Many Eligible For Prop. 47 Relief Still Need to Apply

July 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media – California’s Prop. 47 allows many individuals to change certain felonies into misdemeanors on their criminal records – but less than a quarter of those eligible have submitted their requests, and the window of opportunity could expire next year.

Eighteen months into Prop. 47’s enactment, the state has received some 211,000 petitions seeking resentencing or a record change.

The ballot measure, which passed in November 2014 despite heavy opposition from law enforcement associations, gives a three-year window for the estimated 1 million eligible individuals to file for relief.

Prop. 47 converted certain nonviolent felonies into misdemeanors, which translates into little or no jail time for crimes like low-value theft and simple drug possession. The savings generated by the measure are meant to guide people into programs such as drug treatment.

Advocates worry that because the “application process is so complex” – even though the application itself is only a page long – and counties don’t have enough attorneys who can spend adequate time dealing with petitions, the sun may set on the window before all those eligible can apply.

However, in early June, California State Assembly approved AB 2765, a bill that would extend the deadline by five years, from November 2017 to November 2022. The Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously approved the measure June 28, moving it to the Senate Committee on Appropriations where it will be heard on Aug. 1.

If it is signed into law, “it will give the courts and the judicial system more time to process the applications,” says Marisa Arrona, Prop. 47 implementation director with Californians for Safety and Justice, the non-profit that was at the forefront of the Prop. 47 campaign.

Equally importantly, it will give more time for criminal justice advocates to conduct outreach and get more people to submit their requests.

Prop. 47 supporters say that processing petitions is burdensome for the public defenders’ offices that deal with the cases. And resentencing takes “some coordination,” says Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky. Since the measure is retroactive, and there is no limit on how far back a conviction can go, some rap sheets could go back several decades.

“No sustained funding”

The biggest problem, however, is “there’s no sustained funding for the legal services that help eligible individuals file for Prop. 47 relief,” says Eliza Hersh, director of Clean Slate, a project of the East Bay Community Law Center.

In Alameda County, for instance, the Public Defender’s office got no funding at all to take up Prop. 47 cases. Hersh says that Public Defender Brendon Wood assigned an attorney from his staff to deal with Prop. 47 cases full-time, with no additional funding for the increased work.

Contra Costa County also faced the same funding shortage, but the Public Defender’s office was able to get some outside grants – one for $50,000 from the San Francisco Foundation and another for $25,000 from The California Endowment, according to Public Defender Robin Lipetzky.

The money allowed her office to hire one legal support employee to work on Prop. 47 cases. So far, the county has received about 2,400 petitions.

“We have been processing between 50 and 100 cases a week,” says Deputy Public Defender and Reentry Coordinator Ellen McDonnell.

Kelly Emling, chief deputy with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, said that despite no additional hires, her office so far has been able to grant about 50,300 petitions.

“Our workload has increased,” Emling says, pointing out that processing applications “looks deceptively simple.”

Thanks to her department’s partnership with a number of community-based organizations, outreach into the community has been good, although not as much as is necessary, she says.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is likely to approve the hiring of a few paralegals to deal with Prop. 47 applications when it meets July 12, she said.

In the meantime, Californians for Safety and Justice, in partnership with other non-profits, is continuing its outreach efforts to increase Prop. 47 applications. She worries that there may be homeless people who are not even aware of the law.

California Needs to Hike Funding for Prop 47 Services, Says L.A. City Council

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council backed a resolution Wednesday urging Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to increase the amount of funding proposed for drug treatment, mental health, re-entry and other services promised under Proposition 47.

The measure, approved by voters in 2014, reduced six categories of non-violent felonies to misdemeanors and calls for using savings from locking up fewer inmates on preventative and rehabilitation services.

The funds would go toward programs intended to help former inmates re-enter society, reduce the rate of individuals returning to prison and steer youth away from criminal activity. A portion of the funds was also allocated to services for the victims of crimes.

