Lowe’s shoplifter in Surprise grabbed 2 power tool kits
BrieAnna J. Frank, Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Police are seeking the public's help in identifying a man who they say stole two power-tool kits from a Lowe's store in Surprise last month. The man entered the Lowe's store near Bell Road and Grand Avenue on May 21 and left without paying for the tool kits, Surprise Police Department spokesman Sgt. Tim Klarkowski said. Police released surveillance photos and said video footage showed a man leaving in a white Chevrolet pickup with a large dark stripe on the center of the hood, Klarkowski said. Anyone with any information leading to the location or identity of the man is asked to contact Detective Forbrook at 623-222-4182, or call 623-222-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be emailed to [email protected]. Klarkowski said anyone contacting police should refer to Incident #170505838.
Vikings’ Michael Floyd due in court for ‘non-compliance of high alcohol tests’
Tom Pelissero, USA Today / Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd is due back in court June 26 for “non-compliance of high alcohol tests” related to his guilty plea earlier this year to an extreme DUI charge, a Scottsdale City Court (Ariz.) spokesperson confirmed Friday. According to the court, Floyd, who spent 24 days in county jail and is serving out the rest of his 120-day sentence on home confinement, had a non-compliant test Sunday. According to a document provided by Floyd's agent, Brian Murphy, Floyd failed three tests and missed another in a little over an hour early Sunday morning. He said he'd consumed Kombucha tea, which contained a small amount of alcohol. Floyd's tests all were below the legal limit for driving, but he's forbidden from consuming alcohol under terms of his home confinement. He was 90 days into 96 days of monitoring when the tests occurred. TMZ reported Friday that Floyd’s alcohol monitoring system flagged five “events” on Sunday and Monday and three of them were for high alcohol. A Minnesota native, Floyd entered his guilty plea Feb. 16. He signed with the hometown Vikings last month
Latinos ask Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to restore trust
Patricio J. Espinoza, Tucson Sentinel, June 16, 2017
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone shut down Tent City but still allows immigration officials to deport undocumented detainees at county jails, according to members of the Latino community who say they are still recovering from the previous administration’s anti-immigration policies. Penzone deserves praise for shutting down the outdoor jail facility, said Angeles Maldonado, a member of a Community Advisory Board set up under federal court order after Sheriff Joe Arpaio was accused of racial profiling. He later was found guilty of contempt of court. But Maldonado said Penzone, who has been in office more than 100 days since defeating Arpaio, needs to do more to reach out to members of the community. “I think the first step would be to have a forum, an open forum where he would listen to the community, to their voice, and talk, and him actually staying through the meeting,” Maldonado, an advisory board member and immigration rights organizer, said after a community forum this week. Isabel Chaires, a former Tent City inmate, was among about 50 people who attended the forum. She had tears in her eyes. Charged with using a fake ID, she was pregnant during the three months she spent at the jail. James Collins, director of community outreach for the sheriff’s office, attended the forum, where several speakers talked about the fear and mistrust many Latinos experienced during Arpaio’s six terms in office. Collins said Penzone has launched four advisory committees. “MCSO is actively meeting and working with leaders and residents of the affected communities to improve our relationship,” Penzone says in a statement after the meeting. Maldonado said the sheriff’s committees should include members of the Latino community who lived through the Arpaio administration’s immigration and race-based policies. The American Civil Liberties Union appointed members of the Community Advisory Board three years ago to help rebuild trust in the sheriff’s office and, according to the ACLU website, “gather concerns and provide feedback about MCSO policies and practices.”
Police K9 plans retirement after falling ill
Kendall Reaves, AZFamily.com, June 16, 2017
Phoenix police are planning retirement for a K-9 who has fallen ill. Hunter, a police K-9, has recently fallen ill and already had a tumor removed according to a statement posted by the City of Phoenix Police Department. Hunter will now have to retire in the next few months due to his illness. The Phoenix Police Foundation is holding a benefit this Saturday morning at the Hance Dog Park. All proceeds of the fundraiser will help pay Hunter's medical expenses as well as purchase his replacement when the time comes. The Phoenix Parks Department and the Police Foundation is teaming together to host the event. Saturday morning will be full of K-9 demonstrations, meet-ups with Hunter and his handler, raffle items, and the opportunity to make a donation to the cause.
Tempe burglar flees on bicycle after stealing $10K in electronics
Joe Enea, ABC15, June 16, 2017
Tempe police have arrested a man who allegedly stole about $10,000 in electronics, then fled on a bicycle. Police report that on June 7 a man, later identified as 33-year-old Thomas Allen Bolding, was seen on surveillance video taking items from the Buyback Boss store near University and Priest drives. Police say he broke out the glass in the front door and stole several electronic items including about 100 iPhones, 20 iPads, several phone chargers and other items. Police report that Bolding placed the items in a backpack. The business estimates the value of the items at about $10,000. When police arrived, Bolding reportedly fled on a bicycle but was caught by police about a half-mile away, "sweating profusely." Bolding denied any involvement in the crime, but police say they found the backpack in the area of where he was detained. The stolen items and burglary tools were found in the bag. Police say blood was found on Bolding’s leg and one of the iPads taken from the store. Bolding has been charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools.
After jolt from indictments, APS cuts ties with lobbying firm
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Arizona Public Service Co. has powered off its relationship with a prominent consulting firm after one of its top lobbyists was indicted in federal court for his alleged part in what federal prosecutors say was a bribery scheme. Since the indictments, Jim Norton has stepped away from the firm to try to stem the flow of clients ending their business with Axiom Public Affairs. Norton has pleaded not guilty. But that didn't stop APS from bailing, too: Secretary of State records show the utility company terminated the relationship on Tuesday. "I can confirm that Axiom no longer represents APS," company spokeswoman Anna Haberlein Stewart wrote in a statement Thursday to The Arizona Republic. She would not say why the company ended the relationship. Loss of another plum lobbying client is an additional blow for the firm. Federal prosecutors accuse Norton of being "a conduit" for bribes that they allege water-company owner George Johnson paid to former Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Gary Pierce and his wife, Sherry Ann Pierce. Authorities say the money helped secure commission approval of higher rates for Johnson Utilities in the East Valley and Pinal County.
