Book Review: My Deer Friends

My Deer FriendsSpoiler alert: I wrote the forward to My Deer Friends

My Deer Friends resonates with me in profound and personal ways. Although Piper, the spunky protagonist is diminutive in size, her stature is vast. Her sharing nature and positive vibe resonates throughout the book as the reader shares in her journey of self-realization and discovery. Nineteen years ago I also embarked upon a journey of self-realization, and like Piper I found that my greatest discoveries were the simple things that fill life with purpose and resonate with joy.

 

Much like the playful puppy Piper, I have found that an inquisitive mind is the key to personal growth and both of us want others to understand and benefit from our expanded horizons.  In the years that immediately followed the death of my only daughter Polly, my own survival depended upon learning as much as possible about the new world in which I had been thrust and then sharing that knowledge in hopes of protecting other young children.

 

Instead of documenting my expanded horizons within the pages of literature, I chose to advocate through the non-profit KlaasKids Foundation. Successfully conveying new found knowledge is dependent upon an ability to communicate, and viable communication requires the ability to express a fresh perspective. I like to think that KlaasKids fresh perspective on child safety found meaning out of Polly’s death and helped to strengthen our families, secure better laws, and create a safer society.

 

While Polly’s years were few, her stature diminutive and her experience was limited, her legacy is as vast as her courage. She inspired us to be bigger, better and more than we otherwise would have been. Through the work of the KlaasKids Foundation her final act has reverberated from the family kitchen table to the president’s cabinet table.

 

Like Piper, Polly was a happy, inquisitive, and determined little girl who was opening up to the possibilities that life had in store for her. Although she had big dreams she was relatively untested in life until she faced her worst fears with uncommon valor. As she was being stolen in the night she faced her devil and said, “Please don’t hurt my mother and sister.”

 

Polly was never seen alive again. Now she exists in memory, in legacy, occasionally in dreams and always in the realm of angels. If you don’t believe me just ask Piper, a kindred spirit who is graced by the spirit of angels in the wonder of her everyday life.

California Death Penalty Reform Initiative Filed with Attorney General

A coalition of District Attorneys, law enforcement officials, and victims’ rights advocates are proposing a statewide ballot initiative to reform the death penalty in California.

 

“Last year Californians overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for the death penalty. Unfortunately, it has become ineffective because of waste, delays, and inefficiencies.  Fixing it will save California taxpayers millions of dollars every year, assure due process protections for those sentenced to death  and promote justice for murder victims and their families,” said initiative proponent Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister, and two nephews were murdered in 1984 by a gang member in Los Angeles. The killer has been on death row since 1986.

This initiative will ensure justice for both victims and defendants by:

Reforming the Appeals Process

  • Death penalty appeals will first be heard by the California Court of Appeals and then heard by the California Supreme Court if necessary.
  • A defendant’s claim of actual innocence should not be limited, but frivolous and unnecessary claims should be restricted.

Reforming Death Row Housing and Victim Restitution

  • According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, eliminating single cell housing of death row inmates will save tens of millions of dollars every year.
  • Death row inmates should be required to work in prison to pay restitution to their victims’ families consistent with the Victims’ Bill of Rights (Marsy’s law). Refusal to work and pay restitution should result in loss of special privileges.

Reforming the Appointment of Appellate Counsel and Agency Oversight 

  • Reforming the existing inefficient appeals process for death penalty cases will ensure fairness for both defendants and victims. Capital defendants wait 5 years or more for appointments of their appellate lawyer. By providing prompt appointment of attorneys, the defendant’s claims will be heard sooner.
  • The state agency that is supposed to expedite secondary review of death penalty cases is operating without any effective oversight, causing long delays and wasting taxpayer dollars. California Supreme Court oversight of this state agency will ensure accountability.

2 Rich 4 Prison

Ethan Couch Facebook

Ethan Couch Facebook

The American justice took a huge step backwards yesterday. The events of the incident were not in dispute. Late in the evening of June 16, 2013 sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch piled seven friends into the cabin and bed of his red Ford F-350 pickup truck. Within 400-yards he had accelerated to 70 in a 40 mph speed zone. Ethan’s truck swerved off the road and plowed into two parked vehicles, a disabled motorist and three good Samaritans before it came to a stop. Four pedestrians were killed, and two people were tossed from the bed of Ethan’s pickup and severely injured. One is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones.

