LWOP Kids Marijuana Laws Paul Tanaka Prison Reentry Rehabilitation Sentencing

PBS Documentary on Juvenile Life Without Parole…NY Times Supports Marijuana Legalization….Paul Tanaka’s Retirement Take-home Pay….and More


Next Monday, August 4, PBS will air “15 to Life,” the story of Kenneth Young, who received four consecutive life sentences for committing several armed robberies as a teenager. Kenneth thought he would never make it out of prison alive, until the US Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that kids could not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for non-homicide crimes.


On Sunday, the NY Times editorial board officially came out in support of repealing the federal marijuana ban, which is something of a big deal. The editorial was also the starting point for a six-part opinion series on legalizing marijuana. (In part one, NYT’s David Firestone argues in favor of the feds stepping back and letting states decide.)

Here’s a clip from the editorial board’s significant endorsement:

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.

We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.

The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.


Between seven months of salary pay and 339 days of unused paid leave accrued over his 31-year career, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka took home $591,000 as final pay in 2013. This number was only surpassed by one county employee, the chief neurosurgeon at the biggest county-run hospital.

The LA Daily News’ Mike Reicher has the story. Here’s a clip:

Including his seven months of wages and benefits, the county paid $591,000 for Tanaka in 2013, according to payroll records provided to the Bay Area News Group, part of the Daily News’ parent company. This made him the second-highest compensated employee, next to the chief neurosurgeon at the largest county-administered hospital.

A certified public accountant (whose license is inactive), Tanaka did not violate any rules, county officials said.

Nor did he “spike” his pension. None of the 339 days leave he cashed out applied toward his retirement income, officials say. The county code limits that widely criticized practice of boosting one’s final salary.

Six-figure payouts aren’t rare at the Sheriff’s Department, though Tanaka topped the 2013 list. There were 500 other sheriff’s employees — more than at all other county departments combined — who received one-time payments in excess of $100,000, according to the 2013 data. For some county employees, those checks may have included bonuses or other taxable cash payments in addition to leave time.

Tanaka, who did not respond to requests for comment, was pushed out of the department by Sheriff Lee Baca following a series of scandals. Federal authorities are investigating whether high-level sheriff’s officials were involved in witness tampering. During recent testimony, Tanaka told a prosecutor he was aware he’s a subject of the probe, and denied any wrongdoing. He is facing Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell in the November run-off election.

An employee with McDonnell’s standing would be eligible to cash out a maximum of 60 days vacation and holiday time upon retirement, Long Beach administrators said. Also, when he left the Los Angeles Police Department in 2010, after 28 years, McDonnell cashed out his unused sick time, vacation and overtime hours for $90,825, according to the City Controller’s office.

Some argue that such payouts unnecessarily strain local government finances.

“They earned the benefits, and they’re entitled to it, but there’s no reason the benefits should be inflated to the top rate,” said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “They should be paid based on the value of the benefit they earned, at the time they earned it.”

While we’re on the subject of LASD retirement packages, a number of the department’s scandal-plagued supervisors have been able to retire ahead of being demoted or terminated.

This, for example, is what we wrote a year and a half ago about Dan Cruz and Bernice Abram’s sudden retirements—and their estimated yearly retirement pay.


In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Timothy P. Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation, says our warped criminal justice system should be remodeled into a system that bosts public safety while turning lives around. In his essay (inspired by Shaka Senghor’s powerful TED talk, above), Silard says we must keep pushing for sentencing reform—reducing the number of low-level drug offenders and mentally ill in prison—and reinvest money saved through lowering incarceration rates back into programs that rehabilitate and help former offenders successfully return to their communities. Here’s how it opens:

I got a first-hand look at how our criminal justice system could be used to transform lives — not just punish — while serving as a prosecutor in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

In one case, an 18-year-old young woman was arrested for selling drugs on a San Francisco street corner. She normally would have ended up behind bars for a felony conviction that would have followed her for the rest of her life. Instead, she pled guilty, accepted responsibility and entered an innovative re-entry program for nonviolent, first-time drug offenders. During the program, she was closely supervised and provided the resources and support she needed to turn her life around. Among the requirements: enrolling in school, performing community service and getting a full-time job. She thrived in the program. After graduating, she received a full scholarship to attend a university and finished her first semester with a 3.8 GPA.

