This just in from our friends at Friends Committee on Legislation California:
March 26. KEEP YOUR OPPOSITION LETTERS GOING!!!
- California Families of Prisoners in CDCr…take action NOW! (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
This just in from our friends at Friends Committee on Legislation California:
March 26. KEEP YOUR OPPOSITION LETTERS GOING!!!
The info below will have an effect on every prisoner and family member in a CA prison. Restitution will go up to 80% if this bill (AB 423) succeeds…please write letters NOW!!!
It’s URGENT!!! Please send a letter of opposition to:
Assembly Member Tom Ammiano
Chair, Assembly Member Public Safety Committee
Fax: (916) 319-3745
You can base your letter on the one below…..
Letters must be received by 5 pm Wednesday, 3/27.
It’s important that as many people as possible are aware of this bill.
Forward to other groups and individuals.
Attached is a copy of FCLCA’s opposition letter to Assembly Member Norma Torres and Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair) concerning the proposed increase in withholding from prisoners’ trust accounts to 80 percent. The bill also contains a seemingly mean spirited (my editorial comment only) provision to delete the exemption of trust account funds for food purchases for overnight visits.
AB 109 – realignment of prisoners with low-level convictions to the counties – authorized counties to collect restitution, but did not mandate it. So, this has created a monkey wrench for the Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board.
Another key fact: In 2009, the legislature took $70 million from the Victims Compensation Fund to help balance the state’s budget. It wasn’t a loan – they just took it.
Despite these developments, the fund is solvent for the next 3-4 years, according to Wayne Strumpfer, legal counsel for the VCGB.
THE FRIENDS COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION OF CALIFORNIA (FCLCA) IS A LEGISLATIVE ACTION GROUP FOUNDED BY QUAKERS IN 1952.
March 23, 2013
Assembly Member Norma Torres
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Assembly Bill 423
OPPOSE SB 423
Dear Assembly Member Torres,
The Friends Committee on Legislation of California (FCLCA), a Quaker -based, statewide lobby
which advocates for state laws that are compassionate and respectful of the inherent worth of
every person, regrets to inform you of our opposition to AB 423. This bill requires the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to withhold 80 percent of prisoners and
Department of Juvenile Justice Wards’ trust accounts and/or wages for transfer to the Victims
Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGB) in order to satisfy a restitution order or
fine and deletes the exemption of funds for the purchase of food from prison canteens for
FCLCA believes we should do more to restore the victims of crime and understands the
importance of restitution. However, 75 percent of the monies in prisoner’s trust accounts
comes from contributions from family members of the incarcerated who send in money so that
their loved ones may make purchases from prison canteens. An 80 percent withholding rate is
excessive. When coupled with CDCR’s five percent processing fee, a prisoner whose father
sends $100 dollars to his trust account would receive only $15. Families of the incarcerated,
who have committed no crime, comprise some of California’s most economically distressed
We are also skeptical of the provision deleting the exemption of funds for the purchase of food for overnight visits. Only prisoners who have a parole date may have overnight visits. While the amount of money of collected for restitution by deleting this exemption seems likely to have very little impact on the solvency of the Victims Compensation Fund, the impact borne by prisoners and their families would be significant.
We understand that realigning a significant portion of California’s prison population has created
challenges with regards to collecting restitution. Moreover, in 2009, the Legislature took away
$70 million from the Victims Compensation Fund in order to help balance the state’s budget. A
2008 audit of VCGCB by the Bureau of State Audits also pointed to its increasingly high
overhead even when its payouts declined. Despite these long terms
challenges, we also understand that the Victims Compensation Fund is solvent for the next three to four years.
Prison canteens help ameliorate prison life and lower stress levels within prisons. As a result
they promote safety for prisoners and staff alike. Rather than imposing an excessive “tax” on
the family members of the incarcerated, we urge the Legislature to consider how we might
better extend the collection of restitution to prisoners realigned by AB 109 and other
reasonable ways to make the fund solvent over the long run.