However, a disagreement has arisen over the amount of those savings, with Brown estimating costs to be cut by $29.3 million as part of his January budget proposal, while others say that figure should be between $100 million to $200 million.

The higher amount is based on the state Legislative Analyst’s Office’s projections when the ballot initiative was written, and more recently when the office released an updated calculation in February.

The City Council, siding with the higher savings figures, approved a resolution by Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Joe Buscaino that calls on Brown to reconsider his initial funding proposal.

Before joining the City Council in 2015, Harris-Dawson was president of Community Coalition, a South Los Angeles advocacy group that actively pushed for passage of Proposition 47 as part of a statewide alliance called California Calls.

Harris-Dawson said he believes the state’s savings from keeping fewer people locked up in its prisons should be “in the neighborhood of a $130 million estimate.”

Proposition 47 helped to reduce the prison population, which had grown so large that a judge had threatened to assume control over state prisons, but it is also important to ensure people do not return from prison or going there in the first place, according to Harris-Dawson.

“You can save a little money here and go on the cheap, but those people are not going to go away if they do not get the services and they are not able to gain re-entrance to the community,” Harris-Dawson said.

“Eventually you’re going to end up paying the price, and that price is lives, all too often.”
Karren Lane, vice president of policy with Community Coalition, said their group and other organizations are asking that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also approve a similar resolution.

“We’re encouraged our local leaders are stepping up to the plate to actually put pressure on the state to ensure that there’s enough resources in local neighborhoods and communities for prevention and treatment services,” Lane said.

Lane said Brown’s figure, based on calculations by the Department of Finance, fails to account for savings from keeping fewer people in contract prisons, such as those located out of state.

Under Proposition 47, the state had a year to calculate how much the state would save from releasing inmates and locking up fewer people. The first pot of funding is scheduled to be released in July and divvied up among local organizations and agencies that offer such services.

Lane said there is a statewide push for Brown and other state officials to increase the funding proposal in the May revise of the budget and ultimately in June, when the spending plan is expected to be finalized.

Updated 3/4/16 at 11:05 a.m.: Headline updated to reflect viewpoint of L.A. City Council.

Supervisores Aprueban Ayuda Para Personas Elegibles Bajo la Proposición 47

December 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

La junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Ángeles votó la semana pasada por unanimidad para formar un comité que ayude a exconvictos no violentos a solicitar que sus antecedentes penales sean reducidos bajo la Proposición 47 y para que reciban ayuda para conseguir trabajos y servicios que puedan ayudarlos a prosperar y a unirse a sus comunidades.

La Proposición 47, que fue aprobada el año pasado, redujo varios delitos no violentos, y no graves de felonías a delitos menores. Desde la aprobación de la Proposición 47, menos de 50,000 residentes elegibles del Condado han solicitado una nueva sentencia para que sus antecedentes penales sean reducidos o eliminados, a pesar de que hay al menos 690,000 residentes elegibles para recibir nuevas sentencias.

La  moción de la Supervisora Solís, que fue co-escrita por el Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, requiere que el personal del Condado reciba entrenamiento para que pueda referir a personas elegibles con eficacia y prontitud a los servicios apropiados. El Defensor Público y el  Defensor Público Alternativo posteriormente ayudaran a estos candidatos aplicar para una sentencia nueva.

Una encuesta recién conducida por la fundación California Endowment encontró que sólo el 29 por ciento de los residentes de Los Ángeles saben acerca de la Proposición 47.

“El propósito de la ley es disminuir el número de delincuentes de bajo nivel en las prisiones y también de tratar de remover los obstáculos que impiden a las personas que han cumplido su tiempo en la cárcel a reincorporarse a la sociedad”, dijo Solís.

“La ley ha logrado reducir la población de las prisiones y de cárceles, pero para realmente desatar el potencial de esta ley, tenemos que ayudar a estos hombres y mujeres acceder a los trabajos y servicios que les ayudarán a tener éxito, mientras se reintegran a la sociedad”, aseveró.

