Rogues in Robes

Recently, a blog by The Fly referred to some cops in its title as “Rogues”—few of us who live and work Downtown see it that way.  We admire and appreciate them greatly. But here’s a group of dangerous people that we should be worried about.

Very, very soon, three federal judges will be deciding whether to free 52,000 of California’s 172,000 prison inmates because of overcrowding. And we have to ask the question: “Haven’t we tried this before—and with disastrous results?”

Yes.

And the answer of early parole, foolish paroles, and paroles that defy all logic by retuning violent offenders to ordinary and often poor neighborhoods, was a horrible and blood-curdling failure. Innocent families suffered badly. Tens of thousands had their lives ended or changed in ways too horrible to recount. It makes the fear of police seem absurd in comparison.

It is happening again.

One of the three, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, already determined in 2005 that California’s prison health care system is so bad that it’s unconstitutional. He put the system in receivership. Now he is demanding $8 billion to renovate the system.

Inmates are not only running the asylum, they will soon free themselves.

These are rogues of a dangerous kind, and they are putting all of us in danger.

Debra Saunders in the SF Chronicle reported that Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, recently figured out that inmates live longer on the inside than on the outside, and they live longer on the inside than outsiders live. He found all this in a study, “Release from Prison—A High Risk of Death for Former Inmates.”.
The leading cause of death for released inmates was drug overdose, followed by cardiovascular disease, homicide, suicide, cancer and motor-vehicle accidents. It’s dangerous out there.

Apparently prisons—even prisons with shabby health facilities—provide a healthier environment than what most criminals are used to.  And we are now freeing them to wreak violence in ways we have seen before. It will be a tragedy for Downtown San Jose, a big one, as it will be for the entire city.

Do these “rogues in robes” understand that up to 47 percent of the California prison population are repeat violent offenders, and many of the rest are first-time felons who committed serious crimes against people, like rape and murder? Their actions are outrageous and largely unobserved.

Do these judges live in secure gated communities? I’d bet so. If they lived in poor neighborhoods or center cities they might know a bit more about the dangers of urban life, but with an out-of-touch group of jurists such as them,  willing to worry about the health of convicted criminals, and caring little about the safety of innocent citizens, we can only expect a very bad result. Then we’ll certainly need a cop in blue to protect us.  Rogues, indeed.

30 Comments

  1. But Tom, most of the 52,000 inmates were probably framed by these rogue officers and no doubt perfectly innocent of all charges. If they had only been offered a chance to blow into the preliminary alcohol screening device it surely would have demonstrated this.

  2. Interesting data, I think there are some inmates who know they are better off and therefore commit crimes to go back to prison. And, then probably others who know no other way of life.

    Any data on the privatization of prisons?  That surely will be an upcoming industry.

    Bottom line, it’s getting so that the criminals are more protected and better cared for than the innocents.

    I too am on the boys in blue’s side, and I’ve met a couple that weren’t very pleasant. I’ve often worried about some of them that come on my street. In their line of work, they just never know when it could be their last day.

  3. It’s a good thing that fly guy didn’t take 3 photos—three strikes & you’re out.

    A couple of years back an lifer in San Quentin well into his 70’s was given open heart surgery or a transplant (I can’t remember which) by a Stanford team of physicians, who billed the State of California to the tune of $400k+ of taxpayer dollars.  Judge Henderson proclaimed this carrer criminal had equal rights to health care as law abiding citizens. What made it worse was that the career felon also had cancer, from which he died a few months later.

    Now there is a hue and cry that San Quentin has 650+ inmates on a death row that was designed for 500 or so.  The judges are being asked to force the state to spend tens of millions to upgrade death row so that these poor death row types don’t have to be double-celled.  Poor babies!

    My solution to the overcrowding of death row is to carry out a whole bunch of those death sentences ASAP.

  4. #1- Steve,
    Good one!

    #2, #3,

    Wonder Woman, and JMO have some excellent points. I work with both offenders and victims. I understand why kids, and adults commit crimes, and in some cases I feel compassion for them, but I don’t believe in giving them a free pass. I see victims fall apart, ask me why this happened to them, and I see the toll the judicial system takes on these innocent people. It is pretty heart breaking. Our system really needs to change!

    Something else I see in my work is how many families go without medical care and health insurance, or have to fight insurance companies to get care they’ve paid for. I’ve even known people who have died while fighting for health coverage, or while waiting for an insurance carrier to allow treatment. It enrages me to think some child molester, rapist, or serial killer can get three meals a day, a roof over their head, free health and dental care, and a college degree, care of we tax payers, while decent, innocent folks go without basic necessities. Something is very, very wrong here. It just sickens me to think about it.

