ACLU Death Penalty Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry) LASD Prison Sheriff Lee Baca Solitary

Justice Kennedy and Prison Overcrowding, Solitary Confinement on Death Row, “Scared Straight”…and Bad LASD Luncheons


It’s up to US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to decide whether to grant Gov. Jerry Brown a requested stay on the three-judge panel’s order to release more than 9,000 inmates by the end of 2013 to further reduce prison overcrowding.

If Justice Kennedy approves to Gov. Brown’s request, the state will have time to file a full appeal of the order to the Supreme Court. If Kennedy denies the appeal, Brown will have to comply and begin releasing low-risk inmates or face contempt. (By the way, WitnessLA’s Matt Fleischer has a story coming up on the all-but-unknown problem of serious overcrowding in women’s prisons.)

LA Times David Savage has the story. Here are some clips:

Two years ago Kennedy spoke for a 5-4 majority in upholding one of the largest prison release orders in U.S. history, affirming a three-judge panel in California that concluded prisoners were dying from a lack of decent medical care because of severe overcrowding and the state’s failure to act. Kennedy said the conditions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The state was ordered to reduce its prison population to 137% of capacity within two years. That could mean releasing or transferring as many as 46,000 inmates since the beginning of the current case in 2008, Kennedy said. So far 37,000 have been released.

But Kennedy also said that “if significant progress is made toward remedying the underlying constitutional violations,” that could “demonstrate that further population reductions are not necessary.”

Citing these passages, Gov. Jerry Brown is now asking Kennedy and the high court to block a pending order from a special three-judge U.S. District Court panel that calls for releasing 9,600 more inmates by the end of the year.


Lawyers representing the prisoners urged Kennedy to turn down the appeal. “This is political posturing. It’s the manufacturing of a constitutional crisis,” said Rebekah Evenson, a Berkeley lawyer.

In their brief filed with Kennedy, the lawyers said it was “truly remarkable” that the state would defy the high court’s decision requiring the prisons to meet the 137%-of-capacity limit. “Rather than redoubling their efforts” to comply this year, state officials “have adopted a stance of outright defiance,” they said.

The lower court judges also made clear this month that they were not willing to tolerate further delays. They noted that the lawsuits challenging the prison overcrowding began more than 20 years ago.


Anthony Graves, a Texas death row exoneree, describes the horrors of solitary confinement on death row as only one who has experienced it first-hand can. (Anthony’s letter was published in conjunction with a new ACLU report about the “double punishment” of isolation on death row and the mental and emotional conditions that such isolation produces in inmates.)

Here’s a clip from Anthony’s letter:

I am death row exoneree #138.

There are 12 more people like me from Texas. Twelve people who spent years of their lives locked alone in concrete cages waiting to die before they were set free, exonerated for their innocence.

Eleven people have committed suicide on Texas’ death row. All because of the conditions.

When I was sentenced to death, I did not know that this sentence would also mean that I would have 12 years without any human contact, i.e. my mother, my son, my friends. All those people were stripped from my life because of this injustice. I did not know it would mean 12 years of having my meals slid through a small slot in a steel door like an animal. I did not know it would mean 12 years alone in a cage the size of a parking spot, sleeping on concrete steel bunk and alone for 22 to 24 hours a day. All for a crime I did not commit. The injustice.

For me and the 400 other prisoners on Texas’ death row while I was there, a death sentence meant a double punishment. We spent years locked alone in a tiny, concrete cage in solitary confinement, with guys going insane, dropping their appeals, doing everything they could to check out of this place before we were ever strapped to an execution gurney. All because of the conditions.

I am writing today because the ACLU has put out an important new paper about what it does to people to lock them alone in cages on death row. They found that over 93% of states lock away their death row prisoners for over 22 hours a day. Nearly a third of death row prisoners live in cages where their toilet is an arm’s length away from their bed. Sixty-percent of people on death row have no windows or natural light.


