Monday, January 31, 2011

Event 2/1 5:00p on prisons -- great speakers

"Spotlight on California's Criminal Justice System

The ACLU chapter at GGU hopes to raise awareness of the state of California’ criminal justice system by hosting a series of four panels titled “A Critical Eye on Criminal Justice." The third panel, "Life in a California Prison" will be held Tuesday, February 1, 5:00 – 6:30 PM in room 2203.

For many students, this will be the first glance at living conditions of prisons. There will be a discussion on prison reform litigation and the quality of life in prison in light of the Coleman/Plata case. We will be joined by lead council in Schwarzenegger v. Plata - regarding violations of prisoners’ Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and the state of California prisons which has lead to many unnecessary deaths.

The panelists are Donald Specter, Director of the Prison Law Office, Jeanne Woodford, former warden at San Quentin State Prison, and Paul Wright, editor and co-founder of Prison Legal News. The discussion will be moderated by Professor Mort Cohen. Food and wine will be provided, all are welcome! For more information please contact: Orien Nelson at"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

WSJ: DoJ ends safe surrender program +more

Great Wall Street Journal article this week about the economic crisis and fiscal austerity coming home to roost in federal law enforcement and sentencing/corrections policy. Full article here. My favorite part is the bullet points:

"—Increasing the amount of time deducted from prison terms for good behavior, which would immediately qualify some 4,000 federal convicts for release, and another 4,000 over the next 10 years.

—Eliminating the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Gang Intelligence Center, for a savings of $8 million in the next budget year.

—Sharing less of the proceeds from property confiscated from criminals with state and local authorities, and eliminating other funding to local police departments for some operations. The change would reduce spending by $120 million, according to the White House."

And I found this paragraph the most intriguing: "The U.S. Marshals Service has quietly shelved the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program, which has cleared the books on thousands of low-level criminal cases in the past six years. Under the program, law enforcement officials set up temporary shop in a church or a public setting, urging fugitives to turn themselves in to resolve old warrants and often drawing hundreds in a single day."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Now on KQED: Discussion of Impending DJJ Closure

In a few minutes, KQED's Michael Krasny will host a discussion about the impending closure of the Division of Juvenile Justice, featuring UC Berkeley's Barry Krisberg, Dan Macallair from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, and KQED reporter Michael Montgomery. Tune in and listen now!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Legislative Analyst's Office Unhappy with Brown's CDCR Budget

The Legislative Analyst's Office has just issued a report critiquing Jerry Brown's plan for the CDCR budget (which we briefly discussed just a few days ago), and it does not paint a pretty picture. LAO finds serious overbudgeting in some areas, and is deeply concerned with CDCR exceeding its budget in several areas.

General Fund support for CDCR, particularly with regard to CCPOA salaries and overtime (already on the top steps of the salary scale), appears to be excessive, and CDCR has already exceeded its authority in these matters. Among the other surprising expenditures are $55.2 million in medical transportation costs, $20.5 million in legal costs (wouldn't it be cheaper to decrease population, which would also mean that the population decrease order would not have to be fought in court?), and $17.3 million in "empty beds" in case incarceration needs change.

The LAO report critiques the CDCR practice of notifying the legislature of budget shortfalls after the fact, thus coercing legislators to increase the budget in restrospect. Also, the budget does not take into account savings in adult parole and administration, which might mean the money could go elsewhere, where it is needed.

A particularly thorny issue is the fact that the budget assumes that CDCR will be making personnel cuts it has no intention of making absent a reduction in inmate population.

The budget, says the report, does not hold CDCR accountable regarding its expenditures, and there is no guarantee against CDCR pulling its retrospective budgeting trick again on the legislature. LAO therefore recommends that the legislature demand accountability and accuracy in the correctional budget.

Assembly Committee Critiques Receivership Spending

On today's Chron, Marisa Lagos reports some disturbing findings from the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review. Examining expenditures made by the federal receiver appointed by the court to oversee prison health care, the committee found extravagant spending with little or no effect on quality health care.