Crash Scene

Crash Scene

Although it is illegal for teenagers to drink alcoholic beverages Ethan’s blood alcohol was three times the legal limit in Texas, Valium was found in his system. So in September prosecutors decided to charge Ethan with 4-counts of intoxication manslaughter and 2-counts of intoxication assault. They sought a determinate sentence of 20-years in prison through the juvenile court system so that Ethan wouldn’t be released from a juvenile detention facility and have his record expunged when he turned 21-years old.

Hollie & Shelby Boyles

Hollie & Shelby Boyles

Ethan’s trial defense was based on Affluenza: a lifestyle where wealth brought privilege and there were no consequences for bad behavior. In other words, Ethan wasn’t responsible for killing and maiming innocent people. Instead a circumstance created by his parents was responsible. Unbelievably, Judge Jean Boyd bought into the defense theory and sentenced Ethan Couch to 10 years’ probation, and at least two years of therapy and no contact with his parents. Ethan’s father has agreed to pay $450,000 so that the murderous teen can receive treatment at a posh Southern California treatment facility.

Breanna Mitchell

Breanna Mitchell

The families of the victims were correctly outraged by this travesty of justice. Eric Boyles, who lost his wife Hollie and 21-year-old daughter Shelby hit the nail on the head when he told the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “Money always seems to keep (Couch) out of trouble. Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If (he) had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.”

Youth Pastor Brian Jennings

Youth Pastor Brian Jennings

24-year-old Breanna Mitchell’s family and the family of 43-year-old youth minister Brian Jennings will join Mr. Boyles in a lifetime of grief, regret, and broken hearts as they live with the reality that justice money and privilege over the lives of their dearly departed loved ones.

 

When high-profile killers purchase their freedom faith in the criminal justice system is undermined by a fear of retribution. When only nine percent of reported violent crimes are resolved with the perpetrator being incarcerated, criminal justice is perceived as justice for criminals. When this perception infects the majority of innocent people, the process is eroded by a reluctance to cooperate, which fosters still more criminal activity.

Endgame

polly-s-poster-cropped-irfan-480When Polly’s mother Eve Nichol and I were summoned to the Petaluma PD on November 30, 1993 my ability to reach reasonable conclusions had morphed into unreasonable and angry denial. We were in the Chief’s office with Petaluma Police Captain Parks and FBI Special Agent Mershon who told us that they had arrested the man who kidnapped Polly. They watched us carefully for signs of recognition, as we looked at the cold blank eyes staring back at us from the Polaroid snapshot. The kidnapper looked remarkably like the composite on the flyer in a crude unnerving way, but with harsh features. We said that we had never seen him before. They told us that we should get used to the fact that Polly was probably dead because the perp had a long history of violence and had spent most of his life behind bars. “What? You dare to tell me that Polly is dead without proof? Has he ever been convicted of murder?” No. “Then fuck you. I’m not interested in your opinion. Go find my daughter, and then we’ll discuss opinions.” Hobbled by a badly strained back, I shuffled out of the station, got into my car and returned to the donated apartment that Violet and I had been using and in which I was spending increasing amounts of time.

 

Confined to the floor by pain, my world was shrinking as the truth about Polly’s fate slowly played out on television. The kidnapper denied that he had kidnapped “the fucking little broad,” but his sordid criminal history included incidents of kidnapping, robbery, assaults with shotguns, handguns, knives and fireplace pokers. An old girlfriend had committed suicide by shotgun in his presence. He was diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath in 1978. On scene television correspondents breathlessly reported that Polly’s remains had been located seemingly wherever a dog had left its bone. I took comfort in the knowledge that any real break in the case would be conveyed to me by the police, in person and not through the irresponsible speculation playing out on television.

 

Words weren’t really necessary when Eve and I were next summoned to the Petaluma PD on Saturday night December 4. We were picked up in separate patrol cars. By the time I arrived in the Chief’s office Eve was already there, sitting with her face in her hands, crying softly. Captain Parks and Agent Mershon, the only other people in the room, also had tears in their eyes. They were sorry to inform me that the kidnapper had confessed and led them to the garbage pile near a rural highway off ramp where he discarded our baby. They recommended that we not view the remains, but instead remember Polly as she was in life.

 

I heard his words, but they hadn’t yet pierced my heart. I asked if we could tell our families before the news broke. Within fifteen minutes the Chief’s office was full of Polly’s relatives. I did not cry as tears welled up in their eyes and as they expelled sighs of sorrow with their heads bowed in anguish. I asked if we could inform the volunteers at the search center so that they wouldn’t have to learn the truth on the television. I called over and conveyed the sad news, my voice soft, but never wavering. Then we climbed into our cars and drove home in a slow, silent, caravan.

