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Funding Shortage Causes Prison Overcrowding

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By Freddie Allen, NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Department of Justice will spend $6.6 billion this year to stack drug dealers, addicts, shooters, and illegal immigrants like Lego blocks in prisons that are overcrowded, understaffed and barely safe, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO report found that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the agency that runs the federal penitentiary system, operated at 39 percent over recommended capacity nationwide and at 55 percent over capacity at high security facilities. From 2006 to 2011, prison population grew at 9.5 percent, outpacing the 7 percent growth in infrastructure and new beds. Prisons are staffed at 90 percent, the minimum safe standard for BOP.

“According to BOP data, 81 percent of male inmates housed in low security facilities were triple bunked at the end of 2011,” the report stated.

Instead of moving low level inmates to contracted private-run facilities such as halfway houses for budget reasons, the BOP packed 4,500 low level inmates into medium security facilities. The population shift compounded problems in higher level prisoners.

According to the GAO, the Bureau of Prisons reserves beds in Special Housing Units and Special Management Units for the most dangerous prisoners who “threaten the safety, security, or orderly operation of the facility or potentially cause harm to the public.” Because of overcrowding, the worst of the worst often wait more than 100 days for a cell on the Special Management Units.

The rise in the prison population forced BOP officials to convert TV rooms and gyms to makeshift dorms, cut education programs, delay drug treatment programs, and curb much-needed job placements for the inmates.

“These factors, taken together, contribute to increased inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of inmates and staff,” the report said.

“According to BOP, the increase in sentence length is the primary reason for the growth in federal inmate population from 42,000 in 1987 to over 218,000 today,” the GAO reported.

When security breakdowns occur in prisons, correctional officers often find themselves on the receiving end of vicious attacks.

In a written statement submitted to the House Judiciary Committee last December, Dale Deshotel, president of the Council of Prison Locals, American Federation of Government Employees said, “These serious correctional worker understaffing and prison inmate overcrowding are resulting in a significant increase in inmate assaults on correctional workers.”

Deshotel recounted the murder of Correctional Officer Jose Rivera in June 2008 and the stabbings of two other correctional officers.

According to a 2011 GAO report, in 2007 there were 70 inmate-on-staff attacks that resulted in injury to correction officers. By 2009, that number increased to 110 assaults. In 2010, there were 73 serious attacks.

In an effort to address the negative impact of overcrowding, some federal prisons have started staggering meals and recreation time for inmates. Prison officials also reward inmates for good behavior with benefits such as greater access to phones, “honor dorms,” and e-mail.

Although BOP can implement strategies to control inmate populations within their prisons, external factors have a much greater influence on overcrowding.

Draconian drug laws established in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act ensured mandatory minimums for a range of drug offenses. These laws disproportionately affected minorities for more nearly 25 years.

Blacks represent 50.5 percent of drug offenders in state prisons, compared to 30.4 percent for Whites.

Drug offenses represent the majority of admissions to BOP, and the average time an inmate served for drug offenses increased from 250 percent after 1987, GAO said.

The bureau can’t control who gets sent to prison and for how long, but often states do and some of them, dealing with their own budget crises, are taking advantage of that flexibility.

In 2009 New York changed the draconian drug laws that relegated drug offenders to mandatory minimums.

“For example, in 2009, New York implemented changes to its drug statutes, which affected the sentencing of some drug felony offenders. These changes included revising the ranges of for state prison sentences by lowering the minimum sentence allowable for certain nonviolent drug felony offenders,” the report said.

The number of drug offenders in New York prisons decreased from 17.7 percent in 2009 to 13.6 percent in 2011.

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 decreased the disparity in sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine drug violations, which will ultimately affect the length of prison terms drug offenders serve.

By 2020, the Bureau of Prisons plans to decrease overcrowding in federal prisons from 71 percent to 58 percent at mid-level prisons and 55 percent to 12 percent at high security prisons. The agency said that it can accomplish this goal by increasing capacity by adding private contracted beds, infrastructure and new prisons to keep up with the expected growth in population. But without funds, the path forward is not certain.

The bureau has not included funding for the additional beds in current congressional budget requests.

If the BOP continues to experience budget shortfalls, GAO said that their “plans are subject to change.”