The program, called Back on Track, was one of the first re-entry programs in a District Attorney’s Office. It would go on to become a national model, reducing re-offense rates from 53 percent to less than 10 percent while saving tax dollars — the program cost about $5,000 per person, compared to more than $50,000 to spend a year county jail. Perhaps even more importantly, it helped save lives and strengthen families and communities. The power of second chances was never more evident than at the yearly Back on Track graduation ceremonies. There, smartly dressed mothers, fathers, siblings, children and community members celebrated the young graduates as they prepared to embark on much more hopeful futures.

For far too long, our criminal justice system has been stuck using one gear — the incarceration gear. We lock up too many people for far too long, for no good reason, and we’re doing so at great economic, human and moral cost. As a prosecutor, I saw the same offenders arrested, prosecuted and locked up, only to come back time and time again. I saw low-level, nonviolent offenders return from prison and jails more hardened and posing a greater threat to our communities than when they went in. And I saw African Americans and Latinos arrested and jailed at egregiously greater rates than whites.


  • Check out the Times Square video where two officers are fighting with a street performer. Actually, only one officer is fighting, the other was useless and should consider a career change!

  • @Bandwagon, the female officer is an absolute embarrassment. She was scared shitless, passive with her use of force and thought talking on the radio excessively was her contribution to this incident. Coupled with her 50 lbs of excessive thunder thigh padding, she was useless in this situation. And no, I am NOT anti female, I’ve worked with tons of them over the years and most were fine. I would venture to say good female cops are more upset over this officer’s lack of courage and action, than the male counterparts.

    If NYPD follows the LASD culture of happy face management (as ordered by Tanaka), this female officer will be promoted by the end of the week and proclaimed as a leader. She will eventually sit in judgement of officers involved in life and death force incidents, and rule against them proclaiming “I’ve been there in battle, I know how it is and you over reacted in that incident where a suspect attempted to take your gun. You should have just grabbed his wrist and if that didn’t work, you should have stood back and talked like an idiot on the radio for three minutes and asked for help. Then you could have used the swarm technique and verbal judo, which I fully support, to take this suspect in custody. I’m recommending a long term suspension for you cowboy, your type is no longer wanted by the community.”

  • Read it and Weep: Totally agree with you. Female or male officer, that was pathetic. I’m sure our NYPD brothers and sisters are embarrassed as well.

  • Read it and Weep,
    She’ll probably be promoted within the week and sent to NYPD’s force training unit to show them how it’s done.

  • Settle down tough guys. If she had hit the guy, you would probably be screaming for an FBI investigation. Pretty easy to critique when you have never been in a fight.

  • In regards to a re-entry program for non-violent etc…I’d like to know the percentage of success on those actually committing to a program. That’s great for the example of the young women who changed her life, but in my experience most suspects I’ve talked have no interest in changing and those showed interest in mental health and drug abuse classes and so on, only did so to break away from regular jail routine, and enjoy the perks and freedom given by the teacher or counselor giving the class. I’m sure there are some but in reality I feel being soft on criminals especially drug related criminals will promote further advance of the drug world. I’ve seen several cases of the same person getting arrested for possession or under the influence several times in one month, maybe of they were not released so easily through our justice system he might not be out on the streets doing the same thing.

  • Yeah Dulce, yeah. We know how anybody who doesn’t support your guy is a spineless pussy who’s never made a frank hook or been in hundreds of fights with parolees like you have.
    But most of all, we know how it stings you, how it burns your sweet nalgas right down to the bone, that you can’t refute our opinions of your man with facts, so you have to take juvenile pot-shots like #7.
    It’s ok. Keep em’ coming sweet cheeks. We know what you’re all about and expect your comments to reflect that.

  • Dulce, I’m hoping you meant that the female first thought about a FBI investigation and did not react like she should have, if not keep safe behind your cubicle and vote for the Guy that already has a street in East Los named after him!

  • Fed Up, good one. There are a few more streets of interest to the other candidate as well. One is Record, the other Folsom…

  • @Dulce……..Being a civilian reading these posts, you don’t appear to be likable. Did you do anything bad or have some bad press. Are you a Real Cop or are you a college student taunting real policemen?

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