All four were indicted and all have pleaded not guilty. Last year, FBI special agents were investigating issues with the Arizona Corporation Commission and the 2014 elections. They were talking to potential witnesses, including those involved in so-called "dark-money" groups that ran political campaigns that election cycle. Gary Pierce was visited by two FBI special agents and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., which owns APS, has also been contacted by the federal prosecutors. FBI special agent Matthew Reinsmoen confirmed the investigation last year, saying, "The FBI is currently conducting a long-term investigation related to the financing of certain statewide races in the 2014 election cycle." It is unknown if that investigation was tied to the federal indictments.
Woman found dead inside Mesa apartment complex
ABC15, June 16, 2017
Officials are investigating a homicide in Mesa. Mesa police said officers were called to an apartment complex near Broadway and Lindsay roads for a report of a shooting. When officers arrived on the scene they found a man who was injured. After investigating the scene further, they found a woman who was dead inside an apartment. No other information is known at this time.
Fact Check – Sheriff Penzone says closure of tent City saves $4.5M – is he right?
Logan Newman, Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
THE MEDIA: Speech.
WHO SAID IT: Paul Penzone.
TITLE: Maricopa County sheriff.
THE COMMENT: "By shutting down Tent City, we will be able to save approximately $4.5 million dollars in our budget that can be used in other ways to benefit our operations and to enhance safety on behalf of the detention officers who work in difficult environments and put their safety on the line every day."
THE FORUM: Speech on April 4 to announce the closing of Tent City.
WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT: Will the Sheriff's Office save $4.5 million by shuttering Tent City?
ANALYSIS: Over the past 10 years, Tent City has cost an average of $8.7 million per year to operate. This money covers a variety of day-to-day inmate expenses, including food, clothing and drug assistance programs, said Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Casey. But closing Tent City doesn't mean those costs disappear. “That doesn’t change because they’re moved inside,” Casey said. “That cost is the cost that goes with these inmates when they move.” There are maintenance costs associated with Tent City, including the tents and grounds, areas with air-conditioning, water and sewage services. However, utility costs are higher in hard-wall jails than the tents, said Executive Chief of Custody Tracy Haggard. The department found it would be more efficient to completely eliminate these costs at Tent City and move inmates to jails that already have these expenses. Casey said the county's jails are only about three-quarters full, and in April, about 800 inmates remained in Tent City. It had space to hold up to 2,100.
By consolidating the inmates, the department believes it will spend money more effectively. The Sheriff's Office doesn't know how daily jail costs will change by moving the inmates, though. In the April speech, Penzone said that $4.5 million is the best projection of savings “that we could look at as we evaluated all factors not knowing other expenses that could be incurred.” So where do the savings coming from? Casey said the $4.5 million is the “sum of (the) salary and benefits” of about 60 detention officers they plan to reassign from Tent City to other jails, where there are 200 staff openings. Tent City had a higher detention officer-to-inmate ratio because the complex needed the same number of detention officers to patrol the camp no matter how many inmates were there. Though it has held as many as 1,700 people, it averaged 700 to 800 over the past decade.
“That’s the issue,” said Will Humble, the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, who participated in the sheriff's Tent City advisory board. “You have a fixed number of staff that you need for the facility itself, and when the census goes down, you can’t cut that staff proportionately.” Like the costs of the complex, staffing comes down to efficiency. By moving detention officers from an area with low-security inmates to a place of greater need, the staff can be used more effectively, Humble said. Additionally, overtime pay for detention officers has cost the county more than $6.5 million from July 2016 through May 21. Moving the guards could abate some of that, but officials did not provide estimates of savings. Still, the $4.5 million in costs for deputies will be spent. The Sheriff's Office is not laying off staff or eliminating positions with the closure of Tent City.
BOTTOM LINE: Penzone’s projection of a $4.5 million savings by shutting down Tent City only refers the salaries of detention officers who will be reallocated to other jails. There may be savings from less spending on overtime and some maintenance and utility costs at Tent City, but it's not clear what those will be. The Sheriff's Office did not provide estimates for possible savings. Humble said the advisory board thought closing Tent City would be the most efficient and economical decision. “It was just clear to us that in the long run, it would be more efficient to close the facility just because there was no prospect of filling it up to the point where it would be efficient,” he said.
The $4.5 million in detention officer salaries won't be spent at Tent City, but will be reallocated to other jail needs. It's a reallocation of funds, not a savings and Sheriff's Office officials could not provide any estimates of money that the department will not spend due to Tent City's closure.
FINDING: 0 stars. Unsupported.
SOURCES: Emails and phone interviews with MSCO Director of Policy Mark Casey; video of Sheriff Paul Penzone press conference on azcentral.com; interview with Executive Chief of Custody Tracy Haggard; phone interview with Will Humble; Bureau of Justice Statistics report for inmate-to-guard ratio.
Neighbors pushing back on potential rehab center next door
Amanda Goodman, AZFamily.com, June 16, 2017
Pristine landscapes, large homes and longtime residents. The people who live on Sunnyvale Road in Paradise Valley like it just the way it is, but change could be coming. "Apparently, our neighbor wants to lease his home to a care facility that would house as many as 10 people," said Gary Emery. It's an idea that Emery is not on board with. He's lived next door to the proposed rehab location in the 7000 block of East Sunnyvale Road for 30 years now. In April, Blue Sands Recovery Centers LLC., filed an application for reasonable accommodation under the federal fair housing act in an attempt to bypass the current zoning ordinances in the area which prohibit the type of operation Blue Sands is proposing. "I think our biggest concern is not that these people don't have a right to treatment or a place to have treatment, it's the function of whether this is an appropriate location," Emery said. In their application, Blue Sands argues their center won't really impact the neighborhood, saying their operation would be similar to that of an assisted living home, which is allowed in residentially zoned areas for up to five people.
Neighbors and the town disagree, saying if Blue Sands moves in the character of the neighborhood would be altered. "There are traffic concerns with 10 or 12 people living there with cars, and service staff and therapists who come in and provide services to them," said Emery. They've hired an attorney to help them fight this. "It would simply demolish the residential nature of this place to have a major business operating out of an actual single family home," attorney Evan Bolick of Rose Law Group said. Bolick says what happens, in this case, presents a very interesting legal question that could have an impact far beyond this one upscale Valley neighborhood. "In Paradise Valley, there is a deed restriction that says no commercial businesses whatsoever can operate here, so that's another reason to be concerned because typically you rely on these things when you move into a place," Bolick said. "If this is allowed to happen here and overcome this deed restriction how can you rely on anything to know what sort of neighborhood or community you're buying into," he added. Our attempts to reach Blue Sands were unsuccessful. This matter will go before a hearing officer on June 27 at Paradise Valley Town Hall.
