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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Judge allows class-action suit alleging race-based prison punishments - LA Times

A federal judge in Sacramento on Wednesday awarded class-action status to a lawsuit filed by California prison inmates alleging their rights are violated by widespread practices of race-based punishment.

Prison officials acknowledge they respond to outbreaks of violence by ordering lockdowns and other sanctions, and that every inmate is assigned a race or ethnic code: black, Hispanic, white or other.

But they denied in court filings that punishments are decided by race. However, they commonly contend that inmates align themselves with gangs based on race and ethnic group.

U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley's ruling Wednesday found that it is "undisputed" that California uses statewide policies governing lockdowns that utilize race. He wrote that "any assertion denying the existence of the [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's] policy to be insincere at the very least."

There was no immediate comment on the ruling by the department.

The case stems from a 2008 court complaint filed by inmate Robert Mitchell, who protested that he was repeatedly subjected to lockdown at High Desert State Prison and denied access to exercise or programs because of his race. Mitchell alleged, according to the lawsuit, that prison officials said it was state policy that “when there is an incident involving any race, all inmates of that race are locked up.”

Judge allows class-action suit alleging race-based prison punishments - LA Times

$1 Billion Stockton Prison Medical Complex Reopens After Numerous Problems « CBS San Francisco

A billion dollar prison medical clinic that’s sitting half empty will start readmitting the state’s sickest inmates, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Monday.

Admissions were temporarily halted six months ago amid reports of unsanitary conditions and shortages of staff and supplies. But some prison workers are saying not so fast.

It’s the crown jewel of California’s prison system: a brand new billion dollar healthcare facility designed to house the state’s sickest inmates.  Wheelchair accessible cells are equipped with hospital beds. There’s a state of the art emergency room and a 29-chair dialysis clinic.

But the sprawling prison complex is eerily quiet, because it’s only half full.  Admissions were shut down earlier this year  after a court appointed receiver overseeing California’s prison healthcare system  found too many problems.

“We were experiencing the issues of inmates not getting enough medical supplies,” said  Joyce Hayhoe with the Receiver’s office. “Things like gloves for our nurses, food service, catheters.

One employee, who does not want to be identified, told us the facility simply wasn’t ready when it opened last summer, and he says it’s still not ready. “We don’t have enough officers, we don’t have enough nurses,  they are spending money on other things,” he said.

$1 Billion Stockton Prison Medical Complex Reopens After Numerous Problems « CBS San Francisco

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dan Walters: California’s death penalty dying of old age - Dan Walters - The Sacramento Bee

During the last four decades, no California political issue has burned more intensely than capital punishment, but it may have ended with a whimper, rather than with a bang, last week.

Federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it’s rarely used – thanks largely to ceaseless legal challenges from its opponents, one should note.

Another irony is that Jerry Brown – a lifelong foe of capital punishment – was governor when it dominated the Capitol in the 1970s, and he’s governor again as Carney’s ruling more than likely ends it.

The death penalty had overwhelming public support in the 1970s as the state Supreme Court blocked it twice and the Legislature re-enacted it twice, once over Brown’s veto.

A 1978 ballot measure seemingly was the last word. But Chief Justice Rose Bird, who had been appointed by Brown, and other liberal justices blocked all 64 death penalty cases that reached them on automatic appeal.

Bird paid the price for her stubborn opposition in 1986, when voters, by a 2-1 rate, denied her confirmation to a new term and ousted two liberal colleagues.

It took six more years for the state’s first gas chamber execution in more than 25 years, however. And the execution of Robert Alton Harris, the killer of two 16-year-old boys, merely fueled new legal battles, with a shift of focus from the penalty itself to the execution method.

Dan Walters: California’s death penalty dying of old age - Dan Walters - The Sacramento Bee

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reenactment of brutal killing of cop looks like a video game–and that’s the point (VIDEO)

Guns.com“Random Stop,” a point-of-view short film directed by UCLA graduate film student Benjamin Afrmann, is the reenactment of a shootout between a Georgia sheriff’s deputy and a violent individual, which ended with the deputy’s murder.

“The film was designed in response to the current POV/GoPro craze,” Afrmann told Motherboard. “Most POV shorts I’ve seen, like ‘Bad Motherfucker‘ (which I love), have been adolescent hero fantasies. The hero picks up a gun, kills a ton of people, and saves the day.”

In January 1998, a Laurens County Sheriff’s Department police car captured an altercation between Deputy Kyle Dinkheller and Andrew Howard Brannan. Their encounter quickly escalated from a routine traffic stop to Brannan’s execution-style murder of Dinkheller.