For these reasons, FCLCA respectively opposes AB 423.
We hope to discuss this bill with your office next week. In the meantime, please feel free tocontact our office if you would like to
discuss our position.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Hudyma Natallia
In 2003, former U.S. Navy Corpsman Jeremy Usher returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to suffer from flashbacks of combat and a variety of mental health issues, including nightmares and insomnia, panic attacks, and depression. Thanks to medical marijuana, he is doing better, but is now facing jail time for choosing a medication the federal government refuses to legitimize.
A combat medic, Usher was on the back of a helicopter sent to rescue wounded marines when he was shot in the head, causing brain damage and memory loss and leaving him with a stutter. When he walked out of a treatment at a San Diego hospital, he was still not well, and according to the Greeley Tribune, “suffered form extreme paranoia as he wandered San Diego, constantly spinning around while walking to make sure no one was sneaking up on him.”
According to the the Greeley Tribune, Usher then began self-medicating with alcohol, marking the beginnings of his criminal record. He is currently serving probation in Colorado for his second and third DUIs. Usher says he is cleaning up in his act in counseling and school, but is facing jail time for violating probation by treating his PTSD with medical marijuana nonetheless. For failing dozens of drug tests, he could do 29 days in jail.
Usher told the Greeley Tribune he feels like he is “being punished for being a little different” and “not understanding why.” His doctors have written letters to the court explaining that medical marijuana and Marinol pills have helped treat his PTSD, and they recommend he stay on it. Nonetheless, America‘s draconian drug policy is now threatening to send a traumatized veteran to jail, where he worries his progress could begin to reverse
Surely, living without medication in jail, where the environment is often unpredictable and violent, is not beneficial to a PTSD sufferer’s mental health. Moreover, if Usher is abstaining from drinking and using medical marijuana to treat the PTSD that caused his self-medication and run-ins with the law in the first place, identifying the public safety threat that might justify his incarceration is difficult, to say the least.
Usher maintains hope that he will be allowed to continue his medication, but also wants to prevent the same consequences for other veterans.
“I want to raise enough awareness so that this doesn’t happen to guys coming out of there,” Jeremy told the Greeley Tribune.
“I’m never going to be free of the flashes of the memories; I’m stuck with those for life. What I’m able to do is manage those in an appropriate manner, without just going out and cracking open a bottle.”
In a federal brief filed Friday, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso argued that prison overcrowding in California is continuing to have a negative effect on health care. The brief included charts that show that prisons with the lowest medical care scores have average populations that are 55% above designed capacity, while prisons with the best medical scores have average populations that are 34% above capacity.
By Paige St. John
The federal receiver in charge of state prison healthcare has offered judges his own take on why crowding continues to be an issue.
In a federal brief filed Friday, J. Clark Kelso presented charts showing that prisons receiving the lowest scores in medical care from his office have average populations that are 55% above their designed capacity. Conversely, those with the best medical care scores averaged populations that were 34% over capacity.
“These numbers make it clear that overcrowding is still having a direct impact upon the ability to deliver quality healthcare,” Kelso wrote.
His renewed opposition to California’s quest for an end to prison population caps comes in response to the state’s own objections that Kelso had included such opinions in his prison medical care status report to the courts.
California contends that even at current populations, with prisons holding on average 50% more inmates than they were designed for, the state is now delivering adequate medical and psychiatric care. A panel of three federal judges is hearing the state’s request for an end to population caps, and one of them is presiding over California’s motion to terminate court oversight of psychiatric care.
While it withdrew personal criticisms of the federal overseer in that case, the state renewed objections to the amount of money the special master’s law firm receives as long as the 17-year case remains alive. “Since 2007, the state has paid the special master and his team an average of $380,000 a month, for a total amount of approximately $23.5 million during that time,” Katherine Tebrock, chief deputy general counsel for the corrections department, wrote in her affidavit.
