District Attorney

Prop. 47 Applications County by County…the Takeaway from LA County’s Jail Scandal…and SFPD’s New Community Policing Bureau


As of September 2015, a total of 193,865 Proposition 47 applications for resentencing and reclassification have been filed in California, according to updated numbers released by the California Judicial Council. (If you’re unfamiliar, in November 2014, Prop. 47 reduced six non-serious drug and property felonies to misdemeanors. The law’s retroactivity allows current and former offenders to apply to have their qualifying felonies reclassified.)

Los Angeles, which has the highest population of people who stand to benefit from Prop. 47, received 32,153 applications for resentencing and/or reclassification. But San Diego County, with its hardline District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has received 47,880 applications—around 15,000 more applications than the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has had a far more positive response to Prop. 47 than LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Sheriff Gore says thanks to the new law, San Diego has been able to do away with early releases (caused by jail overcrowding). The vacant jail beds have also allowed the county to book people for misdemeanor offenses, rather than handing out citations to people accused of misdemeanors. In LA, officers have stopped booking people on these reduced offenses. In a series of video op-eds, LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell says low-level offenders are receiving citations instead, because Prop. 47 did away with consequences for those crimes.


On February 10, former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty to one felony count of lying to federal authorities when he was interviewed in 2013 by the FBI as part of an investigation into LASD corruption and civil rights violations.

The LA jail scandal provides an example of how “institutionalization systematically erodes the moral code of jail employees,” says Vincent Schiraldi, who was director of juvenile corrections in Washington DC, prior to his current post as head of a criminal justice think tank at Harvard Kennedy School.

In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Schiraldi, talks about the bureaucracy, code of silence, and indifference he came up against when working to reform the scandal-plagued DC juvenile justice system. The injustices Schiraldi tells of are so extravagant, his story reads like fiction. Here are some clips (but read the whole thing):

The juvenile justice agency I took over in our Nation’s Capital in 2005 was a Dickensian nightmare, despite 19 years of court oversight. In the previous year, two scathing reports by the District’s Inspector General and plaintiff’s experts detailed appalling conditions in the department’s facilities. Kids reported stuffing their clothing around the toilets to prevent rats and cockroaches from biting them at night. The boilers were so dysfunctional that youth who slept in rooms close to them experienced scalding heat, while those far away endured numbing cold. Young people were locked in their cells for so long that they often defecated or urinated in them. Drugs were so prevalent in the facility that some youth who came into custody clean tested positive for marijuana after 30 days. Beatings of children in custody were commonplace. The year before I arrived, things got so bad that the city went through four department heads and the youths’ lawyers asked the court to place the entire department into receivership.

We later discovered that staff were also sexually harassing the kids and one another. New female staff learned that if they didn’t perform sexually for their supervisors, they might find themselves in dangerous situations with the facility’s inmates with no aid forthcoming. A teacher who had been confined in our facility when she was a teenager told us that she had been sexually assaulted by a staff member who still worked for us. One correctional officer actually married a youth shortly after his release from custody.

Cleaning this up was no mean feat. The story of one staff member — allegedly part of a goon squad that routinely beat up recalcitrant youth — is illustrative. Robert (not his real name) was accused of savagely beating two residents in front of dozens of youth and staff. To compound the humiliation, the youth were handcuffed and dragged through a mud puddle. Medical staff reported that the boys’ bruising was consistent with their account of abuse. A single correctional officer came forward as a witness. a rarity due to the strong correctional staff taboo against “snitching”.


Despite my experiences, I actually liked many of my staff more that I would have ever expected. I charged into my job with an air of moral superiority. Surely, I thought, such conditions could only be created by ethically bankrupt characters who would wear their depravity on their sleeves.

But things in the real world were far more complicated than I originally believed. It was obvious that just about everyone in my facility knew who was beating up the kids, sexually assaulting them and selling them drugs. After all, the facility only housed about 200 young people, roughly the size of a small middle school. Even in a system as large as the L.A.’s, I’m confident that far more people knew of, and participated in, the abuses and cover up than will ever be held to account.

Yet many of my church-going, hail-fellow-well-met staff were ostensibly quite friendly people who believed they were advancing public safety. They were the good guys – attending football games and plays and cheering the youth on alongside their parents. You’d never dream that most of them would knowingly allow a grown man to brutally beat children or sell them drugs.

Yet, there they were, doing just that.


The San Francisco Police Department is forming a new Bureau of Professional Standards and Principled Policing that will be tasked with implementing reform recommendations from the US Department of Justice and building up the SFPD’s community policing efforts.

The news follows two months after the controversial officer-involved shooting of Mario Woods and several weeks after the DOJ announced it would review the SFPD’s policies and practices.

The San Francisco Examiner’s Michael Barba has more on the new bureau. Here’s a clip:

“This will be new territory for an old and proud department,” Chaplin said during a news conference at City Hall on Monday.

The creation of the new bureau is part of what Mayor Ed Lee dubbed at the same news conference a “comprehensive package of police reforms,” which amount to a cultural shift in the way San Francisco police use force.

The reforms, which were made following the killing of Mario Woods last December, include changes to Police Department policies, procedures and training. The fatal police shooting has prompted outrage and raised questions about whether police in The City use excessive force.

“We need to figure out a way to re-engineer force,” Suhr said at the news conference. “The main goal in everything that we’ve been talking about is the sanctity of life, and the sanctity of life for everybody — that everybody walks away whenever that can be possible.”

The San Francisco Police Department also announced new guidelines that include training officers to pause to reevaluate a threat after every two rounds shot at a suspect. The San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints will also be required to investigate every police shooting resulting in injury or death.

Courthouse News Service’s Nicholas Iovino has more on the new guidelines.

1 Comment

  • Prop 47 is a joke. Criminals are committing the same crime (thefts) 8 times or more without doing one day in jail. It is a waste of time to attempt to prosecute anyone for a misdemeanor offense. This is exactly how the DA’S office feels. So let the crime rate continue to go up and lets legalize marijuana that will make perfect sense.

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