Archive for April, 2013

Federal judges deny California bid to end prison oversight

Posted on April 12, 2013. Filed under: California State Budget, Crime, Politics, Prisons |

dwalsh@sacbee.com

Published Friday, Apr. 12, 2013

A three-judge federal court on Thursday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt to avoid the court’s order to reduce California’s prison population, saying if his administration does not further relieve prison overcrowding, the governor and his top prison officials will face contempt of court.

Since the motion was filed in early January, Brown and Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard have said that, if their request was denied, they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three judges said in a 71-page order that if Brown and his top corrections officials do not comply with the order, they would be held in contempt “individually and collectively.”

They wrote that they make such a threat reluctantly, “but with determination that defendants will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States.”

The ruling was the second major setback in less than a week for the Brown administration’s all-out push to get prison health care out from under control of the federal judiciary.

In a stinging rebuke of that effort April 5, Sacramento U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton not only denied the state’s motion to terminate his oversight of prison mental health care, he struck down part of the state’s evidence in support of the motion, finding Brown, corrections officials and their lawyers from the attorney general’s office stooped to unethical tactics.

He said prison mental health care is still woefully short of adequate when measured against constitutional requirements.

Karlton also sits on the specially convened three-judge court that has the population issue before it, along with 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt and U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson of San Francisco.

That panel first ordered the population reduction in 2009, finding after a non-jury trial that overcrowding was the primary reason for unconstitutional health care in the prison system. California’s prison inmate population must be reduced by the end of this year to 137.5 percent of the design capacity of its 33 adult prisons.

An appeal of the panel’s initial order to the Supreme Court went against the state in 2011.

The state’s January motion says it has slashed inmate population as much as it can without risking the public’s safety.

The Brown administration is adamant that, even though it has another 9,000 inmates to go before the population has sunk to the level required by the court, prison health care is no longer in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and it can be maintained that way without further reduction.

“The truth of the matter is that California has invested more than a billion dollars to transform its prison health care system into one of the best in the country,” said Deborah Hoffman, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation assistant secretary, late Thursday. “Our prisons now provide timely and effective health care to inmates that far exceeds what the Constitution requires. Further forced reductions to the prison population would unnecessarily jeopardize public safety. We will appeal.”

Attorneys for the inmates vigorously dispute the claim that their clients’ health care is constitutional.

They acknowledge much progress has been made, but insist much is yet to be done.

In Thursday’s order, the judges agree with the attorneys’ assessment.

In a separate six-page order Thursday, the three judges give the state 100 days to submit a report to them on actions taken thus far “to identify prisoners who are unlikely to re-offend or who might otherwise be candidates for early release.”

The judges noted that this was something the Supreme Court suggested in its decision two years ago. “Given the passage of time and defendants’ failure to take all steps necessary to comply … we now order” state officials to do so, “to the extent that they have not already done so.”

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Jump in fugitive sex offenders higher than initially thought

Posted on April 11, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

California data for October 2011 to Jan. 1, 2013, show a 65% increase in warrants for those who were tracked by GPS units and went missing.

By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

11:36 PM PDT, April 10, 2013

The increase in fugitive sex offenders in California since the state changed key prison policies is more than double that previously believed, according to data released Wednesday by corrections officials.

The data show a 65% rise from October 2011 to Jan. 1 of this year in warrants issued for paroled sex offenders who were tracked by GPS units and went missing. Previous state reports showed about a 30% climb for that period.

Almost 5,000 warrants were issued during that time, according to the new figures, far more than the 3,251 the department reported in March. Corrections officials said the earlier number did not count cases in which the same offender escaped repeatedly.

In most cases, the officials said, those individuals were caught relatively quickly. No data was provided to support that assertion.

“Our fugitive apprehension teams then aggressively track and arrest parolees who commit this violation,” corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said.

A recent investigation by The Times showed that in counties where jails are crowded, parolees who ditch their GPS monitors and are recaptured serve little time — sometimes none — behind bars. Some convicted sex offenders who removed their trackers have been charged with new crimes, including rape and murder.

“This confirms the scope of the problem is large,” said state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who has introduced a bill to make it a felony punishable by prison time for a state parolee to remove an electronic monitor.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison “realignment” plan, parole violators have been referred to county jails rather than returned to the state’s packed prisons. But, like the state, many jails are under court orders to ease overcrowding.

California runs the largest criminal GPS monitoring program in the nation, tracking more than 7,000 registered sex offenders after they are released on parole, usually for three years.

Lieu said the state’s sex offender program, mandated by voters in 2006, is jeopardized.

“We can’t have a GPS monitoring system if we have such dramatic rates of violation,” he said.

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s 65 Easter pardons include murderer

Posted on April 1, 2013. Filed under: Crime, Politics |

by Paige St. John

latimes.com

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday continued a pattern of pardons tied to Christian religious days, granting clemency to 65 convicted criminals, including a Los Angeles man who spent 15 years in prison for a 1977 murder conviction.

Brown’s pardon of Robert Phillip Brown provided no details of the convict’s crime, nor his case for clemency, other than to say the man had obtained a Superior Court order last year testifying that since release from prison, “he has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character, and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen.”

The governor also gave clemency to Francisco Nunes, who served two years in prison for a 1996 involuntary manslaughter conviction in San Diego County, and James Vercillino, convicted of vehicular manslaughter in 1987 in Santa Clara County.

The remaining pardons involve drug-related convictions.

Brown granted 128 pardons in 2012, up from 21 his first year in office, and surpassing the 16 pardons and 10 commuted sentences that his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed in seven years in office. Seventy-nine of Brown’s 2012 pardons were announced on Christmas Eve. Saturday’s press release announcing the latest batch of pardons tied them to “the eve of Easter.”

As a young man, Brown spent four years in a Jesuit seminary studying to be a Catholic priest.

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