San Jose Mercury News: California Prop. 36: Families of some three-strikers hope for early release or shorter sentences

On Tuesday, November 6th, California voters approved Prop 36, a ballot measure that would reform the Three Strikes Law of 1994. An estimated 3,000 convicted felons serving life sentences for a third strike that was a non-violent crime could now apply to the courts for resentencing. ACJP families are elated at the news knowing that some of their family members could qualify.  Lily, whose son Darryl has been serving a life sentence, is ecstatic, and said her son had been anxious about these elections.  He had received a letter notifying him that he was eligible for the Prop 36 reforms. In many ways, California has been the trendsetter in the nation when it comes to excessive sentencing.  We hope the passage of Prop 36 signals another trend — away from these extremely harsh laws and more humane criminal justice policies. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

California Prop. 36: Families of some three-strikers hope for early release or shorter sentences

By Tracey Kaplan
tkaplan@mercurynews.com

SAN JOSE — Cashier Debbie Curry woke up Wednesday to find California voters had given her a priceless gift: hope.

By an overwhelming margin, they’d passed Proposition 36 to revise the state’s tough Three Strikes Law.

The new law prohibits judges from imposing a life sentence on most repeat offenders who commit minor crimes. But it also includes a provision that could result in an early release or shorter sentence for Curry’s husband — and up to 3,000 inmates like him who were sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent, relatively minor crimes like stealing a credit card.
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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.)

 

Wall Street Journal: Jail Shift Makes Waves in California

In a Wall Street Journal article, written by Vauhini Vara, on the impact of realignment on local county jails statewide and on the individuals that inhabit them, it is made clear that community input and local political pressure is helping shape how the criminal justice system is adjusting to the changes. One expert calls it “justice by geography.”  This article is a reminder that ACJP public advocacy for alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders truly can and does make a difference. The people of Kern county need an ACJP in a big way! — Post submission by Aram James

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.—Under a court order to ease overcrowding in state prisons, California moved last year to divert thousands of lower-level offenders to local jails. Now the fallout from that shift is reverberating through several sections of the state, including this area north of Los Angeles.

In Kern County, Sheriff Donny Youngblood’s jail was so near capacity this spring that he had to release hundreds of inmates—monitoring them with electronic devices or assigning them to do supervised labor such as working as janitors. Read more>>>

Palo Alto Weekly: When Sentencing Young Lawbreakers, Race Matters, Study Funds

Thought provoking study by Stanford University’s Department of Psychology that found that when people were told that a juvenile defendant was Black, the consequences for the crime were harsher than if the juvenile defendant was White.  More than just proving that racial prejudice exists, the authors of the study worry about the implications of these results on the actual protections for juveniles under a system that is supposed to be considered rehabilitative.  At ACJP, we’ve seen this not just in the sentencing phase of a case but even at the charging stage.  We hope that this leads to a broader discussion of racism and the juvenile justice system. To read the full report, click here.  — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

When sentencing young lawbreakers, race matters, study finds

Public favors harsher punishments when criminals are black, researchers say
by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly, 6/2/2012

People’s opinions on whether youth who break the law should be sentenced as adults vary significantly when a single word — black or white — is used to describe the defendant, a new study by Stanford University’s Department of Psychology has found.
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Man freed on bond but must write book reports// sfgate.com

Working with people within the criminal justice system, I have seen more and more made up sentences like the one depicted below. Sometimes for the better sometimes for the worst. But thats just my opinion. Please leave comments to let me know what you think. – Post submission by Cesar Flores

 

Richmond California

A man charged in an undercover sting operation in Northern California that ended in gunfire has been ordered released on bond on the condition that he read and write book reports.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers allowed 23-year-old Otis Mobley to be freed Monday, although she delayed an order to allow prosecutors to appeal her decision.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that under the bond order, Mobley would be required to spend an hour reading and a half hour writing each day as he awaits trial on robbery and assault charges.

Mobley and two others are accused of arranging to sell a grenade launcher for $1,000 to an undercover federal agent in Richmond, Calif. Hutcherson was shot and wounded by agents during the alleged meeting.

