Friday, October 21, 2016

Daily Corrections Clips


Dana Littlefield, The San Diego Union Tribune

Juan Melendez repeats the numbers often: 17 years, eight months, one day.

That’s how long he spent on Florida’s death row, having been convicted of a killing he did not commit.

Since he was released in 2002, he’s been sharing his experience with all who will listen and consider his message — that the death penalty should be done away with.

That’s why Melendez, 65, was in San Diego on Thursday, to tell his story to 25 law students, lawyers and professors at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law — and to urge California voters to repeal the death penalty in the Nov. 8 election.


Debra J. Saunders, The San Francisco Chronicle

Sponsors say Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, will save taxpayers money by making nonviolent felons eligible for parole earlier and improve fairness by having judges, not prosecutors, decide whether juveniles are tried as adults. Critics call it a “Get Out of Jail Early” card. I would add it’s the sort of dishonest measure that becomes commonplace under unaccountable one-party rule. State pols gamed the system to get it on the ballot. The title promises public safety when it could result in the early release of repeat offenders. Yet California voters are likely to approve Prop. 57 because they don’t know what the measure really does.

Proposition 57 originally was submitted as a measure to let judges decide if juveniles are tried as adults. Later, sponsors changed its focus to expand adult parole. In Sacramento, when you gut a bill and replace it with something else, it’s called “gut and amend.”

Brian Gurwitz, The OC Register

As an Orange County prosecutor for 13 years, I actively fought at the state level for laws that increase criminal sentences. I believed that prosecutors – and not judges – should be given the power to decide whether children who commit serious crimes should be tried as adults.

As a lawyer who now practices criminal defense, I have now seen the result of mass incarceration from the other side. Our state’s experiment has failed. And Proposition 57 is a modest step toward rectifying our errors.

The Daily California

Jails are overcrowded, underfunded and taking up too much of the state’s money. Now’s our chance to fix that.

Proposition 57 would increase the opportunity of parole for nonviolent offenders in California prisons. It would also remove the decision of whether to prosecute a minor in juvenile or regular court from prosecutors’ hands and rightfully place it in the hands of a judge. How is that not common sense?


A statewide survey released Wednesday found almost all of California’s 17 ballot measures are on track to pass next month, with the proposition to end the death penalty in California the only measure to have significant opposition.

The poll from Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research and its CALSPEAKS public-opinion project asked Californians about 14 ballot measures. A sample of 622 likely voters favored Proposition 67, the statewide plastic bag ban, 45-39, which was within the poll’s seven point margin of error, and opposed Proposition 62, which would end the death penalty in the state, 45-37. All other propositions in the poll had comfortable support.

B. Wayne Hughes, JR., The OC Register

Centinela State Prison, located in Imperial County, California, is a place where roughly 3,500 male inmates are housed. In June 2016, Serving California (a foundation that helps ex-offenders, crime victims and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD), approached the Mighty Oaks Foundation about taking their Fight Club program – a curriculum designed for veterans suffering from PTSD or other disorders – into a California state prison to see if that program could transform the hearts of inmates. The program is Biblically-based, with an emphasis on a personal relationship with God.

The warden at Centinela State Prison, Raymond Madden, asked that the first program take place in the maximum security yard. These men had one thing in common – they had committed serious crimes. Most are serving life sentences and are active members of prison gangs, or had spent years in solitary confinement. Twenty-seven men from the Level IV maximum security unit participated in the three-day event.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Daily Corrections Clips


Imperial Valley News

Sacramento, California - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the following appointments:

Deborah Asuncion, 57, of Corona, has been appointed warden at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, where she has served as acting warden since 2015. Asuncion was chief deputy warden at California Institute for Men, Chino in 2015 and served in several positions at Salinas Valley State Prison from 2011 to 2015, including associate warden and facility captain. She served in several positions at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison from 1999 to 2011, including captain, lieutenant, facility captain and sergeant. Asuncion was a correctional officer at California State Prison, Centinela from 1996 to 1999 and from 1993 to 1994. She was a branch manager at the Valley National Bank of Cortez from 1995 to 1996, office manager at United Way of Imperial County in 1995 and a correctional officer at Calipatria State Prison from 1991 to 1993. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $145,440. Asuncion is a Democrat.

OrovillMR News

A job fair for adults supervised by Butte County Probation, California State Parole, and the Butte County Sheriff’s Office is planned Nov. 2 at the Chico Masonic Lodge.

It’s the second year for the event which brings together dozens of employers and hundreds of potential employees

Local employers looking to participate in the fair can contact Amy Asher at Butte County Probation or by email at


Tanner Clinch, The Eloy Enterprise

ELOY — The La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy is exceeding its own educational expectations awarding more GEDs and vocational certificates to the inmates who have taken advantage of the opportunities available at the facility.

As of late August, 94 inmates had received their GED in the 2016 through the programs offered. In addition, 557 inmates have also received vocational certificates in everything from electrical, to carpentry and plumbing, according to a CCA press release.