 

The little street on which we lived was covered in winter leaves and as I walked through our front door I remember thinking how beautiful they looked in death. Somebody started a fire, and Violet and I, drained from two months of futile battle, lay down in front of the fireplace. Only then did my emotions fully engage. The rumble began in my core, but quickly found primal voice. I jumped to my feet blinded by tears, a banshee scream escaping from my torched soul. I would have destroyed my home had the men in the room not held me and contained the explosion of my broken heart. Polly was dead and the only thing I wanted to do was to join her.

2 year old x-masFinally, the wire had snapped and I plummeted into the bottom of the abyss without a net to break my fall. I had hung my hope on the illusion that hard work would allow me to snatch life from the clutches of death, but death is irreversible and indisputable. It took a 65-day, high velocity descent to learn that the reality of death exists in its finality. When I hit bottom I shattered like glass and shattered glass cannot be easily reassembled. Even if you manage to precisely fuse the shards, the best that you can hope for is a bizarre mosaic of refracting light that bears little resemblance to the original. Instead of strength you have fragility; instead of clarity you have mirrors of illusion.

Overcoming Victimization Through Empowerment and Education

By Rebecca Petty

Andi

Andi Brewer

The abduction of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. In the event of a child abduction, that child can be taken away from their family at the rate of a mile per minute. Within an hour of an abduction, a child can be as far away as 60 miles, staggering if you think about it in those terms. In the event of a child abduction, swift action must be taken and law enforcement called immediately. Many people are still under the misconception that law enforcement cannot be called in until the 24 hour mark is reached, but this is simply not the case anymore. Sadly, we have all learned that time is of the essence in the case of a missing child. In 76 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 3 hours of the reported abduction, and in 89 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 24 hours.  (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006)

 

The importance of contacting law enforcement cannot be stressed enough. In the event of a true child abduction, a myriad of people will become involved in the search for the missing child including the community in which the child lives. The people in the community can help immensely in the return of a missing child by holding candlelight vigils to bring awareness to the missing child and by assisting in the search for the missing child. Community involvement is sometimes the key in the return of the child, whether alive or deceased.

 

May 15, 1999, 12-year-old Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was babysitting at her father’s rural Arkansas home when a knock came at the door. Her two younger stepsiblings said it was “Uncle Karl,” and that he said her grandparents were ill and she must immediately come with him. Brewer left under the assumption that she was going to her grandparent’s house. A three- day, state-wide search ensued, which included local and state police, the FBI, and hundreds of community volunteers who collectively scoured the rural area in the Ouachita Mountains. The frustrated Sheriff, Mike Oglesby, commented that Andi seemed to have disappeared off the planet.

 

The nightmare is not knowing what happened to your child and not knowing who did these terrible things to your child. (Walsh, 1997). “Uncle Karl,” an uncle by marriage, confessed to kidnapping Brewer and taking her ten miles away to Cove, Arkansas. He drove her down an old logging road west of town where he brutally raped and strangled her to death. He then covered her nude body with scrub brush and threw her clothes in Buffalo Creek. He then proceeded to his parent’s house where he shared a cup of coffee with his father and then, upon a frantic call from his wife, returned to help search for Brewer. He assisted in the search for her for three days and finally confessed to the state police and FBI upon the failing of a polygraph test, shortly thereafter, he led authorities to her body.

 

Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was my daughter. Her short life set my own life on a path of creating a legacy for my daughter and made me realize that the only way to overcome victimization was through empowerment and education. It became my passion to ensure that this sort of thing never happened to another child. However, first on the agenda was something that only stood in line behind burying her. That was to attend the capital murder trial for the man who murdered her.

 

Abduction and Capital Murder

On Tuesday, May 18th 1999, Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with the capital murder of 12-year-old, Andria Brewer. He pled not-guilty in front of a stunned Polk County Circuit Court in the small town of Mena, Arkansas. Prosecutor Tim Williamson was set with the task of not only dealing with Brewer’s family, but also with the task of controlling a community who wanted to hang Roberts on the front lawn of the courthouse. Death threats were coming in for Roberts and even his own family cowered in fear in their homes. Williamson did his job to the best of his ability considering he had only prosecuted one capital murder case and never a case involving a young child. This quickly became a learning event for everyone involved, the State of Arkansas, the community, law enforcement, and the victim’s family. Some of the larger issues were regarding the media, and Williamson handled them with grace. Additionally, to deal with the victim’s family, Williamson assigned Jo Mitchell, a victim advocate for the Prosecutors office. She helped answer tough questions and was there for the family when they needed emotional support. It was after strong support and encouragement from Jo Mitchell that I realized that, one day, I could help others and be there for the hurting families. I was treading on a path few had walked and had empathy for people I never felt before. It was then my stirrings for helping others were born.

