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Money for Diversion, Solitary Confinement Pt. 3, Video of LASD Lakewood Shooting, and Rehabilitating Locked-Up Women

LA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPES, PROBATION DEPARTMENT CLASH OVER FUNDING FOR DIVERSION PROGRAM

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, the LA County Board of Supervisors is slated to re-vote on a jail building plan, after the original vote was found to be in violation of the state’s open meetings law. On the agenda, it was attached to a program to divert the county’s mentally ill from jails, which will also be reconsidered Sept. 1.

In the meantime, a disagreement about how the board plans to fund the diversion plan has arisen.

Over a period of five years, the LA County Probation Department has received $200 million in state money allocated to help keep people with felony convictions from getting locked up for certain probation violations.

The Supes want to redirect half of the state money from Senate Bill 678 to set up and run the planned Office of Diversion and Reentry which would be under the county’s Health Services Department.

But LA County Probation Chief Jerry Powers argues that SB 678 money is intended solely for probation programs, and that if the Supes get their way, it would likely be to the detriment of future probation program funding.

The LA County Supes have already set aside $30 million in county money, but had banked on about $100 million in additional state funding. The probation chief says he is willing to help the board come up with money from somewhere else. And Supe Mark Ridley Thomas says he believes the board is committed enough to this comprehensive diversion program that they will find another source of funding if necessary.

We’ll keep you updated on the issue.

The LA Times’ Abby Sewell has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Probation chief Jerry Powers has protested, saying the money must go to his department and be spent on felony probationers. In a letter to county supervisors, Powers warned the board’s plan “would likely jeopardize future [state] funding” for a wide range of programs.

State officials echoed Powers’ concerns and said they have raised the issue with county leaders.

“We have always understood [money authorized by Senate Bill 678] to be a probation program, and the dollars in the program are calculated based on the number of people that probation is keeping out of prison or jail,” said Diane Cummins, a special assistant to Gov. Jerry Brown. “It seems clear in the statute that the money has to go to probation.”

The new diversion office would be part of the county’s Health Services Department, not the probation department.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who proposed the new diversion program, said the issue is being reviewed by county attorneys.

“We rely on legal opinions rather than that which is being asserted by a given department head,” he said.

Ridley-Thomas said even if the state money can’t be used for the new diversion office, the board’s “commitment to diversion is so high that I suspect the board members will be motivated to find the necessary resources to fund” the program.


THE STATE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN NEW YORK

The final story in a three-part NPR series on solitary confinement in the US focuses a lens on New York, where major efforts (and lawsuits) have been changing when and how long prisons can hold inmates in isolation cells.

NPR’s Brian Mann takes a look at both sides of the debate. On one side, the head of the NY prison guard’s union, Mike Powers, says the solitary confinement is an indispensable deterrent and is used strategically by officers to keep prisons safe.

On the other side, reform advocates say isolation is inappropriately used as a “default mechanism,” and that studies on the issue suggest solitary confinement can cause serious psychological damage.

(Here’s where we linked to part one and part two.)

Here’s a clip:

“Our SHUs are not the dungeons that people portray them to be,” Powers says…

“I don’t know how many times I’ve had an offender, an inmate, tell me that ‘I’m not going back in there, Powers. You can count on that,’ ” he says.

This is the debate happening across the U.S. Many corrections officers see solitary confinement as a normal practice, relied on for decades.

Reform advocates say isolation is used far too often. They point to the fact that many of the 4,500 inmates held in New York’s isolation cells before last year’s agreement were teenagers, pregnant women and inmates who committed minor infractions.

“Five out of six offenses that lead people into solitary are for nonviolent ticket infractions, like excessive bearding or having too many stamps,” says Five Mualimm-ak, now a reform activist, who spent 11 years behind bars on weapons charges, including five years in solitary. The figures come from a New York Civil Liberties report released in 2012.

“Socially, it made me numb. I felt like I was stripped of all the skills I was used to using on a human-being level,” Mualimm-ak says.

Solitary confinement is getting a second look from politicians as part of a general shift away from tough crime policies and because studies show isolation can harm inmates’ mental health and lead to more crime once they’re released. In a statement, New York’s acting corrections commissioner, Anthony Annucci, said the reform effort here will make prisons “more humane.”

But with details of New York’s new policy still being hashed out, Soffiyah Elijah with a pro-reform group called the Correctional Association worries that opposition from prison guards will block significant change.

“It’s the No. 1 hurdle because they are on the front line, they’re given amazing discretion to abusively use the ability to put somebody in solitary confinement, and it’s their default mechanism,” Elijah says.