The findings, which are expected to be announced during a hearing today, show large salaries being paid to construction consultants on an abandoned project, who then turned around and charged taxpayers for housing, meals and dry cleaning. Prison health care spending has also grown by more than 65 percent since 2006, when a three-judge panel appointed the receiver after concluding that substandard medical treatment and neglect were killing one inmate per week.

Today's public hearing will feature responses from the receivership, whose speaker explained to the Chron that --

all of the expenses paid out by the previous receiver were within federal reimbursement guidelines.

"Those contracts no longer exist, and after Clark arrived he cut back and eventually eliminated all of them," she said.

Kincaid also noted that Kelso has made great strides toward reining in expenses. The overall death rate at prison health care centers has dropped by at least 10 percent since 2006, according to a presentation Kelso is scheduled to make to the committee today.

(Kelso recently reported continued improvements in inmate health care. Others found mixed results.)

Whether the expenses are attributable to the current or the former receivership should be an easy matter to check. What is less easy is to examine the complex connection between these developments and the overcrowding problem. It seems that both sides to the debate can use this report as ammunition for their position. As some readers may recall, one of the points made by the state in the Plata/Coleman litigation was that appointing the receiver should have been enough. Those concerned about early releases might argue that, had the receivership been more prudent in setting its priorities and spending its budget, there would be no need for the Plata/Coleman panel to order the population reduction. The counterargument, made by Don Specter in the newspaper article, is that regardless of how the receivership spends its money, as long as prisons are overcrowded no construction projects or expensive consultants will be able to improve the quality of health care behind bars.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More on Youth Correctional Facilities

The New York Times provides a well-written story from the Bay Citizen on the sides to the debate over Brown's initiative to close all CA youth correctional facilities. The initiative's roots are traced to an informal policy that

has been centered in the Bay Area after accusations of abuse and neglect at the institutions surfaced in a 2003 Alameda County lawsuit. In recent years, some local judges often refused to send young offenders to state institutions, preferring to confine them in county facilities regarded as safer and more effective.

Mr. Brown’s initiative would take that unofficial policy further. It would scrap the state juvenile justice system and shift responsibility for confining the most violent young offenders to the local level, where they are nearer to family and have more community treatment options. The move would affect the 1,300 youths in state care, down from 10,000 in 1996.

The main concerns offered by the experts featured in the story concern the lack of funding for improving local facilities and equipping them to handle severely troubled young people, as well as the concern that the intentions behind the initiative will be circumvented by opting to try more juveniles as adults. There is an additional concern over the new responsibilities shouldered by local probation officers.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jerry Corrections Watch: Abolishing State Juvenile Facilities?

Today we begin a new CCC enterprise: Over the coming weeks and months, we'll be closely monitoring Governor Jerry Brown's correctional policies. During the gubernatorial race, we posted on Brown's history with corrections, and with CCPOA, as former governor and as attorney general. It will be interesting to see whether Brown follows in Schwarzenegger's footsteps in terms of thinking outside the box (perhaps sometimes too far out) about our correctional crisis.

Brown's new budget deviates from Schwarzenegger's pattern of budgetary cuts in the correctional apparatus, especially compared with painful cuts to other aspects of government. In fact, the Brown administration plans --

an ongoing augmentation of $395.2 million within the CDCR’s budget to correct previous budget shortfalls and more accurately reflect the operational costs within the adult institutions’ budgets. This augmentation will allow the Department to fully fund the salary and wages of authorized Correctional Officers, Sergeants, and Lieutenants, which is critical to ensuring that the adult institutions have the resources to pay security staff. The augmentation also provides funding to correct for a decline in the number of overtime hours available to CDCR to use within its adult institutions. Due to salary and wage increases for correctional officers over the last eight years, and no increase in departmental overtime funding, the overtime base does not go as far as it originally did. The use of overtime is critical to ensuring that all necessary staffing levels are maintained at CDCR’s institutions, and the decline in funded overtime hours has been a primary cause for redirections of funding from other activities.

