Considering Risk of Reoffending, a $4.9M Settlement in Kelly Thomas Case, LA Justice System Portrayed in New Yorker, and New LAUSD Arts Money


Jurisdictions across the nation are turning to risk and needs assessment (RNA) information for use during sentencing to determine whether a person can be safely and successfully supervised in the community, rather than locked up in a jail or prison.

Judges (and prisons and parole boards) using RNAinfo look at factors such as prior offenses, marital status, age, sex, education, employment, and sometimes where a person lives.

A new report by the National Center for State Courts’ Center for Sentencing Initiatives looked at initiatives in ten jurisdictions nationwide, including Napa, California, through which RNA information is used during sentencing.

The other jurisdictions were Coconino County, Arizona; Mesa County, Colorado; Bonneville County/7th Judicial District, Idaho; Grant County, Indiana; Douglas County/4th Judicial District, Nebraska; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Yamhill County, Oregon; Travis County, Texas; and La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

The initiatives included treatment programs, evidence-based supervision programs, and partnerships between the court system and probation departments.

The Napa County Probation Department employs risk and needs assessment info to assign offenders to a corresponding tier of supervision based on their risk of reoffending. Low-risk offenders report to their probation officers on a quarterly basis on the phone, and medium-risk cases were given to officers with a caseload of around 100. Thanks to the RNA system, Napa county is handing down lower jail sentences, utilizing more incarceration alternatives like electronic monitoring, and using treatment programs in probation case plans.

In Napa, probation officers also incentivize probation, reinforcing positive actions like going to a job interview, or being to the probation appointment on time with rewards, which include items from “a little basket of goodies.” Since Napa started using RNA information during sentencing, the probation department experienced a decrease in recidivism rates, but it’s still unclear whether the change can be attributed to using the RNA info.

Yamhill County, OR focuses specifically on offenders who would be sent to prison under Oregon’s sentencing guidelines or who are repeat property or drug offenders, but can be safely and successfully supervised in the community.

Travis County, TX has seen a 77% reduction in recidivism rates for low-risk offenders and a 50% reduction in recidivism rates for medium-risk offenders. The county estimates it saved $21.3 million between 2007-2011 by using RNA information during sentencing.

(The report is a companion to this 2011 report.)


On Monday, the city of Fullerton agreed to pay $4.9 million to the father of Kelly Thomas, the homeless schizophrenic man who died after being beaten and shocked multiple times by Fullerton police officers in 2011.

In a security video of police confronting Kelly Thomas, who was suspected of stealing personal items, Thomas can be heard screaming for his father.

Three former Fullerton police officers involved in the fatal beating, Manuel Ramos, Jay Cicinelli and Joseph Wolfe, were fired from the Fullerton Police Department. Ramos and Cicinelli were found not guilty and the charges against Wolfe were dropped.

The settlement is not an admission of legal liability, said Diana Fox, the attorney representing Fullerton.

The OC Register’s Lou Ponsi, Theresa Walker, and Sean Emery have the story. Here’s a clip:

Dana Fox, an attorney for the city of Fullerton, said the $4.9 million settlement is not an admission of legal liability by the city or police.

But Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, disagreed.

“They know they were guilty of murder,” he said during a news conference that included blown-up photos of his son as a child playing with his family and holding up a fish he caught, and the now-familiar photo of an adult Kelly Thomas in a cowboy hat.

“By offering that amount, they feel they are getting off lucky.”

Civil rights lawyers and advocates for the mentally ill said the amount sends a strong message to all police and the public that the lives of the homeless have value.

“You can’t look at these folks on the streets and deal with them in any less a human manner than you would with a regular working Joe,” said Eric Traut, former president of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, said the amount “sends a message that something really wrong was done here.”

“If the amount was $10,000, that’s a very different message than $4.9 million. Obviously, the city would not have settled for $4.9 million unless they felt there was a substantial risk that they would lose much more before a jury.”

The wrongful death lawsuit named the city, former Fullerton police Officers Manuel Ramos, Jay Cicinelli and Joseph Wolfe, who were all fired from the department. Others included in the suit: Fullerton Officers Kevin Craig and James Blatney, who remain with the department; ex-Chief Michael Sellers; and his predecessor, Patrick McKinley, who sat on the City Council at the time of the incident and was later recalled.

In a criminal trial that ended early last year, Ramos and Cicinelli were found not guilty and charges were dropped against Wolfe.

“These officers are trying to get their jobs back,” said Garo Mardirossian, an attorney for Ron Thomas.

“We wanted to make sure they can’t.”

Kelly Thomas, who was known as a transient in Fullerton and other North County communities, died five days after police tried to take him into custody at the Fullerton Transportation Center for possibly stealing small personal items.

A city security video that surfaced after the incident showed several officers threatening Thomas. Though the video isn’t clear on all that transpired, Thomas was unconscious at the end of the encounter and his injuries included a compressed trachea and broken bones in his face.


In Rachel Kushner’s “Fifty-Seven,” a short story in this week’s issue of The New Yorker, a homeless man who is released from an LA County jail with five dollars and nowhere to go quickly finds himself locked back up, this time for killing a woman during a robbery. The story follows the man through the court system, and back into prison, where he stabs a guard and gets himself thrown in solitary confinement indefinitely.