Via LA Times
Art via www.bradleymanning.org
America has a long history of treating the poor like criminals, from legislation banning the transportation of poor people across state lines to anti-vagrancy laws that could land you in jail if you didn’t have a job or a home. We’ve come to rely on the criminal justice system to deal with the poor, even as more and more Americans fall into poverty. The following is part of a series that looks at the diverse ways poverty is criminalized in America, such as laws targeting the homeless, the surveillance of welfare recipients, the re-emergence of debtor’s prisons, and extreme policing tactics like stop-and-frisk.
Kawana Young, a single mother of two kids, was arrested in Michigan after failing to pay money she owed as a result of minor traffic offenses. She was recently laid off from her job, and could not pay the fees she owed because she couldn’t find another source of employment. So a judge sentenced her to three days in jail. In addition, Young was charged additional fees for being booked and for room and board for a place she did not want to be. In total, she has been jailed five times for being unable to pay her debts.
“It doesn’t make sense to jail people when they can’t pay because they definitely can’t pay while they’re in jail,” said Young.Debtor prisons seem to belong in America’s past. But if you think the existence of prisons for people who can’t afford to pay their debts in the past, think again. Young’s ordeal, profiled in an American Civil Liberties Union report, began in 2005, after she was ticketed because she was driving without her license. It all came to a head in 2010, when Young was arrested because she did not pay off all of her debts from traffic violations. That arrest led to the judge ordering Young to jail due to her inability to pay off the money.
Prison time for poor people in debt remains something that is practiced throughout the United States, despite the fact that a 1983 Supreme Court decision ruled that a prisoner on probation who could not afford to pay his debts could not be thrown in jail for that reason. The practice of imprisoning people for debt is being fueled by the economic crash that has decimated state and city budgets. Debtor prisons are also on the rise thanks to the zeal of private companies that “file lawsuits against debtors and often fail to serve them with notice of court dates or intentionally serve them at incorrect addresses,” as the Brennan Center for Justice’s Inimai Chettiar noted. “When debtors do not show up, agencies procure arrest warrants from courts, leading to incarceration of the debtors. Bail is usually set at an amount equal to or higher than the original fees and fines they defendants couldn’t pay in the first place. All this has amounted to a return of debtors prisons.” A 2010 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lays out the breadth of this problem. Titled “In For a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtor Prisons,” the report examines how “day after day, indigent defendants are imprisoned for failing to pay legal debts they can never hope to manage. In many cases, poor men and women end up jailed or threatened with jail though they have no lawyer representing them.”
Thirty years ago yesterday, two retired military officers and a former prison administrator founded the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first for-profit prison company in modern America. Today, CCA is the nation’s largest owner and operator of for-profit prisons, with annual revenues topping $1.7 billion. On an average day, the company incarcerates 81,384 people – more than the states of New York and New Jersey combined.
“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws.”
Specifically, “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration” could “potentially reduc[e] demand for correctional facilities,” as would “mak[ing] more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior,” the adoption of “sentencing alternatives [that]…could put some offenders on probation,” or “reductions in crime rates.”
As detailed in a 2011 ACLU report, massive increases in overall incarceration rates from the 1970s onward created a fertile environment for the growth of for-profit imprisonment. From 1970 to 2005, the U.S. prison population increased by approximately 700% – far outpacing crime rates and the growth of the general population. Today, more Americans are deprived of their liberty than ever before – unfairly and unnecessarily, with little benefit to public safety. Many of them are in private prisons: the latest figures from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics show that for-profit companies presently control about 18% of federal prisoners and 6.7% of all state prisoners, and the most recent federal survey of correctional facilities revealed that private prisons accounted for nearly all of the new prisons built between 2000 and 2005.
Continue Reading @ ACLU Blog
For Immediate Release – January 8th
Governor Asks Court to End Prison Population Reduction Requirement
Makes Another Attempt to Justify Unconstitutional Prison Overcrowding
Contact: Emily Harris
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Sacramento CA—Yesterday the State of California filed another response to the Federal Court order to reduce dangerous overcrowding in California’s prison, urging the court to end the 137.5% population cap. In the Motion to Vacate or Modify Population Reduction Order, the state claimed that “overcrowding and health care conditions cited by this Court to support its population reduction order are now a distant memory.” California’s prisons currently hold 133,000 in space that was intended for 80,000.