La ley establece un plazo hasta el 2017  para todas las peticiones que buscan una nueva sentencia.

“Si este plazo pasa sin una aceleración significativa en las aplicaciones, el Condado de Los Ángeles se habrá perdido una oportunidad importante para establecer a la gente en el camino a la ciudadanía productiva, y por defecto, vamos a hacer que nuestros vecindarios sean más vulnerables a los crímenes potenciales,” dijo Solis.

“Con la Proposición 47, las personas que han cometido ciertos delitos no violentos y no graves tienen la oportunidad de darle vuelta a la página”, dijo el Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “No debemos desaprovechar esta oportunidad – este mandato – para reformar nuestro sistema de justicia penal para que sea menos punitivo y más humano, con el potencial de ser curativo y transformador”.

Además, la moción aboga por el desarrollo de una mejor colaboración público-privada que introduciría estos aspirantes de nuevas sentencias a empleo y servicios a través de la nueva creación de un grupo de trabajo compuesto de líderes del sector público y privado.

“Al conectar a estos individuos a las oportunidades de empleo les dará una segunda oportunidad porque nada detiene una bala como un trabajo”, dijo Solís. “Aunque estamos conscientes de que la curación intensiva de un trauma es más importante que el empleo, no hay duda de que un trabajo ofrece dignidad, un propósito en la vida, esperanza, y los ingresos para poder sostenerse–todo lo cual ayuda a prevenir  la delincuencia”.

Instituciones cívicas prominentes servirán en el grupo de trabajo y discutirán cómo pueden ayudar a estos hombres y mujeres. Se espera que representantes de la Cámara de Comercio de Los Ángeles, La Federación de Trabajo del Condado de Los Ángeles, La fundación The California Endowment, y el Colegio de Los Ángeles Trade Tech presten ayuda.

Se espera que el comité encargado de ayudar a los exconvictos bajo la Proposición 47 también traten de extender la fecha limite de la ley, que actualmente esta programada para finalizar el 3 de noviembre del 2017.

Se espera un reporte actualizado en seis meses.

Supes to Form Prop. 47 Task Force

December 3, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to form a task force to help non-violent ex-cons update their records under Proposition 47 and to link them to jobs and services.

Proposition 47 — dubbed by supporters the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act — was approved by 59.6 percent of California voters in 2014. It reduced some non-violent drug and property crimes — such as shoplifting, receiving stolen property and writing bad checks of less than $950 — from felonies to misdemeanors.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed the task force and Solis said it would bolster public safety.

“The primary purpose of the motion today is to reduce crime,” Solis said. “Jail and prison have become a revolving door.”

The task force will focus on connecting individuals coming out of jail and prison with jobs, housing, health care and mental health and substance abuse treatment and finding funding for those services.

“For the last 40 years, our broken criminal justice system has drained communities like South Los Angeles,” said Karren Lane of the Community Coalition of policies that doled out harsh punishments for drug and other non-violent offenses.

Solis highlighted the barriers faced by ex-offenders.

“Having a felony conviction makes it difficult to get work, to get housing, to get services and to put your life back together,” Solis told her colleagues.

Public Defender Ronald L. Brown said individuals in prison and jail suffer disproportionately from mental illness and substance abuse and told the board that treatment is critical to success outside of jail.

“Prisons don’t encourage inmates to address their drug problems,” Brown said.

Proponents say the proposition provides a more just penalty for low-level offenders. Anticipated savings from the law are intended to be spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment, truancy and dropout prevention and victim services.

“I think what we’re talking about is a hand up, not a hammer down,” said Bruce Brodie of the county’s office of Alternate Public Defender.

Other backers point to how Prop 47 has alleviated prison overcrowding and allowed more serious offenders to serve a greater proportion of their sentence.

However, opponents say Prop 47 puts dangerous criminals who should be behind bars out on the streets.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich pointed to criminals who are released only to commit new crimes, citing the example of one man who had been arrested 22 times after his initial release.

