California

~Empowering Humans With Opportunity:Prop 47~

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Three years ago the Legislature passed a law resulting in a dramatic change on how California would hold people accountable for violating our laws. AB 109, or Realignment, was passed to address the overcrowding conditions in our state prisons. Touted as freeing nonserious, nonviolent offenders, Realignment ostensibly released low-level criminals from prison. During this time period, over 30,000 inmates have been transferred to local custody or supervision.

It costs about $50,000 a year to lock someone up in a California prison or a county jail — more than 10 times the state’s per-pupil expenditure for public education.

Despite investing hundreds of billions of dollars in new prisons and jails over the past 30 years, California’s correctional facilities are crowded beyond capacity. The state is under a federal court order to reduce its prison population. And after assuming more responsibility for corrections, many counties are releasing inmates early, either under court orders or self-imposed caps on jail crowding.

Building prisons isn’t the answer. But putting fewer people behind bars might alleviate the problem.

Some experts have argued for years that a small investment in education, mental health and crime prevention programs would produce big savings on incarceration. But that’s a long-term strategy in a state with upwards of 190,000 inmates in its prisons and jails.

So the state corrections budget climbed to $9 billion a year. Meanwhile, cheered on by police, prosecutors and the union representing the state’s prison guards, voters and legislators enacted increasingly harsh sentences — and not just for violent crimes. That fueled the need for new prisons and a costly culture of recidivism.

There’s an opportunity to try prevention on a wide scale.

California Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in California as aninitiated state statute. The measure was approved.

The initiative reduces the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. Specifically, the initiative:

  • Mandates misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, nonviolent crimes,” unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes. A list of crimes that will be affected by the penalty reduction are listed below.
  • Permits re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduces to misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates will be eligible for resentencing, according to Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice.
  • Requires a “thorough review” of criminal history and risk assessment of any individuals before re-sentencing to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.
  • Creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The fund will receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year.
  • Distributes funds from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund as follows: 25 percent to the Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction.

The measure requires misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the following crimes:

  • Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
  • Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
  • Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
  • Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
  • Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
  • Personal use of most illegal drugs

The initiative was pushed by George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney, and William Lansdowne, former San Diego Police Chief.

For a long time, the conventional political wisdom was that no one ever lost an election for being too tough on crime. That wisdom has been turned on its head in recent years, as both politicians and the public are realizing how much damage the lock-’em-up mind-set has caused.

In recent polls asking about the most important problems facing the country, crime ranks way at the bottom. That’s because crime is at its lowest levels in decades, even while overstuffed prisons cripple state budgets.

A familiar retort is that crime is down precisely because the prisons are full, but that’s simply not true. Multiple studies show that crime has gone down faster in states that have reduced their prison populations.

An encouraging example comes from California, the site of some the worst excesses of the mass incarceration era, but also some of the more innovative responses to it.

For five years, the state has been under federal court order to reduce extreme overcrowding in its prisons. In response, voters in 2012 overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to scale back the state’s notorious “three-strikes” law, leading to the release, so far, of more than 1,900 prisoners who had been serving life in prison — in some cases, for petty theft.

Dire warnings that crime would go up as a result were unfounded. Over two years, the recidivism rate of former three-strikes inmates is 3.4 percent, or less than one-tenth of the state’s average. That’s, in large part, because of a strong network of re-entry services.

The 2012 measure has provided the model for an even bigger proposed release of prisoners that California voters will consider on the ballot next week. Under Proposition 47, many low-level drug and property offenses — like shoplifting, writing bad checks or simple drug possession — would be converted from felonies to misdemeanors.

That would cut an average of about a year off the sentences of up to 10,000 inmates, potentially saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually. To keep people from returning to prison, or from going in the first place, the savings would be invested in anti-truancy efforts and other programs like mental health and drug-abuse treatment. Some would go to victims’ services, a perennially underfinanced part of the justice system.

Law-enforcement officials, not surprisingly, oppose the measure, warning that crime will go up. But they’ve already been proved wrong on three-strikes reform.

Californians — who support the proposition by a healthy margin, according to polls — have now seen for themselves that they don’t have to choose between reducing prison populations and protecting public safety.

It is very rare for lawmakers anywhere to approve legislation to shorten sentences for people already in prison; it is virtually unheard-of to do it by ballot measure. California’s continuing experiment on sentencing can be a valuable lesson to states around the country looking for smart and safe ways to unravel America’s four-decade incarceration binge.