This is one in a series of attempts by the Brown Administration to evade the Court’s order to reduce the prison population. In September, the Court rejected Brown’s attempt to raise the population cap to 145%.
“If people’s lives weren’t at stake, claiming that caging one and a half times the people our prisons were built to hold isn’t overcrowding would be laughable. But this isn’t laughable, it’s morally outrageous,” says Diana Zuñiga, Field Organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “There are clear, safe ways to bring people back to our communities that would increase public safety and free more funding for social services and the education system the Governor claims to value so much. It’s time for this administration to stop dragging it’s feet and make the kind of change Californians have been demanding for years.”
Advocates have proposed a series of parole and sentencing reform measures to reduce incarceration rates and corrections costs while improving public safety, many of which have been proven to work in other states. Examples include releasing prop 36 eligible strikers, releasing terminally ill and permanently medically incapacitated prisoners, implementing an older prisoner release program, expanding good time credits, and reforming drug sentencing laws.
According to weekly population reports from CDCR, California State prisons continue to remain crowded well-past intended design capacity. Based on the CDCR January report the recently-converted Valley State Prison for Men is at 292% capacity, and as a result of the conversion, the Central Valley Women’s Facility at 184%. The total CDCR system is at 146.1%.
“Instead of releasing people and closing VSPW, they are squeezing over 1,000 women and transgender people into the two remaining women’s prisons. The conversion has only aggravated overcrowding, created dangerous conditions, and caused health care to deteriorate. What’s more, they have added yet another men’s prison to their inhumane system,” says Hafsah Al-Amin from California Coalition for Women Prisoners.
Hundreds of former prisoners, family members, and advocates will rally at Valley State Prison on Saturday, January 26th.
Gov. Jerry Brown railed this morning against federal oversight of California’s troubled prison system, calling it “intrusive” and “nit-picky” and vowing to fight in court to get the state out from under federal control.
A defiant Brown also lifted a state of emergency declared in 2006 by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, due to prison overcrowding.
“The prison emergency is over in California,” Brown said.
Brown’s highly public and combative appeal followed a court filing late Monday in which his administration asked a federal court to withdraw its requirement that California make further reductions in prison inmate populations, and also to end federal oversight of mental health care in state prisons. The court had requested documents explaining how the state would further reduce its prison population.
Brown said releasing prisoners would endanger the public and that options provided by the state were made “under protest.”
Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, the Brown administration has reduced California’s prison population by shifting responsibility for many newly convicted, low-level offenders from prisons to county control. Brown’s office said the inmate population in the state’s 33 prisons has been reduced by more than 43,000 since 2006, to just less than 150 percent of capacity. The state is under court order to reduce crowding to 137.5 percent of capacity.
Brown said inmates now receive better health care than outside prison and that overcrowding is no longer an issue. Brown said the California prison system is now “one of the finest prison systems in the United States” and that “the job is now complete.”
“We’ve got it,” he said. “Enough already.”
Following his morning appearance at the Capitol, Brown planned to travel to Los Angeles to address reporters this afternoon in the state’s largest media market.
“We can run our own prisons, and by God let those judges give us our prisons back,” Brown said. “We’ll run them right.”
Brown said he will fight in court “as long as it takes.” Asked why he thinks the administration could prevail in court this year, following setbacks previously, Brown said the state now has “documentary evidence to make our case.”
Brown also suggested the court may look favorably on his appointment last month of a former Pennsylvania prison chief to head California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Jeffrey Beard was a member of a 2007 panel assessing the effectiveness of California’s prison and parole systems.
“I’ve taken their own expert, and I’ve made him head of corrections,” Brown said. “What more do you want?”
Brown said further federal oversight will only waste money California can not afford to spend.
“We can’t pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration,” he said.