Homeboy Needs Funding to Continue Crucial Services…Cams in LA Jails a Success…More LASD Indictments?…and Drug Sentencing Reform and the State of the UnionJanuary 27th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES FORESEES MORE LAYOFFS WITHOUT DESPERATELY NEEDED FUNDING
Of late, it has become a distressing fact of LA County life that, for all the indispensable work done by Homeboy Industries—the respected gang recovery program that for over 25 years has helped thousands of men and women find healthy alternatives to gang life—in the past few years, the program’s famous founder, Father Greg Boyle, has not been able to raise enough money keep Homeboy’s services fully afloat. As a consequence, last year, Boyle had to lay off 40 people. This year, if more government funding doesn’t find it’s way to Homeboy, an estimated 60 additional people will have to be laid off.
This doesn’t seem to prevent various LA County agencies from relying on Homeboy for services—without paying a penny in return.
This was part of the message that Boyle brought when Chairman of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Steve Soboroff, invited the priest to speak at last week’s commission meeting.
The LA Times’ Steve Lopez has the story. Here’s a clip:
For a quarter of a century, Boyle has steered boys and girls, and men and women, out of the gang life through Homeboy Industries, which offers job training, counseling, tattoo removal and more. The model Boyle built has been replicated around the country and abroad.
Here in Los Angeles, some 120,000 gang members have voluntarily asked Father Boyle for help starting over. They struggle daily against the socioeconomic forces that drew them into gang life. But Homeboy itself confronts another daily struggle.
Making ends meet.
“Our government funding has gone in the last three years from 20% of our annual $14-million budget to 3%,” Boyle told the police commissioners.
And then he had this pithy observation:
“I suspect if we were a shelter for abandoned puppies we’d be endowed by now. But we’re a place of second chances for gang members and felons. It’s a tough sell, but a good bet.”
Earl Paysinger, an LAPD assistant chief, said he shudders to think what shape the city would be in without Homeboy.
“I’m heartened that in 2012, gang-related crime has been reduced by 18% and gang-related homicide by nearly 10%,” Boyle told the commission. “And I think Homeboy has had an impact on that.”
But Boyle didn’t hide his frustration, arguing that Homeboy’s services save the public millions of dollars in reduced violence and incarceration.
“We shouldn’t be struggling this much. God love the Museum of Contemporary Art, which can raise $100 million in 10 months to endow itself,” he said. “They were so successful they moved the goal posts to $150 million, and we’re just trying to keep our heads above water.”
…this is Los Angeles, home to 22 billionaires at last count. Home to a Hollywood crowd that congratulates itself for its social conscience and, in just one night at George Clooney’s house, raised $15 million for Barack Obama — more than Homeboy’s annual budget.
CAMERAS PLACED IN LA COUNTY JAILS PROVIDE “AN OBJECTIVE EYE,” SAYS OIR REPORT
Video cameras installed in LA County jails in 2011 have proven to be greatly helpful in determining which party is telling the truth in excessive use-of-force allegations against deputies, according to a new report from the LASD watchdog, Office of Independent Review. The cameras (more than 1500 between CJ, Twin Towers, and the Inmate Reception Center) were put up amid a 2011 federal investigation into inmate abuse at Men’s Central Jail.
The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi has more on the report. Here’s a clip:
The report released by the agency’s civilian monitor Thursday found that the footage has helped to exonerate deputies who were falsely accused and build cases against those who break the rules.
“The department now has a video record of 90% of force incidents in its downtown jails and is no longer completely reliant on ‘observations’ of inmates and jail deputies,” the report by Michael Gennaco’s Office of Independent Review stated.
Dozens of cameras were installed inside the downtown Men’s Central Jail in 2011 — when the FBI’s investigation of deputy misconduct inside the lockups first became publicly known. Today there are 705 cameras in the facility, with about 840 more in the sheriff’s other downtown jail facilities, Twin Towers and the Inmate Reception Center.
Gennaco’s report found that there are still areas of the lockups that cameras don’t cover, causing shortcomings in some investigations, but that overall, use-of-force investigations have improved because of the cameras.