“Violent crime is up 4.2 percent,” Antonovich said.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl challenged the idea that the proposition was linked to higher crime rates.

“There has been a lot of rhetoric about Prop 47 and a rise in crime rates and it’s just that, rhetoric. There is no data,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl said San Diego County hasn’t seen a rise in crime since Prop 47 became effective.

There are roughly 695,000 Los Angeles County residents who are eligible to apply to change their criminal records under Prop 47, according to Brown, who told the board that his office is overwhelmed by the need to help ex-offenders “become employed, tax-paying citizens of this county.”

One community advocate said many of those eligible were unaware of the potential to change their lives.

“Two out of three people who qualify for Prop 47 are not even aware” it exists, said Amber Rose Howard of All of Us or None.

The task force was also charged with trying to extend the deadline to apply for a criminal record change, currently set for Nov. 3, 2017.

The board directed staffers from the Office of Diversion and Re-Entry to work with the city of Los Angeles’ Office of Reentry to push for the region’s share of state funding from Prop 47 savings. A report back is expected in six months.

The board also asked the Auditor-Controller to audit the county’s savings as a result of Prop 47.

Delincuentes Pueden ‘Limpiar’ Su Record Criminal Bajo la Prop. 47

June 18, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Para Joseph Barela, residente del Este de Los Ángeles, el crecer en una familia de adictos le facilitó el camino para terminar en su misma situación. Entrando y saliendo de la cárcel desde que era un adolescente, la última vez que Barela fue encarcelado en 1999 cumplió una condena de ocho años.

Ahora, a los 50 años, Barela dice que ha “crecido y madurado mucho”, pero lamenta que sus condenas pasadas de múltiples delitos graves y menores le continúen haciendo la vida difícil.

Él tiene esperanza en la poco conocida Proposición 47 que le podría ayudar a cambiar su futuro.

Read this article in English: Felons Can ‘Clean’ Old Criminal Record Under Prop. 47

“La última vez que estuve en la cárcel fue por un delito no violento”, Barela le dijo a EGP, explicando que fue declarado culpable de recibir propiedad robada y resistir arresto.

Bajo la Prop. 47, aprobada por los votantes en noviembre pasado, algunos delitos de bajo nivel no violentos, como la posesión de drogas y los delitos de robo menores de $950, se pueden reducir de delitos graves a delitos menores.

La Prop. 47 permite a los californianos como Barela peticionar para remover los delitos de sus antecedentes penales, pero sólo hasta el 5 de noviembre de 2017. De tener éxito, las personas beneficiadas pueden abrir nuevas puertas para tratar de cambiar sus vidas, mejorando sus oportunidades en la búsqueda de empleo, ayuda económica, vivienda y el derecho a votar.

Sin embargo, activistas de derechos civiles, están preocupados de que la información no está llegando a las personas que pueden beneficiarse de la modificación de la ley. Durante una mesa redonda en el Museo Americano Japonés en Little Tokyo el pasado viernes—organizada por New America Media—expertos legales, ex reclusos y periodistas hicieron hincapié en la importancia de que delincuentes no violentos inicien el proceso para limpiar sus antecedentes penales pronto, como lo establece la ley.

Joseph Barela, explica que su record criminal le ha causado problemas para adaptarse en la sociedad. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

Joseph Barela, explica que su record criminal le ha causado problemas para adaptarse en la sociedad. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

“Porque no tenemos ninguna garantía de que habrá una extensión, lo más importante es saber que no hace daño entregar su aplicación” si usted cree que califica, Hillary Blout, directora de implementación de la Prop. 47 con Californianos por la Seguridad y Justicia, le dijo a EGP. El proceso varía de un condado a otro, “algunos condados tienen un atraso de tres meses, y algunos pueden ser un mes”, agregó.