In other respects, however, the Brown administration continues a trend from the Schwarzenegger administration: Diverting inmates from the states system to county-level jails. This move continues to draw ire from county officials, given the overcrowding in jails. The latest incarnation of these efforts is Brown's plan to abolish the state youth correctional system and incarcerate juveniles exclusively at county-level facilities. Given the distressing facts we know about state juvenile facilities, and the decline in juvenile crime, this is not necessarily a bad idea. Barry Krisberg, however, voices a serious concern that counties will prosecute more juveniles as adults, to circumvent Brown's policies.

Rosenberg on Reentry: The Importance of Peers and Good Programs

In two recent NYT blog posts, Pulitzer prize awardee Tina Rosenberg reflects on the conditions for successful prisoner reentry.

Rosenberg's first blog post mentions the meager release packages for inmates exiting correctional institutions and the lack of rehabilitative programs, but emphasizes the need to provide them with "a better class of friends": People committed to AA meetings and GED classes, who will motivate them rather than drag them down the recidivist path. She mentions two programs: The Castle in New York, and San Francisco's Delancey Street Foundation. Here is some of what she has to say about the latter:

People come to live at the Delancey Street residential building for an average of four years. Each resident is required to get at least a high school equivalency degree and learn several marketable job skills, such as furniture making, sales or accounting. The organization is completely run by its residents, who teach each other — there is no paid staff at all. Teaching others is part of the rehabilitation process for Delancey residents. The residence is financed in part by private donations, but the majority of its financing comes from the businesses the residents run, such as restaurants, event planning, a corporate car service, a moving company and framing shop. All money earned goes to the collective, which pays all its residents’ expenses.

. . .

The Delancey Street residence, which began in 1971, has never been formally evaluated. But there is no question that is phenomenally successful. It has graduated more than 14,000 people from prison into constructive lives. Carol Kizziah, who manages Delancey’s efforts to apply its lessons elsewhere, says that the organization estimates that 75 percent of its graduates go on to productive lives. (For former prisoners who don’t go to Delancey, only 25 to 40 percent avoid re-arrest.) Since it costs taxpayers nothing, from a government’s point of view it could very well be the most cost-effective social program ever devised. The program has established similar Delancey Street communities in Los Angeles, New Mexico, North Carolina and upstate New York. Outsiders have replicated the Delancey Street model in about five other places.

. . .

There are two puzzles here. Delancey Street is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. One would think that by now there would be Delancey 2.0 models sprouting all over. But there are not. A related mystery concerns the idea that underlies both Delancey and the Castle: the importance of pro-social peers. Our guts tell us they matter; we know the effect our friends can have on our behavior. Peer pressure may be the single most important factor getting people into crime — surely it should be employed to get them out again. Yet it is not. Besides Delancey and the Castle, there is probably not a single government agency or citizen group working with former prisoners that lists “clean-living peers” alongside housing, job training and other items on its agenda for what former prisoners need to go straight.

The second blog post expands upon the reasons for reentry failure. Citing David Kirk's interesting research on the decline in recidivism following Hurricane Katrina, Rosenberg points out how important it is to maintain places that provide support and encounters with reentering peers. She mentions initiatives like Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, and attributes their inadequate-to-nonexistent funding to "tough on crime" political rhetoric and to lack of research showing the decline in recidivism. However, there are grounds for hope, including humonetarianism (a discourse of scarcity that creates a countereffect to punitive policies) -- the silver lining of the financial crisis:

The good news is that we may have reached a turning point, a chance at last to see effective anti-crime policies edge out ineffective ones. One reason is the record number of people being released from prison. This has made prisoner re-entry a hot topic in the field of corrections (if still invisible to the rest of the world). The politics, too, have changed. The crime rate throughout the United States has dropped, which means that voters are less panicked about crime and less singleminded about harsh measures.