A multi-million dollar surveillance system for CJ was in the works all the way back in 2006, only to be abandoned by LASD officials. (You can read more in the first installment of Matt Fleischer’s “Dangerous Jails” series.) A number of cameras were purchased later, in 2010, and then tucked away in someone’s office for a year before actually being installed at Men’s Central.
In their latest report, the Office of Independent Review laments that the cameras were not put in place sooner:
…the success of the cameras causes us to question why it took so long to heed our requests for this technology. However, rather than labor to try to understand the delay, we embrace the video cameras that help us with making credibility and accountability calls that were not possible in the years during which the LA County jails did without.
ARE THERE MORE INDICTMENTS IN STORE FOR THE LASD?
Seven sheriff’s deputies have been indicted on charges they hid an inmate turned confidential informant from the FBI and then threatened the informant’s FBI handlers. But who ordered the operation? Rumors are swirling that more indictments could come down at any time. How far up the chain of command could those indictments go?
Sheriff Baca says his sudden retirement has nothing to do with the FBI investigation into his department. The question is who knew what, and when?
Sources within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tell Eyewitness News that Sheriff Baca and his former second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, were both involved in the operation to hide the FBI informant.
That informant was asked by the FBI to report on possible abuse and corruption within the jails. The scheme became known as “Operation Pandora’s Box.”
It all began in the summer of 2011 inside Men’s Central Jail, when inmate-turned-FBI-informant Anthony Brown’s cover was blown. Brown, a convicted armed robber, was caught with a contraband cellphone smuggled in by a sheriff’s deputy. Investigators quickly realized that Brown was using that phone to call the FBI.
What happened next is what led to seven of those indictments by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.
“They took affirmative steps to hide the informant from everyone, including the FBI,” said Birotte in a news conference on December 9, 2013.
Brown was moved — allegedly hidden — for 18 days. His name was changed, records were altered and destroyed.
“These allegations are breathtaking in their brazenness,” said Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California. The ACLU is a court-appointed monitor of the L.A. County jails.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that such a scheme took place without knowledge and authorization of the highest levels of the department,” said Eliasberg.
OBAMA SHOULD CALL FOR SENTENCING REFORM IN HIS STATE OF THE UNION, SAYS SORENSEN
In an excellent piece for the Atlantic, Juliet Sorensen, daughter of Ted Sorensen (JFK’s advisor and speech-writer) makes a case for Obama including drug-sentencing reform in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. Here’s how it opens:
In the last week of 1963, my father, Ted Sorensen, met with President Lyndon Johnson late into the night at his Texas ranch to decide what provisions of President John F. Kennedy’s unfinished agenda to include in the upcoming State of the Union address. Last on the list was a provision for expanded federal jurisdiction over illegal drugs, which provided not only for federal criminal-law enforcement but also for expanded rehabilitation and treatment programs.
As my father recounted in his memoir, Johnson angrily brushed aside the suggestion. “Drugs? I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Just lock them up and throw away the key!” The meeting ended, and my father deleted that portion of the speech, which famously announced the War on Poverty—but kept the drug provision in Johnson’s legislative program. This led to controlled-substance and drug-addiction reform that passed with bipartisan support in Congress. Despite Johnson’s dismissal of my father’s proposal of treatment and rehabilitation, he extolled those ideas when he signed the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act into law in November 1966, describing it as a “pioneering measure” that recognizes that “treating addicts as criminals neither curtails addiction nor prevents crime.”
President Obama now has a golden opportunity in his own State of the Union to confront the U.S. government’s continued struggle to effectively legislate drugs. In a January 8 statement, Obama endorsed the very same priorities articulated in LBJ’s War on Poverty and catalogued exactly 50 years ago in Johnson’s own State of the Union address. This indicates that he will also focus on income inequality—21st century lingo for entrenched poverty—in his speech on January 28. While a renewed commitment to tackling persistent poverty is laudable, Obama should also seize the moment to further another, related legislative aim of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations: reduced sentencing for drug-law violators who are nonviolent offenders.
The stark increase in federal inmates in recent decades has overcrowded prisons, impeded rehabilitation, and cost taxpayers millions. A “lock them up and throw away the key” response to the rise of crack cocaine 30 years ago—echoing Johnson’s reaction on that December night—resulted in an 800 percent increase in the number of federal prisoners in the United States between 1980 and 2012…