VIDEO RELEASED OF CONTROVERSIAL LASD LAKEWOOD SHOOTING OF MENTALLY ILL MAN – QUESTIONS STILL REMAIN

On July 6 in Lakewood, Los Angeles County deputies shot and killed John Berry, a 31-year-old mentally ill man who had likely gone off his medication.

John’s brother, Chris Berry, a federal law enforcement officer, saw the whole thing. He was the one who called the cops on John. Chris says that when he requested a mental evaluation team, which would have included a mental health care professional, he was told deputies would be responding instead.

Berry’s family has released video captured by a witness at the scene that has been included as evidence in a civil trial.

Deputies say Berry rammed his car head-on into a patrol car, pinning an officer between the two cars before the witness started filming. His family says he didn’t hit the patrol car. They say the video depicts deputies peppering Berry with bullets as he is backing up in the car.

The LA Times’ Corina Knoll and Rubin Vives have the story. Here’s a clip:

But Berry was not himself and appeared to be off his medication July 4 when he showed up at home upset that he had lost his job. He called the police to complain that he wasn’t being allowed access to the belongings in his room. When a deputy arrived, Berry gathered some possessions and left the house he shared with his mother, sister, brother and a niece.

Two days later, Berry reappeared at the house, parking his car on the front lawn. His older brother went out to talk to him.

“He was sitting in the driver’s seat of his BMW,” Chris Berry, 37, recalled. “I could tell he hadn’t slept in a while.”

Chris Berry, a federal police officer who works at a facility with two psychiatric hospitals, said he called the Lakewood sheriff’s station and asked that a mental evaluation team be dispatched. He was informed that deputies would be sent instead.

The deputies who arrived were immediately aggressive and escalated the situation, Chris Berry said. He said he watched as they unleashed pepper spray, shot his brother with a Taser at least four times and struck him with batons. His brother, he recalled, looked stunned and cried, “What did I do wrong?”

“They said he accelerated and crashed into the police car. That did not happen — I was there for the whole thing,” Chris Berry said. “But they have to say that because it justifies their aggressive actions.… I believe in my heart and I know Johnny wasn’t trying to hurt them.”

Chris Berry said that as a law enforcement officer, he is pained to be mixed up in what feels like a family fight. “I called one brother to help another brother and…” He stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

The family hopes the release of the video will hold the department accountable while also forcing law enforcement agencies to rethink how they interact with the mentally ill.


LONGREAD: WOMEN IN PRISON FIND HEALING AND PURPOSE THROUGH EDUCATIONAL AND THERAPEUTIC PROGRAMS

The Desert Sun’s Anna Rumer has a great longread about redemption for incarcerated women (often victims themselves) in California detention facilities, and the programs that helped them change their trajectories. Here’s how it opens (but do read the whole thing):

Looking at Danielle Barcheers, it’s impossible to imagine her as a killer.

The perky 34-year-old often wears a smile and makes repeated apologies for the “mess” in her spotless cell. She comes off like a beam of light amid the 1,640 women serving time at the California Institution for Women in northern Corona.

She’s come a long way. In 1997, 15-year-old Barcheers became the youngest girl in California at the time to be tried and convicted as an adult after helping murder her boyfriend’s grandmother.

Sentenced to 25 years to life, politicians bragged about locking away a child they considered an uncorrectable bad seed — a distinction Barcheers found herself believing for a long time.

But in the 18 years since she first said goodbye to her physical freedom, she’s found another way to free herself and other women as a mentor and certified drug counselor.

Most of these women were victims themselves, prison counselors say — victims of addiction, physical abuse, sexual violence and broken homes. But somewhere along the way, they became the victimizers.

Since Barcheers was sentenced, she’s seen a 180-degree change in the political attitude about rehabilitation. Today, prison officials look to education, counseling and social programs to help provide the women their greatest opportunity to escape the cycle of violence.

Of those who are given a second chance, only half will make enough of a change to leave behind the mistakes and traumas that haunt them. But others find hope.

Barcheers may never banish the ghosts of her past completely, but she has made peace with them and, for the first time in her life, herself.

16 Comments

  • It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Lakewood Deputies involved in the death of John Berry.

  • Can somebody out there please tell me the correct way to deal with the mentally ill? Let’s see…You can’t handle your nut case family member, so you call law enforcement to come handle the problem. Law enforcement shouldn’t be the ones responding. Send me to all the friggen training you want. I’m not equipped, nor capable of dealing with the mentally ill. Here’s an idea, send animal control and shoot the nut case in the ass with a tranquilizer gun.

  • Was there a sergeant on scene? Did he/she “take charge” of this incident by actually supervising? Did the sergeant realize this incident was rapidly spiraling out of control with too many deputies trying too many things all at once, too many guns out with no plan? Once a sergeant arrives, they are in-charge, they are responsible for everything. Tanaka’s mandate of supervisors are to shut up and stay out of the way and “allow deputies to do their job,” cost LASD millions in lawsuits and created nightmare incidents to occur. Let’s see the spin on this incident.