“Scared Straight” programs, in which kids are taken to tour detention facilities where inmates try to deter them from crime with scare tactics, have been shown to actually lead to more criminal behavior in participating youth. The federal government will not fund these programs and they are widely discredited. And yet, with the fourth season of the A&E hit reality series, “Beyond Scared Straight,” the network continues to blithely promote a practice that is believed to harm children.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange’s Maggie Lee has the story. Here are some clips:

This week, the fourth season of the A&E TV show “Beyond Scared Straight” follows two young sisters to the adult jail in Douglas County, Ga., where one inmate tells one of the sisters how she could beat her up “and make you not so pretty no more.”

Plenty of critics pan the show, saying it publicizes a discredited, harmful practice. Neither Georgia nor the feds will fund such jail tour programs, citing both evidence that it doesn’t work and the liabilities jails take on when they invite minors to meet with inmates.

“I still break the same law that sent me there,” said Pete Thomas, 27, of Atlanta, who for that reason spoke under a pseudonym. Ten years ago in central Florida’s Lake County, deputies pulled Thomas over and found him carrying less than 20 grams of marijuana. A scared straight-type visit to the county jail was part of his sentence in “Teen Court,” a diversionary program for young offenders.

“They tried to intimidate everyone in the group as much as possible, singled me out for having long hair, and the inmates acted crazed,” said Thomas, adding that he already knew people in that jail and that they were encouraged to lay it on thick.

That illustrates some of the objections to jail awareness programs detailed by Nancy Gannon Hornberger, executive director at the Coalition of Juvenile Justice, a network of organizations dedicated to keeping children and youth out of court.

A kid’s response to such aggressive tactics, said Hornberger, is to “harden their bravado.”


Anthony Petrosino agrees. He’s a researcher at WestEd, a research nonprofit and an author of an influential 2002 meta-analysis of scared straight studies.

“This program doesn’t have any positive effect and it may very well hurt the kids that are in the program,” he said. Petrosino and his team revisited the topic in 2012, trying to add more studies to their analysis. There were none to add and thus no new conclusions to make. Petrosino said that’s likely because scared straight is seen as a discredited program, so no one studies it anymore.

Scared straight-type programs have no effect on deterring crime, according to his research, and they actually lead to more offending behavior.

“We’ve got a real serious ethical program here,” said Professor Del Elliott, the founding director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We’ve got a TV production that’s promoting a program which is doing harm to our children.”


This week, a comedian named Edwin San Juan performing at a yearly law enforcement event called the Sheriff’s Day Luncheon told sexually explicit and racist jokes for thirty minutes. Matters were not helped when, at lunch’s end, although this was not an LASD event, San Juan received a gratitude plaque from Sheriff Lee Baca. (See above.) Audience members were reportedly not at all pleased. (Conservatively speaking, approximately a gazillion of our friends in law enforcement—both LASD-affiliated and not—brought the LA Times story on the matter to our attention.)

LA Times’ Joel Rubin and Robert Faturechi have this must read.


  • The Sheriff takes a photo op and is all smiles with another LASD exec giving a plaque of appreciation to a person for saying things that iif a LASD employee said in the workplace they would be disciplined for. Sexism and racism are mentioned specifically in the Core Values. I ask you, what sane, competent ethical leader of an organization would do that? There is only two explanations for the Sheriff’s reaction to such a blatant contradiction of his own policy. Is it because he thinks the policy doesn’t apply to him ? Or is it that he’s too disconnected from reality to realize what a blatant hypocrisy it is? There is no third explanation. Either way it’s a glaring example of why the man has no business being in charge of a convenience store, much less the LASD.

  • I agree! So much for ‘Core Values!’ If any line deputy who is currently under investigation for any type of misconduct I suggest you take this picture to your interview with IA! And alas our very own Mcweeney (not misspelled) finally gets his chance to show his true feelings about others different than him! Almost as good as your racist rants at the Code 7 with Burns isn’t it Mcweeney! Obviously, neither Baca nor Mcweeny had the internal courage to stop hate speech when they had all the opportunity to do so! Why? Where in the manual does it say deputies are allowed to ridicule others? I have an idea for all line deps. The next time you have to deal with a citizen, inmate go ahead and ridicule the person and as your defense that you were just being funny! Be sure to inject race and sex! Then go to Baca office and ask for your award plaque!!

