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A shortage of judges in Riverside County has led to the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases, a practice the California Supreme Court upheld on Monday and blamed on the state's budget woes.
In unanimous ruling, the state high court said Riverside County's dearth of judges represented a "chronic" problem that was the fault of the budget-strapped state.
The case before the court involved an accused burglar, one of 18 criminal defendants whose cases were dismissed on the same day after they invoked their rights to speedy trials. Two of the 18 were charged with felonies.
Riverside County Deputy Public Defender William A. Meronek said Monday's ruling also would end prosecution for as many as 300 other defendants whose cases were on appeal after being dismissed for lack of judges. But Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Tate said his office would fight to prosecute the most serious of the dismissed cases.
The judiciary has long insisted that California needs more judges, but nowhere has the shortage been more dramatic than in Riverside County.
Chief Justice Ronald M. George, writing for the court, said in Monday's ruling that "the lack of available courtrooms and judges was attributable to the Legislature's failure to provide a number of judges and courtrooms sufficient to meet the rapidly growing population in Riverside County."
Riverside prosecutors challenged the dismissals, arguing that the court should have made every judge in the courthouse, including those in juvenile, family law and probate, available for the cases.
But the state high court said Riverside County already was giving criminal cases priority over civil disputes, and the court was not required to halt proceedings in civil cases to make room for criminal matters.
An absolute rule giving precedence to all criminal cases could force a court "to abandon entirely its responsibility to provide for the fair administration of civil as well as criminal matters," George wrote.
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Aging inmates often require special care, which drives up the cost of incarceration. NPR's police and prisons correspondent Laura Sullivan and Jonathan Turley, director of the Project on Older Prisons, discuss the options available to prison systems in dealing with thousands of inmates growing old behind bars.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Jennifer Ludden, in Washington.
An elderly man in a wheelchair, a woman who requires dialysis: These probably don't fit your image of the typical prisoner. But as prison rolls grow, so do the ages of inmates. Crime reforms of the 1980s and '90s meant mandatory sentences and reduced parole. That means more people growing infirm and dying in prison, and taking care of them is expensive.
Many states now operate geriatric prisons, some with round-the-clock care. Some are experimenting with early release programs, arguing that a convicted felon may no longer be so dangerous in his 80s or 90s.
Joining us this hour in Studio 3A is Jonathan Turley. He directs the Project for Older Prisons at George Washington University. And also NPR's police and prisons correspondent, Laura Sullivan.
Welcome to you both.
LAURA SULLIVAN: Thank you.
Mr. JONATHAN TURLEY (Director, Project on Older Prisons, George Washington University): Thank you, Jennifer.
LUDDEN: Later in the hour, a Tuesday mini-edition of the Political Junkie. We'll talk with the Republican and Democratic House candidates from Colorado's Fourth District.
But first, aging in prison. We'd like to hear from those of you with direct experience with this issue, in law enforcement, the prison system or families of older inmates. Tell us your story. Should states grant parole to aging inmates?
We begin with Jonathan Turley for an overview here. Tell us: How many people are we talking about?
Mr. TURLEY: Well, there's no single source of data to show us the exact numbers of older prisoners across the country. What we do know is that it's the fastest-growing segment of prison populations.
States are reporting that the number of older prisoners - which are often measured at 50 older. At POPS, we set it at 55 and over. But they are the fastest-growing segment.
To give you an idea of that growth, in Virginia, you have just one prison reporting that they had 900 inmates in 1990, and today, they have 5,000 that would fall into this category. So you have that's just one state.
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An activist who accused Colorado Attorney General John Suthers of assaulting him at an Oct. 12 political rally has been accused of false reporting to authorities, according to a news release Friday from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.
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Complaints of substandard health care in the Colorado prison system are nothing new, but a newly filed lawsuit by one inmate, alleging that he was neglected in his cell while vomiting blood for three days, makes for particularly interesting reading.
For one thing, Matt Mallory's federal suit was filed by University of Denver law students led by supervising attorneys Brittany Glidden and Laura Rovner -- the same team that's taking on the state system over treatment of mentally ill inmate Troy Anderson .
Rovner, Glidden and company are also challenging federal prisoner Thomas Silverstein's 26-plus years of solitary confinement.