In conversation with The New Yorker‘s Deborah Treisman, Kushner says that “Fifty-Seven” was inspired by her many interviews with men and women in Los Angeles jails and the rest of California’s justice system, whose childhoods involved “extreme situations of poverty and abuse.” Here’s a clip:

The story emerged from what has preoccupied me both as a person and as a writer for the past few years, which is the world of Los Angeles jails and criminal courts and California prisons, and who moves through these structures (needless to say, very poor people and people of color, disproportionately). The character in the story is released with no place to go (as are probably half of the people let out of the county-jail system downtown every day and night). He then commits a crime that puts him in prison for life. I have spent a lot of time listening to people who are serving life sentences and getting to know them and the circumstances of their lives.

I have never met anyone serving a long prison sentence who had anything close to what I could call a childhood; instead, the upbringings always—always—involve extreme situations of poverty and abuse. The second half of the story, when the character is in prison, was influenced by what I’ve observed on prison yards, especially the Level Four maximum-security facilities, like Salinas Valley, which is the prison my character initially goes to. C Yard there is an intense place, a very “active” yard. These yards have specific energies. You can feel it when something is about to take place. And meanwhile these guards, all puffed up in their stab-proof vests (they supposedly get paid extra to wear them), are yelling at you to stay close to the wall, not to talk to groups of people, and so on, as if you were on, say, a safari. But these are people, not lions, and in a way the people I feared most were the guards themselves.


On Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a $1 million in funding for arts education—especially for schools lacking arts education—from the state.

KPCC’s Priska Neely has more on the new (and much-needed) funding. Here’s a clip:

Money went out based on student enrollment and the results of the district’s new Arts Equity Index, which was released this spring. That survey was used to figure out which schools were providing arts education and which weren’t — to help the district determine the greatest need.

“We are bringing more equity and access to the funding and support of schools,” said Rory Pullens, head of the district’s arts education branch, in an interview…

Principals can decide how to spend the money. One school that ranked low on the index, Madison Middle School, received nearly $5,000. “Our school is in desperate need of supplies, so this will go into supplies for art enrichment programs,” said principal Estelle Baptiste in a statement.

Another school is starting a new music program from scratch.


  • As a police officer and a father, the photos of Kelly Thomas’s injuries and cries for his father are haunting. It is regrettable that none of the officers had the strength of character to stop the incident from escalating. We are often our own worse enemies.

  • Ron,

    You know what your guilty of? How about placing your son in a home or getting him the proper treatment. Not throwing him out on the street because he attacked his mother. How about the restraining order. I guess you couldn’t control your son and know you have capitalized on his death. Shame on you…..

  • I agree with Really. Had the parents not known he was on the street that would be one thing. Kelly scared them enough for them to basically turn their backs on him.
    To top it they show a very nice photo of him before he was sick or off his meds.
    Maybe we should look at settlements and just who they go to when parents do this to their son. He was alone, no family to be found when he died.
    Not trying to be a hard ass but have had to answer many calls where the family feared their son or daughter and did not care where they went as long as they were not around their home or family.
    Shame on his family for knowing their son could be violent and leaving him on the street.

  • @ Bandwagon:Total agreement. Any LEO worth their salt would agree. @ Really. No, shame on you to say that about a father concerning his son. Don’t minimize the actions of two cops who took it upon themselves to prove a point to a mentally unstable individual. If the city of Fullerton felt strongly about the cops actions, then they would have never settled. Riddle me this….why would Fullerton P.D. hire Cicinelli to patrol the streets with one working eye. Amazing!

  • Ron, put your money where your mouth is and donate 100% to a charitable organization that helps the homeless find help. You won’t though because the reality of the situation is not what you’ve been spouting off for the last few years.

  • No doubt that the premium policy for Fullertons insurance will skyrocket.

    Interesting that the former cop, Manual Ramos was arrested and booked for domestic violence this year.

    Real tough guy. First Kelley Thomas, now a woman. I’m sure a child will be next.

  • Anyone on the LASD FB page. Interesting stuff. Great post from the Ex Mrs. Tom Carey. Cmon, The kool aide should have worn off by now. Tom was willing to do anything for Mr T, right or wrong. Stop trying to justify his actions Mrs CS.

  • And Cicinelli had a 90% tax free disability retirement income from LAPD plus his Fullerton PD salary. You ask why they would hire him? Because the retired LAPD captain who was FPD chief at the time directed it.

  • @Tom. I read her posting, twice. Quite delusional if you ask me, she has Stockholm Syndrome by relating to Tom and the others as victims. I understand that Tom is her baby’s daddy and all, but her comment is beneath her. Tom crawled in bed with Tanaka and his eyes were wide open. As all of the others, Tom sold his soul lock, stock and barrel to put on those Capt bars. Tanaka put him right where he wanted him, ICIB. Under his plea agreement, Tom has to spill his guts regarding any Federal, State or “Administrative” investigations. I bet he has a lot to say about how things really operated inside Tanaka’s Command and Control Center. Tom has one opportunity to make it right, I’m sure he will. If anyone thinks ANY of those charged and those about to be charged by the FBI are “victims,” check your temperature, I think you have malaria.

  • @ Nancey Drew & Another Cop: I’m sure that the residents and the public can appreciate your information. Im not surprised.

    Smells likes another LAPD cronyism caper and shenanigans in Fullerton Police Department uniforms.

    Hiring a person to be a police officer with one eye…..who does that?

  • Tom can’t make it right. You cant un-ring the bell. He can only tell the truth. Repeating the possible repercussions is ad nauseam. The damage has been done as it still lingers.

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