 

Coping with Becoming a Crime Victim Overnight

Coping is one of the hardest things to learn after becoming a victim of violent crime. Trust is nonexistent, hope is out the window, and belief in God is questioned. There are many things to learn. One of the most astounding things I learned was how evil the world could be. Being raised in a middleclass family and not being associated with any type of crime, I was stunned to learn that the average victim of abduction and murder is an 11-year-old girl who is described as a low-risk, “normal” child from a middle-class neighborhood who has a stable family relationship and whose initial contact with an abductor occurs within a quarter of a mile of her home. (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006). My knees came out from underneath me as I learned that my young daughter had been brutally raped before being strangled. I will never forget the prosecutor telling this me this fact and his face becoming shadowed to my view as I began to pass out. This happened while picking out a casket, too. When the door opened to the room lined with about twenty caskets for me to choose from that shadowy darkness enveloped me once more and my knees again became weak.

 

A child’s funeral is awful. The way I remember it was that all of the faces seemed out of place. People that I knew from every aspect of my life had filled the room. My parents. My church friends from Oklahoma. There were people who lined the wall. I recall wailing. Someone said I wailed, but I do not remember this. All I remember is a casket. Pepto Bismol pink. And I remember Amazing Grace, and the drone of a sermon, and pink balloons, and watching that Pepto Bismol casket lowered into the ground.  But, I wanted only one thing. To be inside of it, holding her, caressing her, telling her I was sorry I hadn’t been there to stop this, and to tell her I loved her. This was truly the moment when I knew that no parent should ever have to bury a child. It was then I knew that I must be the one to advocate for victims of crime and children.

 

In the State of Arkansas, a person commits capital murder if they commit murder in the commission of another crime. (Arkansas General Assembly. 2013). In this case, Williamson decided to charge Roberts with the rape and murder. He left the abduction out of the charge in the rare event that something went awry at the trial and he needed to charge the abduction at a later time. In the fourteen years since this crime was committed, he has never had to charge for that felony kidnapping. Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with first degree capital murder and the only hope he had was to receive life without parole. This wasn’t likely in a rural Arkansas county where truly, as politically incorrect as it seems, even blacks were told not to be seen in town after dark. Seems there were two things not tolerated in Polk County, blacks and child killers, although I never could understand the racism issue and blamed it on the character of the Deep South. Wanting to kill a child murdered was another story.

 

Watching Roberts being led into that courtroom, I could only think of one thing. Andi was dead and cold and he was warm and alive and beginning the fight for his life. Hate had a new meaning, and it was standing in front of me. He was vile and disgusting and hate consumed my heart. I knew even then that this wasn’t right and I was in for the biggest challenge of my life, to live through a capital murder trial.

 

Facing a Capital Murder Trial

Prosecutor Williamson informed the Brewer family that it would be about a year for the trial to begin. And true to his words the trial began exactly one year to the day Andi was kidnapped, raped and strangled to death. Prior to the trial, I had to admit to myself that I knew absolutely nothing about the criminal justice system or how it worked. This was when my training and the journey of empowering myself began. The wealth of data on the information superhighway became my best friend and was where my true learning started. I became a self-taught lawyer, advocate, and law enforcement guru. Over the previous year, I had already become an advocate of sorts. People began to tell me things such as they had been raped as a child. Whenever another child went missing, the news media would reach out to me for comment as though I had all the answers. I found myself speaking in front of crowds of parents, law enforcement, and my community, and teaching them the dangers of predatory crime against children. I was invited to Washington D.C. to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to become a member of Team HOPE, a group who offers peer support for families with missing or sexually exploited children. And in this, I taught and memorized the language of the law, what law enforcement lingo meant, some of the Latin that was used in terms of the law, actus reus (guilty act), per curium (through the court), modus operandi, (manner of operation or M.O.), and habeas corpus, (to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention), the latter is a word that often haunts crime victims for many years in death penalty cases.