    Tom,
    I do not agree with letting criminals go due to over crowding either, and I don’t think people being drunk in public should walk without a consequence. What are your thoughts on what can be done to change this over crowding, and criminals have more rights than victims issue? I think Victim’s Advocacy Groups need to fight for tougher laws, and more rights, rather than allowing the system to run over them the way they do.

  5. Tom said,“Recently, a blog by The Fly referred to some cops in its title as “Rogues”—few of us who live and work Downtown see it that way.  We admire and appreciate them greatly.”

    Glad to see you say that Tom. I was begining to wonder about you….

  6. Years ago a jr. high school student taught me that environment really does play an important part in a person’s fate in life. This teenager was a tough person, fortunately he liked me as a teacher, so no one dare give me a bad time.  His father was a pressman at The Mercury, and it was the days when vice-principals would slam a kid against a locker.  This boy was frequently in juvie.  He pulled an A on the first history test I gave, but never after that; I believe because it wasn’t cool.  I always told him, he’d probably die before me, and have sometimes wondered what happened to him. I remember one time he asked if I wanted a washer and dryer, I believe his father ripped them off. No wholesome background for this one.  Last I heard, his mother phoned me asking me to testify if he were right or left handed.  I honestly didn’t know.  He was in San Quentin and accused of killing an innmate.  Yep, heredity and environment.
      White collar crime probably comes from different motivation.

  7. Whenever the words “up to” appear in an argument, the rest of the argument can safely be ignored as meaningless. Example: “Up to 99.975% of the inmates in the prison system are innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced.”  True or false? True!—because this means somewhere between 0.025% and 100% are guilty.

    Set aside the hysteria about releasing serial killers. Look at
    http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis_2003/crim_justice/cj_04_5240_anl03.htm

    While this is a few years old, I don’t think there have been major changes since.

    About 55 percent of inmates in California are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, of which a little less than half are drug offenses. Most of the rest is property crime.

    About 60 percent of the inmates are first offenders, 16 percent go back for parole violations.

    Health care costs for elderly inmates are much higher than the general prison population, not surprisingly. But,

    “According to one federal study, 45 percent of inmates released from prison between the ages of 18 and 49 were likely to commit another crime and end up back in prison. By comparison, only 3.2 percent of those released over the age of 55 got in trouble with the law. In addition, a 1995 U.S. Department of Justice study tracked a cohort of parolees released in 1991. … the study found that recidivism varies sharply by age group. In particular, this study indicated that older parolees are reincarcerated very infrequently, as only 1.4 percent of parolees 55 years and older recidivated.”

    This suggests there is plenty of scope for reducing the prison population and reducing prison health care costs without affecting the overall crime rate. In particular, there are approaches to handling the 25% that are in for drug offenses that are less expensive and more effective than prison in many cases.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/23/america/23prison.php

    The US has 5% of the world’s population and almost 25% of the world’s prisoners.

    The US imprisons 751 per 100,000 population, the highest in the world. In Russia it’s 627, England 151. The world median is 125. From 1925 to 1975, the US rate was 110 per 100,000.

  8. If the cop citing the journalist taking a picture from a safe distance was not a rogue, then he is reflecting department policy.

    Is that what you are suggesting?

  9. I’m sure cutting high school sports will lead more kids down the right path in life. Our prison problem will be gone soon. We can keep treating the symptoms.

  10. BAH HUM BUG!
    Please bring back the Little Sigon issues. At least they were not as depressing as Kathleen, Tom, John “off them”Oconner.
                Shark Bite

  11. “And the answer of early parole, foolish paroles, and paroles that defy all logic by retuning violent offenders to ordinary and often poor neighborhoods, was a horrible and blood-curdling failure. Innocent families suffered badly. Tens of thousands had their lives ended or changed in ways too horrible to recount.”

    So the lesson here is not to try to retune violent offenders?

    Maybe you could try to site a couple of actual facts like when this happened.  Of the tens of thousands who died (or who’s life changed in ways that are too horrible to mention), how many actually died and how many were in the other category?

    There is no question that people are victims of crime—and often victims of people who have committed previous crimes.  But does that mean that all sentences should be life sentences?  Should we ever release anyone?

    A mass release of 58,000 inmates doesn’t make much sense to me—mostly because it would overwhelm the parole system.  However, we could set up a program where everyone’s release date is moved up one day, let the sytem digest it…then do it again…and continue to do it periodically until you get to the number that you want.  This is a very gradual approach that would relieve overcrowding, reduce state spending and not cause too much blood to curdle.  It would give time for the state to reallocate resources from custody staff to parole staff.