Former Alameda County Deputy District Attorney

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By Darryl Stallworth

As a prosecutor, I tried dozens of murder cases, but all it took was one death penalty trial to convince me that the death penalty is wasteful, ineffective, and broken beyond repair. I support Proposition 34 to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. I know that a “Yes on 34” means justice that works -- for everyone in California. 
As deputy district attorney for Alameda County, I was given a career-making case calling for execution of a young man involved in a bloody crime spree in Oakland. I proudly accepted the chance to send him to death row, but as the trial went on, his abusive and violent childhood was exposed. I learned that the crimes he committed mirrored ones he had experienced as a child. What once seemed like a simple case became more complicated and I saw that his violence was part of a larger picture of the violence he had grown up with and witnessed. 
I carried out my job and argued that he be given a death sentence, but I was no longer certain what would be accomplished by it. Eventually, the jury recommended life in prison without parole. 
Although I lost, I felt justice was done because he was no longer a threat to society. He would spend the rest of his life behind bars -- just like every person in California sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole since 1977. Keeping him off death row, where he would get special housing and an expensive legal team, also saved taxpayers $1 million. 
After that case, I stopped seeking the death penalty. I now understand that the death penalty is an ineffective and wasteful response to the complex problem of violent crime. I know that the death penalty isn’t preventing crime because I was saw plenty of other people go through the cycle of violence: experiencing painful tragedies in their lives and subsequently not caring about the consequences of their actions. 
We waste huge amounts of money on death row, rather than intervening before people get caught up in violence. Our limited resources would be better spent on programs that focus on stopping violence before it starts, such as preventing child abuse and drug addiction. 
We also should invest in solving crimes to keep our families safe. The solve rate for violent crimes in California is shockingly low. Every year, 46% of murders and 56% of reported rapes go unsolved. Murder cases with African American and Latino victims are even less likely to be solved, and yet we spent $130 million a year to prop up this expensive failure when we have a useful alternative with life in prison without parole. 
As it stands, we are on track to spend $1 billion over the next 5 years on the death penalty even though only 13 people have been executed in California out of 900 death sentences since this 1978. I can tell you that is never going to change, and certainly not without pouring even more money into broken system when our state is nearly broke.
The death penalty is staggeringly wasteful, and it is wrong to spend this kind of money on people who are already locked up for life. We should be spending this money on schools, programs for youth, crime labs, and technology to help us find and prosecute the criminals that are still at large. 
Finally, there’s the problem of innocence. Innocent people have been put on death row and innocent people have been executed. Most recently, a 2012 report found that Carlos DeLuna was executed because of mistaken identity. Carlos had the bad fate of looking like the guilty man, also named Carlos. Experts can tell you that this problem is very common, especially when people are identifying a person of another race. None of the evidence that could have exonerated DeLuna was considered by police or the prosecution, and the likely brutal murderer went free. That is the ironic thing: because prosecutors were spending enormous amounts of time and money putting someone on death row, they actually let the real killer go free. We can’t let this continue, but unless we vote Yes on 34, it will. 
Prop. 34 will help us put our resources behind breaking the terrible cycles of violence that trap so many young people. It is the right answer to a difficult question. Please consider voting YES on 34 for justice for everyone.


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Kansas Ave SDA Church will host a Fashion Show on Saturday, October 20, 2012 beginning at 6:30 pm-9:30 pm. Kansas Ave SDA Church is located at 4491 Kansas Ave, Riverside, CA 92507. Adult tickets are $20 and children (12 and under) $10. There will be a silent auction, vendors, and photo booth. For more information contact (951) 347-2010.


Spirit of Hope Church is hosting a Health Fair November 10, 2012 at 9:00 am-2:00 pm., 1820 E Highland Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92404. There will be free food, fun, and prizes for everyone. For more information, contact 909-882-2961.


Dunamis Power Christian Fellowship (DPCF) Pastors Warren and Vitina White cordially invite the Inland Empire community to share in a spiritual renewal experience at the “Ignite 2012: Back to Christ” revival to be held at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 12 and 13 at the church sanctuary located at 2700 Little Mountain Road, Building G in San Bernardino, Ca. (92405).  On Friday, October 12, Bishop Candace Shields of Twice Called Christian Center located in San Bernardino, Ca. will be the featured speaker at 7 p.m.. Saturday, October 13 is “Youth and Adult Night” and Prophet Timothy Allen will be the feature speaker at 7 p.m. There will also be a special performance from the A.C.T.S Mime Ministries. For more information contact (909) 440-4817.


