Something Really Rotten in LA County: Secret List of Problem Deputies Thwarts Constitutional Justice

Fifty-four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must make defendants aware of all evidence that might be favorable to their cases, including information that could undermine the credibility of the government witnesses who, for the most part, are police officers. That constitutional principle is massively violated in LA County, thanks to the way prosecutors here are barred from accessing the personnel records of the Sheriff Department's 9,400 sworn officers—mostly sheriff's … [Read more...]

Chalottesville: When Police Fail

The police are supposed to keep order and let people exercise their Constitutional rights. When they don't, people get hurt and even die. ast summer in Charlottesville, in a clash between neo-Nazis and confederate monument supporters on one side, and “antifa,” or anti-facist, and Black Lives Matter supporters on the other, numerous people were hurt, and one person, Heather Heyer, was killed when a white nationalist supporter drove his car into a crowd. Now an independent report has come out, … [Read more...]

America Only Country Still Sentencing Kids to Die in Prison

For too long we have depicted our youth, especially our black youth, as lost causes. But they can change. s a black man in America, I’m keenly aware that people who look a lot like me are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. The way adults of color are treated in our justice system is already upsetting, but the way our justice system treats children, especially black children, is simply deplorable. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than on the issue of juvenile sentencing. Black … [Read more...]

Walter Scott Shooting: Michael Slager, Ex-Officer, Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

More than two years ago, the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black motorist, by a white South Carolina police officer set off a wave of national protests over racially biased policing and the use of lethal force. On Thursday, Michael Slager, who was fired as a North Charleston patrolman days after the shooting, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty in Scott's death. U.S. District Judge David Norton, in issuing the sentence, said Slager shot Scott with … [Read more...]

Tracking the Impact of the Prison System on the Economy

One of the most popular parts of our 2003 book The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry concerns the economic power of the criminal justice system. I updated three of the graphs and concepts from that book. The justice system may have slowed its growth in recent years, but it still has a large hold on the economy. In 2012 — the most recent data available — the more than 2.4 million people who work for the justice system (in police, corrections and judicial services) at … [Read more...]

How Washington Winks at Violent Discipline of Special Needs Kids

Kaden Perrizo was 11 years old when he entered an “orthopedic impaired” class at Taylor Elementary in Santa Clara, California. Kaden suffered an immune system disease as a toddler that left him unable to walk without leg braces or to speak more than a few words; his parents say he functions cognitively like a 4-year-old. His teacher, according to allegations set forth in a lawsuit brought by Kaden's parents on his behalf, tied him to a chair. He was also confined in a 3-by-4-foot cell made of … [Read more...]

Law Clinics Offer “Second Chance”

Tim Gee woke before dawn Saturday and donned a black three-piece suit with crimson tie. The Las Vegas resident then flew to Los Angeles, home to a past that still haunts him. Hours later, he stood holding a FedEx envelope full of documents, waiting with dozens of other convicted felons seeking free legal assistance at a special clinic near downtown Los Angeles in getting their charges reduced, dismissed or expunged from their criminal records. More than 25 years ago, Gee was arrested for … [Read more...]

Don’t Let Judges Hijack California Bail Reform

Californians who want to bring fairness to the criminal system recognize that there is no justice without meaningful bail reform. Wealthy people buy their liberty and fight their cases from home without regard for public safety. Poor people – the vast majority of criminal defendants – languish in jail even for minor charges. They lose jobs and their families go into debt paying non-refundable bail bonds. Those who can’t pay bail face a heartbreaking choice – assert their innocence and stay in … [Read more...]

Reaching Inside the Jails to Break the Cycle of Homeless Arrests

A door opened, and three men walked out of captivity into a sun-drenched waiting area. It’s a scene repeated hundreds of times a day at Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail. But instead of being greeted by family members and friends, these men were met by Victor Key, a case manager for Project 180, a downtown agency that is on the front line of a homeless strategy called jail in-reach. The three men had been arrested for felonies. A psychiatrist had diagnosed them with mental illnesses … [Read more...]

LA Sheriff’s Antiquated Computer System Hinders Data Collection

t’s hard to ignore the security that surrounds the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's communications center. It sits atop a hill in Monterey Park behind a tall fence and inside a building with thick concrete walls and no windows. Inside, dispatchers don headsets and deploy deputies from the 10,000-strong force across the nearly 5,000 square miles that comprise L.A. County. It's impressive until someone shows you the technological guts of the operation. The room is mostly silent … [Read more...]