Nebraska, Oklahoma, and California will test the prospects of abolition.
Andrew Cohen, The Marshall Project

Public support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since the Supreme Court suspended capital punishment in 1972. A Pew Research poll published late last month revealed that only 49 percent of Americans now favor executing murderers, a seven-point decline from March 2015. Those poll numbers may reflect growing public concern about botched executions, the high costs of operating death rows, and the suspicion that states may have executed innocent people. The polls have lifted the hopes of death penalty abolitionists as more states move away from executions either in policy or in practice and as execution rates keep falling. That momentum, however, is about to run smack dab into four ballot measures in three states that will test the popular mood and perhaps shape the national debate over capital punishment into 2017 and beyond.


Kelly Davis, Voice of San Diego

When Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced July 13 that he’d be heading up the statewide campaign to oppose Proposition 57, it took some folks by surprise.

The measure would grant early parole consideration to certain offenders, allow inmates who engage in educational and vocational programs to earn good-time credits and give judges discretion over whether juveniles should be tried as adults (right now, district attorneys make that call).

Faulconer’s move pit him against District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, usually a Faulconer ally, who in January announced her support for the measure.

There was speculation Faulconer joined the campaign to boost his statewide profile for a 2018 bid for governor — though he’s repeatedly denied any plans to run. Since his July announcement, though, he’s been relatively quiet about Prop. 57.


The Los Angeles Times

In the nearly 40 years since California revived the death penalty, executioners at San Quentin have put 13 convicted murderers to death. But were they all truly the “worst of the worst” of the state’s killers? Were they all even killers? There’s a strong argument to be made that at least one of the executed inmates, Thomas Thompson of Laguna Beach, may, in fact, not have been guilty of murder. At the very least, there is strong evidence that the “special circumstance” — rape — that made him eligible for the death penalty didn’t occur. So why was Thompson executed? Prosecutorial chicanery by the Orange County District Attorney’s office, questionable testimony from jailhouse snitches and a defense attorney who failed at some of the basic tasks of trial, including challenging evidence, according to appellate rulings and a post-execution analysis.

Thompson’s 1998 execution points to one of the most compelling of the many reasons to abolish California’s death penalty under November’s Proposition 62.  A criminal justice system in which it’s often difficult to establish incontrovertible guilt should not be the vehicle for deciding life or death.

John Phillips, The OC Register

On election day, California voters will decide whether or not the death penalty stays or goes as the ultimate form of punishment for the state’s most heinous killers.

Capital punishment abolitionists are heralding Proposition 62, which would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, as the rightful sunset of a barbaric practice. To them, it’s a waste of taxpayer money and an immoral practice.

I couldn’t disagree more. Not only do I think it’s a good use of public resources, I believe it’s the moral answer to society’s most immoral people.

Dan Dow and Ian Parkinson, The Tribune

The purpose of Proposition 57 is to dramatically reduce our state prison population to comply with a federal court order. To ensure that voters support it, the authors claim it will only apply to “nonviolent” offenders.

When voters hear that only allow nonviolent offenders will be released early, many think that sounds reasonable. Most voters assume “nonviolent” crimes are limited to petty theft, drug use or possession, vandalism, traffic offenses and the like. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Under California law, there is only a short list of crimes classified as “violent.”

All others, including serious felonies, are technically “nonviolent.” Here is a partial list of crimes in California that are not defined as violent:

Sarah Dowling, Woodland Daily Democrat

The state of California’s early release program continues to raise questions as those released from prison reoffend.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office regularly publishes a list of convicted criminals who have been granted early release under this program.

Since the beginning of the program, 26 inmates with committing felony offenses from Yolo County have been released early, despite the opposition of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. Of those 26 already released, six have been rearrested for crimes such as domestic violence, drug possession and resisting arrest.

Across California, more than 2,900 convicted felons have been released from prison early under the program, according to Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Melinda Aiello, who detailed the history of the early release program in a press release.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Daily Corrections Clips


Daily Republic

VACAVILLE — The search continued Tuesday for a man who walked away from a minimum-security prison facility early Monday and hasn’t been seen since.

Police and prison officials are searching for Jarvis Brown, 29, who was reported missing during an institutional count at approximately 12:30 a.m. Monday at California Medical Facility, according to information provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He had last been seen in his bunk around 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

Notification was quickly made to local law enforcement agencies. Within minutes, agents from the state prison system’s Office of Correctional Safety were dispatched to locate and apprehend Brown. CMF’s Investigative Services Unit, Crisis Response Team, local law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol were also notified to assist in the search for Brown.


Shirin Rajaee, CBS

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It’s one of the most emotionally charged issues on the November ballot: California’s death penalty.

In just days, voters will be asked to weigh in on two propositions that are literally life and death decisions. One ballot measure repeals the state’s 38 year old death penalty, while a different measure seeks to speed up the process leading to executions.