Three experts on water issues will give talks at a public symposium at the University of California, Riverside on Oct. 17.  The two-hour symposium, which starts at 4 p.m. in the Alumni & Visitors Center, is titled “Water Policy in the West.” Reservations for the free symposium are required and can be made by emailing HYPERLINK "mailto:carol.obrien@ucr.edu" carol.obrien@ucr.edu.  Parking will be free for attendees in Lot 24. The three speakers — Glenn Schaible at USDA, Ari Michelsen at Texas A&M University and Ellen Hanak at the Public Policy Institute of California — will address challenges that agriculture and other sectors are confronting in the face of increasing water scarcity and expected climate change.  They will address, too, the strategies needed to meet projected water demands. For more information, please visit: HYPERLINK "http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/9346" \t "_blank" http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/9346


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Former California Lieutenant Governor and first Black to serve in this position, Mervyn M. Dymally affectionately referred to as the “Godfather of African-American politics”, passed away Sunday in Los Angeles, Calif.  He was 86.

Dymally’s wife, Alice Gueno Dymally who recently lost her mother Alice Walker Gueno said in a statement, “My beloved husband of 44-years Mervyn Dymally passed away very peacefully this morning at 6:30 a.m. He lived a very extraordinary life and had no regrets.” Dymally in his career accomplished many firsts. He was the nation’s first Black Lieutenant Governor, first Black California State Senator and was a pioneer member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Upon hearing of the passing of Dymally, his former colleagues, government officials, and contemporaries paid tribute to Dymally in issued statements. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. stated: "Mervyn Dymally was an extraordinary man who spent his life breaking new ground and advancing the cause of civil rights and equality. He was both a thinker and a doer, bearing deep knowledge but never hesitating to take action where action was warranted. California has lost an important leader."

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement on the passing of Mervyn Dymally: "I am tremendously saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, former Congressman and Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally. Representative Dymally was a true role model for generations of Californians, not least because of his barrier-breaking legacy as one of the first persons of color to serve at the state and federal levels of our great nation. His lifelong commitment to justice during his time in Congress, the state legislature and the Lieutenant Governorship of California will continue to inspire us as we work to further the vision of equality that he championed for more than five decades. My prayers are with his wife, Alice, daughter Lynn and son Mark during this difficult time."

Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter stated, “How can you comment on someone who is bigger than life? I was introduced to him during our long relationship with the late Congressman George Brown and continued my relationship through my tenure in the Assembly. He was an amazing man. You know a person by the way he treats his wife and he treated his wife with love, respect and honor. We will truly miss his leadership in our state.”

Candidate for the 47th Assembly District, Cheryl Brown stated: “He is the consummate statesman, always the political teacher who never stopped giving back to the state and the country. My family has been supporters of Mr. Dymally his entire political career. My mother knew him well and when I announced my candidacy for the Assembly, Mr. Dymally gave me council and sent more than one contribution. I will miss him as the campaign moves forward. He was always there to give advice.” Congresswoman Janice Hahn released the following statement: “Mervyn Dymally was an icon, a legend, and one of the most loved and revered leaders in all of California. He was a fierce advocate for his constituents as a State Legislator, member of Congress, and as California’s 41st Lieutenant Governor. He was a man of strong principles and values. We will always be grateful for his leadership in the building of MLK Hospital in Watts. He’s always been a mentor and a friend. Mervyn will surely be missed.”

Assemblymember Isadore Hall in a statement said, "For decades, Mervyn Dymally served California with an unwavering passion and commitment.  Merv’s legacy helped open the doors of opportunity for his and future generations and hisspirit will live on in the lives of the many leaders he inspired.  Our state and country are a better place because of his lifetime of work.  I am honored to have called him my friend and mentor.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.” In honoring the memory of former Lieutenant Dymally, Speaker John A. Pérez stated, “I was deeply saddened to learn former Lieutenant Governor Merv Dymally passed away. He was an iconic figure in California politics, whose public service spanned nearly six decades in the Legislature, House of Representatives and as Lieutenant Governor of California. Throughout his time in office, he commanded respect on both sides of the aisle, and was a thoughtful and passionate advocate for the men and women he represented and for the poorest and most vulnerable Californians. He will be greatly missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

Mervyn Malcolm Dymally was born May 12, 1926 in Cedros, Trinidad and Tobago and served in the California State Assembly from 1963 to 1966, California State Senate from 1967 to 1975, and as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of California from 1975 to 1979.

