The First Debate Between Sheriff’s Candidates, Rikers Island & Solitary, San Diego Prosecutors Admit to Cheating, Raising $$ for the Sheriff’s Campaigns… & MoreMarch 6th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon
THE ACLU AND THE LEAGUE OF WOMAN VOTERS ANNOUNCE FIRST BIG DEBATE BETWEEN CANDIDATES FOR LA COUNTY SHERIFF, MARCH 20
The first of two debates between the seven men who each hope to be elected LA County sheriff will take place on Thursday, March 20, from 6:30 pm to 9:30 at the Mercado La Paloma, at 355 Grand Street, LA.
(There will be a second debate in the Santa Monica area on Thursday, April 24. Don’t worry. We’ll remind you as the date gets closer.)
The debates are organized and sponsored by the Southern California ACLU and others, and moderated by the League of Women voters.
(It could get crowded, so an RSVP online here is recommended.)
This is the first wide open election for LA County Sheriff in….well….a very, very long time. (The ACLU points out that more Catholic Popes have been selected in the last 80 years than there have been different LA sheriffs.)
We are therefore grateful for these debates that will allow LA County voters to become better informed about their choices.
Happily, all seven candidates have agreed to participate in the debates. This includes: Patrick Gomez, Jim Hellmold, Jim McDonnell, Bob Olmsted, Todd Rogers, Paul Tanaka, Lou Vince
TEENAGERS & SOLITARY ON RIKERS ISLAND
On any given day, around 100 teenagers may be found in solitary confinement at New York’s Riker’s Island. Because Rikers is a jail, not a prison, many of the 400 to 800 16 and 17 years housed inside its walls are there are awaiting trial and are only locked up because they can’t afford bail, writes Trey Bundy for the Center for Investigative Reporting.
CIR has put together an excellent and disturbing multimedia report on the use of solitary on teenagers at Rikers and how the practice stresses adolescents mentally and emotionally sometimes to breaking. Here’s a clip:
There’s not much inside “the box.” Cinder block walls rise up and close in. There’s a bunk, a sink, a toilet and a metal door with a small mesh window. Food comes through a slot. Sometimes, mice and roaches scamper through.
Teenagers kept in the box sometimes hallucinate and throw fits. They splash urine around or smear their blood and shit on the walls. The concrete room gets so hot in the summertime that the floor and walls sweat.
Ismael Nazario’s longest stretch in the box lasted four months. He paced a lot, talking to himself and choking back tears and rage. He tried to block out the screaming of the teenage boys in other jail cells in his unit, but he couldn’t. Sometimes, he would stand at the door of his tiny cell and yell.
“You just get angry with hearing people constantly hollering all day,” he says. “There’s so many people that have been in that cell and screamed on that same gate, it smells like a bunch of breath and drool.”
Nazario is one of hundreds of teenagers sent in recent years to solitary confinement at Rikers Island, the massive jail complex in the middle of New York City’s East River. Teenagers at Rikers call solitary confinement the box: 23 hours a day in a 6-by-8-foot cell.
“There came a time when I cried when I was on Rikers Island, in the box, when I was there by myself,” Nazario says. “There’s times, you know, sometimes you need a good cry.”
SAN DIEGO PROSECUTORS ADMIT TO CHEATING: THE “HOLY SHIT” FACTOR
The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Cohen writes about a recent instance when prosecutors in San Diego admitted to cheating. This is a distinctly good news/bad news kind of story—since the admission was so appallingly unusual.
Here’s a clip:
The story of a prosecutor doing an honorable thing, a courageous thing, should not be a news story. It should happen every day. But too often prosecutors do not act honorably. Too often they make mistakes and do not admit them. Too often they cheat, at trial or afterward on appeal, in their zealous attempt to secure or to defend a conviction. And too often our nation’s judges are unable or unwilling to identify these instances to bring a measure of justice to the wrongfully convicted.
So the story of Laura Duffy, the prosecutor, and John Maloney, the wrongfully convicted man, is inspirational. Not because Duffy acted professionally throughout this case—she and her colleagues surely did not. Not because prosecutors promptly acknowledged their error and quickly moved to correct it—they didn’t. But because in the end they did do the right thing.
What we have here, then, is the public acknowledgment by a prosecutor that an injustice was done in a pending case. More than that, we have a glimmer of the process by which this reckoning occurred. This is no small thing. One longtime defense attorney, who has evaluated countless trials including many in which prosecutors engaged in the type of official misconduct we see here, emailed back “Holy Shit” when I wrote to him about the results of this case. That gives you a sense of how remarkable United States v. Maloney turned out to be….
MORE SHERIFF’S ELECTION NEWS: “INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEE” IS FORMED FOR SHERIFF’S CANDIDATE JIM MCDONNELL
We know that the seven candidates are each engaged in the difficult but necessary task of fundraising for their respective campaigns.
Jim Hellmold had a big fundraiser on Feb 23 at the Pacific Palms Resort.
Bob Olmsted is having a fundraiser on March 15.
Todd Rogers just had his fundraiser over the weekend.
Jim McDonnell has a high ticket event planned for tonight.
Pat Gomez asks you to call his campaign office to participate in one of his small private fundraisers.
AS OF LAST WEEK, HOWEVER, JIM MCDONNELL will get the benefit of a fundraising committee called an “Independent Expenditure Committee.”
As its name suggests, an Independent Expenditure Committee can’t raise money at the request of a campaign or candidate, or coordinate with a campaign committee.
But on its own, it can raise and spend money in behalf of a candidate. The IEC that has joined together for fundraising purposes in McDonnell’s behalf, includes such members as LA City Council persons Mitchell Englander, Herb Wesson, Nury Martinez, Felipe Fuentes, & Tom LaBonge, former LA mayor Richard Riordan, former chairs of both the Republican and Democratic party in California…plus Supervisor Don Knabe and others.
There may also be other IECs fund raising for other candidates. But this is the first one we’ve seen.
As the election heats up, there may be more.
IS NEW YORK A MODEL FOR FIXING CALIFORNIA’S PRISONS?
Steven E. F. Brown of San Francisco Business Times writes about law professor Jonathan Simon’s claim that California’s eyes should be on NY. Here’s a clip:
Law professor Jonathan Simon at the University of California, Berkeley pointed to prison reforms in the Empire State as a model that should be followed here in the Golden State.
Simon, who teaches an undergraduate course on prisons, wrote on UC Berkeley’s official blog that although New York has a long history of “bad penal policy choices,” it also tends to fix those bad choices more quickly than other states, particularly California.
Even as California Gov. Jerry Brown spars with the federal government over court-ordered changes to the state’s prisons, which are badly overcrowded, New York has moved away from automatic sentencing that overfilled its prisons.
Here’s a link to Simon’s whole essay.