 

The process of grief is difficult. Asking, “why me,” or “why my child,” is a normal human reaction, but not a human reaction that is welcome. It is the wee hours of the morning that are the most difficult and suffering from post-traumatic stress leaves a person exhausted.

 

Something learned about “why,” was to question whether it was nature, was Roberts some freak of nature? Or was it nurture?

 

What always is a debate, is it a nature or nurture thing? I can say from the people who I have interviewed, on death row or in prisons around the country, most of them will have some type of violence, psychological, physical violence, sexual violence in the background. However, I’m kind of tough on this because I still don’t believe it should be a mitigating factor, they still have the ability to make choices and [use] free will and they’re making these choices and it’s the wrong choices. (Douglas, J., Olshaker, M. 1999)

 

To sit through a capital murder trial and realize what a predatory monster did to your child is heart rending. And when Karl Douglas Roberts was sentenced to death for murdering my 12-year-old daughter, I thought that justice had been served. I was wrong on so many levels. I have since learned this was only the beginning of many years of appeals and a lot of work for the State of Arkansas, ACLU, and many appellate judges. All in all, I have learned, a death penalty case, is a cash cow.

 

Becoming an Advocate for Children and Victims

Being taken seriously became a big area of concern for me. I began to speak out on many issues advocating for victims and children. I found myself in court with victim families, doing media interviews, along with photographing and fingerprinting children at safety fairs. My face and my child’s face became synonymous with keeping children safe. The only problem was that I always seemed to be the mother of that “poor little girl.” People sometimes were overcome with grief when they saw me and at other times I heard people talking bad about all the money I was making by promoting my dead child. It wasn’t true, I never made a dime, but I knew that I had to be taken more seriously. I realized that my lack of education made me seem weak. Even though I had been invited by the White House to discuss the issue of a National Amber Alert in a private roundtable discussion with President Bush who ultimately signed it into law, I still knew I had to do more. I needed a college education. I was scared to death when I enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Tulsa Community College part-time. I began what has been a ten year trek of trying to raise a family, be an advocate, and a student. However, I always knew someday I would complete my degree. Being an advocate for victims and children has opened many doors for me. However, I will never shy away from saying that if I could have one more second with Andi, I would give it all up in a heartbeat. It has always been about creating a legacy for her, not me having a job. But, the more I talked about the case, the more people wanted to hear what I had to say. And they listened.

 

Still Learning the Ropes

Empowering myself through education has been the key in this tough field. It has been fourteen years since the death of my daughter and I am still fighting for her legacy. It is surreal to think that Andi would be nearly 27-years-old now. For fourteen years, I have fought for crime victims and children. I have met President Bush, shared Andi’s story with him. I have shared her story with Jamie Lee Curtis, Bryan Cranston, Patrick Dempsey, Morgan Freeman, and sat on Oprah’s couch and told her as well. I have become a consultant for the Department of Justice’s Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as Fox Valley Technical College. I train law enforcement on the family perspective of child abduction, and I suppose that does make me the expert now. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Adam Walsh Bill and become friends with other advocates, Colleen Nick, John Walsh, Marc Klaas, and Ed Smart, all victims who taught me through the school of hard knocks.

 

I am also glad to report that nightmares do not come as often as they used to. Fourteen years is a lot of time to heal. I have worked hard, and my skin had to become tough in the face of naysayers who have told me to “let the dead rest,” and that I should be fighting “against” the death penalty, to which I reply, “I was not a juror in this case.” I have faced many challenges and obstacles and in December, I will be proud to walk across the stage and finally, finally, finally receive my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. However, I am not stopping there. I plan on advancing forward to graduate school. When that is over, politics seems a logical path for me. City council, state representative, senator, governor?

 

The event that led me to this career path, is not something I would wish on anyone, the price is too high and no one should have to lose a child. That being said, I won’t stop, a legacy is still in the making and it is for a 12-year-old girl everyone called Andi. A girl who had a mega-watt smile and an infectious giggle. She was taken from this planet far too young and will always remain in my mind as a gentle apparition, one forever trapped at the tender age of twelve. But she will have a legacy. I will see to it.