Phoenix burglar returns to steal a car, but homeowner is watching
Joe Enea, ABC15, June 16, 2017
Phoenix police say a burglar returned to the scene of a crime after a week to steal the same victim’s car. This time the victim was watching. Police say on May 31 a man later identified as 18-year-old Reynaldo Steven Arbizu JR., burglarized a home. A week later, police say, Arbizu returned to the same home and used the key fob he stole before to open the door of a 2016 Ford Focus parked in the driveway. As he and his accomplice attempted to start the car, the victim, who was watching on his home surveillance system, activated the car's alarm and the two fled. Police watched the video taken by the victim and were able to identify Arbizu from previous contacts. Arbizu was arrested three days later at his home near 69th Avenue and Indian School Road. He has been charged with attempted car theft.
Scottsdale pays millions in out-of-court settlements
Melissa Fittro, Scottsdale Independent, June 16, 2017
In the past three fiscal years the city of Scottsdale has paid nearly $6 million in out-of-court settlements, records show. An out-of-court settlement is generally the resolution of a matter between two parties before a case reaches a judge or jury, city of Scottsdale officials say. In total, 33 settlements were listed on a public records request issued by the Scottsdale Independent newspaper. “There are different kinds of claims and cases that settle, but settlements are generally the same concept and structure: the parties find a mutually agreeable way to resolve the claim,” Scottsdale Public Affairs Director Kelly Corsette said in a June 14 written response to emailed questions. “Settling a claim or lawsuit eliminates the uncertainty of potential outcomes and lowers the cost of litigation — both reasons that the vast majority of civil lawsuits are settled prior to reaching a judge/jury.” Records show the city of Scottsdale’s total $5,814,695.94 payment in three years was broken down to be:
- $1,823,500.00 through 10 settlements in FY 2014-15;
- $1,025,171.97 through 12 settlements in FY 2015-16;
- $2,966,023.97 through 11 settlements in FY 2016-17.
The 2016-17 fiscal year will end on June 30. Claims range in amount from as low as $100 to $2.5 million in a condemnation case settled this year. “The Hing settlement was really a payment for his land — money used by the city to settle the condemnation hearing at what we believe was fair-market-value for the property. So this one in particular is in a different category than a lot of these,” Mr. Corsette said. Other claims include personal injuries, alleged negligence and vehicular accidents. “Claims are reviewed by staff in the city attorney’s office and/or risk management,” Mr. Corsette explained. “In cases where staff determines the city may have some fault or liability, the city may pay the claim. In other cases, the city will deny the claim.” If the city denies a claim, the individual may choose to file a lawsuit. “Initial review is always completed by in-house staff,” he said. “If a claim/case proceeds, the city may hire outside counsel (if circumstances warrant, in special expertise is needed, for example.)” Most settlements are paid through the city’s Loss Trust Fund, an account created for this specific purpose to be “maintained for payment of the risk management program’s operating expenses, claims administration, defense services, losses, anticipated losses, and insurance premiums,” Scottsdale’s city charter states.
The Loss Trust Fund is regulated by a city council-appointed board, and is responsible for recommending the city council regarding the administration of the fund. The city charter states the council shall appoint five joint trustees; each person must have at least 10 years of senior-level management experience in banking, finance or healthcare. The current Loss Trust Fund trustees are Russell Mosser, Richard O’Connor, Jim Stabilito and Suzanne Welch. Condemnation cases are one exception, Mr. Corsette says. Other settlements can also be paid by the city’s insurance carrier. Any settlement over $20,000 requires city council approval, Mr. Corsette says. Most often, these settlements are found within the consent portion of council’s agenda. Included in each of the city council reports detailing the individual settlements is a “future budget implication” section, stating proposed settlements may be included in the city’s primary property tax rate for the next year. “The eligibility of settlement and judgment payments for possible inclusion in the City’s primary property tax rate is based upon an Arizona Attorney General opinion,” the staff reports state. “The City of Scottsdale has a long-standing practice of including paid tort settlements equal to or greater than $20,000.00 in the city’s primary tax rate to reimburse the Self-Insured Fund for payment of the claim.” The city’s payment in settlement fluctuates from year to year, and Scottsdale doesn’t have comparative data of other municipalities, Mr. Corsette says. “Claims and lawsuits against the city are a part of serving a large population of residents and visitors, and truly vary from year to year,” he said.
2 men burglarize Phoenix marijuana dispensary
Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Police are seeking two men who were caught on camera breaking into an east Phoenix medical marijuana dispensary last month. The break-in occurred at a dispensary near 40th Street and University Drive, between 3:10 a.m. and 3:55 a.m. on May 9, Phoenix police said. The men, wearing masks and gloves, stole an unknown amount of marijuana and left in a dark vehicle. The two men are seen on the surveillance video breaking through a glass door to enter the dispensary and then taking an unknown amount of marijuana before they fled to their car and drove away. Police hope to identify the two men and ask for anyone regarding further information to call Silent Witness at 480-948-6377.
Arizona lawmakers adopt stricter travel policy after leader’s lapses
Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Term limits forced David Gowan to leave the Legislature last year, but his legacy lives on — in a stricter travel policy prompted largely by his conduct. The former House speaker admitted to lapses in his expense account after the Arizona Capitol Times raised questions about his apparent double-dipping: using state fleet vehicles for travel while also seeking reimbursement for use of his personal vehicle for those trips. Gowan later reimbursed the state $12,000 and blamed many of the problems on an assistant whom he said filed the expense reports on his behalf. That won't happen any more, now that the House has adopted a new travel policy. Among the conditions in the eight-page document: All reports must be signed by the lawmaker or staff member in person, not by an aide and not electronically. In addition, fleet-vehicle use is curtailed and is only available if a lawmaker or staffer is traveling with others on state-related business. Even so, the House speaker will have to approve any such use. The policy was written by the House Administration Committee, which Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, created when he was elected to the House's top spot. The committee is composed of House members from both parties. The Senate is not following suit, though. It has its own policy, which staffers say is barely used since expenses are tight. As for Gowan, the Attorney General's office still has an open investigation into his expenses. Policy is here.
Registered sex offender arrested at the Tucson border
AZFamily.com, June 16, 2017
Border Patrol agents from the Tucson Sector have arrested a felon for illegal entry of the country Wednesday afternoon near the Lukeville Port of Entry. The felon, 43-year-old Esmeralda Mendez Madrigal is a registered sex offender and was already once removed from the U.S. following a six-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping and unlawful restraint. Though it is unclear of whether she has a lawyer yet, Madrigal now faces felony immigration charges for re-entering the U.S.
