Archive for March, 2013

AB 109 probationer kidnaps 10 year old girl – suspect at large

Posted on March 30, 2013. Filed under: California State Budget, Politics, Public Safety Realignment |

Suspect ID’d in Case of Abducted Northridge Girl

Tobias Dustin Summers, 30, was released from prison last summer under California’s realignment program.

By Jason Kandel, Samantha Tata and Christina Cocca
|  Saturday, Mar 30, 2013  |  Updated 8:38 PM PDT
Tobias Dustin Summers, 30, is wanted in connection with the kidnapping of a 10-year-old Northridge girl, the Los Angeles Police Department announced Saturday. He has a distinct tattoo on his right arm. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on March 30, 2013.

Tobias Dustin Summers, 30, is wanted in connection with the kidnapping of a 10-year-old Northridge girl, the Los Angeles Police Department announced Saturday. He has a distinct tattoo on his right arm. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on March 30, 2013.

Investigators named a 30-year-old parolee as wanted in the case of a missing 10-year-old Northridge girl, who turned up barefoot and wounded in Woodland Hills last week.

Tobias Dustin Summers, who has a distinct tattoo on his right arm (pictured below), is wanted in connection with the girl’s abduction, LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said at a Saturday afternoon news conference.

Summers has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 2002, Albanese said. He was released from prison in July 2012 under California’s AB 109, an initiative aimed at easing prison overcrowding, and was on “post-supervised release,” Albanese said.

Probation officials believe the 30-year-old is a transient known to frequent the North Hollywood and Devonshire areas. Summers is about 6 feet tall, 160 pounds, with blue eyes and cropped blond hair. He not a registered sex offender and authorities said there is no indication that the victim or her family knows the suspect.

“We really need the public’s help to take this guy into custody. If they see him, we can’t emphasize enough, call 911,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

Investigators said Summers is the only person they are looking for right now, though the victim told detectives that two men took her from her bedroom, police said last week.

Detectives from LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division are petitioning the court for an arrest warrant.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation. Federal authorities said they are prepared to issue a federal warrant for Summers’ arrest if he leaves California.

“Should he leave the state, we will have multitude of resources throughout the United States and international, if necessary, to take him into custody,” Bill Lewis, of the FBI’s Los Angeles division, said.

The case involves a 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped from her home March 27 between 1 and 3:30 a.m.

She was taken to an abandoned home near a storage facility in Chatsworth before being dropped off at a Kaiser hospital in Woodland Hills.

She walked about a mile to a Starbucks where a passerby recognized her from media reports and alerted police.

She was found barefoot and with bruises and cuts on her face at 3 p.m. the same day she went missing, police said.

Since the girl has been found, NBC4 is no longer identifying the girl by name or in images that had been released by authorities.

The girl told investigators two men she did not know took her from her home and held her for more than 10 hours before dropping her off.

She said she rode in a black pickup truck, which police found during a search of a Bekins A-1 Moving Solutions yard in Chatsworth, police said.

Police were searching for a second vehicle they believe was used in the case.

Police — working with the FBI — fanned out across the San Fernando Valley, to conduct interviews and search locations where the girl said she believed she was taken with the hope of finding the men responsible.

As many as 20 detectives were believed to be working on the case. Police established a tipline for people to provide information about the investigation: 213-486-6890.

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Counties now facing inmate lawsuits

Posted on March 20, 2013. Filed under: California State Budget, Crime, Politics, Prisons, Public Safety Realignment |

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
Updated 10:26 am, Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has spent billions of dollars and endured years of federal lawsuits to improve conditions in its state prisons, but the problems it has been trying to correct are now trickling down to local governments as county jails deal with thousands of additional inmates.

Law firms advocating for inmates’ rights have sued or threatened lawsuits against a handful of California counties because of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to send lower-level offenders to local jails instead of state prisons as a way to comply with a federal court order.

The lawsuits allege the subpar conditions that led to legal actions against the state’s prison system — overcrowding, poor medical and dental care, inadequate mental health treatment — are repeating themselves at the county level. They note that jails designed for short-term stays are now being flooded with thousands of new inmates, many of whom are serving long-term sentences.