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~Recalcitrant Government, Police Forces, And Citizens~

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We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

In my viewing of the spiritual warfare at hand today I chose to study the word recalcitrant. I was enlighten in several ways of exactly who the recalcitrant individuals are. We have recalcitrant’s within the GOP Congress, Democrats, our policing agencies and citizens. Most people of America are oblivious to the reason all this is occurring because the news is the number one source of information for most Americans today. Our society has become one of  anxiety and being in a hurry. Everything is instantaneous and at a rapid pace. It seems that the only ones relaxing at present is our Congress. They have refused to act on several subjects related to our public safety to our national security which makes them recalcitrant public officials. The police force of Ferguson is reluctantly responding with truth and any real information about this police officer who is responsible for the senseless killing of Michael Brown which in turn is being met by many recalcitrant citizens of Ferguson,which by the way are (Black). 

I want to unearth the cultural assumptions that underpin hyper-incarceration, beginning with the image of the dangerous black man. This frequently plowed ground is particularly relevant here — from the recalcitrant slave in general to Nat Turner in particular, from lynching to locking up the drug dealer on the corner, the dangerous black man has been a constant in American history. (One could argue, though I will not, that to many Barack Obama is merely its latest incarnation.) Certainly, there is no doubt that the black man is dangerous to the maintenance of the Republican majority. That explains the drive to suppress minority participation in the last election.

I grew up In Washington D. C. and I would Board the X2 bus at Lafayette Square opposite the White House and travel its 5-mile route eastward across Washington and there was a very good chance that more than half the African-American men who were your fellow passengers  have been in prison at some point in their lives. The X2 bus, to the extent that white Washingtonians are aware of it, has a reputation as dangerous, prone to passenger fights and occasional shootings. The X2 is a subject perhaps of white curiosity but no real concern, and few white Washingtonians use it. Yet the X2 is a symbol of the white segregation from and blindness to the devastation of hyper-incarceration that my wife and I are trying to explore in our approach to assist ex-offenders in California.

The Scandal of White Complicity underscores the point that the image of America as a postracial, colorblind society based on meritocracy and individual choice impedes a deeper understanding of the way in which white America is implicated in the systematic deprivation of the African-American community. It is a deprivation that drains that community of the economic and social capital that can break the cycle in which sons of imprisoned men too often meet their fathers behind bars.

Merton wrote “that American society has to change before the race problem can be solved.” Pfeil believes hyper-incarceration by its very nature will not end without a complete societal change. Citing James Baldwin’s warning that “history is literally present in all that we do,”

Mikulich frames white America within the imprisonment prism’s four walls:

  • White separation and white isolation from African-American society leads to a loss of empathy for the effects of hyper-incarceration;
  • The illusion of innocence leads to the delusion that whiteness and white neighborhoods are the norm to be desired and that black neighborhoods represent segregation;
  • This amnesia and its accompanying anesthesia lead to a distortion, if not an outright erasure, of history;
  • Power and privilege ensure that a “white-dominated legal system effectively protects, indeed renders invisible, unconscious racism on behalf of police, prosecutors and judges as it stigmatizes blacks.” (Not to mention the fact that the formerly incarcerated are often denied the right to vote.)

Rap and hip-hop emerge as the latest manifestation of the dangerous black man, but I find in the early days of this genre a positive attempt to rescue black history on the part of young black men through “perfecting the craft of orality.” What started out as a positive movement morphed into a caricature and merely reinforced the dominant image. My long time mentor Dr. Emmanuel Franks, drawing on the work of Johann Baptist Metz, argues that history is essential to Christian life, beginning with the constant remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. Metz called this a “dangerous memory” because it commands Christians to remember the suffering of others. Returning to the theme of white amnesia, Dr. Emmanuel Franks says that amnesia deprives Christians of the power to act, to change.

Confronted by hyper-incarceration, Pfeil asks how Christians respond. Following Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Pfeil looks to the message of the Sermon on the Mount to understand the personal and communal relationship to the world of materialism. The beatitudes envision a different world, one that exalts a wealth of spirit over a wealth of things.

Because of our deep immersion in this world in which we consciously or unconsciously benefit from a system of oppression, both historical and contemporary, it is difficult to effect the change that is necessary. Instead of the hapless question what can I do, one should ask what needs to change.