2 utility rate votes by indicted regulator Gary Pierce under scrutiny
Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Two pivotal votes by former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce are now under review by state regulators, who are seeking an auditor to dig into the finances and operations of the utility that benefited. Pierce and his wife, Sherry, along with George Johnson of Johnson Utilities, and lobbyist Jim Norton, were indicted on federal charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy. According to the indictment, Pierce's wife accepted monthly checks totaling $31,000 over a year for completing frivolous tasks at a consulting firm, which was set up to hide the fact that that money was coming from Johnson. The money was in exchange for her husband's favorable votes to raise rates charged by Johnson Utilities, according to the indictment. Pierce, a Republican, took two key votes that led to the criminal indictment. The first vote mentioned in the indictment was in 2011. Three commissioners approved: Pierce, Republican Bob Stump and Democrat Paul Newman. Democrat Sandra Kennedy opposed and Republican Brenda Burns abstained. The increase raised rates for wastewater customers an average of about $6.50 a month. The Corporation Commission on Thursday issued a request for proposals for an auditor to review rates charged by Johnson Utilities for water and wastewater services, and to recommend whether an interim general manager should take over the company.
The review was approved on a 5-0 vote Tuesday. The commission wants responses by June 30. Commission officials did not have an estimate of what the contract will cost. The winning bid will be selected "to the offeror whose proposal is determined to be most advantageous to the state based on the factors set forth in this request," and not on cost alone, the RFP said. The commission wants an independent, third-party to review the rates and broader affairs of the company, with final conclusions by Aug. 25, and preliminary remarks given to the commission staff before that. Former Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Gary Pierce and Johnson Utilities owner George Johnson were indicted on charges of bribery and conspiracy. Corrections: The name of Rep. Andy Biggs was misspelled in an earlier version of this video. The consultants that bid on the job must disclose all connections to Arizona public utilities and their affiliates. Another vote in 2013 by Pierce raised rates about $3 a month on combined water/wastewater customers. That vote was 4-1 on the all-Republican commission. Pierce, Stump, Robert Burns and Susan Bitter Smith approved and Brenda Burns opposed. The 2013 increase allowed certain water companies that don't pay income taxes to pass their personal income-tax liability on to customers through utility rates. Johnson and 27 other water companies benefited from that change eventually. The commissioners also voted 5-0 to review that decision and whether it is fair to customers.
Oversight lacking in multiple embezzlement cases
Michael Johnson, White Mountain Independent, June 16, 2017
When it comes to embezzlement, it appears the main culprit, aside from the actual act of stealing money, is a lack of oversight over those with fiduciary responsibilities. During the sentencing phase for Natalie Bingham (a.k.a. Natalie Cluff), who is spending five years in prison for embezzling $1.79 million between 2005-12 from the former Show Low Fire Department, Judge Dale P. Nielson said, “Whoever was supposed to be providing the oversight and protection of these funds ... failed miserably.” The Show Low Fire Department, now known as Timber Mesa Fire and Medical as part of a merger of Show Low and other districts, is a special taxing district, which means it is taxpayer-supported. So, who is responsible for ensuring taxpayer money isn’t being embezzled? “The board of directors,” said Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon. “(Governing boards) have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to make sure services are provided … that the money is watched over. Some do a great job, some don’t. Some are in over their heads.” Carlyon said the Arizona Legislature has attempted to help by requiring boards to submit annual audits. But in the Bingham case, audits were submitted — albeit not a true one.
“(Bingham) had old audits and used those as templates to submit to the county,” Carlyon said. “She submitted them to the county as required.” So what burden does the county have to ensure the audits are true? None, according to the county attorney. “We put them in a file drawer,” he said. “That’s it. There’s really no oversight. As long as Navajo County gets an audit, our duty is done.” The Bingham embezzlement case came to light because of another, separate internal investigation at the Show Low Fire Department, Carlyon said. During the course of that investigation, there were people who brought to light some financial irregularities. “That was looked into and it was brought to our attention,” he said. “If it weren’t for that investigation, (Bingham’s embezzlement activities) may have not come to light for a few more years.” Taking a close look at audits, he said, would reveal telling details about missing funds. They include an increase in spending, from one year to the next, with no real justification, as well as a continued pattern of spending increases over consecutive years. “If you look at the trend, it starts off with a few dollars, then it gets to be a little more and little more and a little more,” Carlyon said. “Most will start off with a few hundred or a few thousand. If they don’t get caught, they’re emboldened to take a little more.
Now that the Bingham case has been closed, Carlyon is working on another embezzlement case involving the Silver Creek Irrigation District, in which about $800,000 was allegedly siphoned from that organizations’ coffers. Silver Creek Irrigation District is an organization of farmers and ranchers who own and/or control certain lands and/or water rights. They pay dues to the organization to have access to water, which is stored at White Mountain Lake and used via Silver Creek. While the criminal case is still ongoing and Carlyon declined to speak about specifics related to Silver Creek Irrigation District, it should be noted that in February, a civil complaint was filed that accuses Harvey Leon Palmer; his wife, Gloria Ann Palmer; as well as Margaret “Peggy” Rogers; and her husband, Russell Rogers, of multiple racketeering charges in connection with the alleged embezzlement of $808,000. The Palmers’ real property in Taylor and their U.S. currency were seized under the Arizona Racketeering Act in an effort to make whole the loss to the Silver Creek Irrigation District. The Palmers were served a notice of seizure and seizure warrant on Feb. 1, 2017.
The Palmers’ son, Taylor Vice Mayor Shawn Palmer, was added to the complaint as a potential claimant in the real property of his parent’s home and land. Shawn Palmer is not a defendant and is not accused of any wrongdoing. His parents, nor the Rogers, have not been criminally charged. The action brings into question the legality of seizing someone’s property, even if they are not formally charged with a crime. “You find that investigations end up expanding ... I’ll just leave it at that,” Carlyon said of the Silver Creek Irrigation District investigation. “I have a civil forfeiture action going. I have authority to bring civil RICO actions, but no other type of civil action.” In April, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that makes it tougher for prosecutors and law enforcement to seize cash and property from people suspected of a crime, overhauling the state’s forfeiture laws despite push-back from state prosecutors. The Silver Creek forfeiture action occurred before the new legislation was signed, thereby grandfathering it. The law, known as House Bill 2477, was crafted by Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth. Before the law was signed into action, offices would seize property based on only suspicion without the need of a conviction or a charge. Police and prosecutors acquire Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization or RICO funds after seized property is forfeited. Farnsworth told The Associated Press in April that RICO laws have deviated from their original intent to pursue big criminal enterprises like cartels and are now hitting smaller-time infractions. He has said his bill will increase accountability through its reporting requirements and redirect the laws to fulfill their actual purpose.