Riverside County is the latest to be sued and will be served with the legal papers on Tuesday, attorneys say. Fresno County is trying to negotiate a settlement to a lawsuit filed shortly after Brown’s realignment plan took effect in October 2011. Alameda County was sued in November, and Monterey County is expecting to be sued.

“It was a masterful stroke by Governor Brown to shift all the state’s prison problems to county jails,” Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller said.

His jail has become so crowded that he set out to buy triple-stacked bunk beds to handle the flood of inmates. Then a nearby state prison donated surplus beds it had been using when prison crowding there was at its worst.

“Ironically, the state of California gave us triple bunks they no longer need,” Miller said. The stacking of inmate beds in state prisons was one of the conditions that persuaded federal judges to order a drastic reduction in the prison population.

Nick Warner, the California State Sheriffs’ Association’s legislative director, said counties are concerned they will be exposed to the same liabilities under Brown’s so-called realignment plan that the state has spent billions of dollars trying to solve.

“They had problems before, but realignment makes it worse because people are spending more time in jail,” said Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Berkeley-based Prison Law Office.

As of February, more than 1,100 inmates serving sentences of five years or more were in jails designed for stays of a year or less, and that number is expected to grow in the years ahead.

The Prison Law Office’s lawsuit against Riverside County claims that medical care is so poor in its jails that some of its 4,000 inmates go months without seeing a doctor. When they do, the lawsuit contends they receive only cursory medical exams, inadequate follow-up and are rarely referred to specialists even when outside care is clearly needed.

As an example, the suit notes the case of a female inmate who entered the Riverside County Jail with Stage 4 colon cancer.

“Nobody paid attention to her complaints that the cancer had returned,” said Sara Norman, the lead attorney filing the lawsuit.

Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff said funding for jail mental health and medical services was cut during the recession but was being restored when Brown’s realignment law took effect, flooding the jail.

Inmates who previously would have been sent to state prisons now fill about a quarter of the county’s jail beds, forcing the early release of less-serious offenders. The county cannot keep up even with alternative custody programs such as tracking detainees with GPS-linked ankle bracelets, he said.

“We have more and more of these special circumstances we never had to deal with,” Sniff said.

The Prison Law Office’s lawsuit against Fresno County alleges that its inmates are routinely denied treatment for physical or mental illness or dental problems, and are vulnerable to attacks from other inmates because of the jail’s poor design and lack of staffing. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said she could not discuss conditions because of the settlement talks.

Monterey County has inadequate facilities and programs for inmates who use wheelchairs, are blind or have other disabilities, or are mentally ill, said Michael Bien, whose San Francisco-based firm is considering a lawsuit.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children sued Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern last fall over his jail’s treatment of disabled inmates, with both sides blaming the increase in disabled prisoners entering the jail since realignment.

“Unfortunately, you can’t just knock down a wall and make handicapped-accessible cells. It takes time,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson.

To comply with the federal lawsuits, state spending on inmate medical, dental and mental health care has more than doubled over the last decade to a projected $2.3 billion this fiscal year. The state also has spent billions of dollars on new medical facilities and equipment, while the number of prison medical, mental health and dental workers more than doubled over six years, to 12,200 in 2011.

State officials decided California could not comply with the federal court orders simply by building more prisons, so under Brown’s direction decided to sentence lower-level offenders to county jails. Those convicted of crimes that are considered serious, violent or sexual still go to state prison.

Counties are receiving about $865 million to help with jail operations under realignment this fiscal year, an amount that is expected to exceed $1 billion next year. Given the number of new inmates, some sheriffs are questioning whether that will be enough, especially if lawsuits force them to spend even more so conditions meet constitutional standards.

Republican state Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres has proposed legislation, SB144, that would funnel any money the state saves through realignment back to local communities. His office estimates that would give local governments about $777 million more each year.

Counties also would receive immunity from realignment-related lawsuits under a bill announced Tuesday. State Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, is in the process of amending AB1106 to limit counties’ liability for poor conditions caused by the influx of long-term jail inmates.

In addition to the operating money, the state has given $1.2 billion to 21 of California’s 58 counties for jail construction, plus another $500 million to renovate existing jails. The money is expected to build space for nearly 15,000 local inmates over the next several years.

State Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard and the governor acknowledge that counties are facing a surge of more serious criminals as a result of the realignment law. Yet the Democratic governor is steadfast in his view that local governments are better able to make punishment decisions.