La reducción de delitos graves a delitos menores es una experiencia que cambia la vida, dijo Rochelle Solombrino, quien pasó 18 meses en prisión tras ser declarada culpable de una persecución vehicular a alta velocidad con la policía y resistir arresto.

“No creo que era una mala persona, sólo estaba haciendo cosas malas”, le dijo a la audiencia.

Solombrino dijo que se sentía derrotada cuando salió de la cárcel, dándose cuenta de que sería difícil tener una vida normal con su registro de antecedentes penales.

Solicitó vivienda de la Sección 8 pero dijo que se le negó debido a su antecedentes penales.

Solombrino se enteró durante una clínica legal gratuita que bajo la Prop. 47, cuatro de sus delitos graves podrían ser reclasificados como delitos menores.

Completó un programa de rehabilitación de drogas en la organización no lucrativa Fred Brown Recovery Services con sede en San Pedro, donde más tarde consiguió un trabajo. Ahora es coordinadora de operaciones del programa.

“Se me dio la oportunidad de ser mejor y empecé a ayudar a la comunidad”, dijo con orgullo.

Bajo la Prop. 47, ciertos cargos pueden ser borrados (eliminados) del registro de una persona, ya sea a través una nueva sentencia o reclasificación.

Bajo la “nueva sentencia” un individuo que cumple condena en la cárcel, prisión o esta en libertad condicional o supervisión obligatoria o comunitaria después de la liberación, puede solicitar ser sentenciado de nuevo bajo un delito menor.

El proceso puede variar según el condado, pero por lo general implica una audiencia y el solicitante muy probablemente necesite ser representado por un abogado.

Bajo “reclasificación” o cambio de record, los individuos que ya no estan en custodia o en libertad condicional o bajo palabra, pueden solicitar que su condena original cambie de un delito grave a un delito menor—si la condena fue en California.

Los solicitantes deben trabajar con un abogado o una clínica legal durante el proceso, según los expertos.

“Tener un delito menor sigue siendo público, pero podemos intentar borrarlo”, puesto que ya no esta abierto al escrutinio público, dijo Paul Jung, abogado con Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“Una vez que expulsas el delito menor, el empleador no está obligado a solicitar los registros”, añadió.

Aproximadamente un millón de californianos tienen delitos no violentos en sus antecedentes penales, de acuerdo a la organización Californianos por la Seguridad y Justicia. Como resultado, se enfrentan a restricciones de trabajo, vivienda o educación a pesar de que han cumplido su condena, dijo el grupo. Para el 73% de estas personas, puede equivaler a una suspensión de por vida.

En el caso de los inmigrantes, el 60% de todas las deportaciones son debido a una condena por delito grave, dijo Blout. La gente necesita saber que la presentación de la solicitud es segura, “no hay represalias por presentarla” y la información no se comparte con oficiales de inmigración, dijo.

La presentación de la solicitud de la Prop. 47 es gratis, añadió.

Con la reducción del costo de encarcelamiento—$60,000 por recluso por año versus $8,500 por la educación de un estudiante—el Estado va a tener más dinero para proveer programas de tratamiento de drogas y servicios de salud para las personas en el sistema criminal de justicia. También aportaría dinero para pagar por programas para estudiantes en riesgo del kinder al 12 grado, y servicios a las víctimas, de acuerdo con Californianos por la Seguridad y Justicia.

Esta es una buena noticia para Barela, quien dice que alrededor de cinco de sus delitos graves se pueden reducir a delitos menores. En sus palabras, a pesar de que no ha cometido ningún crimen en años, empleadores potenciales todavía lo ven como un criminal y “nadie quiere contratar a un ladrón”.

“Si la Proposición 47 hubiera existido en ese entonces, las prisiones no estarían tan llenas”.

Para obtener más información sobre el proceso, llame a (213) 974-2811 o visite www.MyProp47.com/LA.