    Baca complains that we need to ‘Man Up’ and step forward and to ‘right wrongs.’ Well Mr. Baca why didn’t you ‘Man Up?’ I bet this is one time Tanaka was glad he wasn’t there!

  • What makes Baca think that because he is so powerful nothing can happen to him? Does he really think he can do, say, act anyway he wishes and all is good? I like comedy and it can get crazy but I think a “bar” scene, out of uniform and not on company time might have been a better idea.

    I truly believe that he is following in the tracks of X sheriff Mike Corona of the OC. Getting too cocky for his own good and he will be taken down by his own actions. Given enough rope he will end his own career for us.

    Maybe one of his “staffers” will tell him the Core Values/policies do apply to him and he leads by example.

  • Don’t think for a minute this luncheon isn’t an official LASD event, as some have and will try to portray. It is announced and hyped on the Department’s official computer system. Reservations, attendance and seating are coordinated by Department staff. And it goes without saying that every Department executive is expected to attend, along with several members of their staff. In fact, the check-in table keeps an attendance roster of which execs are there and which ones aren’t. And how many people are there, and sanctioned to be there, on Department time?

  • #1: “There is no third explanation.”


    The third explanation is that he walked unawares directly into a purposefully set-up booby-trap designed to generate the maximum amount of negative publicity.

    Personally, when I am at these kinds of events I hardly ever pay attention to the featured speaker; everything goes in one ear & out the other without making any kind of impact, and I suspect that’s exactly what happened with the Sheriff.

  • A friend of mine was invited to the Sheriff’s Day Luncheon, his ticket was even paid for by his boss. However, like he told me, he would rather stay at his job and work than be in the presence of a bunch of department executives and managers whom he does not respect and are corrupt. A few fellow employees told him that the comedy segment of the lunch was horrible, they were offended because of the racial and sexual tone that it took.

  • So who is going to initiate a formal POE complaint listing Baca and McSweeny as”Subjects?” Per the POE, they were both obligated to stop the event once the comedian crossed the line. They were responsible to say, “Time out, we don’t roll like that,” and they did not. Instead, they give the guy an award? Are you kidding me?

    ALADS, PPOA, anyone who was present can initiate a complaint and this is absolutely a legitimate complaint. In fact, every single individual from the rank of Captain and above, had an obligation to “step up” as Leroy likes to say, and stop the performance. Failure to do so was a violation of the POE AND a violation of Core Values. Folks are receiving huge amounts of discipline for much less. Perhaps Mr. Shinee can make the call, he has every right to do so I certainly hope he does. Let Baca and McSweeny and all of the other “leaders” become Subjects and take the hit. No mea cupa, take the hit Leroy, be a leader.

  • A little comment on the Chief. I had the opportunity to meet with once on the fourth floor with counsel. When presented with information that contradicted the “official” version of an Internal Affairs investigation, his reply was “we are not going to admit that”. I could not believe my ears. The man has no soul and a warped sense of justice. Just my opinion, I’m sure his followers worship him!

  • Breaking News:

    Could not agree with you more. Unfortunately, the Department operates on the two tier system of discipline. One for you and I, and the other for for Captains and above. Sad to say, but the Department will do their spin control and move on. Time for ALADS to grow a pair and initiate a vote of no confidence!

  • Folks,,,the sheriff trashed the Department sexual harassment policy the day he was sworn in for his first term of office. I watched as he walked on stage at the Pasadena Civic, leered at Christine Devine, and said ” Now I know why they call it Fox News !” The leering was very obvious as he looked her up and down. He placed heavy emphasis on “Fox” as he said Fox News. My supervisor leaned over and told me to tear out the sexual harassment policy and throw it in the trash once we returned to the office that day. The memory of it is seared into my mind like a bad nightmare.