“People commit crimes in the local community and they are now, to a greater degree, being supervised, being rehabilitated or being incarcerated locally. We’re transferring billions of dollars to achieve that goal,” Brown said in January. “We want the community that spawns the crime to handle the crime.”

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Gov. Jerry Brown takes notice of realignment complaints

Posted on March 20, 2013. Filed under: California State Budget, Crime, Politics, Prisons, Public Safety Realignment |

By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013 – 6:15 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 – 7:47 am

As lawmakers stepped up pressure to modify California’s historic prison realignment – most recently at a news conference Tuesday featuring a crime victim in a wheelchair – Gov. Jerry Brown is taking notice.

The Democratic governor traveled to Palo Alto this month to confer with researchers about the impact of the law, which shifts responsibility for certain low-level offenders from the state prison and parole system to the counties.

In a private meeting, Brown told two Stanford Law School professors and their students that he was concerned about the way counties are managing their jail populations, among other matters, according to the professors with whom he met.

Later, Brown said he is “looking at realignment” and is considering “some ideas” about potential changes to the law.

Yet on the most basic questions about realignment, including its impact on crime rates and recidivism, neither the Stanford researchers nor Brown’s own administration can provide meaningful answers.

Nearly 18 months after the law took effect, evidence is scant.

“This is a big, historic shift, and, you know, we need to do a better job of looking at what’s happening and what’s occurring,” Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said after a meeting in Sacramento last week.

Asked if it was even clear what would make realignment a success or a failure, Beard said, “I don’t think it is. I think that’s part of the problem, is we haven’t defined even … what is the criteria for success.”

In the absence of broad evidence about realignment’s impact on public safety, critics of the legislation highlight incidents involving offenders they say would have been incarcerated if not for realignment.

Among the lawmakers presenting a package of bills to roll back realignment Tuesday was state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who calls realignment “the carnage that’s occurring on our streets.”

Republican lawmakers say an increase in crime in many cities during the first six months of last year is attributable to realignment, though researchers are skeptical.

Ryken Grattet, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said any fluctuation in the number of crimes committed over a small period of time could be attributed to a variety of factors and that “tracing it to realignment is tough.”

“It’s not just sufficient to report the statistics,” Grattet said. “You want to do the kind of analysis that would allow you to isolate the impacts.”

Robert Weisberg, one of the Stanford professors who met with Brown, said, “It is much too soon to tell. … Everything at this point is anecdotal.”

Politically, anecdotal evidence is problematic for Brown. If state budget conditions remain favorable and the economy doesn’t deteriorate, public safety may provide an opening for any candidate challenging the Democratic governor in his likely re-election bid next year.

Brown was attacked by Republican Meg Whitman in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign for his veto of death penalty legislation and controversial appointment of Rose Bird as chief justice when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983.

“He’s got a certain vulnerability here, to be honest” said Garry South, a Democratic strategist who at times has been critical of Brown. “I hope that everything goes hunky-dory. But when you engage in a very large-scale program of turning people out of prison, whether they go out on the streets under supervised parole or whether they go into the local jails, there’s a huge risk involved.

“Ask Michael Dukakis,” South added, referring to the former Massachusetts governor pummeled in the 1988 presidential campaign by an ad featuring released killer Willie Horton.

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers brought to their news conference a 21-year-old woman who was brutally attacked last year by a former boyfriend. The man had been arrested for violating parole and failing to register as a sex offender the month before the attack, they said, but he was out of jail due to overcrowding.

“This is beyond statistics,” Nielsen said, motioning to the woman in a wheelchair, Brandy Arreola. “There, ask Brandy if crime is going up.”

Nielsen said, “Let’s not get into statistical arguments, folks. This is real.”

The prospect for the Republican lawmakers’ legislation is dim. The first of their bills, a measure by Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, was rejected last week by the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Democrats opposing the measure, which would send sex offenders who violate parole back to state prisons instead of county jail, said the legislation runs counter to the state’s effort to reduce its prison population under a court order.

Yet it is not only Republicans challenging Brown. In response to reports of thousands of paroled, high-risk offenders disarming court-ordered GPS devices, Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, of Torrance, proposed legislation to send offenders who remove those devices to prison.