Mallory's complaint also presents a detailed account of the deadly mix of over-prescribing, misdiagnosing and profound indifference that constitutes medical care in the Colorado Department of Corrections -- and in his version, contributed to a gastrointestinal bleed that was then simply ignored
His attorneys say DOC personnel provided Mallory with "copious amounts" of Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs after a back injury two years ago -- despite a 2005 medical audit that indicated the system was over-prescribing such drugs, with little attention to their side effects, including ulcers and GI damage. When Mallory began vomiting blood in his cell last fall, he claims he was told to "put a wet washcloth on his head" until medical staff could get around to seeing him.
But no doctor ever came. After two days of vomiting, Mallory claims he was "examined" by a nurse "through the small opening in the steel pod door." The nurse told him he could have the swine flu and suggested a liquid diet. (Bloody vomit, Mallory's complaint notes, is not a flu symptom.)
The following day, the complaint continues, Mallory was too weak to go to the cell door to get his food. An officer told him, "This place isn't like Burger King where you can have it your way." Mallory collapsed trying to reach his food -- and ultimately ended up being taken to one hospital, then another, where he was found to have "a massive upper gastrointestinal bleed secondary to duodenal ulcer, profound anemia, and hypovolemic seizures."
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Out-of-state special interests promoting Proposition 102 want even more money from Coloradoans. Proposition 102 will lead to higher jail populations, which means more tax dollars to house defendants, charged but not yet convicted who would be required to buy their way from jail. Statements by Proposition 102 supporters are untrue — misleading Colorado voters.
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This is the time for letters to the Editor to be submitted.
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Here at the Criminal Affairs Desk, we get letters from inmates. Boy, do we get letters. But one recent missive from a Colorado prisoner offers some of the best advice we've ever heard for negotiating a long stretch in the state prison system. Such as: Don't ask, don't snitch. Keep an eye out for shanks. Never, ever, ever trust a guard. And act like that male prisoner is actually female.
Our correspondent doesn't want his name used. "It would be better for my health if my name is not published," he writes. He's still got way too much time to go inside the Colorado Department of Corrections.
"I see the parole board for the fourth time this year, having 19 years credit on a 32-year sentence," he continues. "On my third hearing I spent a year to get outside contacts, housing and medical care arranged, as well as contacting Washington, D.C., when my case manager refused to help, so I could get my birth certificate and ID. Prisoners should expect to do all these things themselves and not wait for help. I have never received any type of response to any question asked DOC HQ."
Our man has had battles with prison authorities over mental health treatment and has spent time in the San Carlos prison (designed for the mentally ill) and the Colorado State Penitentiary (the supermax that houses many prisoners with untreated mental disorders, as detailed in my 2006 feature "Head Games"). In several high-security prisons, he claims, up to a third of the inmates "argue with voices when the CO [correctional officer] is not around. Fear of being made worse by incompetent doctors stops them from getting help."
But he also has more general concerns about the snitch culture inside prison, the worthlessness of many of the educational and therapeutic classes offered ("Completion certificates do not mean anything to parole, I have an even dozen") -- and the always simmering violence.
He narrowly missed the riot at the Crowley private prison a few years back, and he was in an office at Arkansas Valley back in 2001 when 52-year-old inmate Louis Mayfield barged in, pleading with a sergeant "to put him in protective custody because a gang was planning to murder him for ratting out a CO for having sex with inmates. The sergeant said she wanted to see what they do to him first, since the other CO was her friend.
"On 12/12/2001 eight inmates entered Mayfield's cell with socks and locks, and murdered him. Internal affairs took my statement and asked if I recorded the conversation with the sergeant. Since I had no recording, it was strongly suggested that I don't spread rumors, or I would be charged with filing false reports."
All of which has led our correspondent to offer the following ten "lessons learned" from his time inside:
1. To be a perfect pessimist. 2. Offender is our name, to show that we are subhuman.More from our News archive: "'Labia lift' strip searches: ACLU action gooses prison officials into changing degrading policy."
3. Don't snitch. If other inmates don't get you, the CO will.
4. Expect to fight upon entry to a new facility.
5. Do not tell others that that is not a girl when asked if she is pretty. Just say you have bigger worries and have not looked. (Yes, it's a man with makeup.) You will be beaten if you say they are gay for having sex with that "girl." They say, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do while inside."
6. Want to fit in? Watch Cops on TV and join discussion on how criminal could have avoided capture, or killed pig, or kept drugs.
7. Sneak attacks with shanks are manly. Watch yourself.
8. Lots of recipes for drugs and bombs are available.
9. Any admission of a crime in any group can send you back to court.
10. If you must fight (and you do), fight to hurt them.
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Proposition 102 on the Colorado ballot is about a lot of things; but more than anything, it is about money.
The proposition, if passed, would benefit the private bail bonds industry - its leading proponent - by requiring courts to prevent the release of most people arrested on unsecured bonds under the supervision of pretrial services. If secured bonds are required, defendants often turn to the bail bonds industry for those services.
But this issue is also about the money it could cost local taxpayers.
Proposition 102 speaks to local residents, in particular, because Larimer County is one of 10 Colorado counties that use a pretrial services program, in which judges can release suspects without a secured bond. Pretrial services assesses each defendant and makes recommendations that include alternatives to incarceration while a defendant is awaiting court action, including counseling, home visits, drug testing, telephone contacts, mental-health or substance-abuse treatment and home-monitoring devices. The idea behind using pretrial services is two-fold: It allows many defendants the opportunity to continue working while in the court system, and it saves the county by not requiring defendants to spend that time waiting in jail.
The Larimer County Sheriff's Office said that, if passed, Proposition 102 could cost the county in excess of $5 million annually. The sheriff's office said accommodating the new requirement would mean an additional 37,926 bed days or 114 beds. At a minimum, the sheriff's office estimates, the increased number of inmates would require the county to hire 12 additional deputies and another nurse and to pay for additional food and other operating costs.
Another concern with Proposition 102 is that those defendants who cannot afford to post a bond may stay in jail longer than those who can afford to bond out.
Proposition 102 offers a blanket solution on a statewide basis when programs, such as in Larimer County, may be cost effective and efficient. This is an issue much more appropriately decided by local voters than a statewide ballot initiative.
Vote no on Proposition 102.
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Wash Park Prophet
this posting from my friend over at Wash Park!
Colorado Proposition 102 makes it harder to be released pending trial when you are arrested in Colorado.
It is supported by the bail bond industry. It is opposed by District Attorneys in Colorado. It would increase spending on local jails by about $2.8 million per year, which would have to come from tax increases or cuts to other local government spending. It will also increase future jail construction costs.
Specifically, Colorado Proposition 102 asks voters to amend the Colorado statutes to prohibit the release of anyone arrested for a felony or violent misdemeanor, and anyone who is a repeat nonviolent misdemeanor offender on a unsecured bond under the supervision of pretrial services.
A secured bond means that the defendant pays money to the court as security for showing up at trial. Most defendants can't come up with the entire amount, so, instead, they go to a bail bondsman who takes a 10% non-refundable fee, posts the bond, and finding guarantors or collateral like a house. They bail bondsman then tries to make sure that the defendants show up to court, with bounty hunters, if necessary. In an unsecured bond, the bond amount is a fine incurred for failing to appear in court.
There has been controversy recently in Denver over bail bondsmen avoiding having to pay bond, despite the fact that defendants don't show up in court.
The measure would increase the average stay in jail for someone facing criminal charges by about eight days while they attempt to obtain a secured bond, and about 30% of defendants are indigent and forced to stay in jail until their trial.
You should vote no on Proposition 102.
Releasing defendants to pre-trial services on unsecured bonds was one of the major advances of empirical legal studies in the 1960s, starting by a Vera Institute study that started the ball rolling. It was one of most effective criminal justice reforms adopted.
(Click on the title to read the entire post)
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THE VOICE OF AURORA The Aurora Sentinel | 0 comments
For more than 200 years, Americans have been struggling to strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the community.
When it comes to finding such an accord for those accused of crimes, however, Proposition 102 works against all sides.
The measure clearly sought to protect the public by ensuring that dangerous criminals aren’t allowed to leave jail while awaiting trial.
Proposition 102 fails on all fronts.
It not only doesn’t really accomplish balance, it’s likely that Proposition 102 would instead lead to already overcrowded jails becoming even more dangerously packed. More importantly, it would mean two systems of justice in Colorado: one for the rich and one for the poor.
When someone’s accused of a crime, the legal system has to persuade a court that enough evidence exists to warrant a trial. Once that happens, the defendant is advised of charges and in most cases allowed to work out an agreement with the court to ensure the suspect returns for a trial rather than skip town. Courts can have the choice of forcing a suspect to either promise to return to court or pay a fine, or in cases where the crime is more serious or the suspect more sketchy, the court can require a suspect to put up cash before the trial, or work a deal with a bail bondsman to post a bond.
In either case, the courts in Colorado rely on a host of pretrial service agencies to assess whether the suspect is potentially dangerous to the public, and whether the suspect will actually show up in court to face charges. In addition, these agencies help monitor suspects who are “free on bail,” to ensure they keep court dates.
Proposition 102 would restrict those allowed to post an unsecured bond on most second felony offenses. Most poor suspects are unable to come up with thousands of dollars of cash and don’t own real estate and other items to use for collateral for a bail bondsman. That means that the majority of poor suspects will wait in jail for court dates, a proposition they can ill afford and one that will cost taxpayers dearly.
Legislative experts estimate the change would cost Colorado taxpayers about $3 million a year from the get go as suspects who would have made it to trial under the current system are forced into lengthy jail stays.
While it’s clear that getting suspects to court has always been a problem, the numbers show that the pretrial services system is far more efficient at keeping risky suspects off the streets and ensuring justice is served. Vote no on this wrongheaded proposal.
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DENVER — Proposition 102 seeks to limit the circumstances under which a person accused of a crime can be released on bail in Colorado.
The citizen-initiated measure would prohibit the release of a defendant on an unsecured bond to supervision by a pretrial services program, unless they’ve had no prior offenses and are accused of a nonviolent crime.
Courts presently may order a defendant released on an unsecured bond. That means the defendant can be released from jail on a promise to appear at future court dates. If they fail to appear, they are liable for the bond amount.
Defendants obtain secured bonds either by paying, promising to pay through a commercial bail bondsman or posting an interest in property in order to be released from jail while they await trial.
Under current law, defendants released on either kind of bond can qualify for release to a pretrial services program. These programs assess a defendant’s risk to public safety and report that to the court in addition to monitoring a defendant's compliance with bond conditions through visits, drug testing and other measures.
Pueblo is among the Colorado counties where pretrial services are offered.
If Proposition 102 passes, pretrial services programs only would be an option for defendants who post secured bonds or those free on unsecured bonds who are accused of a crime for the first time, provided the charge they are facing is a nonviolent misdemeanor.
Legislative Council’s analysis of the proposition identified among its benefits the increased likelihood of defendants appearing in court if they are required to post a secured bond, and more effective use of the tax dollars that go to pretrial services.
The arguments against the proposition identified by Legislative Council include the effective track record to date of pretrial services and the advantage wealthier defendants would hold over poorer ones in the likelihood that they would be able to post bail.
Longer pretrial jail stays also would result. Legislative Council reported that defendants saddled with a secured bond on average take eight days longer to finance their bail than those with an unsecured bond. About 30 percent of defendants with secured bonds never make bail.
Consequently, Legislative Council determined, based on the state reimbursement rate to local jails of $50.44 per-person per-day, that the annual statewide cost for local jails beginning this fiscal year would increase by $2.8 million.
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PROPOSITION 102 would limit most people’s ability to get out of jail without posting a bond backed by cash or collateral.
Under Prop 102, state law would limit pretrial service programs to nonviolent, first-time misdemeanor defendants. All other misdemeanor defendants would have to post bail, and release of felony suspects on bail still would be the decision of a judge.
The proponents say this measure would give all defendants the incentive to appear for trial. But in reality, this measure, backed by bail bondsmen, is just a way to drive more business their way.
Opponents rightly point out that some poor suspects who cannot afford bail, even if they are arrested for a second misdemeanor, would have to remain in jail. Meanwhile, people of more means would be able to gain their release.
Legislative Council researchers say Prop 102 would increase local jail costs statewide by about $2.8 million a year, offset by a slight reduction in spending on pretrial release programs. Jail overcrowding is already a problem in many jurisdictions, and Prop 102 would exacerbate that problem.
Vote NO on Proposition 102.
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