ACJP Presents on Mitigation to the San Mateo County Juvenile Private Defenders Program

Two weeks ago, De-Bug’s ACJP presented to the San Mateo County Juvenile Private Defender’s Program on our work in supporting families develop mitigation packets.  This presentation was part of a longer session on San Mateo County Probation’s ICE referral policy for youth.  Coordinated by Adam Wells Ely, a juvenile private defender who has been active in local efforts to stop this referral practice, De-Bug co-presented with Helen Beasley from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and Alison Kamhi from the Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. A key part of the change advocated by the San Mateo County Coalition for Immigrant Rights to the Probation Chief’s policy on referring youth to immigration was that before a probation officer was to make a referral to ICE, the juvenile private defender and the youth’s family were to be notified so they could present mitigating information that can help the PO to decide otherwise.  Thus, being able to gather that information by the team of people supporting their loved one can be key to helping stop an ICE referral.

De-Bug’s ACJP shared different examples of mitigation packets we developed that resulted in families being able to change the outcome of their loved ones’ cases — from a packet of letters, to photo diaries, to a mini-documentary video that helps the court system see the full life of the person behind the case file.  Thanks to San Mateo County’s Private Defender’s Program for acknowledging the role and value of community in advocating for loved ones in the courts! 

PHOTO ESSAY: Sisters That Been There Celebration of Life Ceremony

Congrats to Steeda, founder of Sisters That Been There, and the recent class of graduates! Followers of this blog know Steeda — the incredible leader from the De-Bug fam who created an innovative re-entry program for recently released women in Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County Probation was so impressed with Steeda, they supported the program through by integrated the project into their realignment plan. Much achieved, and much to come! Click on the image to see images from the graduation and read more about her work!

New York Times Editorial: Who Will Mourn George Whitmore, Jr?

In 1968, George Whitmore, Jr. was beaten by New York police and coerced to signing a 61 page confession that he murdered two women.  He contended that he was somewhere else that day — watching Martin Luther King Jr’s historic civil rights speech and had witnesses who could attest to him.  Nevertheless, he was convicted for these murders.  Steadfast to his innocence — and supported by lawyers, advocates, and civil rights activists — his conviction was overturned 9 years later.  And his case was pivotal to the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling to protect alleged suspects and to the partial repeal of capital punishment in New York City. 

While he is 3,000 miles away from Santa Clara County, the impact of his resolve to maintain his innocence reverbrates here.  At ACJP, we’ve seen youth as young as 15 forced to make confessions to crimes they didn’t commit.  But because of cases like Mr. Whitmore Jr, people can still be protected.  This particular editorial talks about the emotional toll the system can take on you and the personal fall-out of the struggle for justice.  It is this silent and sad struggle that is rarely documented.  To the question the writer posed on “Who Will Mourn George Whitmore Jr”, we resoundingly answer — we will, and we will honor his sacrifice as we hold our systems accountable.  Submitted by Charisse Domingo

Op-Ed Contributor
Who Will Mourn George Whitmore?
Photo by Tom Cunningham/NY Daily News, via Getty Images
New York Times
Published: October 12, 2012

I received news this week of the death of George Whitmore Jr., an occurrence noted, apparently, by no one in the public arena. That Whitmore could die without a single mention in the media is a commentary on a city and nation that would rather bury and forget the difficult aspects of our shared history.

Forty-eight years ago, as a New York City teenager, Whitmore was initiated into an ordeal at the hands of a racist criminal justice system. For a time, his story rattled the news cycle. He was chewed up and spit out: an ill-prepared kid vilified as a murderer, then championed as an emblem of injustice and, finally, cast aside. That he survived his tribulations and lived to the age of 68 was a miracle.
Continue reading

RADIO INT: ACJP Members Blanca Bosquez and Mary Rosas Speak Out for Prop.36 and Why 3 Strikes Needs Reform

Blanca Bosquez

Listen to the radio interview of ACJP members Blanca Bosquez and Mary Rosas as they join Dr. Elsa Chen, as they discuss the merits of Prop.36, and why Three Strikes Law is in dire need for reform on “A Meeting of the Ways”, hosted and produced by Diane Solomon on KKUP 91.5fm. Rosas’s brother is currently doing a life sentence due to Three Strikes.

LISTEN TO THE RADIO INTERVIEW: Yes on Prop.36 Interview with ACJP members Blanca Bosquez, Mary Rosas, and Dr. Elsa Chen on Prop.36

East Palo Alto City Council Passes Resolution Against Juvenile Detainer Requests

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, the East Palo Alto City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to urge the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Probation Chief Stu Forrest from referring youth to federal immigration officials.  San Mateo County continues to be one of the highest referring counties in California to ICE, even after the Department changed their policy in January 2012 after discovering they were referring youth under the jurisdiction of an outdated law.  De-Bug’s ACJP has been part of the San Mateo County Coalition for Immigrant Rights that continues to assert that all youth, regardless of their citizenship status, should be rehabilitated — and that the threat of deportation should not be in anyone’s pocket as a potential for punishment.  Our youngest ACJP member, a 14 year old from Redwood City, experienced 42 days in immigration detention before being reunified with his parents.  He is still fighting his deportation case, but the lapse in services has impacted him tremendously — as now he has to also deal with the trauma of being separated 3,000 miles away from his family.  We applaud the EPA City Council for standing with this young man and sending a message that an entire community has his back.  — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

To read the resolution, click the image below….

Families Can Transform the Courts: Mom Attends First ACJP When Son is Detained, Son Attends First ACJP When He is Released

Rosie and her daughter Denise first came to our ACJP meeting at East Valley Pentacostal Church when Rosie’s son, and Denise’s brother, David was facing a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. The private attorney the family hired said the best possible resolution of the case would be for him to accept a plea deal of 7 to Life. Denise was fighting cancer, and before David was detained he was the main person helping Denise — taking her to doctor appointments, getting medications,and her other daily needs. Despite their medical issues, Rosie and her daughter would come to ACJP meetings every week to see how they could help David fight for his freedom. David and his family stayed united, removed the attorney, and got appointed an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office, and worked with that attorney to advocate for David. David was home with his family within a couple months. Above, on the left, is a picture of Rosie and Denise at their first ACJP meeting, sharing David’s story. On the right is a picture of David who came to his first ACJP mtg, just two days after his release.

SF Youth Leader Released After Community Takes Public Stance Against Wrongful Prosecution

De-Bug’s ACJP joined up with family, friends, and supporters of Elvira Zayas — a young community leader in San Francisco to challenge her unjustified incarceration. While she is still fighting a misdemeanor offense, she is out of custody and back home after shedding fabricated felony offenses through the pre-lim exam. Check out the photos chronicling the emotional victory for family and loved ones who have fought for the release of Elvira for the last 3 weeks. Arrested on charges that were up to 10 years max, Zayas was released on Tuesday night at 9:30pm and reunited with family and community yesterday. Photos are taken by Elvira’s older brother Alex Zayas and Jean Melesaine. (Click image to see rest of photo essay.)