“When our team decided to make a POV short, we emphatically wanted to do something more grounded and real — something that showed the actual consequences of gunplay, the danger, and the very real potential for tragedy that it can represent,” Afrmann added.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ex-CalPERS chief admits receiving $200,000 in bribes in paper bag, shoebox - Business - The Sacramento Bee


The first two payments were made in paper bags. The last installment came in a shoebox. The handoffs all came at a Sacramento hotel near the Capitol.

In a stunning admission covering years of corruption, the former chief executive of CalPERS said Friday he accepted $200,000 in cash, along with a series of other bribes, from a Lake Tahoe businessman who was attempting to influence billions of dollars in pension fund investment decisions.

Fred Buenrostro, who ran the nation’s largest public pension fund from 2002 to 2008, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud. He has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as they pursue charges against his longtime friend, Nevada businessman Alfred Villalobos, a former CalPERS board member.

Buenrostro, 64, said that Villalobos plied him with casino chips and a trip around the world, plus a high-paying job with his investment firm after leaving CalPERS. He also admitted working with Villalobos to create phony documents to ensure that Villalobos earned his multimillion-dollar fees representing a Wall Street private equity firm seeking CalPERS investments.

Most of those allegations had been aired publicly already. What was new Friday was the blockbuster admission that Buenrostro took $200,000 in cash from Villalobos. In his written plea agreement, Buenrostro said Villalobos paid him in three installments in 2007, “all of which was delivered directly to me in the Hyatt hotel in downtown Sacramento across from the Capitol.”

Ex-CalPERS chief admits receiving $200,000 in bribes in paper bag, shoebox - Business - The Sacramento Bee

US judge rules against California death penalty - Wire Nation/World - The Sacramento Bee

           A federal judge ruled California's death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, writing that lengthy and unpredictable delays have resulted in an arbitrary and unfair capital punishment system.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney represents a legal victory for those who want to abolish the death penalty in California and follows a similar ruling that has suspended executions in the state for eight years.

Carney, in a case brought by a death row inmate against the warden of San Quentin state prison, called the death penalty an empty promise that violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

"Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State," wrote Carney, a George W. Bush appointee.

He noted that death penalty appeals can last decades and, as a result, most condemned inmates are likely to die of natural causes before their executions are carried out.

Carney also wrote that since the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters 35 years ago, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death, but only 13 have been executed.

US judge rules against California death penalty - Wire Nation/World - The Sacramento Bee

Alleged gun causes prison lockdown

Yard privileges and visitation at Salinas Valley State Prison are on temporary hiatus as investigators search for a .22-caliber Derringer one inmate claimed to have smuggled into the facility.

Lt. Darren Chamberlain confirmed Tuesday the “modified program” was instituted June 27 at the Soledad facility after an inmate told officers his family snuck him the gun during visitation.

Modified program, Chamberlain explained, eliminates yard and visitation privileges, and requires more controlled movements of inmates throughout the facility.

Three weeks of searching have turned up cold for a firearm, Chamberlain said.

“But when there’s an allegation that serious in nature, we have to take it very serious,” he said. “We have to protect the security of our staff, the inmates and the public.”

He imagined the modified program could continue for another week or longer as investigators conduct interviews of inmates.

SVSP houses both minimum and maximum security inmates. Just last week an inmate who slipped out of his handcuffs stabbed an officer three times in the head and neck with a manufactured weapon, authorities said.

Initially hospitalized, the officer was released later that day with superficial injuries, Chamberlain said Tuesday.

Alleged gun causes prison lockdown

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Corrections Officer stabbed at Salinas Valley State Prison by an Inmate

A Salinas Valley State Prison inmate about to face trial in the slaying of his cellmate 10 years ago allegedly stabbed a correctional officer in the head with a knife he had hidden in his holding cell.

Just before 1pm Friday, 48-year-old inmate David Gomez was handcuffed in a holding cell at the prison when he slipped out of those cuffs, produced the metal knife and attacked the officer, stabbing him three times, according to a press release from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

The officer was brought to a hospital for his injuries.

“He got three stab wounds in the back of the head, but he’s doing ok,” says Darren Chamberlain, the public information officer for Salinas Valley State Prison. “Gomez is a violent guy.”

In 1998, Gomez was convicted of rape, oral copulation with a person under 14 by use of threats and first-degree burglary. He is serving 91-years-to-life for his crimes. He is set to begin trial on July 14 for the 2004 murder of his cellmate, whose name wasn’t immediately available.

“Since he’s been in prison, he’s assaulted numerous staff members, correctional officers and attorneys,” says Chamberlain.

Gomez is currently serving his sentence at California State Prison Sacramento, but was transferred to SVSP for a court date last week.