According to the Institute for Justice, a self-proclaimed “national law firm for liberty” that has, since 1991, help limit the size and scope of government power, Navajo County had more than $650,000 in available funds for its forfeiture account in 2015. Statewide, between 2000 and 2014, Arizona law enforcement collected more than $410 million in forfeiture proceeds. The Institute for Justice also found that more than $62 million — or about 28 percent — of that was spent on “administrative expenses,” which includes salaries, overtime and benefits. As for a “magic potion” to help cure, or at least limit embezzlements, Carlyon said its incumbent on the boards to oversee their fiduciary responsibilities. Training, he said, is limited, at best, for the moment. “The only training a board really gets is a quick Open Meeting Law training,” he said. “That’s about it. I don’t know what training you could give, because overseeing the money ... making sure no one is stealing money, is a function, yes, of a board, but they’re really the executive board ... making sure that entity is performing their core functions at the best possible way they can. That’s usually what the focus on. Are we getting the water? Are our roads being plowed? Do we have enough firefighters and are we paying them? When those are done, they probably think they’re job is done — but there is more to it at times.” Even with an embezzlement case, litigation may render some form of justice, such as a prison sentence, but rarely does the victim see financial recovery. Most cases, Carlyon said, the money is given or gambled away. In the Bingham case, it was the result of what he called a “spending problem.”
“Very seldom does anyone get made economically whole in the criminal justice system. … Most of these (embezzlers) don’t have any assets,” Carlyon said. Governmental and other entities with fiduciary responsibilities, he said, should take a look at who is sitting on their respective boards. “The water district board, for example, it’s made up of mostly farmers,” Carlyon said. “One of them may have some business knowledge, but they’re busy working the farm and they’re just making sure they get the water as cheap as they can.” He said he believes the solution lies with the state Legislature. “It has to be done through the Legislature. It’s having more eyes besides that board taking a look at what’s going on,” Carlyon said, “so they can say, ‘Hey board, you should go look at this.’ Right now, all we’ve got is ... as long as you file an audit with the county, that’s it.”
Protesters rally against Arizona Department of Safety removals
Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, June 16, 2017
Two people were arrested Friday during a downtown Phoenix protest about the Arizona Department of Child Safety. About two dozen people blocked Van Buren Street outside The Arizona Republic offices to air complaints that the agency wrongly takes children. People like Thomas Beil complained his children were taken for alleged "neglect," with no elaboration of the harm they reportedly suffered. DCS removes most children for neglect, but doesn't delineate the various types of neglect. Protesters carried homemade signs that charged DCS "kidnaps" children and demanding "let my children go." Aside from demanding that the state return their children, they said the agency and the courts need to respect due-process rights. Others advocated for a warrant requirement prior to the removal of a child from his or her family home. They believe such a program would reduce the number of removals. The agency removed 5,669 children in the six-month period ending last September, according to its most recent report. Cynthia Weiss, DCS' communications director, noted the agency is working with the courts on a warrant system. She said it was regrettable that the protesters see only a negative aspect of the agency. "We want to be seen as the agency that helps families," she said. The protesters were arrested and accused of blocking a public right of way after occupying one lane of westbound Van Buren Street for about 15 minutes.
Trump wants to cut loan plan, prosecutors, defenders worried
Jessica DaSilva, BNA News, June 16, 2017
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would slash domestic spending across the board. One item on the chopping block is a popular initiative offering student loan forgiveness in exchange for public service work. Eliminating or reducing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program could have a drastic effect on the ability to hire and train newly minted attorneys with heavy education debt to work as prosecutors or public defenders, attorneys in both fields told Bloomberg BNA. Turnover and staff quality problems could be exacerbated if the program is eliminated or severely cut back, and rural areas could be hit hardest. It’s not uncommon for young lawyers in the public sector to work more than one job. And big cuts also could disproportionately affect attorneys from low-income backgrounds, these attorneys and experts said in a series of interviews. “If you have a quarter-of-a-million dollars in student loan debt, you can’t become a prosecutor,” said David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “If you’re making $40,000 a year, you can’t make your student loan payment if you also need” to pay for a car.
Trump’s budget blueprint for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is far from reality. Congress has reacted skeptically to heavy domestic cuts to pay for substantial increases in military spending, and lawmakers ultimately will have the final say on budget priorities. Still, the president’s dramatic spending plan has shaken the capital and threatened a number of programs like the loan forgiveness effort and another law-based initiative, the Legal Services Corporation, which helps poor people afford defense counsel.
Loan Forgiveness - Politicians from both major political parties, including Trump, have voiced concerns about mounting student debt and the ability of borrowers to repay their loans and meaningfully contribute to the economy. Student loan debt totaled more than $1.3 trillion at the end of 2016 with more than 11 percent of aggregate obligations more than three months delinquent or in default, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said in a report. Trump would ax the public loan service initiative in favor of a plan for all undergraduates to have their loans forgiven in 15 years—a policy that would not impact law school debt. “To support this streamlined pathway to debt relief for undergraduate borrowers, and to generate savings that help put the nation on a more sustainable fiscal path, the budget eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, establishes reforms to guarantee that all borrowers in” income-driven repayment “pay an equitable share of their income, and eliminates subsidized loans,” the budget plan to Congress released May 23 said.
“These reforms will reduce inefficiencies in the student loan program and focus assistance on needy undergraduate student borrowers instead of high-income, high-balance graduate borrowers,” it said. All student loan proposals apply to debt originated on or after July 1, 2018, except those for borrowers to finish their current study, the White House said. Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment to the White House and the Office of Management and Budget were not returned. The Education Department said it would not comment for this story.
The Program - The Education Department program forgives the debt of those working in public service after they’ve made 120 monthly payments. Qualifying public service employment includes federal, state, or local government work—like a prosecutor’s office—as well as certain non-profits, or a group like AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. Only debt incurred under the federal direct student loan program is eligible. As of September 2014, fewer than 150,000 borrowers had been certified for the program, figures show. However, other figures cited by think tanks put the enrollment figure over 400,000. But the actual benefit of the program is not yet known. It was created in 2007, so the first instances of loan forgiveness would not be seen until this coming October, according to the program’s website. There have been a number of questions raised by a leading government watchdog, members of Congress and others about the true impact of the program on taxpayers.
