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Skinner’s Bill Would Raise the Age to be Tried as an Adult

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Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley this week introduced Senate Bill 889, which would raise the age at which young people in California are automatically tried as adults to 20 years old. Under the bill, 18- and 19-year-olds would be treated as juveniles in criminal proceedings.

“When teenagers make serious mistakes and commit crimes, state prison is not the answer. Processing teenagers through the juvenile justice system will help ensure they receive the appropriate education, counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation services necessary to achieve real public safety outcomes,” Sen. Skinner said.

Sen. Skinner and her staff are working closely with numerous stakeholders, including the Chief Probation Officers of California (CPOC), National Center for Youth Law, and other juvenile justice advocates to craft the legislation.

Brain science research has shown that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps inhibit impulses and enables organized and planned behavior, is not yet fully developed in 18- and 19-year-olds. This research, as well as the documented higher incidents of car accidents among 18- and 19-year-olds, is what led most states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 and car rental companies to restrict their services to those 21 and older. The intent of SB 889 is to align the treatment of 18- and 19-year-olds with California’s current law that specifies that 16- and 17-year-olds can only be tried as adults in specified circumstances.

“This is a reform whose time has come,” said David Steinhart, a state and national juvenile justice expert who is also director of the Commonweal Juvenile Justice Program. “The law is changing —nationally and in the states—to incorporate adolescent development and brain science into the juvenile and criminal codes. This bill will make youth services, programs, and enhanced supervision available to 18- and 19-year-olds, who when processed in the adult system, get little or nothing in the way of support or rehabilitation. It will improve public safety by putting thousands of California’s youth back into education and on job tracks that are blocked when they are processed as adults. There are implementation issues that need to be worked out, but the concept is sound, grounded in science, with potentially strong benefits for youth and for community safety.”

“CPOC wants to thank Sen. Skinner for further demonstrating her commitment to the evolution of juvenile justice in California by partnering with CPOC to expand the positive impacts of the last decade, which have vastly improved the outcomes for youth in California,” said Chief Brian Richart, president of CPOC. “Probation has proven that an evidence-based approach focused on a balance of rehabilitation and accountability is what works to protect public safety, restore communities, and help rebuild lives. This legislation is the natural and research-based evolution of our implemented reforms and will have an unprecedented impact on our youth. The brain science is clear and will help us holistically and individually focus on young people by incorporating proven rehabilitation and restorative justice practices, thereby improving our communities by supporting our youth.”

“Raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 18- and 19-year-olds in conflict with the law makes sense on so many levels,” said Frankie Guzman, director of the Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law. “Science and common experience have shown us that, although legally considered adults, older adolescents are immature and still developing mentally and emotionally. Decades of research have proven that the most effective way to reduce crime is by providing education and treatment services— services that do not exist in the adult system. Developing a bill to treat 18- and 19-year-olds as youth and emphasize rehabilitation, rather than punishment, would create tremendous opportunity to promote healthy adolescent development and reduce crime, and more effectively promote public health and safety in California.”

“Under California law, teenagers can’t buy cigarettes, beer, or even rent a car, yet they can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives. Kids should be treated like kids,” said Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods. “When a young person gets in trouble, they need our help. They don’t need to be locked in a cage. School, employment, counseling, mentoring, and services provided by community-based organizations—these prevent recidivism. It’s time for California to start giving kids what they need to be their best, and raising the age is a concrete step in the right direction.”

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Activism

Biden Administration Invests $145 Million in Re-Entry Programs for Formerly Incarcerated

According to a 2021 Stanford University Study, reentry programs in California have contributed to a 37% decrease in the average re-arrest rate over the period of a year.

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By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

After serving a 22-year sentence in a California prison, James Morgan, 51, found himself facing a world of opportunities that he did not imagine he would have as an ex-convict once sentenced to life for attempted murder.

Morgan, a Carson native, says he is grateful for a second chance at life, and he has taken full advantage of opportunities presented him through California state reentry and rehabilitation programs.

After completing mental health care for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Morgan was released from prison and granted parole in 2018.

“I did not expect what I found when I got out,” Morgan told California Black Media (CBM), explaining that he was fortunate to participate in a program for the formerly incarcerated in San Francisco.

“I was mandated by the courts to spend a year in transitional housing,” said Morgan. “Those guys walked us through everything. They made it really easy. It was all people I could relate to, and they knew how to talk to me because they used to be in the prison population —and they were from where we were from.”

Morgan says he also took lessons on anger management and time management.

Now, he is currently an apprentice in Local 300 Laborers Union, specializing in construction, after he participated in a pre-apprenticeship program through ARC (the Anti-Recidivism Coalition).

“Right now, I’m supporting my family,” Morgan said. “I’d say I’m doing pretty good because I hooked up with the right people.”

Supporters of criminal justice reform say Morgan’s success story in California is particularly encouraging.