  12. Hey Stevie, maybe we could arrange for the very first parolee out of San Quentin to a roomie if yours. Or maybe you should go get drunk and test the Drunk in Public ROGUE COPS. Maybe you’ll get tased bro!!! Now that would be a thing of beauty…

  13. Kathleen #5 wrote:“I see victims fall apart, ask me why this happened to them, and I see the toll the judicial system takes on these innocent people. It is pretty heart breaking. Our system really needs to change!”

    Right on, Kathleen!! Defendants have rights, victims don’t, despite a couple of so-called “Victims’ Rights” laws passed in this state.

    #11—Another advocate for scum who have been tried, convicted, and sentenced for their repeated assualts on polite society.  I hope you’re not a victim of one of these assholes someday, since you’ll be hard pressed to reconcile your Polly-annaish beliefs with your status as a victim.

    #13 asked:“So the lesson here is not to try to retune violent offenders? ”  I don’t know what “retuning” is, but I can guess.  And for the most part, it never happens.  Face the fact that there are tens of thousands of unrepentent career criminals that can never be “retuned”.  Their lawyers hire shrink “experts” to testify that they have been rehabilitated.  They get paroled.  They re-offend (a sanitary way of saying the screwed up another person’s life, or took it).

    Pass a law that attaches financial responsibility on any shrink who testifies that some multiple felon is “cured”, “rehabilitated” “no longer poses a risk to society” and I’ll bet after the first one gets his ass sued off, all that nonsense will stop.

    Rehabilitation for multiple offenders will never happen.  These creeps deserve what they get, and more.  Prisons no longer punish in many cases. They get law libraries I cannot afford.  They get conjugal visits. Why?  The psyhcobabble crowd.  Make those folks personally liable for their errors, and we’ll see a huge drop in recidivism, since fewer of the creeps will get paroled.

    Criminal defense attorneys (OJ’s murder trial crowd is a perfect example)  throw all sorts of confusing stuff at a jury and then tell themn that since they don’t understand it all, there must be reasonable doubt.  The less-educated a jury you empanel, the more likely this ploy will succeed.  And the attorneys do it knowing full well that they are just slinging bullshit.  Since the juries have been dumbed down over the last few decades, the ploy works, and these scumbags get off.

    After receiving a panoply of rights, these scumbags are convicted, and then they get the free services of death sentence appeal lawyers these guys are still hanging around death row for ten, sometimes 20+ years, while the victims’ families wait for justice.  That is an insult to the victims, their families and friends; an open wound that never heals.  Then, some federal judge says that these scumbags’ rights are being violated due to overcrowding???!!!  Yup, # 11, I unashamedly say “off ‘em” and that cures the judge’s overcrowding problem.

  14. #14 JC Garcia,

    Maybe I had one too many holiday hottie toddies when I read your post but I have absolutely no idea what the point is you are trying to make.

  15. Mr. McEnery, whatever credibility your arguments might have is severely undermined by your baseless, childish name calling and ad hominem attacks on the judges who’ve been tasked with dealing with the prison crisis.  They didn’t create the problem—decades of criminal mismanagement of the state prisons did.  Now they are saddled with the most unwelcome task of cleaning it up.  You “bet” they live in “secure gated communities” and therefore are “out-of-touch” and “car[e] little about the safety of innocent citizens”?  Wow, what a breathtaking series of unsupported assumptions.

    As quoted in the LA Times: “‘The question from our point of view is developing an effective set of orders that will protect society . . . and ensure there is a constitutionally sufficient level of care,’ explained U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, who said later that the trial wouldn’t be needed ‘if the state were to wake up and start behaving in a rational way.’”

    In fact, even former prison officials “think the state could dramatically reduce overcrowding without a public safety risk if it stopped a revolving door of tens of thousands of offenders who are repeatedly sent from their communities to prison for a few months at a time on parole violations and low-level crimes.

    “‘We catch people and we release them,’ Jeanne Woodford, a former corrections chief under Schwarzenegger and an ex-warden at San Quentin State Prison, told the judges. ‘We don’t do anything for them while they’re incarcerated, and we’re really just disrupting their lives over and over again, and it really doesn’t add to public safety.’”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-prisons7-2008dec07,0,7047973.story

    Mr. McEnery, attacks like yours are the norm on websites like this, I suppose, but I would have expected more from a respected former public official.  For shame.

  16. #17- James,
    “‘We don’t do anything for them while they’re incarcerated, and we’re really just disrupting their lives over and over again, and it really doesn’t add to public safety.’” This is just plain BS.