Embracing Forgiveness - Despite uncertainty around the numbers, the legal community has embraced public service loan forgiveness. Attorneys told Bloomberg BNA that cutting the program could worsen high rates of turnover and limit public service opportunities in the criminal justice system to only those who can afford low starting salaries and slower pay increases. Several public defenders’ offices have been hit with lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about caseloads for attorneys in short-staffed offices. Under-funding and under-staffing is likely to worsen without the public service forgiveness effort, Rick Jones, executive director and a founding member of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told Bloomberg BNA May 24. “It exacerbates a problem, but it creates a new problem for those folks who are going to be graduating from law schools with significant debt,” Jones said. “There are no doubt people who went to law school with the thinking that even though they were accumulating debt, there would be some forgiveness that would allow them to pursue their stated goals of public interest and doing public defense work.”
Law school debt can be staggering, ranging from more than $160,000 at top private universities to more than $50,000 at some of the larger state universities, according to data published by U.S. News and World Report for 2016. Without forgiveness, graduates emerging with high debt loads will have a tough time justifying a public service position, Jones said. And that’s not just a problem for public defenders, but prosecutors, too. The best applicants for entry-level prosecutors and public defenders are also courted by large law firms that can offer them six-figure salaries to start. Without government loan forgiveness, the pool of applicants will likely be reduced to more privileged graduates with no student debt but less practical experience, said Jones.
‘Unmet Needs’ - While cuts to the public service loan program will probably cause problems in recruitment and retention of public defenders nationally, certain areas will be hit harder, Jones said. Naturally, cities where more people want to live will have a wider pool of applicants than rural offices, he said. It’s already difficult to recruit public defenders to rural areas on a low-income salary, which has resulted in the large caseloads and understaffed offices, Jones said. Add on top of that funding cuts that make law school loans harder to repay, and it increases pressure on defenders in rural locales. Rural areas “will not be able meet what is already an unmet need,” Jones said. “They’re going to have more work to do, they’re having less time or quality time to spend with clients—it all sort of snowballs the existing problems.” Ultimately, he added, the people who suffer the most from that imbalance are indigent defendants, who can’t afford an attorney in the first place. Ernie Lewis, executive director of the National Association for Public Defense, agreed. Lewis ran the Kentucky public defender program from 1996-08 and said routinely losing public defenders to better-paying, private-sector jobs leads to younger, more inexperienced attorneys representing clients in harder cases. When he left as head of Kentucky’s public defender program, Lewis said each public defender in the state was receiving 490 new cases a year. He said he tried for three years to get a state-level loan assistance program for public defenders, but it never passed. “We need a federal government that grants loan assistance to public defenders and prosecutors so we can attract them and retain them,” Lewis said.
Working-Class Lawyers - Despite funding disparities, the Association of Prosecuting Attorney’s LaBahn said most entry-level prosecutor salaries are almost as low as public defenders. In urban areas, he estimated starting salaries around $40,000 to $50,000. Eliminating the public service program would force out graduates from lower-income backgrounds, who LaBahn said usually make the best prosecutors. “If you have someone who responds to coaching and someone who has gotten their hands dirty and had people yell at them, they are so much of a better prosecutor than someone who graduated from an Ivy League school,” he said. Philadelphia Deputy District Attorney John Delaney said the public service loan program gives district attorneys an edge in recruiting diverse talent. Delaney leads the trial division—the largest department in the office—and said the federal forgiveness program has been an effective recruiting tool that many of his attorneys end up using. “For a number of people, loan forgiveness is the difference maker” in taking a prosecutor job, he said.
Attorneys/Bartenders/Yogis? As it stands, Delaney said many of his attorneys work side jobs to afford their student loans while working as prosecutors while already taking advantage of the public service loan program. Without it, those attorneys would need to leave. Some Philadelphia prosecutors moonlight as yoga instructors, bartenders, and UPS employees, Delaney said. That work ethic shows their dedication to working in public interest and understanding that they must make sacrifices to work in their chosen field, he added. Public defenders often work two jobs as well, Lewis said. When he managed a small public defender office in Richmond, Ky., he said he regularly had attorneys who lived with their parents or worked side jobs to make ends meet. One of his lawyers worked as a pizza delivery driver after work and ended up delivering a pizza to his client one night. “People come to public service expecting to make sacrifices,” Delaney said. “They don’t expect to make what their classmates in private practice make, but they do expect to live.”
Money ‘No. 1 Reason’ People Leave - One big side effect of reducing or eliminating the public service program that a number of states attorneys and public defenders worry about is retention. It is one of—if not the biggest—incentive for quality prosecutors and public defenders to stay in their public service jobs, everyone interviewed for this story said. Delaney said a tight budget prevents him from offering younger prosecutors raises. His office employs 300 attorneys, but faces 10 percent attrition every year. That means Delaney is in a constant cycle of training prosecutors, only to lose them in a few years to lucrative private firms when they can’t afford to work in public service anymore. “By far, the No. 1 reason people leave is money,” he said. To combat the low salary and slow pay increases, Delaney said he depends on PSLF as a selling point that could relieve prosecutors saddled with student loan debt who commit to 10 years in his office. Retention is also a problem for public defenders, Lewis said. During his time at the helm in Kentucky, he analyzed numbers and saw that people overwhelmingly left at two distinct points: two to three years in and between seven and nine years. He said the latter point is more worrisome because that’s when public defenders are debating whether to make public service their long-term career. Prosecutors and public defenders working for the federal government have a better ability to dedicate their careers to public service because of a salary step ladder that guarantees a pay increase with every year of experience, Delaney explained. Without those guaranteed salary increases, state-level public service attorneys don’t feel confident making a choice to dedicate their careers in the same way, he said. PSLF gives them the opportunity to do that because they at least know they’ll be relieved of their debt in 10 years, freeing them to continue on a public service career path, Delaney said. “The more you can do that, the more reliability you’ll have in the criminal justice system,” he said. “Quality of representation is tied to recruiting good people, then training them and retaining them.”