The public isn’t thinking about crime — but state officials are. States are in budget crisis. Many states are looking for ways to let nonviolent prisoners out — and they can’t afford to see them come back again. California’s three strikes law — your third felony conviction, even if for something minor, brings a 25-year-to-life prison term — is costing the state $500 million a year, according to the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Those costs will rise as the prison population ages as a consequence of the law — housing elderly prisoners can cost upwards of $50,000 per year per inmate. And elderly prisoners are the last people you want in prison, as they are the least likely to re-offend. States are finally getting interested in finding out what actually maximizes the chance that ex-offenders will become good citizens. They’re not going to be able to do that without financing research.

Rosenberg's posts are a call to conduct empirical research on the recidivism-related implications of reentry programs. As we know, recidivism reports are very problematic. The dismal numbers in CDCR's recidivism report do not necessarily reflect a "return to a life of crime" as much as they might reflect parole failures and technical parole violations (an aspect regarding which the Supreme Court has recently exhibited surprising naïvete). As this good summary from the NIJ website explains, recidivism is a difficult thing to measure. Studies examining the impact of reentry programs and changes in peer groups on recidivism should be careful in their findings. Assuming such problems can be tackled, funding should be provided to programs with proven effects on recidivism rates, such as the marine technology and carpentry training programs at CDCR.

Props to Michael Sierchio for the link.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Willingham Case Examined by Texas Forensic Science Commission

Today, the Texas Forensic Science Commission is holding a meeting assessing negligence and misconduct in the trial and execution of Todd Willingham. Here's some background on the case from the Innocence Project. The meeting is streamed live right now.

Krenwinkel Denied Parole: Some Questions on Remorse

(Image courtesy AP and the Sac Bee)

A while ago we reported on the parole denial for Susan Atkins, a member of the Manson "family" who died a year and a half ago of a terminal illness after spending decades in prison. This morning's Sac Bee reports of a similar hearing regarding another member, Patricia Krenwinkel. As in the Atkins case, the reason for not granting parole were retributive; her efforts to rehabilitate in prison were outweighed, said the parole board, by the heinousness of the crimes. But in addition to this assessment of the seriousness of the crime, and the victim impact statements, there was some talk of the symbolic effect of the crimes:

This is a crime children grow up hearing about," said parole commissioner Susan Melanson. She said they had received 80 letters from around the world advocating Krenwinkel's continued incarceration. "These crimes remain relevant."

There is no question parole boards are influenced by public opinion. It is a good question whether they should be. Should the notoriousness of a crime and its symbolic baggage impact parole decisions? What do our readers think?

The other interesting aspect of the Krenwinkel hearing is related to remorse issues. Here's the Sac's take on Krenwinkel's performance before the board:

Krenwinkel, now gray haired and grandmotherly looking at 63, wept and apologized.

"I'm just haunted each and every day by the unending suffering of the victims, the enormity and degree of suffering I've caused," Krenwinkel said.

She was soft spoken and contrite in response to board members' questions, describing the downward spiral of her life after she met Manson and came under his spell.

"He sang to me and made love to me," she said. "...I left everything and went with him. He seemed like the answer to my salvation.".

Because of him, she said, "Everything that was good and decent in me I threw away."

It was her late father, she said, who helped her realize during his visits to her in prison, "what had happened, and the monster I became."

And here's the response from the prosecutor and victims:

"If Patricia Krenwinkel has remorse, I don't see how she could walk into this room," said a tearful Anthony Di Maria, the nephew of Jay Sebring, who was killed along with Tate. "No punishment could atone for the cold-blooded murders in this case."

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Patrick Sequeira also suggested that if Krenwinkel was remorseful she would waive her parole hearings and accept her punishment.

