you shouldn't be reading this. i whoudln't be writing this. computer use damages the eyes. at least mine. no more updates till i hea;l.
After LA Progressive posted my piece, a comment came in from someone with a firsthand account of seeing Cal Remington in action--a perspective that goes beyond sound bites:
Armando Vazquez says:
March 19, 2010 at 8:19 pm My name is Armando Vazquez an I am the Executive Directors of the KEYS Leadership Academy, a highly successful multifaceted program for at-promise youth and their families in Oxnard, Ventura County. I had plenty of run ins with Mr. Cal Remington when he ran the Ventura county probation department, I know his MO; smooth , smiles and keeps putting our kids in jail.So it is highly suspect and disingenuous when he talks about keeping kids in the community and out of jail, when he was one of the principals architects in instituting three civil gang in our community. He was a major driving force behind the building of a huge juvenile jail facility in our community, he put guns in the hands of PO, and he scoffed at collaboration with community based organization. Mr. Remington, like so many of law and order, tough on crime yolk, are an old breed of regressive law and order men,that do exceptional harm in communities. LA city council, as we say in the hood, trocha with Cal.
Michael and Maritza of the Youth Justice Coalition spoke up beautifully last night at a meeting with the interim Acting Chief of the Probation Department. Here's what I wrote for LA Progressive:
LA Youth vs. the Probation Department: Who Is More in Need of Intervention?
When kids get in trouble, it's better to provide community-based services than lock them up in one of the county's expensive and scandal-ridden juvenile halls or probation camps. Everyone seemed to agree on that, including Cal Remington, interim Acting Chief of the LA County Probation Department, at a public meeting called by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Empowerment Congress on Wednesday night at the supervisor's Exposition Park offices.
Problems in the department--the largest probation department in the world--are well known. Probation, with its $700-million budget, is monitored by the Department of Justice and sued by the ACLU. Young people are incarcerated for offenses no more serious than truancy and curfew violations. Probation officers known for physically abusing youth in their care remain on the job. The department releases illiterate minors--high school degrees in hand--who've been deprived of any meaningful education while locked up. It incarcerates a disproportionate number of Black and Latino youth. It fails to assess and treat the mental illnesses that contribute to the trouble kids get into and fails to coordinate with the Department of Mental Health or take sufficient advantage of the funding provided for mental health services by Proposition 63. It releases young people with no support for their re-entry into the community, often without such basics as a Social Security card, school transcript, or other documents they will need to move on with their lives.
Remington came out of retirement after the former chief retired (or was encouraged to do so). He's in charge only until April 19 when Donald Blevins comes on board, and he pledged to take the first steps of setting new priorities and a new vision for the department.
Ralph Miller, president of Local 685 of the Probation Officers union, expressed frustration. "These are all reforms that probation officers were seeking years ago. In 1981 we went out on strike -- not for money but for services. So what happened? In 1982, the Board of Supervisors decided that you don't need any aftercare or mental health treatment or parenting or individualized education. They dropped the requirement that probation officers have a college degree and they cut the pay."
Ridley-Thomas pointed out that he's a single vote on the Board of Supervisors and some other supervisors don't believe in intervention and re-entry strategies but default to the traditional strategies of enforcement and incarceration. (Suggested action: Contact your Supervisor!)
There are other obstacles to reform, such as a district attorney's office that consistently demands the harshest treatment.
Remington explained, "By law, if a minor is brought to us by law enforcement, we take that minor, but we don't have to put that minor into the system. The judges don't want to put them all into custody either," but he noted, if there's no program in the community, judges, too, will default to incarceration.
So how do we get more community programs? Where is the money to come from?
Michael (who didn't want to give his last name) spoke on behalf of the Youth Justice Coalition and asked Chief Remington if he would support the group's 1% campaign, redirecting a mere 1% of his budget to intervention, youth employment, re-entry and other services. In other words, use existing money to accomplish exactly what everyone claims to want.
Remington looked taken aback: "That's a lot of money," he said.
"Send us your documents," said Ridley-Thomas. "We'll take a look at them."
Maritza Galvez, also of the Coalition, asked if Remington would support State Senator Leland Yee's S.B. 399 which would allow for the possibility of parole hearings in a limited number of cases in which a juvenile was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. (A bill which, incidentally, has been watered down and watered down in an attempt to get votes from our elected representatives who may or may not be afraid of kids but are terrified of being seen as soft on crime. Soft? No country other than the United States permits such a draconian sentence for minors.)
"There's nothing more expensive than a child's life," said a former probation officer, impatient after hearing more talk about money. "I left the department because I didn't think it was designed to help children."
The money exists. Remington has the right vision. But do we have the political will to change the design?
I was lucky enough to see a rough cut of City Island last year and can't wait to be in the audience this weekend. (in LA - Landmark Theater at Westside Pavilion).
Andy Garcia plays a prison guard with two secrets -- but this is not the kind of disturbing prison and parole story you're used to reading on this blog. Quite the opposite!
The film is written and directed by Raymond De Felitta and also stars Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Alan Arkin, and Emily Mortimer.
What a gorgeous novel! Many thanks to Cynthia Newberry Martin for recommending it. (And given her excellent taste in fiction, you should check out her literary blog.)