Black men in the Golden State are imprisoned nearly 10 times the rate of their white counterparts, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. And just a little over a decade ago in 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ordered California to reduce the number of inmates in its overcrowded prison system by 33,000. Of that population, nearly 30% were Black men even though they account for about 5% of the state’s population.

To help more formerly incarcerated people like Morgan get back on their feet after paying their debt to society, last month the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the federal government is investing $145 million over the course of the next fiscal year to support reentry programs across the country.

The Biden-Harris Administration also announced plans to expand federal job opportunities and loan programs, expand access to health care and housing, and develop and amplify educational opportunities for the formerly and currently incarcerated.

“It’s not enough to just send someone home, it’s not enough to only help them with a job. There’s got to be a holistic approach,” said Chiraag Bains, deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council on Racial Justice and Equity.

Bains told CBM that that reentry programs help establish an “incarceration-to-employment pipeline.”

The White House announced the programs late last month as President Joe Biden commuted the sentences of 75 people and granted pardons to another three, including Abraham Bolden, the first Black Secret Service agent on White House detail.

Bolden had been sentenced to 39 months in prison in 1964 for allegedly attempting to sell classified Secret Service documents. He has always maintained his innocence.

“Today, I granted pardons to three people and commuted the sentences of 75 people. America is a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden tweeted April 26.

According to Bains, about half of the people the President pardoned are Black or Brown.

“The president has spoken repeatedly about the fact that we have too many people serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses and too many of those people are Black and Brown,” said Bains. “This is a racial equity issue.”

Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have faced sharp criticisms in the past for supporting tough-on-crime policies that, as U.S. Senator and California Attorney General respectively, have had disproportionately targeted Blacks and other minorities.

According to a 2021 Stanford University Study, reentry programs in California have contributed to a 37% decrease in the average re-arrest rate over the period of a year.

Over the last decade, California has funded a number of initiatives supporting reentry and rehabilitation. In 2015, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation launched the Male Community Re-Entry Program (MCRP) that provides community-based rehabilitative services in Butte, Kern, Los Angeles and San Diego Counties. The Butte program services Tehama, Nevada, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Placer and Yuba counties.

A year later, Gov. Newsom’s office introduced the California Community Reinvestment Grant Program. The initiative funds community groups providing services like job placement, mental health treatment, housing and more to people, including the formerly incarcerated, who were impacted by the War on the Drugs.

Morgan spoke highly of programs that helped him reintegrate into society — both in prison and after he was released.

“In hindsight, I look back at it and I’m blown away by all of the ways that they’ve helped me,” Morgan said.

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Activism

OP-ED: Faith Leaders Call for Accountability Over

A demonstration is planned for Tuesday May 24 at 11:30 a.m. at the Board of Supervisors on Oak and 12th streets in Oakland to protest a culture of death at the jail and this dysfunctional incarceration system. Join us in our call for accountability. The U.S. Justice Department recently found our county jail violates Constitutional rights and subjects the 40% of persons in custody who need mental health services to “unlawful harm.”

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Negligence, Deaths at Santa Rita Jail

Alameda County’s Santa Rita jail, run by Sheriff Gregory Ahern, has been the target of multiple lawsuits over jail conditions and has had the most in-custody deaths in Northern California: at least 58 in-custody deaths since 2014, including 19 suicides.

We lift up the names of the two most recent to die in Santa Rita – Marcos Garibay and Larry Roberson. Their families are among many who have been given conflicting and incomplete information about their deaths by the sheriff.

A demonstration is planned for Tuesday May 24 at 11:30 a.m. at the Board of Supervisors on Oak and 12th streets in Oakland to protest a culture of death at the jail and this dysfunctional incarceration system. Join us in our call for accountability.

The U.S. Justice Department recently found our county jail violates Constitutional rights and subjects the 40% of persons in custody who need mental health services to “unlawful harm.”

The sheriff has also evaded a county ban on collaboration of local law enforcement with ICE.

The county continues to hemorrhage millions of taxpayer dollars on settlements and legal fees for this mismanagement – the most recent costing upwards of $300 million. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department needs a major transformative intervention.

Assembly Bill 1185, recently enacted by the California state Legislature, authorizes civilian oversight boards and a full-time Inspector General with subpoena power to investigate sheriff’s departments and jails. Our communities can gain accountability for brutal practices by the sheriff and assist supervisors in exercising their legal and fiscal authority to oversee this county department.

Sopath Mey, speaking for her Cambodian immigrant family, told us of her cousin Soto’s medical crisis and death in Santa Rita in January 2020:

“To this day we don’t understand how he died in custody of the jail and the sheriff. Did he get medical care he needed? … Our family has no resources for an investigation … The sheriff is also the coroner, which raises serious questions. Independent oversight without conflict of interest could tell us learn what happened so we can have peace of mind.”

