MOVING FORWARD WITH THE OFFICE OF CHILD PROTECTION: TRANSITION TEAM STEPS BACK
After months of delays (and a little foot-dragging by the LA County Board of Supervisors), the transition team charged with preparing the way for the county’s new Office of Child Protection was able to relinquish control to the new interim child welfare czar, Fesia Davenport.
The co-chair of the transition team, Dr. Mitchell Katz, introduced the motion to have the team tear down shop.
Fesia Davenport, the new czar, (a former Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Children and Family Services) is already off to a productive start.
The Chronicle of Social Change’s Christie Rennick has the story. Here’s a clip:
Fesia Davenport, the interim director of the Office of Child Protection, took office on February 2, at which point the transition team appeared to loosen its grip on the implementation process, meeting only once that month and submitting a written progress report to the Board of Supervisors rather than appearing in person.
“She [Davenport] is espousing everywhere she goes that her role is to implement the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission and ensure that children are better off in this county,” said Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, co-chair of the transition team. “That’s what we would have hoped for when we finished the work of the blue ribbon commission last year.”
Transition team members extended their willingness to continue to be available to Davenport to share their expertise on specific issues, including education and law enforcement, and generally were optimistic about the transition team coming to an end.
“I think we’ve done great work and I’m so happy the office is up and running,” said Judge Margaret Henry, a member of the transition team. “Fesia [Davenport] has hit the deck running, and I’m just proud of the direction we’re going.”
The inauguration of two new county supervisors and an interim county CEO seemed to reinvigorate county government’s interest in the commission’s reforms in recent months. Supervisor Sheila Keuhl committed to delivering a new child-centric county mission statement around the same time that the county’s interim CEO, Sachi Hamai, moved to establish the Office of Child Protection and hire an interim director.
US SENATOR CORY BOOKER ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM URGENCY
Last week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced a first-of-its-kind bipartisan bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level.
The reform-minded Sen. Booker has also introduced (along with Sen. Paul) the REDEEM Act, which would restrict juvenile isolation, allow many youthful non-violent offenders to seal or expunge their records, and lift bans on federal welfare for low-level drug offenders, among other things.
In an interview with Vox’s German Lopez, Booker discusses the immediate need for criminal justice reform, from the war on drugs and racial inequality, to solitary confinement and rehabilitation. Here are some clips:
In my state, blacks are about 13 to 14 percent of the population, but they make up over 60 percent of the prison population.
Remember: the majority of people we arrest in America are nonviolent offenders. Now you’ve got this disparity in arrests, but that creates disparities that painfully fall all along this system.
For example, when you get arrested for possession with intent to sell, you can do it in some neighborhoods where there are no public schools and it’s not as densely packed as an inner city. You do it in an inner city and now you’re within a school zone, so you’re facing even higher mandatory minimums. So when you face that and you get out from your longer term, now you’re 19 years old with a felony conviction, possession with intent to sell in a school zone.
But forget even all of that — if you just have a felony conviction for possession, what do you face now? Thousands of collateral consequences that will dog you for all of your life. You can’t get a Pell Grant. You can’t get a business license. You can’t get a job. You’re hungry? You can’t get food stamps. You need some place to live? You can’t even get public housing.
What that does within our country, especially in these concentrated areas where we have massive numbers of men being incarcerated, is create a caste system in which people feel like there’s no way out. And we’re not doing anything as a society like we know we could do. There are tons of pilot programs that show if you help people coming back from a nonviolent offense lock into a job or opportunity, their recidivism rates go down dramatically. If you don’t help them, what happens is that, left with limited options, many people make the decision to go back to that world of narcotic sales.
What’s more dangerous to society: someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of their own home, or someone going 30 miles over the speed limit, racing down a road in a community? And yet that teenager who makes a mistake — doing something the last three presidents admitted to doing — now he has a felony conviction, because it’s more likely he’s going to get caught. And for the rest of his life, when he’s 29, 39, 49, 59, he’s still paying for a mistake he made as a teenager.
That’s not the kind of society I believe in, nor is it fiscally responsible…
When you take juveniles, like we do in this country, and put them in solitary confinement — other nations consider that torture — you hurt them and you scar them through your practices. You expose them for nonviolent crimes to often violent people. You expose them to gang activity.
Then you throw them back on our streets. And you tell them, “We’re not going to help you get a job. You want a roof over your head? Forget it. In fact, if we catch you trespassing on public housing authority property, we’re going to take action against you. You’re going to get a Pell Grant, try to better yourself through education? Sorry, you’re banned from getting a Pell Grant.”
What do people do when they feel trapped and cornered by society?
CONSIDERING THE CORONER’S INQUEST AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO A GRAND JURY PROCEEDING
After the grand jury non-indictments for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there has been much public discussion regarding the grand jury process, especially with regard to how the grand jury is handled by local district attorneys.
One possible alternative is a coroner’s public inquest.
Coroners’ inquests crop up here and there across the nation under special circumstances, but only in Montana are coroners actually required to perform an inquest after an officer involved shooting.
The NY Times’ Jack Healy has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:
In most places, the actions of the police officer who fatally shot Kaileb Williams, 20, would have been judged in secret, by an anonymous grand jury weighing criminal charges behind closed doors.
Here, it all played out in the open, during a little-known proceeding called a coroner’s inquest. It unfolded like a miniature trial, with a county coroner presiding in place of a judge, and seven Montana residents questioning witnesses and examining the violent, chaotic path that led Mr. Williams to a deadly standoff with the police on an icy night this past December.
Inquests do not indict officers or judge guilt or innocence, but lawyers here said they could be useful tools in cities inflamed by police killings. They take place before trials — often before any criminal charges are even filed — and offer a forum to air painful details and talk about disputed facts.
In Pasco, Wash., where the shooting death of a Hispanic orchard worker last month resulted in accusations of bias and cover-ups by the police, the coroner recently announced that he would hold an open inquest to head off “another Ferguson.”
“It helps to come to terms with a traumatic event to go through it in a public way,” said Paul MacMahon, an assistant law professor at the London School of Economics who recently wrote about inquests.
The inquests have the simple aims of officially declaring who was killed and when, but they also have the power to decide whether a killing is justified or a crime — a crucial question when a police officer has pulled the trigger. Whatever their outcome, the decision to file charges still rests with local prosecutors.
LAPD CHIEF FIRES OFFICER SUSPECTED OF POMONA SHOOTING
On Tuesday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck fired Pomona officer Henry Solis who is missing and suspected of shooting 23-year-old Salome Rodriguez Jr. in a nightclub parking lot on Friday.
The LA Times’ Kate Mather has the story. Here’s a clip:
“Henry Solis failed to meet the minimum standards of the Los Angeles Police Department and has been terminated effectively immediately,” Beck said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, Beck had harsh words for the rookie cop, who has been missing since the fatal shooting occurred early Friday. Pomona police issued a warrant for his arrest Monday.
“If Henry Solis is watching this, you have dishonored this police department, your country and your service to the country, and your family,” Beck said, looking into television news cameras. “And you should turn yourself in and face the consequences for your actions.”