The one thing both sides agree on is that the state’s current system is broken, and something needs to be done. For those supporting Proposition 62, which replaces the death penalty with life in prison without parole, it’s time for real change.


Angela Musallam, CBS

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A wanted parolee out of Sacramento led police on a chase through the city, then holed himself up inside a warehouse in East Sacramento.

Police say it happened just after 5 p.m. Monday.

An ex-girlfriend of 29-year-old Manuel Vasquez first called police to report he was driving a stolen car.


Bob Egelko, The San Francisco Chronicle

Proposition 57, potentially the most significant revision of California sentencing laws in 40 years, would allow the state parole board to consider releasing inmates who have served their basic term for a crime the law defines as nonviolent.

How many inmates would be eligible depends on whom you ask. And there’s quite a difference — one set of numbers, based on the text of Prop. 57, is more than 23 times higher than figures used by the yes on 57 campaign, which says the measure would be enforced much more narrowly.

The disparity could leave voters wondering what they’re being asked to approve.

The most reliable data usually come from a neutral source like the state’s legislative analyst, said Rory Little, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Jason Rochlin, Daily Titan

Cal State Fullerton will be taking part in a three-year pilot program starting in the spring 2016 semester alongside a number of other CSU campuses to implement Project Rebound, a means of expanding college access to help formerly incarcerated individuals earn a degree and lower prison recidivism rates.

Project Rebound is a program from San Francisco State University (SFSU) that has a goal of “Turning Former Prisoners into Scholars,” according to the program’s SFSU Associated Students page.

It was started by John Irwin in 1967, as the program became a model for other similar programs in Northern California.

Brady Heiner, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy and the director of Project Rebound at CSUF, said that Rebound is the sole survivor of nine different incarcerated student-oriented programs in the CSU system that existed in the 1970s.


Four important ballot measures you probably haven’t heard of.
Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project

High-profile state ballot measures on contentious issues like the death penalty, guns and pot are closely watched as indicators of the national mood. But this election season also brings less-noticed proposals that may have more far-reaching effects. Here are four ballot measures in six states that could serve as laboratories for other states.

Shortening Time Served for Nonviolent Felonies


California has a long history of putting criminal justice policy on the ballot: the state’s infamous “Three Strikes” law was strengthened by a ballot initiative in 1994; then, with voters’ appetite for mass incarceration on the wane, the law was partially repealed by another initiative in 2012. In 2014, voters downgraded several major felonies to misdemeanors — most notably, possession of heroin and other illegal drugs.

Kenneth E. Hartman, The Examiner

Proposition 62, the “Justice That Works Act,” claims to end the death penalty in California. But if it is voted in, it will result in the death of thousands of prisoners. In this case, a death penalty by another name will kill no less effectively, no less cruelly.

Life without the possibility of parole, particularly after the passage of this ballot initiative, will mean exactly what it says. Or as the author of the proposition prosaically framed it: “They grow old in prison and they die in prison.” Death is the expected outcome of the penalty; the death penalty in other words.

There’s more to Prop. 62 that should warrant caution. The language calls for all of us so sentenced, while we’re awaiting our old age and eventual deaths, to be housed in “high-security” prisons. In this state, home to the largest prison system ever found by the U.S. Supreme Court to be violating the cruel and unusual punishments clause of the Constitution, on an industrial scale, that means a lifetime of suffering and deprivation. It also means a virtual blank check being handed over to prison bureaucrats to exact whatever kind of brutality they see fit.

Locking people up for as long as possible isn’t the most effective way of dealing with crime.
The Wall Street Journal

Regarding Allysia Finley’s “California’s Bad Example for Criminal-Justice Reformers” (Cross Country, Oct. 8): One thing my five decades in law enforcement taught me is that locking people up for as long as possible isn’t the most effective way of dealing with crime. As the former police chief in the California cities of Richmond, San Jose and San Diego, I saw too many people cycle in and out of the system no matter how tough our punishments got.

Prison is the proper punishment for the most violent crimes, but it does more harm than good for many with nonviolent offenses, increasing the likelihood they will continue the cycle of crime. That’s why California’s Proposition 47 was so important—the law enables California to reallocate savings from a reduction in incarceration of low-level, nonviolent offenders to community-based crime prevention programs that actually address the drivers of crime.

Merced Sun Star

Those who take another’s life in a way that merits California’s death penalty often lack remorse, guilt or anything approaching empathy. They have no conscience.

But what about the rest of us?

Do we put ourselves on the same plane? Is our thirst for revenge so overpowering that it blinds us to the injustices implicit in carrying out our state’s most severe and irreversible punishment?

The death penalty is inhumane, counterproductive and costly. We recommend voting yes on Proposition 62 to abolish it, commuting all death sentences to life without parole. We also urge voters to reject Proposition 66, which would limit appeals and expedite executions.