paige st johnPaige St. John has been a working journalist for more than three decades, covering politics, the environment and natural disasters. She currently works in Sacramento, Calififornia, for the Los Angeles Times, covering the criminal justice system. She began her career at The Detroit News. Later, she worked for the Associated Press in Traverse City, Michigan and Charleston, West Virginia. St. John went to Florida to become Gannett's state house bureau chief, and then joined the Herald-Tribune in 2008. The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to St. John for her series "Florida's Insurance Nightmare," which discussed the Florida property insurance industry. St. John spent two years investigating the state's insurance system, and her series had already been recognized with the Scripps Howard Award, National Headliner Award, and Investigative Reporters and Editors Award.
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Bills Sent to Gov. Brown Would Create New Felonies, Putting More in Prison

Like other state legislatures around the country, California's legislature has given us some progressive changes in the arena of criminal justice and law enforcement, but Sacramento is also producing bills that move the other way. Paige St. John of the LA Times reports on some of these here. ven months after California reduced prison crowding to a level accepted by federal courts, lawmakers have sent Gov. Jerry Brown proposals that would create new felony crimes for which people could be … [Read more...]

Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug Offenders

lbania Morales stood behind the coffin-shaped placard that bore her dead husband's face, practically eclipsed by her political prop. Ricardo Avelar-Lara died last November in Los Angeles, shot by sheriff's deputies. I am a crime victim, Morales said: I saw the officers kill him. Morales was taking part this week in a rally with a twist: She and other self-described crime victims were not backed by the usual law enforcement groups. And the last thing they wanted was for California to get … [Read more...]

California Agrees to Let Prison Laborers Leave Early

alifornia prison officials have agreed to allow minimum custody inmates who provide the bulk of the state prison system’s menial labor force to be eligible for early release. The settlement agreement, filed in federal court Friday, would affect an estimated 4,300 inmates in the state’s crowded prison system, inmate lawyers said. If federal judges concur, those inmates could in January start earning sharply reduced sentences. Previously, officials with Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office … [Read more...]

Prop. 47 Would Cut Penalties for 1 in 5 Criminals in California

ne in five California criminals could get a break under proposed new sentencing laws before voters this fall, but the measure is unlikely to produce big benefits for schools and communities, as its name suggests. Proposition 47, billed as the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act," would reduce penalties for some of the most common crimes in California: drug possession, petty theft, possession of stolen goods, shoplifting, forgery and writing bad checks. Those offenses, now potential … [Read more...]

California Inmates Win Class-Action Status Over Race-Based Treatment

federal judge in Sacramento on Wednesday awarded class-action status to California prison inmates who allege that their rights are violated by what they say are widespread instances of race-based punishment. Prison officials acknowledge they respond to outbreaks of violence by ordering sanctions, including sweeping lockdowns, that can last for months. They say every inmate is assigned a race or ethnic code: black, Hispanic, white or other, and at some prisons, inmates live in cells where … [Read more...]

Jerry Brown’s Prison Reforms Haven’t Lived Up to His Billing

early 15 months after launching what he called the "boldest move in criminal justice in decades," Gov. Jerry Brown declared victory over a prison crisis that had appalled federal judges and stumped governors for two decades. Diverting thousands of criminals from state prisons into county jails and probation departments not only had eased crowding, he said, but also reduced costs, increased safety and improved rehabilitation. "The prison emergency is over in California," Brown said in early … [Read more...]

Assembly Committee Seeks Boost to Post-Prison Services

special legislative committee created last fall in the wake of federal court orders to improve state prison conditions and reduce crowding is calling for increases in the services and spending the state devotes to rehabilitation efforts and post-prison work programs. In a letter sent this week to Assembly Speaker John Perez, whose term ended Friday, committee co-chairs Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) recommended increased attention and resources … [Read more...]

Judge Says Formerly Incarcerated Under Supervision Have Right to Vote

n Alameda County judge has ruled that Secretary of State Debra Bowen erred when she told California election officials to forbid some 42,000 former prisoners and other felons from registering to vote. Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo's decision Wednesday likely comes too late to permit former state inmates and others put under community supervision because of the state's prison overcrowding to register in time to vote in the state's primary elections. The deadline to register for that … [Read more...]

California Adds Another Private Prison

alifornia corrections officials have agreed to lease another private prison within the state, telling the GEO Group it will get $9 million a year to house some 260 female inmates at a facility north of Bakersfield. The four-year contract for the McFarland Community Reentry Facility will house women serving the final portion of their prison terms. The Florida-based prison operator said in a statement to investors Tuesday that it expects to begin accepting inmates by this fall, and that the … [Read more...]

Gov. Jerry Brown Ramping Up Private Prison Spending

ov. Jerry Brown plans to increase California's use of private prison cells and leases with local jails even if federal judges agree to give the state more time to meet crowding limits within its own lockups, his budget documents show. Detailed expenditure records released after Brown announced the highlights of his proposed budget for 2014-15 show that the governor expects to increase the use of outside prison contracts. His plan sets aside nearly $500 million to pay for and administer … [Read more...]