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WitnessLA welcomes you to the California Justice Report, a weekly roundup of news and views from California and beyond.

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WitnessLA's Best of the Week

The Power of "The Cartel" - When Headlines Imitate Art...and Fiction Tells the Real Truth About the Drug War: Don Winslow's new novel, "The Cartel," made news when Sinaloa drug cartel head, Joaquin Guzman---"El Chapo"---escaped from Mexico's most secure prison in a manner that eerily resembled scenes in the book. Now many are reading Winslow's 640-page fictional tale because of the truths it reveals about the narco drug wars, and the failure of the 45-year US war on drugs. WitnessLA

Do Unarmed Latinos Shot & Killed by Police Get Less Attention than Blacks?: In the last year, out of 23 people shot and killed in Los Angeles by police, 14 were Latino. Now the families of some of those killed in recent years under questionable circumstances are asking why some police-caused deaths seem more important to the press and community activists than others. WitnessLA

A Ride Home with Carlos & Roby: The Anti-Recidivism Coalition's Roby So and Carlos Cervantes give men leaving prison a much-needed ride home and help them acclimate to the outside world. WitnessLA

When This For-Profit Corporation Takes Over Prison Health Care, Inmate Mortality Rates Rise: The private medical company, California Forensic Medical Group, is the largest prison health care provider in CA. And following in the steps of the largest prison health care provider in the nation, Corizon Correctional Health Care, CFMG rakes in the cash while mired in misconduct and neglect scandals. WitnessLA

Why is LA County Probation Sitting on $21.7 Million in Unspent Juvie Justice Funds?: We learned that LA County Probation is sitting on $21.7 million in state-allocated juvenile justice funds that were supposed to be spent toward creating a comprehensive plan of youth services to keep at-risk kids out of the justice system, and reentry programs for kids who are locked up. WitnessLA

Judge Forces Gardena to Release 2013 Video of City's Cops Shooting Unarmed Man: Federal Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the city of Gardena to release two disturbing videos of Gardena police officers shooting Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, an unarmed man mistaken for a robbery suspect. WitnessLA

President Obama - Pardons and Prisons: President Barack Obama launched a weeklong push for criminal justice reform that included commuting 46 non-violent drug sentences and visiting a federal prison. WitnessLA

...And from Around the Web 


The Times Editorial Board Hammers Away at the Issue of Civilian Oversight for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department: An LA Times editorial calls for civilian oversight for the LASD to act as advisors to the sheriff, independent of County Counsel and the Board of Supervisors. LA Times 

Legal Experts Say Orange County's Outrageous Prosecutorial Misconduct Scandal Can Only Be Resolved Through Outside Investigation: After the OC District Attorney chose his own team of former judges and prosecutors to investigate his office for a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct involving jailhouse informants, legal experts say the investigation should be taken over by the feds or a blue ribbon commission. Huffington Post

The US Department of Justice and Immigrant Rights Attorneys Fail to Settle Lawsuit Over Holding Kids in Immigration Detention Centers: The US DOJ and immigrant rights lawyers could not reach an agreement in a lawsuit challenging the incarceration of immigrant children with their mothers in three privately run detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania, according to documents filed in a federal court in Los Angeles. The move came after a federal judge tentatively ruled that the Justice Dept. was violating a 1997 ruling that immigrant children had to be placed with relatives, in foster care, or in the least restrictive setting possible. Associated Press


Anonymous Donor Gives $34 Million to Oakland Improvements, Including School Discipline Reform: Out of an anonymous donor's $34 million gift to Oakland, $2 million will go to boosting trauma-informed care in school health centers, and $6 million will go to early childhood education, restorative justice, and expanding the African American Achievement program. KQED

Jails, Jails, Jails!: San Francisco is considering building a controversial $240 million jail, in part, because their empty one in San Bruno is too far away. ABC7  Meanwhile, in Santa Clara County, a new jail's estimated cost has jumped from $62-72 million to more than $200 million. To pay for it, the county will have to scrape together extra state funding and money from county-issued bonds. County officials say the new jail will replace a jail with limited rehabilitation capabilities and too few maximum security cells. San Jose Mercury News

The ACLU of NorCal Sues Over the State of Public Defense in Fresno County: In Fresno County, overloaded public defenders are unable to provide to indigent defendants adequate representation required by the Constitution, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Northern California (and others) against Fresno and the state of California. ACLU


"Potty Watch" in CDCR Lock-Ups: In California prisons, guards put inmates suspected of swallowing contraband on "potty watch," during which the prisoners are shackled and watched 24/7 for days (sometimes weeks) while guards wait for possible contraband to pass through their digestive systems. Critics argue that the practice, which has a 40% success rate, is psychologically damaging, and more restrictive than contraband watch protocols in other states. Associated Press

Opinion - Law Enforcement Veteran Says Media and Officials Misrepresent Prop 47: Thomas Hoffman, whose 34-year law enforcement career involved serving as both CDCR head of the Adult Parole Division and a deputy police chief in West Sacramento, debunks media and officials' negative misrepresentation of the effects and intent of Prop 47---which reclassified certain non-violent, non-sexual felonies as misdemeanors. Sacramento Bee

Federal Judge Alex Kozinski Debunks Common Beliefs About Criminal Justice: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski publishes a 42-page essay challenging some of the nation's assumptions about prosecution and sentencing, arguing that police and prosecutors tend to "stack the deck" against defendants they want to see convicted. San Diego Union-TribuneGeorgetown Law Review

Leaders from CA to Attend a Symposium on Social Justice, Modern Slavery, and Other Issues at the Vatican: California Governor Jerry Brown, along with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, will discuss social justice issues with political leaders from around the world at a Vatican symposium. Contra Costa Times


Black Students at a High School in Brooklyn Have a 100% Graduation Rate: At the Brooklyn College Academy, low income black high schoolers achieve academic success through a unique support group called Sophisticated Well Articulated Gentlemen's Group (SWAGG) in which students receive constant encouragement from alumni and each other. Hechinger Report

A Comparison of Conditions in Two Prisons President Obama Visited - One in the US, and One in Africa: Last week, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, but it's not the only prison he has toured. President Obama (and also former Pres. Bill Clinton) toured the notorious South African prison where Nelson Mandela was held. The Marshall Project explains why prisons in the US are, in many ways, worse than South Africa's Robben Island prison. The Marshall Project

Federal Appeals Court Says Convictions Based on Old or Inconclusive DNA Tech Should Be Subject to New DNA Testing: A The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that people whose convictions relied on outdated or inconclusive DNA testing should have the right to new DNA testing, despite the three-year statute of limitations. Associated Press

Life After Incarceration: Three former offenders share what it's like to leave lock-up and restart their lives, on NPR's For the RecordNPR

Editorial - The Boy Scouts of America's Policy Change to Allow Gay Leaders Still Leaves Room for Discrimination: The Boy Scouts of America's national executive committee voted to let individual troops decide whether to allow gay leaders and volunteers. The decision ended the organization's official ban on gay adults, but did not go far enough. LA Times  Some Republican presidential candidates are not thrilled by the decision. Slate
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