    Despite the fact Iwas offered multiple free tickets to attend, I chose to not attend this year’s Sheriff’s Day luncheon because every year it is more of the same lewd, crude, policy violating material that in any other setting would cause a POE report to be generated, and an Equity Investigation to be initiated. To my knowledge, it is by far the most blatant, do as I say, not as I do, event the Department continues to support. Steve Whitmore’s comments about people not being offended etc demonstrates his utter lack of understanding of the “elements of the crime.”

  • #5 Cognistator, you’re kidding right? Your post was meant to be humorous, right?
    You’re not saying that the next deputy who is on the hook for not “stepping up” and shutting down racist and sexist language will be able to present the defense of “I wasn’t paying attention” and the IA investigator will say: ” We’ll ok then. Case closed” and then the beef will be unfounded?

    No, no way you’re that straight up stupid. Yeah. You were trying to be funny. And kudos to you, because I’m positive your post #5 is a helluva lot funnier than anything the comedian said at the luncheon.

  • Bandwagon: I have asked why doesn´t ALADS and/or POPA have a vote of confidence re Baca. I could not get an answer. Maybe you would have better luck. I could have sworn both presidents were starting to shake! I can´t believe that ALADS and/or POPA are scared??!!

    Before I rip into ALADS and/or POPA anyone who can explain why there isn´t a vote go ahead and give us the 411

  • J. The sad thing is “these” people of power are the ones who will show up at your funeral and express the Department’s deepest regrets. Hypocrisy at it’s finest. We don’t shine our badges for them. We have a higher calling and try to stay true to our virtues. Something “they” have long since forgotten. Keep the faith brothers and sisters!

  • Before any event like this, the entertainment is queried on content. At least when it’s happening at a competently run organization. Ours obviously is being run by a bunch if pure baffoons!!! Can somebody please wake me up when this circus is over!!!

  • I doubt Chief McSweeney will ever get one of those PD Chief appointments after that photo op. Showed his true colors with his back door application to our brothers in blue and now he is out of the cave with this…. As for our ridiculous Sheriff, what part of the N-word shows wisdom and leadership???

    You didn’t know or it was someone else’s fault that you were there and it was said. We just responded to racially charged disturbances re Trayvon Martin for Christ sakes! Maybe a fresh coat of paint on the Crap Values will strengthen our resolve.

    BOS, FBI, and the public how much more of this do you want to see?

  • If you want change, call ALADS & PPOA and demand a vote about the Sheriff’s performance. There is power in numbers and if enough care to call, it will happen.

  • I just talked to my father who was an Executive VP for a large bank back in the day. He said any performer was strictly vetted before taking the stage at any company function. They were sat down and the entire content was reviewed. Sounds like common sense, but on our department common sense in very uncommon with our brass. They are completely void of any logic, leadership, common sense, ethics or integrity. REMEMBER THIS AND YOU WILL SURVIVE. The Core Values, POE Policy and the Department’s Policies were only written for Sergeants and below. All the rest have proven to be exempt.

  • I agree with the comment to “keep the fairh”. Many times in life you will to work with or under poor leadership. All you can do is keep your head up and continue to do the right things for the right reasons. And i think we need to speak up at times to those in leadership who are not leading. Dont sut idly by in fear. About two years ago Baca was at Norwalk Station and had a briefing for anyone who wanted to attend. During this briefing he told everyone that the Sgts exams had to be changed to make it easier for females to pass, because they could not “buckle down” enough to become a Sgt without that help. Wow! He is a piss poor leader, plain and simple.

  • And by the way mr “cognistator”, you are an idiot. You are obviously a ladder-climbing fool who sucks up to the brass and has probably only worked your minimum 18 months in a radio car. If Baca was set up like you suggest, he should have been man enough to stop the “comedy act” as soon as he heard the first joke that was offensive. Instead he sat there like the ignorant, double-standard- loving dolt that he is and let it continue. Had he, or anyone of the other butt-kissing members of the audience been brave enough to stand up and stop the show or say something about about it, the news stories would have been a little more positive for our department.

  • The following is intended for all the Executives on the Department that seemed to have forgotten some basic principles of leadership!