“He got here only a few days ago to go to court and the other day he spit on his attorney,” says Chamberlain. “He is still here, but was moved to another unit.”

Monterey Country Weekly

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Responsibility Doesn't End Where It Begins

Editorial by B-Polished:

Too much criticism has been placed on officers attempting to complete their shift duties and not enough on where the actual problem should lay. Most of the mistakes and problems officers face, and make are due to the inability to complete daily tasks and assignments that have been piled on top of an already excessive amount of responsibilities and work hours.

CDCr attempts to hold every staff member accountable for their actions, if it follows policy or not. It’s far past time The Department of Personnel Administrations (DPA) is held accountable for the abysmal hatchet job they've done with the institutional staffing packages. The poor judgment call made by DPA that cut the staffing packages is being felt throughout the entire prison system.

We no longer have enough staff to combat the intricacies that exist and negatively affect the normal running of a daily program. In fact, the staff cuts have hindered the programs more than ever anticipated. Not only is there not enough staff to respond to an active alarm to be effective as “trained”, but since the staff cuts began the overtime increased to the magnitude that the majority of staff look like stand-ins for the TV show The Walking Dead… a bunch of ZOMBIES! How many times have you been in conversation and the Officer or Sergeant begins to nod off?!!! Not taking this as being rude, just thinking… how alert and effective are they during their shifts? Does the piercing stare behind the dark glasses mean they are intensely watching – or asleep on their feet? The answer… DPA DON’T CARE!!

DPA has allowed the state to get more with less and hold all accountable except for their creating a “perfect storm” for mistakes, oversights, and miscalculations without a single word from CDCr or CCPOA. They just bent over and puckered up. Our primary job is to account for every inmate incarcerated at the institutions in and out of the state and during any transport in between. Yet we use a computer system that lacks full accountability.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Homeless parolees weigh on California counties

SacbeeGov. Jerry Brown based his recent overhaul of the state corrections system in part on the idea that having those convicted of lower-level crimes supervised by county probation officers instead of state parole agents when they are released would help them stay clean, find jobs and avoid committing new crimes.

A cornerstone of the law's success is housing, yet county probation officers throughout the state say homelessness continues to undermine their ability to help ex-cons rehabilitate, get drug treatment and find jobs. Some California counties report that up to one in five of the parolees they supervise under the governor's realignment law is homeless.

"You've got somebody and ... they're gang-involved, you want to get them in classes, but they live under a bridge," said Andrew Davis, an analyst with the Santa Cruz County Probation Department. "They're not going to show up; they don't know what day of the week it is."

Counties across the state are dealing with the problem in different ways. Many are trying a patchwork of solutions as they adapt.

In Marin County, probation officers sometimes pick homeless parolees up at the prison gates and pay for motel rooms until they can find a bed. Santa Cruz County has contracted with local homeless shelters, a move that stirred controversy last year.

Homeless parolees in Riverside County are required to check in at an electronic kiosk and have their photo taken daily. In San Diego County, where nearly 400 former prison inmates are reporting as homeless, there's a plan to spend $3 million to add 150 shelter beds. Parolees who say they are homeless must check in weekly with probation. continue reading...

Thursday, July 3, 2014


America is locking up more people than any other nation on earth. Home to just 5 percent of the world’s total population, the United States houses more than 20 percent of the world's prisoners.
In the last three decades—fueled in large part by a national drug policy and legislation like three-strikes laws—America has imprisoned more people in local jails, federal penitentiaries, and private correctional facilities than Stalin put in the gulags. New court rulings have declared overcrowded prisons to be unconstitutional, and the sheer cost of incarceration is forcing prisons to let prisoners back out on the streets.
VICE News was granted rare access to go inside one of the most maximum-security prisons in the country, a place that’s on the front line of what could be a sea change in prison policy. Salinas Valley State Prison is home to America’s most powerful prison gangs, including the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia. It's a place that’s projected to have more than 700 assaults this year.
In an institution that houses the worst of the worst, we see how one maverick warden is trying to turn the system around by rehabilitating murderers before they get returned to the streets.
Source: HBO Vice

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gov. Jerry Brown's prison reforms haven't lived up to his billing

LA TimesNearly 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 2013.

The numbers tell a different story.

Today, California is spending nearly $2 billion a year more on incarceration than when Brown introduced his strategy in 2011. The prisons are still overcrowded, and the state has been forced to release inmates early to satisfy federal judges overseeing the system.

Counties, given custody of more than 142,000 felons so far, complain that the state isn't paying full freight for their supervision. Many jails are now overcrowded, and tens of thousands of criminals have been freed to make room for more.

"The charts are sobering," Senate Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) said at a hearing this year on crime, prison costs and inmate numbers. continue reading...