read it and Weep Says:

    @Oh Well, there is NO saving face for Tanaka. He has been thrown into the psychological abyss of self-destruction, there is rock bottom for him to hit. Tanaka will end up being the most embarrassing and scandalous member of LASD in the history of the department. He and his family will be scorned for the rest of their lives. His name will be uttered in complete disgust within conversations for generations to come. The name “Tanaka” will become an iconic name relating to law enforcement corruption across the nation. Tanaka will be studied and ridiculed as a psychopathic tyrant who ruined the name and reputation of what was once, one of the leading law enforcement organizations in the world.

    He knows it is hopeless, and he knows there is no withdrawing from this race gracefully. He knows the sham is over, the strong-arming and bullying is done. As with all of his kind, he knows he will be drug before the town square for all to see in shackles and he will receive a fair trial and judged by a jury of his peers. He knows judgement day is coming, very slowly, but it is coming. What he says on that day of judgement is anyone’s guess. But this I tell you, he will throw anyone and everyone under the bus at an attempt to save himself. He has no honor but only onto himself. He’s not smart, not smart at all, never has been. He has been a 80lb bully ever since Baca became Sheriff. He did it all only because he could. He’s not smart, far from it. He scared, very scared and for good reason. It’s coming and he can’t stop it.

  14. The Past Says:

    Read It & Weep, I think you are 100% correct. I wonder if they’ll be able to reach back to include Waldie & Stonich or even PM? As NEW Patio says “OMG where to start”; connection to Gardena gambling money, Jail food contract/Las Vegas activities, true value of reported gifts, shipping of cars to Asia, free cars for U/S children, free golf, free Vegas meals, Special Field Deputies, the return of near $100K in cash to the Bishop, political favors( Hilton, Lohan, Gibson, etc), pay to play, interference with investigative & disciplinary processes ( basis of a criminal enterprise action?) & capped with Pandora’s Box.
    New Patio, wonderful post!

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