    The following excerpts are taken from General Tony Zinni’s (Ret) book “Battle Ready” coauthored by Tom Clancy. General Zinni retired in 2001 after more than 40 years in the United States Marine Corps. He addressed a class at the U.S. Naval Academy in April of 2003. The lecture was hosted by the Center for the Study of Military Ethics. He chose as his topic “The Obligation to Speak the Truth”

    General Zinni writes that the speaking the truth can be costly and painful, but it is a duty. Often, those who need to hear it won’t like it and may even punish you for it. Moral courage is often more difficult than physical courage. There are times when you disagree and you have to suck it up and say “yes sir” and do what you are told. There are also other times that you disagree and you have to speak out, even at the cost of your career.

    Careerism is corrosive to the principle of telling the truth. So is political expediency. In both cases, the hope of personal gain outweighs personal integrity and honor. “Don’t rock the boat” mentality leads to moral blindness. Troops want leaders who understand them, fight for them and appreciate what they are going through. Credibility is lost in their eyes if their leaders are silent when things are not right. To them that silence is either incompetence or careerism. It is not a demonstration of support.

    Honor, integrity, and loyalty are qualities we admire in our leaders. When they fail to meet these expectations, we all have an obligation to “speak the truth.” Remember that as leaders we must hold ourselves to these same expectations.

  • This Sheriff’s luncheon mess has shown what a huge lack of moral courage there is amongst many of our current top level executives. Whom besides McSweeney was there? Were any of our stellar IAB or ICIB folks? How about our Leadership & Training commander? or chief? Just curious.

    Most recently, a certain commander in the Homeland Security division had a similar moral courage test which he failed miserably. He was not only demoted, he took his command staff down with him. Given the opportunity at the time of the incident to stand up & do the right thing, he did not. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?

    So shouldn’t this mean that every executive at the Sheriff’s luncheon had the opportunity to stop the madness, but chose not to? Shouldn’t this mean each one of them should be a subject for failure to take action? Shouldn’t this mean each of them should have shown the moral courage to do right & fight wrong, but showed a clear & utter lack of fortitude in a tough situation?

    We all know there is a check-in list to show who all attends these functions…. I think the LA Times & Witness LA would love to know which senior execs on the Dept attended this and failed to take proper action in this egregious violation of our Policy of Equality! Who will take the fall? Who will be held accountable? It should be all of the command staff. We know for those favored few the non-existent “verbal reprimand” still exists, and we know it does not for those out of favor or of lower ranks.

    Time to pay the piper Baca. You stood there & listened & laughed. Where were your handlers??? They obviously dropped the ball in pulling you out of this fray. And for those who believe this was a test or a set-up, Baca had the chance to do right & fight wrong & show us he is the embodiment of OUR CORE VALUES. He did NOT. He failed miserably. He showed these are just words on paper to him. Many of us DO value the Core Values but we don’t need someone to tell us how to live our lives the right way. We just do.

    You can’t blame this one on our former Undersheriff!

  • I thought I was very clear… The POE POLICY, DEPARTMENT POLICY AND THE CORE VALUES WERE WRITTEN FOR SERGEANTS AND BELOW!!! EVERYONE ELSE HAS PROVEN EXEMPT!!! NOT ONE THING WILL HAPPEN TO ANY ONE PERSON AT THAT EVENT!!! NOTHING!!!! Pure reality folks, deal with it and move on, nothing to see here cause the brass is above any crap written down that Sergeants and Deputies are required to live by.

  • Yup, I believe it more and more everyday of the double standard. Thank goodness my time here is short. Freedom is not too far away and God Bless the rest of LASD who have been doing the right thing every day.

    This is so very sad.

  • Bandwagon said it best. the moral standard of people
    has totally disapeared. When will we wake up. every prophet and hero ,including Jesus, throughout our history have been men and women who stood up for what is right. why are so many americans mindless zombies with no clear view of truth and honesty today. Get out of group mentallities and become independent thinkers again. Get out of the box. have we all
    become slaves to lies and deceptions. The perfect slave is
    the slave who think he is free. Manny P Hall 33 degree mason,and that includes all races. Slaves to lies. You should know the truth and the truth will set you free..

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