Below is an op-ed authored by a powerful collective of civic leaders in Santa Clara County that just appeared in the Mercury News. We thank Supervisor Dave Cortese, Public Defender Molly O’Neal and Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium Cynthia Hunter for courageously standing up to protect our policy.
We are asking folks to please share and add your support through online comments. Please know that when it comes to immigration issues, those who want to change the policy will be likely very active on the comment box. One approach is to accept that, and pay it no mind, but if you would like to engage on behalf of the beliefs espouse by the op-ed, please do. We have to let our leaders know they are supported by the public when they champion our positions. Thank you!
You can also email the Board of Supervisors to let them know to keep Santa Clara County’s Immigrant Detainer policy as is!
Mike Wasserman firstname.lastname@example.org
George Shirakawa email@example.com
Dave Cortese firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Yeager email@example.com
Joe Simitian firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Cortese, Molly O’Neal and Cynthia Hunter: Santa Clara County should keep current immigration policy
There is nothing more valuable to public safety than community trust in local law enforcement because it establishes residents’ willingness to report crimes and to cooperate with police. But that trust will break down immeasurably in immigrant communities if residents face the debilitating fear of potential deportation. Continue reading
Mary (left) and her mother review paperwork to bring her brother home.
(Post by Raj Jayadev)
Mary came to the first Sunday ACJP meeting after the election with a new look in her eye, and sat with a calm yet ready presence of revitalized hope. Mary’s brother has been in the state prison system for nearly 20 years for a non-violent crime due to the Three Strikes Law. Prior to the passage of Proposition 36, Mary had been attending De-Bug’s ACJP meetings, regularly working with other families to try to find a pathway to bring him home. They explored the appellate process, poured over all of his paperwork, and called attorneys from numerous counties to find some avenue of relief. The odds seemed stacked against them, but Mary and her family maintained a hope in something that transcended the limits of probability, and turned a deaf ear on those who said to just give up.
A few months ago, one of ACJP’s lead facilitators, Blanca, started to talk to Mary about a proposition that was going to be on the ballot that could be the vehicle she had been praying for. That proposition, Proposition 36, would allow California voters to amend the Three Strikes Law so that the third offense would have to be a serious violent crime for it to result in a life sentence. And the change would work retroactively, meaning those who had been serving a life sentence due to Three Strikes would be able to get re-sentenced without the limited imposition of a life sentence. In short, some families, like Mary’s, who had been told they would only be able to see their loved ones in prison visits, would be able to bring them home. Continue reading
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
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.
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!
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.
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.)
At a forum ACJP//De-Bug held at the end of last year, as Santa Clara County imagined the best ways to build a realignment strategy that reduces recidivism, Steeda McGruder gave her testimony as an offering of hope to a crowd of community members, elected officials and public safety officials. She shared a vision of peer mentorship built from ideas she developed while she was incarcerated. She called her dream “Sisters That Been There.” She made her dream real, and now Sisters That Been There has become a unique blueprint of redemption, re-invention and tangible impact. Check out the Mercury News profile of her success story!
For a Santa Clara County contract employee, Steeda McGruder doesn’t exactly have a pristine résumé:
Occupation: Drug dealer/user, thief
Work history: In and out of custody for past 17 years
Attitude during last jail stint: Angry, suicidal, high-risk (allowed out of maximum-security cell only every 48 hours to shower)
So why has the probation department eagerly put her on its payroll at $400 a week?
Because officials believe her criminal record, powerful rap and magnetic personality make McGruder the ideal person to run a support group for recently released repeat female offenders called “Sisters That Been There.” Continue reading
Very informative piece about the ever increasing hurdle for those who are challenging their wrongful convictions. Also, it comes from a very good blog called Wrongful Convictions Blog. Thanks to our friends at the Innocence Project for sending this along!
Many post-conviction innocence cases rely upon the discovery of new evidence to support a claim of actual innocence. But to be admissible in the case, the new evidence must meet the prevailing legal standard for admissibility.
In Ohio, this standard is called the Petro standard, because it resulted from the case of Ohio vs. Petro in 1947. OH vs. Petro Most states use some version of this standard. There are six prongs to the standard: Continue reading
Congrats to another ACJP family! Charge beat after questionable investigation exposed. Took this photo yesterday at our Sunday meeting. The text reads, “evidence is suppressed.” The family came regularly to meetings, stood strong together, and stayed in constant communication with the various public defenders who represented the young woman through the arraignment, pre-lim hearings, early resolution hearing, and preliminary examination. The suppression of evidence was based on a motion filed by the attorney, who was responding to the family’s recommendation that the attorney file a motion based in their review of the police reports.
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>>>