by Taylor Walker
TO CLOSE OR NOT TO CLOSE CA’S COSTLY JUVENILE PROGRAMS?
SF Chronicle’s Marisa Lagos reports on the advantages (and disadvantages) of the state’s controversial juvenile justice programs that the governor proposes to close and the effect that closure could have on the programs’ resident youth.
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This is California’s solution to dealing with its juvenile offenders with the most serious criminal backgrounds, who need intensive treatment that county juvenile halls could not provide. The program is expensive, costing state taxpayers $179,400 a year per offender.
Now, the state is contemplating pulling the plug on O.H. Close and three other state-run facilities that serve this population, which represents less than 1 percent of the more than 225,000 youths arrested in California each year. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed closing the institutions and sending these offenders back to county juvenile halls. [Editors' note: Actually it would be County probation camps. But no matter.]
The move would fall in line with Brown’s broad goal of shifting state services to the county level, in part to cut back on state spending. But staff members at O.H. Close say the closures would be devastating, and some youths here agree, saying they have received far more effective treatment than they ever got in county juvenile halls.
Staff and wards at both O.H. Close and N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility next door say closing the state facilities – which would save the state more than $100 million a year – would set California back, and experts warn it could result in far more juveniles being charged as adults and sentenced to state prison.
HOW REHABILITATION ALL BUT VANISHED FROM CALIFORNIA’S PRISONS
California’s prison system has drastically cut its inmate rehabilitation programs and inmates have few incentives to participate in those that remain. As a consequence, most are paroled with no new skills or education, and those with drug or mental health problems don’t have them addressed. The East Bay Express’ Joaquin Palomino examines how all of the above contributes to the states’ disastrously high recidivism rate.
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….Under the Determinate Sentencing Law that [Jerry] Brown signed [in 1977], most inmates receive a fixed sentence, and are released from prison after a specified time period. As a result, most inmates no longer need to prove to a parole board — like Bolar did — that they are ready to reenter society, and so they don’t have to work for their freedom. Because of this, participation in reform-oriented prison programs has dropped substantially. “The general prison population doesn’t do shit no more,” Bolar noted. “No jobs, no classes, no therapeutics, no nothing … and when it’s time to go home they go home.”
In addition, funding for prison rehabilitation has been systemically cut from the California Department of Corrections’ budget. In the 1990s, the legislature went so far as to officially change the penal code to say that the purpose of prison was punishment — period. “They took rehabilitation out of it entirely,” noted UC Berkeley law professor Barry Krisberg. “So for the past three decades the system has been guided entirely by retribution. The main problem with the punitive approach is that the vast majority of prisoners are released.”
And today, released inmates are much less prepared for free society. They usually commit new crimes and end up back in prison. According to the most recent state statistics, an astounding 65 percent of released inmates now return to prison. In the past 25 years, that number has fluctuated between 60 and 80 percent.
At the same time, California voters and state political leaders have made it much more difficult for lifers to win their release. During the past three decades, California governors have routinely overturned parole-board decisions, forcing prisoners to spend even more time behind bars, thereby further diminishing the role of rehabilitation.
WHEN A GEORGIA TOWN UNWISELY GAMBLED ITS FUTURE ON AN ICE PRISON
A privately run detention center in a remote Georgia town attempted to revive it’s prison population (and in turn, boost the town’s economy) with immigrant detainees, courtesy of ICE. Now that the prison is again on the brink of closure, Irwin County’s immigrant prisoners endure disturbingly inhumane conditions.
The Nation’s Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville have the story.
Here’s how it opens:
About a mile from the center of Ocilla, Georgia, a two-stoplight town nearly 200 miles south of Atlanta, sits a bleak boxy building surrounded by barbed-wire fencing. A hand-painted sign reads “Irwin County Detention Center.” With 1,200 beds, this private prison is the largest employer in Irwin, a county of 10,000 people. For years it did good business, bringing much-needed jobs to this impoverished part of south Georgia.
But by the middle of 2009 the prison sat nearly half empty. It needed more inmates to keep the business afloat. The facility’s private management company, and the county, began to court today’s most lucrative detention market: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE.
ICE runs the world’s largest immigration detention system, relying heavily on local jails and private facilities in far-flung communities like Irwin County. Rather than operating them itself, the agency leases beds from local jails or contracts with private corporations, such as Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, billion-dollar companies that spend millions on federal lobbying to ensure that the market stays strong. Private companies also inspect and monitor prospective and contracted prisons on ICE’s behalf. These entities are responsible for the health and welfare of more than 33,000 immigrant detainees each day. Immigrants who are detained before deportation can spend anywhere from a few hours to years in custody….
*ANNENBERG’S NEON TOMMY IS THE BEST PLACE TO GO for rounded coverage of the tragic shooting death of two USC grad students.
*NBC HAS A VIDEO OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S HIGH SPEED PURSUIT AND OIS SHOOT OUT DEATH OF A 19 YEAR OLD on the 101 Freeway near Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills.
Dennis Romero of the LA Weekly also reports.
The video is harrowing to watch as the kid, after reportedly speaking to his mother and to police on the cell phone, suddenly throws a skidding U-turn with patrol cars on his tail, then gets out of his car and sprints out onto the freeway. As he runs, really, to nowhere across lanes, he turns around and twice points something at police, a move that could only have one logical ending.
The video also makes clear how important air support is for officers on the ground in highly volatile instances like this one.
UPDATE: Dennis Romero at the LA Weekly is keeping up to date on this story, which is playing out more and more tragically with additional information.