Support For Realignment Fades As Crime Increases

By Michael Rushford

Libra Tatt2In early April 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB109, a 423-page measure called “Public Safety Realignment” into law, purportedly to help comply with a federal court order which required the largest reduction of state prison inmates in the nation’s history.  The law accomplished this by increasing the “good time” credits for inmates participating in programs in prison, which reduced their required sentences in some cases by 60% and by making virtually all property and drug felonies ineligible for state prison.  The law also transferred most criminals coming out of prison from more restrictive three-year statewide supervision on parole to less restrictive county supervision called Post-Release Community Supervision (PRCS), a fancy name for probation.  Few in law enforcement were involved in the drafting of the Realignment law, which passed through the Legislature with only Democrat votes.  Many in law enforcement and groups which represent the interests of crime victims, warned that Realignment was guaranteed to increase crime.

 

At the time of Realignment’s passage, crime rates were hovering at 30-year lows and most of the public was ambivalent to a change.  The press coverage focused largely on the predictions of criminologists, sociologists, and sentencing reform advocates who promised that under Realignment thousands of criminals would be rehabilitated by local programs and the state’s prison population would drop dramatically saving millions in tax dollars.

 

After the law took effect on October 1, 2011, the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and a number of police chiefs and sheriffs, whose major concern is the safety of the people they serve, began to regularly report on new felonies committed by criminals left free and unsupervised by Realignment.

 

In January 2013, the FBI preliminary report for 2012 showed across-the-board increases in crime in California after six straight years of decreases.  Realignment supporters argued that the report was not conclusive because some California cities did not experience crime increases and that more time was needed for the new policies to work.  By the time the final FBI report came out in July of this year, still showing significant increases, some news reporters began asking tougher questions about Realignment.

 

In late August the Governor had recast himself as a law and order champion.  This pivot occurred after the activist panel of federal judges refused to delay the release of the final 9,600 felons from prison to meet their inmate population goal.  Governor Brown announced that he would not release any more inmates because it would threaten public safety.  Left unsaid was that his Realignment law already had.

 

In September, a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found growing public concern about crime, particularly among minorities.  The poll also showed that the public is aware that criminals are being released early under Realignment.

 

On October 29 the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald entitled California’s Prison Litigation Nightmare.  The piece documents the state’s decades-long failure to maintain its prisons and how activist judges utilized inmate lawsuits and manipulation of the legal process to orchestrate a massive release of criminals.  Ms. MacDonald’s larger article in the City Journal characterized Realignment as “nightmarishly complex” and having produced “a host of wholly foreseeable and potentially disastrous burdens on county sheriffs and city police departments.”

 

Supporters of Realignment suffered another setback in November when one of their own, the pro-rehabilitation Stanford Criminal Justice Center released its report entitled Voices from the Field, How California Stakeholders View Public Safety Realignment.  Rather than consulting other academics, this time the researchers talked to prosecutors, police chiefs and sheriffs.  What the report found is that “the most sweeping correctional experiment in recent history,” is causing burdens on California counties which “cannot be overstated.”  While maintaining optimism that a collaborative effort among the various agencies affected by Realignment may eventually result in reduced recidivism, the report acknowledges that most of those consulted want reform.

 

While the reality of the Governor’s Realignment experiment has been sinking in, its toll on law-abiding Californians continues to mount.

 

ShaunaOn October 30, officers with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office arrested two burglars after a high-speed chase that led them through several local streets and highways. Lucas Youngblood of the Calaveras Enterprise reports that one of the suspects, 26-year-old Luke Lahman, had a lengthy criminal history and had recently been released, as required by Realignment, from state prison to light supervision on county probation (PRCS) rather than the more restrictive state parole.

 

On November 5, Sacramento police arrested a suspect in a violent attack on an elderly couple that left the husband dead and his wife so badly injured that she died two weeks later.  Kim Minugh of the Sacramento Bee reports that 36-year-old Shauna Burton had been sentenced in July to 120 days for a domestic violence charge, a crime considered non-serious under Realignment, but was released only 53 days later and put on light-supervision under PRCS.  Burton, who has an arrest record dating back to 1997, faces charges for murder, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and car theft.

 

On November 20, police in Riverside County conducted a sweep aimed at parolees released from jail early under PRCS, resulting in 34 arrests. Craig Shultz of The Press-Enterprise reports that the arrests included weapon and drug-related charges, probation violations, as well as a suspect wanted for questioning in a recent kidnapping.  Of the 34 arrests, 32 were for new felony charges.

 

Last January, a dozen bills to reform Realignment were introduced in the Legislature.  All of these bills were killed or put over until next year, except one, which was made toothless with amendments. Maybe, in the face of continued crime and violence, the Democrat majority and the Governor will find the backbone to pass serious reforms to this dangerous law during the coming election year.