“A great force of suffering accumulated between the basement of heaven and the roof of hell…”

In their quest for absolute political hegemony in the United States, some elements of the Right now dare to claim to share with blacks – if not common cause – common conclusions about the state of race relations in America. In a January 8, 2006 piece weighted with the full freight of centuries of white supremacist delusions, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto claimed that BC‘s January 5, 2006 Cover Story, “Katrina Study: Black Consensus, White Dispute,” showed that BC and the WSJ agree that African Americans and whites see the world quite differently. “BlackCommentator.com, which describes itself as a source of ‘commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans’ and has a harshly left-wing outlook has an analysis of a poll on racial attitudes.

The BC story was based on a small slice of an important, soon to be released study by University of Chicago political scientist Michael Dawson. Dr. Dawson’s team’s study shows what every conscious Black person already knows: there is a yawning chasm between white and black perceptions of life, politics and opportunity in 21st Century America.

The United States has created wildly different realities for its black and white citizens.  From the unequal availability of prenatal care and early childhood education, through ubiquitous and continuing racially segregated education and racially selective policies of crime control and mass imprisonment, through generations of housing and employment discrimination resulting in huge gaps in the accumulation of wealth between black and white families, to early graves occasioned by differential access to medical care for African Americans, it is clear that for centuries blacks and whites have lived in the same country but in different worlds. 

Fiscal responsibility is a code phrase. It means, Don’t spend money on Black folks. There are several code words in white America media that reflect the chasm of social justice and equality.

“Fiscal responsibility is a code word for whites for anti-Black policy,” said Dawson. “Reagan used it, Bush used it, and the people who overthrew Reconstruction used it. It is one of the oldest code words in American politics. It’s right up there with ‘law and order.'”

Republicans’ rhetorical campaign against lawlessness took off in earnest during the 1960s, when Richard Nixon artfully conflated black rioting, student protest, and common crime to warn that the “criminal forces” were gaining the upper hand in America. As an electoral strategy, it was a brilliant success. But as an ideological claim, the argument that America needed more police and prisons was in deep tension with the conservative cause of rolling back state power. The paradox flared up occasionally, as during the National Rifle Association’s long-running feud with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the 1990s. But for the most part, conservatives lived with the contradiction for forty years. Why?

For one, it worked political magic by tapping into a key liberal weakness. Urban violent crime was rising sharply during the 1960s and liberals had no persuasive response beyond vague promises that economic uplift and social programs would curb delinquency. The conservatives’ strategy also provided an outlet for racial anxieties that could not be voiced explicitly in the wake of the civil rights movement. Sometimes, the racial appeals were impossible to miss, as when Ronald Reagan warned that “city streets are jungle paths after dark” in his 1966 California gubernatorial campaign. More often, anti-criminal chest-thumping played into the division of society between the earners and the moochers, with subtle racial cues making clear who belonged on which side.

Meanwhile, the more threatened ordinary Americans came to feel, the angrier they became at elites who appeared to side with the criminals, and the more they revered the people designated as society’s protectors. As a result, conservatives came to view law enforcement the same way they had long seen the military: as a distinctive institution whose mission somehow exempted it from the bureaucratic failures and overreach that beset school districts, environmental agencies, and the welfare office. Yet the two surging wings of the conservative movement—libertarians and religious conservatives—have since each found their own reasons to challenge long-standing orthodoxy about crime.

American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.

Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”

The encounter in Ferguson that ended with a police officer fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown has spurred police departments in the St. Louis area to do some deep soul-searching. Many hope to avoid the uncertainty of chaotic events by having video to investigate officers’ interactions with civilians.

Video recordings would allow judges and juries to see events unfold, helping to shed light through the often-conflicting or hazy recollections of eyewitnesses.

Nowhere is that more needed than in Ferguson, the north St. Louis County suburb at the epicenter of a racial crisis. The city is now seeking money to outfit its officers with wearable cameras that can be pinned to a uniform or attached to a pair of sunglasses.

The city of Ellisville in west St. Louis County quickly approved a $7,500 expenditure last week to do the same.

“It was an emergency item on our agenda to get officers wearing those cameras immediately,” said Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, noting that all of the city’s police officers will wear them. “Nobody knows how the grand jury is going to play out. Our officers could respond to calls for service down in Ferguson.”

Just as important as the Ferguson police feel these cameras are to policing and telling the true story, We feel it’s equally important to get funded to assist our human life in Riverside California, There are 6,322 ex-offenders hitting the streets and more than half of them half no support system. Take a look at our interest to assist human being that are in need of a Alternative sentencing/re-entry program to help reduce the rate of recidivism.

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