Don’t Let This Probation Department Overhaul Proposal Sit on the Shelf

A report on the Los Angeles County Probation Department that comes before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday makes many astute observations, but one in particular stands out: So many reports, studies, motions and reviews of the troubled department have been filed and shelved in the last several years that the officers who staff juvenile halls and camps and who supervise adults as an alternative to jail just assume that nothing will change — and proceed accordingly. Is this one more of those … [Read more...]

Marijuana Is Now Legal in California. Continuing to Punish Prior Offenders Is Cruel and Unnecessary

  Marijuana is now legal under California law, but hundreds of thousands of Californians have criminal records for possessing or selling the drug when it was still banned. Those records can make it harder for people to get a job, obtain a loan, go to college, rent an apartment or otherwise become productive members of their community — even if their marijuana arrest happened decades ago. Proposition 64 not only allowed the sale and adult use of marijuana going forward, subject to … [Read more...]

Along with Voting Rights, Restore Jury Duty to Ex-Inmates

One of the broken promises of the criminal justice system is that a person who completes felony time in prison or jail will leave with a clean slate and a chance to start over. It doesn’t work that way. Liberty once lost is rarely fully restored. At criminal justice reform rallies, advocates have made a ritual of unrolling a lengthy scroll that lists thousands of collateral consequences of felony convictions — punishments that were never part of the judge’s sentence but are nevertheless quite … [Read more...]

Los Angeles Is Facing a Willie Horton Moment

With the Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety meeting Monday for the first time, it's appropriate to remember why governments create such bodies. Sometimes it's because elected officials recognize their own inability to get to the bottom of a difficult issue that requires expertise, in-depth investigation and a laser-like focus on facts regardless of the political fallout. Such was the case with the county's well-regarded Citizens Commission on Jail Violence. After its … [Read more...]

Keeping Juveniles Out of the System: LA County Steps Up

Sending a young person to a Los Angeles County juvenile probation camp to be supervised and rehabilitated costs about $247,000 a year. Providing programs in the community to keep that same person out of trouble costs a fraction of that — several thousand dollars a year or even less. And the results? Many kids, even those who committed serious crimes, are less likely to fall back into the juvenile justice system if they are kept out of a camp than if they are sent to one. They do even … [Read more...]

LA County Tiptoes Forward on Bail Reform

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors should give quick approval Wednesday to a proposal by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to consider overhauling the county’s money bail system. Too bad it’s the only thing about this vital effort that could be done with any urgency. It should be obvious that it’s long past time to reconsider a system that keeps L.A. County jails crowded with people who are just cooling their heels awaiting trial because they can’t afford to pay bail, while their riskier but … [Read more...]

Did California Execute an Innocent Man?

California has executed 13 men since reviving the death penalty. Was one of them innocent? In the nearly 40 years since California revived the death penalty, executioners at San Quentin have put 13 convicted murderers to death. But were they all truly the “worst of the worst” of the state’s killers? Were they all even killers? There’s a strong argument to be made that at least one of the executed inmates, Thomas Thompson of Laguna Beach, may, in fact, not have been guilty of murder. At the very … [Read more...]

Time to Legalize, Regulate Marijuana in California

Six years ago California voters were asked to make recreational marijuana legal under state law and they declined to do so. But the close decision — 46% voted “yes” on Proposition 19 — suggested that the battle was not yet over. At that time, The Times opposed Proposition 19 not because legalization was necessarily a bad idea, but because it was a poorly drafted mess that would have created a regulatory nightmare. In the years since, a lot has changed. Four states, starting with Colorado and … [Read more...]

Jerry Brown Lowballing Prop 47 Savings?

California’s crime rate bottomed out last year and began to rise again, some law enforcement leaders and elected officials complained that they had been misled. All those programs they had been promised that were supposed to help addicts and former inmates reenter society safely, without committing new crimes, had failed to materialize. Consider, for example, this assertion by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in his State of the City speech in April: “The safety net that was supposed to come … [Read more...]

The Sheriff and His Jails

Prop. 47 may have given the sheriff more power to manage his jails. Or not. The county needs an answer Who runs the Los Angeles County jails? It's a more complicated question than it might appear. It's also a crucial question, going to the heart of the county's effort to combat rising crime, wisely manage its resources, make it own policies and balance the powers that the law and voters parcel out among elected officials. And because of Proposition 47, the initiative that changed six felonies … [Read more...]