WITH RELEASE OF STUDY ON LITERACY IN PRISONS, US EDUCATION SECRETARY CALLS FOR POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN LOCK-UP
In a “Dear Colleague” letter, US Education Secretary John B. King Jr. called for a much-needed increase in prison education and vocational training programs to improve reentry success for the 1.5 million state and federal prisoners who will eventually return to their communities.
“Equipping incarcerated individuals with these foundational skills and technical competencies will make them more employable upon reentry and increase their ability to contribute,” the letter reads.
King’s letter was sent out in conjunction with a report that revealed a considerable gap between the literacy and numeracy skills of adults in prison and their non-incarcerated peers.
Twenty-nine percent of incarcerated adults have low literacy skills and another 52% have low numeracy skills, compared to 19% and 29% respectively of U.S. households, according to the report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the US Department of Education.
“Providing these individuals with opportunity, advancement, and rehabilitation is not only the right thing to do, it also positions our country to remain economically competitive in a global economy,” King’s letter reads. “To foster this reintegration and reduce recidivism, we as a nation must continue to expand and develop correctional education and reentry support programs.”
NAACP SUES PASADENA FOLLOWING CHANGES TO POLICE BODY CAM POLICY
The NAACP’s Pasadena branch has filed a lawsuit challenging changes made to Pasadena’s policy regarding the use of body cameras within the Pasadena Police Department.
The city of Pasadena applied for and won a $250,000 grant from the US Department of Justice for implementing a police body camera system. Pasadena’s grant application included a very “progressive” policy that later changed drastically during negotiations with the police union, according to the NAACP.
The new version of the body cam rules permit officers to view footage of an incident before submitting their statements, an allowance not included in the original proposed policy. The newer police union-approved policy was also changed to allow the Pasadena PD to hold back sections of video and “cherry-pick” what is released to the public.
KPCC’s Mike Roe has more on the lawsuit. Here’s a clip:
Pasadena is defining body camera video and audio as “investigative materials,” which are exempted the California Public Records Act. Gronemeier said that an appeals court decision means you can’t make something an investigative document before the investigation exists, which he argues is the case with the body camera footage police collect.
“It’s a patent attempt to put a square peg in a round hole. It won’t work, and we’re in a lawsuit attacking it as facially invalid,” Gronemeier said.
The suit asserts that Pasadena “erroneously and intentionally misled” the DOJ when it applied for a federal grant, knowing that the policy would change. That, it says, is what makes the city’s application to the DOJ fraudulent.
As part of its application, the city also solicited and received support from community activists, including Pasadena NAACP President Gary Moody. Gronemeier said that support was based on the initial policy the city submitted.
“The Department of Justice doesn’t ask for a draft policy — they ask for the policy for the body cameras,” Gronemeier said.
CA APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS REMOVAL OF SCANDAL-PLAGUED OC DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE FROM DEATH PENALTY CASE
Last week, a California appeals court unanimously upheld the 2015 ruling by Super Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals blocking the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from handling the death penalty portion of mass-murderer Scott Evans Dekraai’s case.
The appellate ruling blasted OC DA Tony Rackauckas’ office and the OC Sheriff’s Department for systemic violation of defendants’ through the misuse of jailhouse informants and withholding of evidence.
Orange County has been plagued with a major prosecutorial misconduct scandal that has unraveled a number of other cases going back decades, in which inmate informants were allegedly housed near defendants in order to procure confessions. Tasking jailhouse informants with pulling incriminating statements from defendants violates defendants’ right to remain silent and right to an attorney.
(For more on the backstory on the scandal that has gripped Orange County for more than three years, go here.)
Voice of OC’s Rex Dalton has more on the ruling. Here’s a clip:
Rackauckas’ office abdicated its duties, therefore it “violated Dekraai’s due process rights,” according to the 53-page opinion written by Presiding Justice Kathleen E. O’Leary.
In 2011, Dekraai committed Orange County’s largest-ever mass murder when he gunned down his ex-wife and seven others in a Seal Beach beauty salon.
After his arrest, Dekraai was put in a county jail where sheriff’s deputies used a secret informant network to illegally obtain information from him.
In its decision, the appellate court noted Dekraai’s prosecutors — Daniel Wagner, head of Rackauckas’ homicide division, and Scott Simmons — ignored a “red flag” regarding a violation of Dekraai’s right to counsel, among others.
After years of battling the DA for informant records, Dekraai’s public defender, Scott Sanders, showed in 2014 and 2015 during lengthy evidentiary hearings before Goethals how prosecutors and deputies for years systematically used informants to violate defendants’ rights.
The fact that the records Sanders had sought were suddenly disclosed by the DA or the Sheriff’s Department during the hearings is what prompted Goethals to issue his rare decision.
State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris appealed Goethal’s ruling on behalf of the DA’s office, calling his order “a remedy in search of a conflict.”
The appellate panel sharply criticized Harris’ stance, describing it as “nonsense.”
“To suggest [Goethals] prejudged the case is reckless and grossly unfair,” the panel stated, writing with italics for emphasis: “These proceedings were a search for truth.”