These are interesting comments. They suggest that, for someone convicted of a truly heinous crime, there is no way to show remorse except not showing it and accepting one's punishment. That is, that showing remorse and seeking release from imprisonment are incompatible. Setting aside the particulars in Krenwinkels' case, this premise seems to evoke the religious undertones of the original penitentiary - seeing the prison as an institution for understanding the full meaning of one's bad deeds and redeeming one's soul through serving one's time. These goals shaped the American prison from its early days; the isolation method at Eastern State Penitentiary (which we visited in late 2009), with no one to talk to except for the pastor and nothing to read but the Bible, were designed by Quaker reformer with those exact aims in mind.

While assuming that our version of a correctional system is a suitable vehicle for fulfilling this goal may be somewhat naïve, there are bigger questions here about public perception or expectations regarding remorse. As a society, it would be a good thing to reflect on how we expect remorse to be expressed in the criminal process. Stephanos Bibas and Richard Bierschbach have suggested integrating remorse and apology into all parts of the process, precisely because of its healing properties. If parole hearings are seen as unsuitable venues for expressing remorse (because the offender has something to "gain" from expressing remorse), perhaps the answer to the problem is expecting remorse to be expressed when the offender does not stand to gain from it. That, however, generates two problems. The first is potential lack of honesty on the part of offenders who might repeatedly express remorse they do not feel so that it might later count at the parole hearings, and as a result a decline in the moral value of remorse. The second problem is that, as a society, we do believe that defendants should benefit in some ways from remorse. The Model Penal Code recognizes abandonment (when internally driven, albeit not necessarily by remorse) as a defense in attempt cases (here's an interesting take on that in the context of a recent 8th Circuit case). So, how do we reconcile our desire to acknowledge someone's remorse in the trial and sentencing phases with our wish that the remorse be "authentic"?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kentucky reforming drug sentences (?!)

So apparently the state of Kentucky is debating legislation to reduce prison sentences and increase diversion for drug convictions. Today's Lexington Herald-Leader has a detailed, well-written, very informative article about the bill, which was presented Tuesday by members of a special drug-specific sentencing committee called the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act. Please read the whole thing here, but my favorite passage is:

"The bill would establish a penalty of "presumptive probation" for some lesser offenses, such as drug possession, requiring judges to sentence defendants to probation rather than prison unless the judges can state a compelling reason to do otherwise. It also would require addiction treatment for those convicted of drug possession.

Marijuana possession would drop from a Class A misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a year in jail, to a Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum jail term of 45 days, if the judge ordered incarceration at all."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Children on the Outside

This week, Justice Strategies rolled out their excellent new report, "Children on the Outside: Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration," by Patricia Allard and Judith Greene. Read it here.

We knew that the USA's enormous prison population has high monetary costs and even higher human costs, but this paper documents the particular costs of separating families. Parental incarceration triples the odds that children will engage in violence or drug abuse, and doubles their odds of developing serious mental health issues. There are more children of incarcerated parents than there are total incarcerated persons; nearly 25% of the 1.7 million children with incarcerated parents are under age four, and over 33% will become adults while their parents are locked up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cause for Concern: What California Should Learn from Hawaii's Experience

As promised here, I've inquired and read further into the correctional situation in Hawaii. Hawaii imprisons less people than CA, and certainly less per 100,000 residents (338 to California's 471 in 2007). The recent decline in prison population in 2010, however, was twice as impressive in California than in Hawaii.

But the reason Californians should carefully examine the situation with Hawaii has less to do with the bottom-line numbers and more to do with the method of incarceration. According to Meda Chesney-Ling and Kat Brady, Hawaii is particularly notorious for housing its inmates off-state, mostly in private facilities on the mainland. More than a third of Hawaii's inmates are on the mainland. This is a much more drastic than the condition in CA, which I referred to elsewhere as "the inmate export enterprise". This move, hailed as a cost-saving measure, is now seriously questioned, and a recent audit attributed this move to "artificial cost figures derived from a calculation based on a flawed methodology, designed entirely on what is easiest for the department to report." The new governor, Neil Abercrombie, is thankfully rethinking this strategy, and reestimating that bringing home some of the prison population would "easily add millions more to the state budget".