‘Societal Good’ - There are some income-based repayment programs available without PSLF, but Mike Freeman, county attorney in Hennepin County, Minn., said the monthly payments are still significant enough to eat into attorneys’ living expenses. Lewis said it’s not enough to keep attorneys in public service jobs if you’re offering them the same programs that they would have in private practice—they need something extra. Having a low salary and a capped student loan payment doesn’t take into account costs of living, he said. Lewis said the public defenders he knows who use those other programs might have a more manageable payment, but it still takes a “significant chunk of what was already a low salary.” Having the public service program behind them gives them hope that they can someday be entirely free of those payments and can live off modest salaries, he said. Freeman said he understands the need for forgiveness and not just capping payments because of the radical change in law school expenses. When he attended University of Minnesota Law School more than 30 years ago, he said he remembers paying around $4,000 to $5,000 a semester for tuition. He ultimately borrowed around $6,000 to $7,000 and repaid it in 10 years at $52.54 a month, he said. “Why do I remember?” Freeman asked. “It was a lot of money.” For a prosecutor to pay back $100,000 or more now is “real tough,” he added.
Minn. officer acquitted of manslaughter for shooting Philando Castile during traffic stop
Mark Berman, Washington Post, June 16, 2017
The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop was acquitted on all charges by a jury Friday, a decision that came nearly a year after the encounter was partially streamed online before a rapt nation in the midst of a painful reckoning over shootings by law enforcement. Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over Castile in Falcon Heights, a suburb near Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the officer later said he thought Castile matched the description of a suspect in a recent robbery. The stop quickly escalated. Yanez fired into the car, saying later he thought Castile was going for his gun, something disputed by Castile’s girlfriend, who began filming the aftermath with her phone. The jurors in the case had been deliberating since Monday, and the verdict was announced on Friday afternoon after about 27 total hours of deliberation, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.
Prosecutors charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter in November, a felony, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. He was also charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun. Police officers are seldom charged for fatal on-duty shootings, and convictions are even less common. Outside the court where the verdict was announced, relatives of Castile’s denounced the jury’s decision. Castile’s mother called his death a murder and tied the verdict to what she described as systemic racism in Minnesota. “The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all,” she said. She added: “My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now?” Officials in St. Anthony, Minn., where Yanez worked as a police officer, said he would not return to the police department from leave after the trial, saying they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.” “The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer,” the city said in a statement. “The terms of this agreement will be negotiated in the near future, so details are not available at this time. In the meantime, Officer Yanez will not return to active duty.”
An attorney for Yanez did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict and the city’s announcement. During the trial, jurors heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including Yanez, who cried on the stand while saying he did not want to shoot Castile. During his testimony, Yanez reiterated what he told investigators who probed the shooting, saying he thought his life was in danger at the time. Attorneys for Yanez have argued that Castile caused his own death because of his actions during the traffic stop. Castile was one of 963 people who police officers fatally shot last year, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. The fatal encounter in Minnesota was among the most high-profile last year because Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, broadcast the moments after Castile’s shooting on Facebook Live, graphic footage that quickly spread online and drew international attention to the Twin Cities suburbs. The shooting on July 6, 2016 became part of an ongoing debate over how law enforcement officers use deadly force, particularly toward black men and boys, and it came during a particularly frenzied period that also saw a controversial shooting in Baton Rouge and an ambush that killed five police officers in Dallas. In Minnesota, Reynolds calmly documented what happened after Yanez shot Castile, 32, a popular cafeteria worker at a local school. She explained into her phone that Castile was licensed to carry a firearm, and that he had told the officer that before reaching for his wallet.
According to a complaint filed in Minnesota state court, police car audio and video recordings show that the gunfire erupted just a minute after Castile stopped his car. Yanez approached the car window and asked Castile for his license and proof of insurance, which the driver handed over, the complaint states. Castile also told Yanez he had a firearm on him, and seconds later, the officer told the driver not to pull out the gun. Castile said he was not taking out the gun, which Reynolds echoed. Yanez screamed, “Don’t pull it out” and pulled his own gun out, firing seven shots at Castile, the complaint states. The complaint then shifts to quoting from Reynolds’s Facebook video, saying that the footage “begins immediately after the shooting and while Yanez had his gun drawn and pointed toward the mortally wounded Castile.” Reynolds says in the footage that Castile was trying to get his ID out before the officer opened fire. “Stay with me,” she said. She added: “They just killed my boyfriend.” When Yanez spoke to state investigators a day after the shooting, he told them he was “in fear for my life and my partner’s life.” Yanez told them that he thought Castile was reaching for the gun. “I thought I was gonna die,” he told investigators, according to the complaint.
Yanez and his partner, Officer Joseph Kauser, worked for the police force in St. Anthony, another city in the area. They were both considered model students before receiving their degrees in law enforcement in 2010. Both officers were put on leave after the shooting. Authorities did not charge Kauser, saying that he did not touch or remove his gun during the shooting. During the trial, Kauser defended Yanez, his former partner. “I think he followed protocol,” testified Kauser, who has since switched departments, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I trust him as a partner, and he did what he’s supposed to do in that situation.” Prosecutors also charged Yanez with endangering the lives of Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter, who was also riding in the car that night. “No reasonable officer knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said when announcing the charges last year. “I have given Officer Yanez every benefit of the doubt on his use of deadly force, but I cannot allow the death of a motorist who was lawfully carrying a firearm under these facts and circumstances to go unaccounted for.” According to the complaint, one of Yanez’s bullets went through the driver’s seat and hit the backseat. Reynolds’s daughter was sitting in a car seat on the other side of the car. Another bullet hit the armrest between Castile and Reynolds, the complaint stated.
Yanoz pulled over Castile after seeing him driving and saying he looked like a suspect in a convenience store robbery that had occurred days earlier. Authorities later said Castile was not a suspect in that robbery. In a statement Friday, the St. Paul Public Schools system said they continued “to remember and mourn the loss of ‘Mr. Phil,'” calling him a beloved employee. Castile was killed during an intense three-day eruption of violence last summer. A day earlier, an officer in Baton Rouge shot and killed Alton Sterling, another encounter captured on a video that quickly went viral. Castile’s death, like Sterling’s, set off protests across the country. At one of these protests taking place a day after Castile was shot, a lone attacker in Dallas opened fire on police officers, killing five and wounding several others in the deadliest single day for law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The attacker in Dallas told police he was angered by the shootings of Castile and Sterling, authorities said. Officers are rarely charged for fatal on-duty shootings. Yanez is the first officer in Minnesota charged for an on-duty shooting since at least 2005, according to Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who studies arrests of officers and has kept data since that year.