A sheriff’s oversight coalition initiated by Faith In Action East Bay and Oakland’s Coalition for Police accountability including dozens of organizations and clergy of diverse faiths – ACLU of Northern California, Alameda County Public Health Commission, SEIU Local 1021, Oakland Education Association, Brotherhood of Elders, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, and working closely with the League of Women Voters – researched essential principles for effective independent civilian oversight:

  • A community selection panel process that is open and transparent to create a representative oversight board insulated from politics and the sheriff’s influence.
  • Legal counsel for a civilian Oversight Board and Inspector General that is fully independent of the County Counsel’s conflicts of interest representing the sheriff in lawsuits against the county.
  • A dedicated funding stream to ensure adequate staff of investigators working with an experienced, full-time Inspector General.
  • Access to records and testimony, regular public meetings and reports to the community and the Board of Supervisors (BOS.)
  • Elected officials – including the sheriff – must be held accountable. Civilian oversight with subpoena power can conduct independent investigations and recommend necessary change to the Board of Supervisors – who have the ultimate power of budgeting tax dollars.

Working with a full-time inspector general, they will investigate jail deaths, in-custody conditions, conduct of the sheriff’s deputies and can help identify alternatives to the county’s current cruel and costly mass incarceration of individuals with mental health challenges.

We must bring the sheriff’s operations into alignment with constitutional law enforcement, our community’s ethical values and the public trust.

Let Supervisors know you support the community coalition calling for strong oversight of the Sheriff – email the Board at cbs@acgov.org.

Rev. Dr. George Cummings, executive director, Faith In Action East Bay

Cathy Leonard for the Coalition for Police Accountability

Regina Jackson, Oakland Police Commission*

Rev. Dr. James Brenneman, president, Berkeley School of Theology*

Rev. Ken Chambers, West Side MBC & co-chair Interfaith Coalition of Alameda County*

Rev. Dr. James Hopkins, co-chair, Faith In Action East Bay; Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church*

Rev. Derron Jenkins, associate minister, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland*

Rev. Andrew Loban, rector, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Livermore*

Fr. Aidan McAlaneen, pastor of St. Columba Catholic Church

Rabbi Dev Nolly, senior rabbi, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Oakland*

Rabbi Judith Seid, Tri-Valley Cultural Jews*

Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, senior pastor, Niles Discovery Church, Fremont*

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Bay Area

County Expands Cybersecurity Awareness

The County’s Information Services and Technology (IST) Department, which has garnered several awards in recent years for its security protocols, created the public list of hacking-prevention tips based on current threat intelligence information, industry best practices, and the County’s direct experience in managing cybersecurity incidents.

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Best practices on cybersecurity are now available for everyone through the County’s Information Services and Technology Department. (Copyright-free Unsplash photo).
Best practices on cybersecurity are now available for everyone through the County’s Information Services and Technology Department. (Copyright-free Unsplash photo).

Tech experts publish list of recommendations for businesses, organizations

Courtesy of Marin County

Cybersecurity experts with the County of Marin have published a Top 10 List of Cybersecurity Recommendations targeted to the local business community that may help in thwarting bad guys who lurk on the web.

The County’s Information Services and Technology (IST) Department, which has garnered several awards in recent years for its security protocols, created the public list of hacking-prevention tips based on current threat intelligence information, industry best practices, and the County’s direct experience in managing cybersecurity incidents.

IST Chief Information Security Officer, Jason Balderama, previously focused on County employee education, awareness, and engagement in cybersecurity, but he recognized a need to widen the audience. In recent years, personnel from Marin’s towns, cities, and community partners have turned to the County for leadership on the topic, and the result was the creation of the Marin Information Security Collaboration (MISC). Member agencies receive IST’s monthly security awareness newsletter, get alert notifications from the County about active cyber threats, and have access to a peer network to ask questions and share ideas related to cybersecurity issues.

It’s an especially critical time for all organizations to tighten web security given active threats tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine emergency. Balderama cited the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and its Shields Up campaign as a way to educate more people about malicious cyber activity.

“We not only need to keep the County’s data safe and secure, but we are eager to help nearby municipalities, local businesses, organizations, and residents at large. Internet safety is vital, not just for financial reasons but for public safety as well. Criminal activity on the Internet can do tremendous harm, and there’s no reason why we should keep our best practices a secret.”

County IST’s top 10 list mentions the need for multi factor authentication, strong password policies, email security training, cyber incident preparedness, and more. All advice is offered in good faith to increase awareness and reduce threats.

As part of the Digital Marin Strategic Plan, the MISC is rebranding as the Marin Security and Privacy Council (MSPC), expanding services, and soon will be opening membership to private businesses in Marin. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, Marin IST encourages all residents to sign up for the County’s monthly e-newsletter called Marin CyberSafe News. Registration is open on the Information Security and Compliance page of the County website. Subscribe to the newsletter and stay one step ahead.

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