  • #3: How dare you! You’re darn tootin’ right I’m not calling you. FOR ANYTHING. Not even to pick up a stray dog. You’d kill it!

    Training? You can’t handle the training! Protect and to Serve? HA!

  • @3, I hope a family member of yours doesn’t end up being mentally ill. You don’t know the future. But coppers are trained to take control of any situation. They usually are always very aggressive even to the point of shooting someone. I hope the Barry family sues and gets big $$$. From what I saw in this video, the coppers failed

  • Yeah, uh, any surprise this event took place in LAKEWOOD??? Hello!!! Tanaka territory…

    Hey #3, I hope you never do, but if you ever transfer, you could go to Lost (in the) Hills station. You’d fit right in.

  • “This is a training issue” is the biggest bullshit cop out used by law enforcement managers for everything they can’t cleanup. LASD provides an over abundance of mental health “training” to its personnel. In the Academy, Jail Ops, Patrol School, AOT and station briefings. So don’t let the response to this be the typical white wash of “we need additional training.”

    The focus of this investigation needs to be impartial, thorough and objective with a focus on 1. What actually happened, 2. Who was involved, 3 Individually, what did they do and why did they do it 4 Was Department policy followed, 5. Who was in-charge and what was the plan 6. Who fired and why, and 7. What role did the sergeant take?

    A human life was taken, it was filmed by one or more video cameras in broad daylight and directly in front of the family. If the rather large male in uniform was the sergeant, and I can’t quite make out his stripes, but if he was the field sergeant, oh boy, does he have some explaining to do. But again, let the facts and evidence come out. If in the final analysis, this shooting was as justified as can be, then so be it. If there were absolutely no other reasonable options but to shoot and kill this guy, so be it. But if this was nothing more than a cluster fuck that spiraled out of control, with piss poor decisions made and nothing but bullshit for answers, then stand-by. Let the chips fall where they may, I hope it all works out. The ball is in your court, Sheriff. Let’s see where standards and accountability play into this and all shooting investigations. No witch hunt, no scapegoats, just a fair investigation.

  • 3/4’s of you bloggers on this site suffer from mental illness. I love the fall back rhetoric…”If it was one of your family members!” First off, I’m not calling the police if one of my family members needs help with mental illness. You guys are so out of touch. You’re part of the entitlement/victim culture. Handle your OWN family matters. Hey Board of Supe’s…Forget the body cameras. Give us all tranquillizer dart guns… Problem solved.

  • What bubble is this 11-boy idiot in. Chief, it’s obvious you have no clue what’s going on. Tenured Patrol Deps have zero confidence in most field Sergeants now days. Few Sergeants were FTOs, had Tactical Ops type jobs, or Investigative assignments before they promoted. Most field Sergeants are Admin pogues who have no business making critical incident decisions. Stop shining a seat with your ass and go on a ride a long. One last note Mr 11b, hurry up with your damn investigations, a lot of folks need to get back to work.

  • It’s’s always so easy to judge, critique, Monday Morning quarterback and employ the hindsight is 20/20 rule after the fact. It always amazes me how quickly people crticize the actions of the police when the handle a situation ….not to their liking. I call this the Burger King Mentality. Some people think the police should handle all situations like they so choose. If the police use force…they acted to hastily or aggressively. If they stand back and do nothing their lazy, scaryand incompetent. The old saying, damned if you do…damned if you dont has never been more fitting. Now a days, everybody seems to be expert in how police should do their job and all the bad people in the world who commit crimes suffer from mental illness. No one is sane and responsible for their actions. Pretty soon the cops are going to start using the innocent by mental defect defence when they face trial by public opinion and court of law.

    Let us not forgot the many law enforcement officers who lost their lives this year trying to simply do their job. No public outcry, extended media coverage of their deaths or outrage at the system for creatinging these killers. No blame thrown on the doctors for not correctly treating or diagnosing te problems. No anger at the family of the monster for creating these beasts and not getting them help they need. No..No…No. However there is plenty of criticism to go around in how the big bad police brutalized all these poor, misunderstood and sick people.

    I think all police departments should slow down, take a wait and see approach like the good cops of Baltimore.

  • I think this was a very well reasoned response, BK.

    Just so you know, Carson City deputy Carl Howell was killed in a domestic disturbance call two weeks ago. At 2:00 in the morning. Same thing happened to a Texas deputy today.

    I am not LE, just a generally law abiding citizen. I do not need the media to tell me to grieve over this. It hurts all the same.

  • From reading some of these post it’s obvious why the cops have so much difficulty and are always in trouble, like loosing their jobs, getting sued and so on.

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