—-

Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

 

Surge in Highland Park Gang Shootings Has People Worried

April 3, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Worried about a rash of gang-related shootings in their neighborhood, residents packed a meeting at the Highland Park Senior Center Thursday night to hear what police are doing to get the situation under control.

A turf war between two rival gangs – Avenues and HLP – is being blamed for the 13 shootings, 9 people shot, in less than two months. Not all the victims were gang members, said Capt. Anthony Oddo of the Los Angeles Police Dept. Northeast Division.

He pointed out the boldness of the shootings, several which took place in broad daylight with many people around.

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council hosted the meeting, with representatives of the two city council districts that cover the area, CD-1 and CD-14, LAPD Police Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa, Supervisor Hilda Solis and the city attorney’s office in attendance.

Ranking officers assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Northeast Division were out in force and did most of the talking, answering questions and taking criticism from residents.

Northeast police know there is a problem and we are getting reinforcements, including more patrol units and special teams from other areas, Oddo said.

But we are getting very little information from the public about the shootings and none of the shooters are in custody, he said.

“Victims are not talking to us … they are not gang members; they’re scared,” the captain said, adding the department needs the public’s help to stop the shootings.

There has been 105 arrests in the Highland Park area during the same period, but none have led to the shooters, he said, but he’s hopeful one may still lead to a suspect.

You may not be sure if it’s important, but the smallest bit of information, things heard from other people can be looked into and may lead somewhere, he said, urging people to call police with any information they may have.

Several residents complained they’ve seen this coming for some time, noting the increase in graffiti and “cross outs,” the practice of one gang crossing out the tag of a rival, which often leads to violent retaliation.

They say they call the graffiti in right away to get cleaned up to try to stop the violence that could come next, but wanted to know what else they could do.

Call in what you see, get to know your neighbors, form a neighborhood watch, were among the suggestions.

“We cannot do this alone, we need the community to get involved,” officers said.

Residents say they are worried AB 109 and the governor’s prison realignment, and passage of Proposition 47, are sending criminals released early from jail back into their neighborhood.

One speaker said gang members are hanging out at homeless encampments and  she’s heard the homeless are being paid with drugs to burglarize local homes and cars.

Resident Richard Marquez said it’s time to stop dancing around and talk about the real issue: Highland Park has a big problem with meth dealers and users, and it’s big money. “Meth dealers pay taxes to gang members” and the way to stop the shootings is to shut down the drug trade, he said.

“There’s a fight for the financial gain of the drug turf in the neighborhoods,” Marquez said.

Lt. John Cook is in charge of Northeast’s gang reduction unit and said they are closely monitoring the gang members coming out of jail.

Are there still gang injunctions in place? someone asked.

There are three gang injunctions—a court-issued restraining order prohibiting known gang members from congregating with each other— in place, (Avenues, Dogtown, HLP), but they don’t apply to new gang members, according to Cook.

Former Highland Park resident Lily Herrera said she is worried about her mother who still lives in the neighborhood. Years of mistrust of the police by residents is keeping people from saying what they know. “The community is afraid because there’s a barrier” when it comes to communication, she said.

She suggested LAPD explore more strategies to reach out to the community.

Teacher Gemma Marquez demanded to know why police are not regularly visiting local elementary schools to develop those relationships. “We know who the at-risk kids are,” she said. “We know the families, we see them as early as kindergarten,” and the police need to present a different view.

She also criticized officers for not notifying Garvanza Elementary to go on lock-down during a recent shooting at a nearby park. “Where were you! We should have been called.”

Oddo apologized for not considering students were still at the afterschool program at 5 p.m. when the shooting occurred.

LAPD has “very little coming in” from the community and that’s frustrating, said Oddo. He said his top priority is the violence in the Northeast, but said he needs people to call them when they see something.

Two upcoming events will provide more information and resources to the community: the Annual Peace in the Northeast March and Resource Fair on April 18, and a forum on gang injunctions April 30 at the Highland Park Senior Center.

Updated 04-06-15 to add LAPD Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa attended the meeting.

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