Democratic Assembly members Susan Talamantes Eggman, of Stockton, and Ken Cooley, of Rancho Cordova, introduced legislation to let parole violators be returned to state prison for up to a year.

Eggman was motivated in part by the case of a parolee accused of raping and murdering his grandmother in Stockton. Eggman is generally supportive of realignment, but she said changes are required to give local authorities “flexibility to address violence in the streets.”

Brown acknowledged the pressure he faces from lawmakers to act on realignment, but the burden of the court order to reduce California’s prison population remains intact, as well.

“We are witnessing calls to increase the number of people in prison, and we are under pressure to reduce the number of people in prison,” Brown told reporters in San Francisco last week. “Luckily, contradiction is one of my specialties, so I feel I can deal with it.”

Brown went on to suggest that certain shortcomings of realignment may be the fault of counties – not the state.

“I can tell you this: Some counties do better than other counties, and the challenge here is that locking people up at state expense is a free good when people have a problem with criminal activity, and now we’re saying, ‘No, you have to handle criminal activity where you are.’ ”

Researchers at Stanford, the Public Policy Institute of California and other institutions are beginning to study realignment in earnest. Grattet said “we’re close” to finding and reporting significant data.

Last week, California’s Board of State and Community Corrections endorsed an effort by the Public Policy Institute of California to collect data from 10 counties to identify the most effective practices being used to prevent recidivism.

Meanwhile, Weisberg’s colleague, law professor Joan Petersilia, is meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol this week to discuss research she and her students are conducting.

At the meeting in Palo Alto, Petersilia said Brown listened to students present research on realignment for more than an hour and appeared to be interested in learning more.

Following the meeting, Petersilia said Brown told her, “Send me your best students.”

Petersilia, a former adviser on corrections issues to Brown’s predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, lamented the limitations of the research that has been done so far.

“What you’d like to know is what’s the impact on the crime rate, and what’s the impact on recidivism,” Petersilia said. “Those are two questions that we don’t know.”

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Calif. high court rules ‘Marsy’s Law’ applies to ‘lifers’ sentenced before Prop 9 passed

Posted on March 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By Paul Elias Associate Press

March 4, 2013 – 9:28 pm EST

AN FRANCISCO — The state’s high court ruled Monday that a 2008 ballot measure increasing the time period between parole hearings for inmates serving life sentences applies to all so-called “lifers,” not just those sentenced after the law passed.

The unanimous seven-member court said Monday that “Marsy’s Law” applies to all because it wasn’t intended to prolong punishment or change any inmate’s sentence.

“Marsy’s Law” expanded the legal rights of crime victims, including notifying them of all court proceedings and parole hearings. The law also intended to spare victims from having to trek to parole hearings as often as every year and imposed minimum lengths of seven, 10 and even 15 years between parole hearings for certain prisoners serving life sentences with the chance of parole.

Before Marsy’s law, the maximum length between parole hearings was five years for murder and two years for all other convictions.

The law was named after Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by a former boyfriend in 1983. Her brother Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., contributed millions to the Proposition 9 campaign after organizing a group of legal scholars, prosecutors and others including former California Gov. Pete Wilson to draft the proposition. Nicholas is now on a quest to amend the U.S. Constitution to include victims’ rights language.

The ruling Monday was prompted by a lawsuit filed by inmate Michael Vicks, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1983 after being convicted of 16 violent felonies including kidnapping and sexual assault.

Vicks argued that he was unfairly subjected to the new parole hearing schedule in violation of state and federal bars on “ipso facto” laws. Those prohibited laws change punishment for behavior after conviction, and Vicks argued the new parole hearing schedule guaranteed him a longer sentence than before Marsy’s Law passed.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, writing for the court, overturned to decisions of two lower courts agreeing with Vicks. Cantil-Sakauye said Vicks provided no evidence that “Marsy’s Law” has kept him or others locked up longer than he otherwise would have been. She said the longer periods between parole hearings was meant to spare crime victims from having to attend hearings that were almost certainly going to result in a denial. She said the law did nothing to change the qualifications for parole, and that prisoners were free to petition for earlier parole dates.

“Although multiple changes to the parole scheme contribute to longer periods between hearings, the changes have no cumulative effect that would create a significant risk of prolonged incarceration,” she wrote.

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