Along with George L. Brown of Colorado, who was also elected a lieutenant governor in 1974, Dymally was one of the two first Blacks elected to any statewide office in any state since Reconstruction.

Mr. Dymally then successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and served from 1981 to 1993.  As a member of the House of Representatives, he was one of the first persons of African and Indian origin to serve in the U.S. Congress.  After a 10-year retirement, he returned to politics to serve in the California State Assembly from 2002 to 2008.  He is considered the Godfather of African-American politicians in the state of California.

Dymally is survived by his daughter Lynn and son Mark, as well as his wife Alice Gueno Dymally and three sisters.

Funeral services and viewing will be held Wednesday, October 17, 2012 with the viewing between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon followed by services at 12:30 at the Holy Cross Mortuary, 5835 West Slauson Avenue, Culver City, CA.

Power is in Your Person

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By Marian Wright Edelman

“You know, when we started the farm workers movement, I remember going to many conferences, and people [kept asking] how do we do this? . . . We had to convince people that they have power. Of course, when you say to a farm worker who doesn’t speak the English language, doesn’t have formal education, doesn’t have any assets, doesn’t have any money, that he or she has power, they say, ‘What kind of power do I have?’ And so what we had to convince the workers is you do have power, but that power is in your person. That power is in your person, and when you come together with other workers, other people, and they also understand that they have power, this is the way that changes are made. But you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve got to do it with other people. You’ve got to work together to make it happen.”

As the founder of the Agricultural Workers Association, the co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers union, and the founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation for community organizing, Dolores Huerta has spent decades working relentlessly to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination in all forms. In the process she has improved the lives of countless children and families, especially poor and immigrant families. Huerta started out with a mission to be a teacher, but quickly realized that most of her students were children of farm workers who lived in poverty. She couldn’t stand seeing the children coming to class hungry and needing shoes and she thought she could do even more to help them by organizing their parents. Huerta’s many successes over the years have proven her right about the power every person can have once they are ready to claim it and work together with others for change.

When Huerta spoke to community and youth leaders at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent national conference, she shared some of her wisdom from her long legacy of working for justice—starting with the point that the people who need change most are the best ones to make it happen. “The thing that we have to remember is that change comes from the bottom, okay? All of the changes that have been made, whether it's the Civil Rights Movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement, the immigrants’ rights movement . . . we can make the change, but it’s got to start with us. The one thing that we have to always tell people is that nobody is going to do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves . . . and the one thing that we know is that the people who are suffering the problems are the ones that have the solutions. The people that are going through the suffering and the discrimination, they are the ones that have the answers to how to solve the problems. So the only thing that we need then are the resources for organizing so that we can share our stories.” In this election year, she also had a reminder about the critical importance of including the electoral process as a piece of organizing: “And, of course, part of the way that we were able to make so many changes for the farm workers . . . is by getting out there and doing the civic work, registering people to vote, going door by door, convincing them you’ve got to vote [or] nothing is going to change. It’s like we’re in a war. We’ve got a war against immigrants. We’ve got a war against women. We’ve got a war against people of color, right? You know, a war against our LGBT community, against unions, and the only weapon that we have as insurance is our vote. And so if we don’t vote, it’s like we’re saying, ‘Okay, you won. I’m not going to fight. You can go ahead and put our kids in jails. You can cut our education. You can cut our health services, and I’ll just let you.’ And so, you know, part of our work – and this is what we did with the farm workers – you have to go out there, and you have to really convince people that their vote matters.”

As she was closing Dolores Huerta shared a Zulu word with the audience, wozani, that’s a call for people to come together in unity. Huerta reminded us that it’s time for all of us committed to pursuing justice for children and the poor to work together in unity and use our power and our votes. If you share, as I do, Mahatma Gandhi’s belief that “there are enough resources in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed,” and if you believe that preventable child poverty, homelessness, hunger, and illiteracy are a moral abomination in our nation with a Gross Domestic Product exceeding $15 trillion and when 400 of our wealthiest Americans made more income in 2008 than the combined revenues of 22 states, then get out to vote and make sure everyone you know does. Our democracy and our children’s futures depend on each of us.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.


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