Alexander Chee does what seems impossible.
How do you put music into words? He does it, evoking the sensation of singing. In this case, singing a solo for the choir director who is a molester:
Right inside my chest a space open. He brings to his mouth a mouth harp, and he whistle a tone for me to being on. The tone opens in my chest, rolls over in language, opens my mouth. All along, I thought I was the one singing. I am not. He sings through me. He opens his mouth and I sing. My mouth is his.
Full Fathom Five my father lies...
At the entrance of the choir, as they surround me, I feel myself return. For the moment I was alone, I was gone. I vanished. I kept singing, though, for here I am, a song again.
He conveys infatuation and falling in love in ways I've never read before. Here, the narrator talks about his closest childhood friend:
He walks and I feel the air come off him toward me, wherever we are. His sounds reach me where I am, not the only sounds I can hear, but the first ones: they trample all the others....What do you want of him, I ask myself. I tell myself, to walk inside him and never leave. For him to be the house of me.
Chee's novel reads like a poem. His novel reads like myth.
We no longer live in villages where everyone shares the same culture. So where can our myths come from? Irrational though the content may be, they seem to be essential to our spirit. Chee refers to Greek myth and Korean folktale and science--which may be one of our contemporary myths to explain origins, but he goes further. He creates what I call a psychic landscape. (Something Amy Hempel also does so well in her story "Tom-Rock through the Eels" from At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom.) He doesn't use symbols. There's no Two=2 or Red Rose=Love. Nothing you can directly substitute for meaning. Instead, he creates a web of associations, constellations of meaning. Stars, sky, birds, foxes, tunnels, water, roses and more--these recur and shift shapes throughout the narrative. I think this is how contemporary artists re-create the mythical consciousness that we no longer have to ground us in the universe.
This is a disturbing book and an extraordinarily beautiful one.
Deborah Osborne is the president of Police Futurists International and a crime analyst with the Buffalo PD. I was amazed to see her blog where she writes:
In the book Words Overflown by Stars, creative writing teacher Diane Lefer uses terms in her essay "Breaking the 'Rules' of Story Structure" that could be applied to crime and intelligence analysis.
If you want to read her analysis of how my ideas apply to policing and intelligence, check it out: Analyst's Corner for March 8th.
So here I am addressing criminal justice issues while someone who is truly an expert in the field is looking to my work as a teacher of creative writing for fresh approaches. Weird! And kind of wonderful to think my essay came into the hands of someone with these credentials: Debbie received a BA in Psychology and an MA in Social Policy with a criminal justice emphasis from Empire State College, SUNY. Her book Out of Bounds: Innovation and Change in Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis was based on a study conducted during her remote fellowship with the Center for Strategic Intelligence Research, Joint Military Intelligence College (now the National Defense Intelligence College). She is a member of the Global Task Force for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN), the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE), the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA), and the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA). She is also on the Counterterrorism Advisory Board of the Lifeboat Foundation and an Associate of the Proteus Management Group.
I will definitely read up on the Police Futurists. I'll bet I can learn from them.
In front of LA Superior Court on Temple Street with the Youth Justice Coalition. I'll write more about the Compton Ten soon.
Photos by Cynthia Foster
Leslie Neale just let me know Duc has been granted a new parole hearing, scheduled for April 7th at 1:30 PM. Holding my breath!
It was great news to receive just as I returned home from the Youth Justice Coalition street theatre in front of Los Angeles Superior Court, drawing attention to extreme sentences (including life without parole) handed down to children.
Here's the wonderful Syeta during rehearsal. She makes a great judge.
This is the sort of Supreme Court justice we got when the Senate chose to play He said/She said about pubic hair on Coke cans instead of investigating Thomas' qualifications (or lack thereof) to be a judge and the ideology-driven defects in what passes for "thinking" in his angry partisan brain.
See this in the LA Times this morning:
Here's the opening:
Torture memos resemble Clarence Thomas' way of thinking
The Supreme Court justice has a history of dismissing prisoner brutality. And it's his former law clerk who was investigated for authorizing harsh interrogation tactics as a Justice Department lawyer.
By David G. Savage
March 7, 2010
Reporting from Washington
According to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a prisoner who was slammed to a concrete floor and punched and kicked by a guard after asking for a grievance form -- but suffered neither serious nor permanent harm -- has no claim that his constitutional rights were violated.
Thomas objected when the high court, in a little-noted recent opinion, said this unprovoked and malicious assault by a North Carolina prison guard amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
The court's decision came a few days after Thomas' now-famous former law clerk John C. Yoo was charged with flawed reasoning, but not professional misconduct, as a Justice Department lawyer when he applied much the same view toward the treatment of Al Qaeda prisoners.
I'm off to the Awaken Your Imagination workshop (to the dismay of the cat who wishes I were around more these days) but first saw this in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/06/opinion/06herbert.html?hpw
The city gets sued (and loses) over the way school safety officers and cops treat kids in school. This is the second article I've linked to in a week or two. The NY times is doing its job. Why isn't the Los Angeles Times covering the abuse of our kids? It's not a New York City problem. It's here too, big time.