How My First Felony Leads Me To My First Time Voting (By Steeda McGruder)


Steeda McGruder shares her testimony at a Yes on Prop 47 event with labor and youth advocates.

My first charge as an adolescent was a petty theft. When I think back 19 years ago my reasons for my actions seem so juvenile — peer pressure, lack of adult influence in my life and simply boredom growing up in a small town population 26,000 and a huge drug scene. A petty theft was simply entertainment to young people back in those days. When I turned 18, I was super excited to have shook the juvenile system. I had many great plans and ideas of what my life would be like now that I was free from the juvenile system. I guess you could say I had hope for my future, but to my surprise shortly after I turned 18 I was incarcerated for another petty theft.

My behaviors had never been addressed, just pushed aside. I had time to serve, but never the support or tools needed to be truly corrected. I’m sure you can imagine at the age of 18, my ideas about life are completely different than at the age of 12, especially being a single mom at the age of 18. Life showed up, and when it did, I behaved in a way that screamed “just survive.” Continue reading

Returning To Life From Life: A Daughter’s Journey To Freeing Her Mother From Prison

Check out this moving video made by De-Bug’s Jean Melesaine on Lisa Carter, the first woman in Santa Clara County who won her release from a life sentence due to Proposition 36.  Judge Deborah Ryan granted Lisa release after serving 18 years in prison for a $150 shoplifting charge (her 3rd strike), with the tremendous support from her family, friends, community, and public defender. This video will be part of the Time Saved series, chronicling stories of families bringing loved ones home from incarceration.

California’s Goal to Reduce Prison Populations Hinges on Counties’ Plans

By Raj Jayadev

Santa Clara County Main Jail

Through a recent piece of legislation called AB109 that mandates a reduction in the prison inmate population, California counties are being given a rare, historic opportunity to re-imagine its public safety framework in a way that can dramatically strengthen our communities, unite our families, and rebuild the economy of our resource depleted state.

Or, we can just fill up our local jails with people who would have filled up our state prisons.

What path we take in the state’s fork in the road moment will be based on how counties envision, strategize, and act over the next two months, as counties need to submit their plan for what is being called “realignment” on October 1st, 2011. And as much as I hate to use a Silicon Valley catch phrase – Santa Clara County, as well as every California county, can shift the paradigm of our criminal justice system if we allow our more rationale thinking to prevail over the impulse to do more of the same in terms of incarceration. Continue reading

Mercury News: Sentencing reform should be a conservative priority

In an editorial written for the Mercury News, Pat Nolan, a former Republican Leader of the California Assembly member, makes the case for why prison reduction makes sense across the political spectrum….

Prison in Tracy, California

At long last, California will have to deal with our bulging prisons, where 140,000 inmates are crammed into facilities designed to hold 80,000. The Supreme Court found conditions that are profoundly troubling, and these prison conditions could turn a short sentence for a nonviolent offense into a death sentence because of inadequate medical care.

Certainly our prisons hold many folks who are very dangerous and need to be locked away from society, even for the rest of their lives. However, we also send many low-risk offenders to prison. As a conservative Republican, that makes no sense to me, as it is very costly and can sometimes turn low-level offenders into hardened criminals. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: Santa Clara County Prepares for Influx of Inmates Into Jails

The not so good news: WSJ reports that Santa Clara County sends more people to prison than any other Bay Area County. The good news: Our County is going through a process to relieve ourselves of that distinction, and other counties from across the state are watching to see how transformative we can be in our local criminal justice strategies, particularly over the next couple months…

Santa Clara County officials hope county-run services such as this San Jose support group aimed primarily at women on probation will reduce the likelihood that participants will wind up incarcerated.

Bobby White, August 4, 2011

Santa Clara County is hastily drawing up plans to accommodate about 3,000 new inmates and parolees slated to move to county supervision from the state’s control this fall under a major shake-up of the California prison system.

Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed into law a bill that calls for jailing offenders who commit low-level crimes in county lockups instead of state prisons. The law, which also requires counties, rather than the state, to supervise newly released low-level inmates, was prodded by a Supreme Court ruling in May ordering California to sharply reduce prison overcrowding.

While all California counties face the mandate starting in October, Santa Clara sends more inmates to the state prison system than the Bay Area’s other counties—and thus will see more inmates move to its jurisdiction from the state. The shift means Santa Clara will now play a far larger role in housing and supervising offenders. Continue reading

San Francisco Chronicle: Two strikes have large impact on prison population — Expensive to incarcerate state’s repeat offenders

California is currently going through a Supreme Court mandated process to reduce its prison population, but experts ask whether they are looking at the most burdensome sentencing schemes, and the most bloated inmate populations, like two strikers…

July 31, 2011| By Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer

Jeff Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender

California’s “three strikes” law is best known for locking up career criminals for life, but the vast majority of offenders serving prison time under the sentencing mandate were actually charged under the less-noticed second-strike provision.

These 32,390 inmates are serving sentences that were doubled as a strike-two penalty, and they account for nearly 20 percent of the state’s prison population. Yet most efforts to reform the law have focused exclusively on the third-strike provision, which carries with it a mandatory 25 years-to-life sentence.

As prison costs in California continue to grow, and the state faces a Supreme Court order to reduce its inmate population by more than 30,000 over the next two years, the tens of thousands of second-strikers appear to pose a bigger challenge to state officials attempting to rein in prison costs than the 8,700 people serving time for a third strike. Continue reading

California Prison Overhaul: Justice Best Administered Local

Our friend David Muhammad, now the Chief Probation Officer for Alameda County, shares his vision on why prison reduction is both possible, and can strengthen public safety in the following editorial written for New America Media.

OAKLAND, Calif.–California is on the brink of a massive overhaul of its criminal justice system. The changes could become a model for the United States–or could be a disaster.California is in a budget crisis, and spending on corrections not only drains billions of dollars every year from the state, but yields horrible outcomes. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the state to end the unconstitutional practice of overcrowding its prisons.

At the same time the state is facing extreme challenges, though, it is being given enormous opportunities.There are more than 140,000 inmates in a prison system designed to hold 80,000. And California has sent another 10,000 or more inmates to be held at facilities in other states.

Continue reading…

Mercury News: Fiscal and prison overcrowding crises could lead to Three-Strikes reform

From almost the day California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was approved by voters in 1994, opponents have tried and failed to repeal or amend the politically popular measure.

Now, huge budget deficits and overcrowded prisons have given opponents of the Three Strikes Law a more attractive argument for why it should be changed: California is broke and can’t afford such an expensive approach to criminal justice anymore.

By focusing on the costs of housing long-term prisoners and on the state’s need to reduce its inmate population, opponents said they believe a ballot measure amending the law, promised for 2012, has its best chance of success since Three Strikes was enacted. Continue Reading…