We once discussed the question whether housing an inmate away from home is less conducive to rehabilitation. There are, however, other immediate concerns. Being housed away from family, friends and a supportive environment, makes an inmate far more vulnerable to attacks, as the distressing stories of Hawaii female inmates sexually assaulted in a Kentucky private facility and male inmates corporally punished in Arizona demonstrate. Despite the fact that this 1997 story paints Texas incarceration of Hawaiians in a positive light, the inmates interviewed mention the difficulties of being away from family and completely detached from the cultural context of their daily lives (Hawaii disproportionately imprisons Hawaiian natives). This CCA story about Oklahoma tells of efforts to change this sense of displacement, but it appears that the problem runs much deeper than that.

There are good reasons why Californians should pay close attention to this seldom-reported phenomenon. The concern is, of course, with other twists and misinterpretations of the Plata/Coleman order. Even if construction is lagging behind (and perhaps because of the delays), the option to ship more California inmates away to CCA facilities around the country is still very much on the table. Sending away more inmates may prove countereffective, and for some inmates, disastrous.

Many thanks to Meda Chesney-Lind for helping me with more information on this.

Building Our Way Out of Overcrowding?

Re our posts here, here and here: Yesterday's Chron offered a summary of CDCR's progress on construction projects funded by AB900. Four years after authorizing $7.4 billion dollars in bonds, "the state has not completed a single project authorized by that bill, AB900, and has begun planning or construction for only about 8,400 beds" for the 8,200 inmates currently still sleeping in "bad beds".

The piece quotes some critics of the construction path for decrowding, and it was pleasant to see the CCPOA among them.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he believes the state should undertake a "serious review" of AB900, noting that lawmakers have instituted other reforms to deal with crowding since 2007 - including medical parole for severely incapacitated inmates - and that the state's crime rate has declined.

Ryan Sherman, a spokesman for the prison guards union, which opposed AB900, said the construction authorized by the bill will not solve the state's prison crisis.

I still think, as I pointed out in another post, that despite the open-ended order in Plata/Coleman, it is completely possible to offer an entirely reasonable interpretation of the order, according to which construction projects are not an acceptable response to overcrowding. In fact, the opposite interpretation seems unreasonable to me. The order specifically provided a number of inmates to be released from prison, not an acceptable square yardage. I believe that attempting to build out way out of overcrowding is not only unsound, but also a violation of the court's order.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On Gascón and the Death Penalty

Another source of concern associated with Gascón's appointment is his recent declaration that he plans to seek the death penalty in cases that "warrant" it. Gascon is surely aware of the meager community support for the death penalty in San Francisco, but I am sure there are currently prosecutors in office who were unhappy with Harris' policy of not seeking the death penalty who will welcome this change.

As to pursuing the death penalty in politically progressive counties: The ACLU data show (jump to Appendix A) that Alameda county, consistently "blue", has been well above the California average in death sentences between 2000 and 2009. San Francisco may now face the same fate.

Newsom Appoints Police Chief George Gascón as San Francisco D.A.

"In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."

--Law & Order opening narration

Lt. Government Elect Gavin Newsom's choice, in the last days of his mayoral tenure, to appoint George Gascón as San Francisco D.A., was described by the Chronicle as a "bold move". The article, however, focuses on Gascón's personal qualities, rather than on an institutional "leap" he will have to perform. Policing and prosecuting, while traditionally on the same side of the adversarial field, are very different occupations, and they require different skills. The prosecutorial realm extends over charging and trial, and while police may be involved in such matters, their traditional realm is that of the investigative phase. Prosecutors are a systemic check over police investigatory practices, by way of incorporating decisions about constitutional violations into their decision whether to charge. This implies a requirement of nonpartisan consideration on the part of prosecutors. Of course, realistically, the relationship between prosecutors and police officers is much more complicated (for some insights on that, check out this Jefferson Institute publication). But it will require a certain shift in thinking. This will certainly change what the SF Weekly Snitch has referred to as a "long history of tension and soured relations" between the prosecution and the police in San Francisco.