 

Colorlines: The Criminal Cost of Talking to a Loved One Behind Bars

For many of our loved ones who are jailed or incarcerated, being able to make a phone call is a precious way to be able to keep connected, to fight loneliness, and to be reassured that you are not alone as you fight your charges.  Private companies that oversee the prison phone calls, however, capitalize on this and charge ridiculously high amounts for this connection, with rates for a 15 minute phone call as expensive as $10.95.  42 states in the nation actually receive a commission out of these calls as well.  This week, the Center for Media Justice, along with Prison Legal News and Working Narratives, launched an effort to get prison phone rates onto the FCC’s legislative to-do list.  Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

The Criminal Cost of Talking to a Loved One Behind Bars

Story By Leticia Miranda
Art by Hatty Lee
May 14, 2012
Colorlines

When Martha Wright’s grandson was moved to a prison outside of her hometown of Washington, DC., she didn’t expect that a short 5-minute conversation with him could cost up to $18.

“You just have to get everything out in one line,” she laughs.

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Bump California death penalty measure from November ballot, group says: Mercury News

Controversy on whether we should keep or be done with the death penalty within California. Where Do you side? -Post submission by Cesar Flores

A law-and-order group on Monday asked a state appeals court to bump a measure off the November ballot that would repeal California’s death penalty, arguing that it violates a state rule against proposing multiple reforms.

The ballot language is “deceptive” and conflicts with the state’s limit of voter initiatives to a single subject, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation argues in a petition filed with the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal.

The foundation brought the lawsuit on behalf of Phyllis Loya, the mother of a Pittsburg police officer fatally shot in 2005 whose killer was sent to death row by a Contra Costa County jury.

The SAFE California Act would abolish the death penalty, clear the state’s death row and replace capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the measure also provides for shifting as much as $100 million used for death penalty costs to a fund that would pay for solving murder and rape cases. Continue reading

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Vote to Build New Jail

Last Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to spend approximately $155 million to build a new jail in the county.  Proposed by Sheriff Greg Munks, the construction of a new jail is supposed to relieve overcrowding in the current jail, create space for a women’s facility, and address the potential overflow as a result of AB109, the California realignment plan that makes counties deal with low-level offenders.

Instead of addressing why there are high incarceration rates to begin with, the County chose to just figure out how to house the growing population.  Community advocates such as All of Us Or None led by Dorsey Nunn, Critical Resistance, and Youth United for Community Action in East Palo Alto showed up at the Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday to state their opposition to the jail, saying the money put towards the jail only takes away from community services. “This is a jail for future generations,” Dorsey said. “Not only will they take our sons and daughters, but our grandkids.”

YUCA, a youth organization in East Palo Alto committed to environmental and social justice, first got involved about 2 years ago when the jail was being proposed to be built in East Palo Alto.  They collected over 400 petitions and got the City to declare their opposition to the jail construction in the community.  However, regardless of where the jail was in the county, YUCA youth were also opposed to the idea.  Anna Turner, a longtime resident in the community and is a Program Director at YUCA, attended the Board meeting as well.  “We should be spending the money on preventative measures, targeting the root cause of crime, not just locking people up.  Plus, we don’t want this jail to target undocumented people as well.”  YUCA and community advocates are looking to challenge the county’s decision.

At De-Bug’s ACJP, we’ve seen incarceration be too easy of an answer for San Mateo County.  We have seen some of the harshest sentences imposed on San Mateo County defendants, and on the front end, some of the most extreme charges placed on people that will almost always guarantee a plea bargain.  Compounded by this is ICE’s Secure Communities Program that has entangled immigration and criminal justice laws, and turned every police officer into an ICE agent.  We have seen immigrants with ICE holds beat their charges, have their charges dismissed or dropped, or could have been eligible for drug programs like Prop 36 but because of their ICE holds have been sent away to federal detention facilities.  

We feel that this decision to build a jail is counter to what seems like a regional trend of dealing with criminal justice issues in a more holistic and progressive way.  We hope the county rethinks this decision, and takes a more courageous, creative, and cost-effective stance to deal with the criminal justice system. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo