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    Compare these 3 cases

    Sure the three criminal cases illustrated below (videos) happened in different states, but ask yourself, should politicians control clemency after viewing these three cases.

      

    SF Bayview Newspaper

    Public Policy Institute of California
    Beyond Bars Videos by:
    Saturday
    Jun022012

    SF 49er Fan Revolt

    I had to move my 49er fan revolt material to its own site.

    Believe it or not, it is part of my prison reform efforts but the amount of information I gathered demanded that I set up another site to contain what I have discovered.

    Link http://sf49erfanrevolt.squarespace.com/

     

    Tuesday
    Dec272011

    The Volunteer Champ

    I was 26-years-old when asked to teach Bible to teenaged felons housed at the San Francisco juvenile hall. Until then, I never knew sixteen-year-olds committed murder or rape. Particularly, these young men all looked so innocent or at the most, like a room full of candy thieves. 

    Teaching teenaged felons, with lives on hold due to youthful anger, ignorance and mistakes was a challenge and a lot of fun. The challenge was getting and keeping their attention. The fun was watching over time as if the words, “I get it”, lit up like a neon sign in the pupils of my delinquent pupils.

    However, what made me a better volunteer counselor was a couple of neon “I get it” moments, I experienced, away from the facility. 

    One such moment, was the result of me witnessing a street fight where one man stabbed another. Blood, gushed out of the victim’s upper thigh as if it were water spewing from a fire hydrant. A quick thinking bystander immediately began first aid. However, the paramedics actually saved the victim partly because they kept feeling a very faint heartbeat; whispering, “Please don’t give up on me.”  

    I began to apply that analogy to the hardened hearts of the young felons I ministered; metaphorically, I became their paramedic. I checked their pulse by telling true stories from my own life’s experiences, which also enabled me to detect a spiritual pulse more easily. I even witnessed some, not openly, but secretly practicing what I preached; love, hope and respect towards one another.  

    My friends Mike and Greg contributed to another epiphany I had, which caused me to miss-out on one real special moment. I recall it was, “Monday Night Football!” I used “The Game” to talk myself into being too tired to volunteer; therefore, I stayed home to watch it. 

    Greg, a boxing fan, told Mike he was going to San Jose that same Monday to see Muhammad Ali. Apparently, that lit up a neon moment for Mike, who worked at the facility where I volunteered. He suggested tagging along with the intent of asking The Champ to take part in a video, aimed at encouraging the kids at the juvenile hall.  

    Now at the event, Mike and Greg waited patiently. Then one of them slipped Ali a note that read, “The Kids at the San Francisco juvenile hall could really use a lift.” 

    Ali, who was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, read the note. He then leaned over to his driver and said, “Get the car.”

    They proceeded to follow Mike and Greg 40 miles back to San Francisco and up to the juvenile hall. 

    With video camera rolling, they all entered the building. Mike is shouting from behind his camera, “I got The Champ with me; I got The Champ with me!” Staff instantly turned into wide-eyed children themselves.

    Ali was escorted up to each unit where he visited everyone. He shook hands with staff, encouraged all the kids including shadowboxing with some housed in my, maximum-security unit. 

    The following evening, several detainees shared with me their special moment. “Fresh Dan”, a 17-year-old award winning thespian, always put on an act. This night however, Dan was not acting; he put up his dukes and gave me a big neon smile, describing how he shadowboxed with The Volunteer Champ.

    Wednesday
    Nov022011

    Replace Out-dated Clemency Laws State by State

    We as a nation have become so obsessed with enforcing “The rule of law” on average citizens that we are risking the possibility of squeezing the life out of justice.

    Clemency is the most powerful tool in the criminal justice system, including the death penalty. Currently it is in the control of overworked judges and governor who are bound by the constraints of a bad law.

    CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION - ARTICLE 5
    Executive clemency powers:
    "SEC. 8. (a) Subject to application procedures provided by statute, the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence, except in case of impeachment. The Governor shall report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the pertinent facts and the reasons for granting it. The Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the Supreme Court, 4 judges concurring."
    _______________

    During an April 2000 interview on “60 Minutes”, former California governor Grey Davis among other petty cases, justified a 25 year to life sentence for a man who stole a bike. The logic of Davis literally sent me into a trance and the next day I invented California Clemency Boards.

    Today, I am excited because I see the time is right for many to catch my eleven-year-old vision. This vision of a new clemency process is clearer due to some sad actions, inactions and limitations of governors past and present.

    Before leaving office, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger granted a sentence commutation to the son of a political ally. In a plea deal for stabbing two people, Esteban Nunez was sentenced to 16 years for his crime. Schwarzenegger then used his power as governor to cut that sentence down to 7 years. The reason for this action, Schwarzenegger sarcastically replied “Hello to help a friend” (Fabian Nunez former California Assembly Speaker).

    Patricia Wright, blind, diabetic, and terminally ill with cancer, is also bound to a wheelchair and wears a diaper. Governor Jerry Brown, aware of her case of conspiracy to the murder of her ex-husband agreed to grant her clemency. However, current clemency laws prevents any governor from using his or her commonsense, compassion and understanding of state prison rising cost, to grant this dying prisoner clemency.

    If former governor Schwarzenegger was allowed to used clemency powers to help a friend and current governor Jerry Brown is prevented from using his commonsense, to grant clemency to a dying woman, then the clemency law in California is broken beyond repair?

    Instead of giving in to the temptation of correcting this problem by trying to repair it by giving more power to the governor, I suggest we go in the opposite direction. This constitutional amendment would take the power away from the governor and give that power to average citizens (pre-screened).

    Five commonsense thinking citizens sitting on their county clemency board would have the power to weigh the facts of a request for clemency from qualified inmates. Instead of the state forcing local authorities to take whomever they will send back to the county under the new “Realignment” law, local residences would take on that responsibility.

    This new process would streamline the clemency process in a way that is 21 century humane, saves billions of tax dollars and offer a renewed focus on rehabilitation.

    To ease prison overcrowding, we could also offer qualified nonviolent inmates an excellent opportunity with the incentive of earning a presidential type pardon if that individual does not re-offend over an established period. This incentive alone could end up saving billions in incarceration cost over the next decade.

    Finally, I learned from FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) that in the state of Florida, Todd Hannigan is serving a 15-year prison sentence as the result of trying to commit suicide. My new clemency system model could be modified to work in any state and help free a man like Hannigan from out-dated thinking, which is one of many states that use punishment as a form or correction and rehabilitation.

     

    Click on "My proposed idea" at the top of this page to view the proposed constitutional amendment.

    Monday
    Oct172011

    Demand to Release Prisoners in Black & White

    California Governor Jerry Brown’s plan, to send nonviolent prisoners back to county jails under a new law is, akin to Santa giving gifts to Satan.

    This new law AB-109, also known as “Realignment”, reclassifies certain nonviolent, non-serious and some sex offense felonies; allowing the convicted to serve time in a county jail, home detention or probation, instead of prison.

    I am all for releasing people who do not belong in prison. However, if we continue to treat men and women who commit crimes like animals on a leach, with unfair laws that create more envy then solution to recidivism, then we will never release the right prisoner.

    With public safety in mind, lawmakers have followed up the Three Strikes law that voters approved in 1994 with their own version of an unsafe and ill-conceived law. AB-109 signed by Gov. Brown to meet a federal court order to reduce California ’s prison population might satisfy a court order but offers hope to some undeserving inmates in the name of “Public safety.”

    Before AB-109 became law, the situation with current California prisoners Michael James a black inmate and Michael Schneider a white inmate was this:
    1994 case: Michael James is serving a 25 to life sentence under “Three Strikes” for passing a bad check at an Alpha Beta store for $94.00.

    2008 case: Michael Schneider is serving a 28 year 4 month sentence for “Running a fraudulent real estate investments scam/Ponzi schemes for over 14 years; wherein he stole over $43,000,000 from over 57 investors, many of whom were elderly and lost their lifesaving.” He pleaded no contest to 173 felony counts (including residential burglary, builder financial abuse, embezzlement, grand theft and forgery). Unbelievably, these two men will serve the same amount of time behind bars. James must serve a minimum of 25 years while Schneider could be release after serving only 24 years. But wait!

    Michael Schneider a Ponzi schemer is also labeled under AB-109 as an “N3” type offender: 1. Nonviolent 2 Non-serious 3 Not a sex offender, even though he stole $43 million. Under this new law, N3 convicted candidates are best suited to avoid prison time as of October 1, 2011. James is a petty thief but also has the label of, “Three Strikes” offender.

    Schneider is not the type of prisoner to start prison riots or hunger strikes which is what a fearful public would preferred back in their community over the typical imagine of your average criminal. Nevertheless, it appears that fear is passing so many laws, that commonsense can be heard shouting “Enough already!”

    Lawmakers have made it clear that, no inmate would be released from state prison to the street under AB-109. However, anyone who believes that none these prisoners will be set free considering the extra burden placed on the counties, probably also believes, there is a Santa Claus.

    In all fairness, lawmakers, in fear of being labeled, soft on crime, should share the blame of creating a bad law with all Californians. On the other hand, nonviolent Wall Street type criminals currently serving time in California prisons are receiving a share of AB-109 as the state’s largest Christmas gift.

    Prison officials are working around the clock with teams of mental heath, rehabilitation, probation and other agencies of the state to find those best suited for release to county control. However, in the process, they have to pass up on more than 8,000 second and third strikers who pose a lesser threat to public safety.

    “Matt Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who referred to “Brown's plan” as the solution to comply with the court order, tells me Cate is, more interested in keeping his job then releasing an undeserving individual from prison, while more deserving prisoners, many black, rot in prison for petty crimes.

    With the tool of AB-109 to assist and a computer program assessment already in use to release inmates, many undeserving individuals, will move to the front of the line for release.

    California’s Three Strikes law is being treated as if it is not guilty of, contributing to the large number of truly nonviolent inmates being responsible for prison overcrowding. Second and third strikers are not eligible for early release under the new law.

    The simple reason is that in creating AB-109 it unjustly and intentionally disqualified these inmates simply because of the label “Career criminal” associated with the Three Strikes law.

    Governor Jerry Brown, the California legislature and prison Secretary Matthew Cate, should be forced to answer to the fact that a white nonviolent prisoner who schemed $43 million would be a safer release over a black nonviolent prisoner who stole $94.00.

    In addition, we should all demand that California lawmakers who designed AB-109 to help ease prison overcrowding by a federal demand, be amended.  This law must allow many of the 8,000 nonviolent non-serious and non-sex offenders who are also “N3” types be considered for transfer to the county level.

    Contact the governor’s office today: Governor Jerry Brown c/o State Capital, Suite 1173 Sacramento , CA 95814 Phone: (916) 445-2841

    Thursday
    Oct062011

    What would Judge Judy Say of AB-109 Law

    Political experts including California Governor Jerry Brown cannot see that, playing musical chairs with criminals will not work in the short run. This shortsighted approach to a federal court order to release 33,000 inmates over the next two years also jeopardizes a long-term solution to this state’s overcrowded 33 prisons.

    The new California law AB-109 or “Realignment Law”, shifts responsibility to incarcerate or monitor some current state prisoners and future redefine low-level felons to the 58 counties of this state. This plan and law is so convoluted that California is going to lose track of some dangerous people, way before AB-109 actually has a chance to work.

    This Associated Press article reveals a good number of felony convictions that will shift to the county level for sentencing responsibility. Some critics would argue that these crimes are both serious and violent crimes. “Involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest, participating in a lynching, possession of weapons of mass destruction, possessing explosives, threatening a witness or juror, and using arson or explosives to terrorize a health facility or church. Assault, battery, statutory rape and sexual exploitation by doctors or psychotherapists are also covered by the prison realignment law and carry sentences that will be served in a county jail instead of state prison.”

    Do to poor planning by Gov. Brown, former governor Schwarzenegger and the legislature, this train called “Realignment”, has left the station with a real chance of derailing.

    To assure the public that only “Low-level” offenders will be sent back to the counties is one thing. However, to move the line of what is considered a low-level offence to include vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest, arson or explosives to terrorize a health facility or church and sexual exploitation by doctors or psychotherapists is sabotage of a federal court order, in my opinion.

    At the same time, three strikers have been sent to State prison for a minimum of 25 years each offense for petty crimes involving stealing “Cookies”or “Children’s videos”, writing a bad check for “$94.00” or cheating on a “Written driving test” to name a few of the 8,000 nonviolent convictions. AB-109 does nothing for these nonviolent. California has a lot of nerve to redefine nonviolent or non serious while these people rot in our overcrowded prisons.

    A better solution to the governor’s AB-109 would be to come up with a better plan, while the current one is being implemented.

    For starters, the 650 or so inmates being transferred as October 1, 2011 to San Francisco County for instance should be immediately offered the opportunity to clean up the city at a minimum of $12.00 an hour. In doing the math, 650 individuals working four hours a day for the next year at a rate of $12.00 an hour comes to $8,112,000 and much cleaner streets.

    Under Governor Brown’s plan, 650 coming back to SF County will also receive a little more than $5.5 million from the state and according to the mayor’s budget; it allocates an additional $5 million for this “Realignment.” There are administrative costs but there is also the fact that county officials have expressed in an earlier public safety meeting chaired by Supervisor R. Mirkarimi that the money from the state is not nearly enough to handle the task of county jail, mental health, rehabilitation, probation and GPS monitoring.

    Having ex-cons get paid to clean up after the law-abiding citizens who will not clean up after themselves is in no way a 21st century “chain gang”, however, I would argue, so what if it is?  

    As for redefining what is nonviolent or non-serious, I could be wrong but stealing cookies and cheating on a driving test, nonviolent, non-serious. Killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest, violent and serious.

    Judge Judy would say of California Lawmakers: “You do not know if you are on foot or horseback.”

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