After the Castile verdict came out, Stinson said that of the 82 non-federal law enforcement officers charged with murder or manslaughter for a fatal on-duty shooting, about a third — 29 officers — were convicted of a crime. Most of those 29 officers who were found guilty on any count were convicted of a lesser offense, he said. Five of the 29 officers found guilty on at least one count were convicted of murder. Including Yanez, 33 officers were not convicted; Yanez is the 17th officer acquitted after a jury trial. Another 20 criminal cases are still pending, Stinson said. Earlier this week, one of those cases — the trial of former Milwaukee police officer charged with homicide for a fatal shooting last year that set off violent unrest there — began unfolding in court. Convictions in such cases are even rarer than prosecutions. In Baltimore, six police officers were charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, but after three officers were found not guilty in separate trials, prosecutors last summer dropped charges against the remaining officers still facing trial. Mistrials were declared last year in two other trials centered on high-profile police shootings that, like Castile’s death, followed traffic stops and included recordings that were widely shared. In South Carolina, jurors deadlocked in the case of Michael Slager, a former police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott, a fleeing driver in North Charleston. State prosecutors had vowed to try him again, but Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge this year, resolving both cases. Jurors in Ohio also deadlocked during the first prosecution of Raymond Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati officer who shot Samuel DuBose during an off-campus stop. Prosecutors sought another trial, which began earlier this month.
For Father’s Day, I’m taking on the exploitative bail industry
Opinion, Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter, TIME Magazine, June 16, 2017
Seventeen years ago I made a song, "Guilty Until Proven Innocent." I flipped the Latin phrase that is considered the bedrock principle of our criminal justice system, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies). If you're from neighborhoods like the Brooklyn one I grew up in, if you're unable to afford a private attorney, then you can be disappeared into our jail system simply because you can't afford bail. Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time — not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime.
Scholars like Ruthie Gilmore, filmmakers like Ava Duvernay, and formerly incarcerated people like Glenn Martin have all done work to expose the many injustices of the industry of our prison system. Gilmore's pioneering book, The Golden Gulag, Duvernay's documentary 13th and Martin's campaign to close Rikers focus on the socioeconomic, constitutional and racially driven practices and policies that make the U.S. the most incarcerated nation in the world. But when I helped produce this year's docuseries, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, I became obsessed with the injustice of the profitable bail bond industry. Kalief's family was too poor to post bond when he was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sentenced to a kind of purgatory before he ever went to trial. The three years he spent in solitary confinement on Rikers ultimately created irreversible damage that lead to his death at 22. Sandra Bland was also forced to post bail after her minor traffic infraction in Prairie View, Texas, led to a false charge of assaulting a public servant (the officer who arrested her was later charged with perjury regarding the arrest). She was placed in a local jail in a pre-incarcerated state. Again, she was never convicted of a crime. On any given day over 400,000 people, convicted of no crime, are held in jail because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.
When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper. This pre-incarceration conundrum is devastating to families. One in 9 black children has an incarcerated parent. Families are forced to take on more debt, often in predatory lending schemes created by bail bond insurers. Or their loved ones linger in jails, sometimes for months—a consequence of nationwide backlogs. Every year $9 billion dollars are wasted incarcerating people who've not been convicted of a crime, and insurance companies, who have taken over our bail system, go to the bank.
Last month for Mother's Day, organizations like Southerners on New Ground and Color of Change did a major fundraising drive to bail out 100 mothers for Mother's Day. Color of Change's exposè on the for-profit bail industry provides deeper strategy behind this smart and inspiring action. This Father's Day, I'm supporting those same organizations to bail out fathers who can't afford the due process our democracy promises. As a father with a growing family, it's the least I can do, but philanthropy is not a long fix, we have to get rid of these inhumane practices altogether. We can't fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry. Carter, known as Jay Z, is a lauded recording artist, philanthropist and father.
LA governor signs historic criminal justice reform bills
Jasmine Payoute, KSLA News, June 16, 2017
New bills signed into law Thursday morning by Gov. John Bel Edwards aim to change Louisiana's reputation as the most imprisoned state in the country. "With this ambitious package, Louisiana is projected to reduce the prison population by 10 percent and save $262 million over the next decade," according to the bills' package summary. "Seventy percent of these savings – an estimated $184 million – will be reinvested into programs and policies proven to reduce recidivism and support victims of crime." The legislation signed into law includes:
Senate Bill 139 by Sen. Danny Martiny:
- Provides alternatives to incarceration like drug rehabilitation. Expands probation eligibility to third-time nonviolent offenders, as well as first-time, lower-level violent offenders. It also gives opportunities for release. Consolidates eligibility for parole consideration for prisoners convicted of nonviolent, non-sex offenses at 25 percent of sentence served.
Senate Bill 220 by Senate President John Alario:
- This bill focuses prison space on serious and violent offenders. It does this by removing less serious crimes to the violent crimes list and merging redundant theft and burglary offenses.
Senate Bill 221 by Alario:
- This bill works with repeat offenders by lowering the mandatory minimum sentence for second and third offenses.
Senate Bill 16 by Sen. Dan Claitor:
- Ensures that most people sentenced to life as juveniles receive an opportunity for parole consideration after serving a minimum of 25 years in prison.
House Bill 249 by Rep. Tanner Magee:
- Works with offenders who are given fines they cannot pay. It will do this by determining a person’s ability to pay and creating a payment plan with which they can comply. It also will differentiate punishments for people who are unable to pay compared to people who choose not to pay.
House Bill 489 by Rep. Walt Leger:
- Helps to end the cycle of re-imprisonment by reinvesting into programs and policies meant to help keep offenders from repeating past behaviors. It also supports crime victims by mandating the collection and reporting of data to track the outcomes of the Justice Reinvestment package.
House Bill 116 by Rep. Stephen Dwight:
- Streamlines registration for crime victim notification and ensures that victims can request certain measures for their individual safety as a condition of an offender’s release.
House Bill 519 by Rep. Julie Emerson:
- Streamlines the process for people with criminal convictions to apply for and receive occupational licenses.
House Bill 680 by Rep. Joe Marino:
- Suspends child support payments for people who have been incarcerated for more than six months unless the person has the means to pay or is imprisoned for specified offenses. It also allows courts to extend child support payments beyond the termination date for the period of time in which payments were suspended.
House Bill 681 by Rep. Helena Moreno:
- Lifts Louisiana’s ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known SNAP benefits or food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits, also known as TANF benefits or welfare, for drug offenders returning home from prison.
Louisiana's Head of Prisons Jimmy LeBLanc said the policy changes will go into effect Nov. 1.