Granted, there are some trends in both occupations that make them similar. Both are undergoing continuous change and a redefining of priorities and tasks. Community policing, a set of policies designed to help police be proactive and address community needs, now has a counterpart in the shape of community prosecuting. Both policies aim at transcending the traditional mode of law enforcement by being sensitive to residents' needs, such as addressing quality of life crimes, something in which Gascón has gained some experience while policing the Tenderloin. And police officers are increasingly more attentive to matters traditionally reserved for other actors in the system, such as reentry and rehabilitation.

It will be interesting to follow up and see what insights Gascón has gained in policing and will bring with him to the prosecutorial office.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Trouble in Paradise: The Hawaiian Correctional Crisis

This semester I'm on research leave at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And, as I have started to learn, Hawaii has its own correctional issues and concerns, which are different from California's, but similar in some important ways.

The Community Alliance on Prisons highlights some important problems with the Hawaiian correctional system. In 2009, when we held our CCC conference, the CAP held its own conference about the local crisis (the proceedings, in full, are here.) The conference debunked the myth that "there are no bad prisons in paradise", highlighting the oppressive war on drugs, and the disproportionate number of Hawaiian natives behind bars. As late as the mid-1980s, conditions in Hawaiian prisons were outrageous, and included inmates sleeping on floors and cruel corporal punishment. These methods were, apparently, justified by treating inmates the way they supposedly were treated in their native cultures.

Hawaii's incarceration rate is half that of the United States in average, but it is still alarmingly high. Shockingly, Hawaii is the country’s third largest consumer of private prison services with 34% of Hawaii state inmates in private prisons.

As reported by Meda Chesney-Lind, whose research focuses on gender issues in the criminal justice system, the rates of female incarceration in Hawaii (mostly for low-level drug offenses) are on the rise. Hawaiian prison population in general appears to be comprised mostly of drug offenders, and as explained by Marilyn Brown, the incarceration policy has not been very useful in addressing the problem. And, according to Tom Lengyel, who has studied the impact of drug-related incarceration on families in Hawaii, more benefits with less social costs can be attained through residential programs.

This evening I happened to catch Kat Brady from CAP on the local TV channel, speaking of the sporadic and unsystematic reentry initiatives in Hawaii. She mentioned several policies that made life difficult for inmates, and particularly for female inmates. Women in drug programs, for example, who form friendships within the program, are then prohibited from keeping in touch with their friends after being paroled.

I look forward to learning more about the Hawaiian correctional system, as well as keeping a watchful eye on things back in California.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's He Building In There? Part III

More building plans come in the heels of the Michigan construction and the Calaveras and San Bernardino projects. These projects, however, seem to be more benign and have a reentry/therapeutic purpose. The CDCR website describes the three projects as follows:

 Renovation and reuse of the former Northern California Women’s Facility in San Joaquin County as a 500-bed adult male secure community reentry facility pursuant to the mandates of AB 900, which envisioned this new type of correctional facility for inmates within 6-12 months of parole;

 Renovation and reuse of the former El Paso De Robles Youth Correctional Facility in San Luis Obispo County (closed in 2008) as a 1,000-bed Level II adult correctional facility to be named the Estrella Correctional Facility, and

 Renovation and reuse of the former Dewitt-Nelson Youth Correctional Facility in San Joaquin County (closed in 2008) as a 1,133-bed adult correctional facility with a mental health treatment mission.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Violent crime statistics in SF: Homicides Up, Other Violent Crime Down

The Chron reports:

San Francisco residents witnessed an increase in homicides in 2010, with 50 people killed compared with 45 in 2009.

Yet police officials said the overall number of reported violent crimes in the city - homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault - fell 3 percent.

The decline in violent crime, and declines in homicide rates in other Bay Area cities, has been attributed to violence reduction programs and zone enforcement strategies, focused on gangs and organized crime. However, some expressed concern that the decline is due to less reporting by citizens.