    Gee, I’m so sorry to hear we’re disrupting these criminals’ lives. I wouldn’t want to interrupt their ability to make lots of money by committing “low level crimes,” against society.  Wanting to protect the lives and rights of hard working, innocent people by having these lazy ass criminals pay a serious consequence for breaking the law is just so passé isn’t it?  Prisoners have MORE programs to help them succeed than we law abiding citizens do, but I guess that just isn’t enough. We should show them more respect and give them a college education, and job placement, while they’re serving time, that way it wouldn’t be such a waste their time in jail or prison. You know being locked up just to repay their debt to society can get really boring, and we all KNOW they’ll chose a different life style once we educate them right? Yeah right!

    You know James; it is clear that you have never sat before a crime victim and had to explain why this ten-time loser has robbed your house, while you were earning an honest wage at work in an effort to house, feed, and cloth your family. The kind of mentality you have about this makes me want to scream and claw my face. Since when do we owe people who blatantly break the law, and harm innocent people’s lives ANYTHING other than a fair trial?

  17. #17 James –

    “In fact, even former prison officials “think the state could dramatically reduce overcrowding without a public safety risk if it stopped a revolving door of tens of thousands of offenders who are repeatedly sent from their communities to prison for a few months at a time on parole violations and low-level crimes.”

    I agree with this statement.  The fault is not that we do not do anything for them while they are incarcerated – indeed, they have a bunch of programs available to them.  The problem – or a major part if it that goes to your statement above – is the 3 Strikes law, which takes the power away from our judges to be able to deal with each criminal individually, and instead, sends criminals to prison “for a few months at a time on parole violations and low-level crimes.”  As an added bonus, this well intentioned 3 strikes law required us to build a lot of new prisons, thus exploding our State Budget.  These new prisons required a lot of new prison guards (ongoing costs to our State budget) and other ongoing costs to maintain them.
    There needs to be a better answer to this problem, and letting repeat offenders go free isn’t one of them.

  18. #18 Kathleen: Unlike you, I don’t pretend to have the answers here.  You’ll see that I am not throwing my own opinion out there; rather I’m quoting a former CDCR head and SQ warden, who, I daresay, is more informed on this issue than anyone who’s posted here, including you and me.

    My point was not to endorse a view about how to solve this very difficult problem, but rather to highlight the error of Mr. McEnery’s insulting characterizations of the judges who are saddled with dealing with the problem.  These judges are not “dangerous” “rogues,” but serious people taking a hard look at a very difficult problem in consultation with experts like Ms. Woodford.

  19. #20- James,
    Having worked in Victim Offender Mediation for 5-6 years, in Restorative Justice for 8 years, and having been involved in trying to change the justice system for the better, for some 10 years now, I think I can safely say I AM educated enough on this topic to put forth a credible opinion.

    Just because someone has “Judge” for a title, doesn’t make him or her an expert on what needs to change in our system. Too often in our society the “real experts” are the ones working in the thick of the problem everyday. Their opinions are often ignored, and they are not included in the problem solving process. When the “real” hard working experts like POs, social workers, counselors, etc. start being allowed to participate in finding a solution, then and only then will change for the better begin.

    As to your statement, “My point was not to endorse a view about how to solve this very difficult problem, but rather to highlight the error of Mr. McEnery’s insulting characterizations of the judges who are saddled with dealing with the problem.”

    Glad to hear you don’t have a quick fix answer to the problem either James, but Tom isn’t as far off the mark as you think in his assertion on the behavior of some of these judges. Go sit through a day at Superior Court, I think you’ll come out of there with a very different opinion of these supposed “experts” on the system.

  20. #21 Kathleen:

    Didn’t want to get in a resume war here, but oh well . . . as someone who’s been practicing law for 10 years, also working to, in your words, “change the justice system for the better” at non-profit legal services organizations and government jobs, I also speak with some experience.  I’ve advocated for crime victims, jail inmates charged with crimes, and convicts in state prison, among many others.  I’ve also spent a year working in a judge’s chambers and many, many hours sitting through court proceedings at state and federal trial and appellate level, so I have a pretty good idea about what goes on there.

    Now that we’ve established our respective bona fides, a few points:

    Judges are generally not “experts” in substantive areas (in an evidentiary sense, at any rate).  That’s the whole point of allowing the parties to present testimony from expert witnesses like Ms. Woodford and others.  I absolutely agree with you that this testimony should include information from people on the front lines like the ones you list, and the parties to the case do the system a disservice if they fail to present evidence like that.  The judges’ job is to synthesize that information, assess it through the lens of legal rules, and render a fair decision. 

    Again, these judges didn’t reach out and decide “hey, let’s consider releasing a bunch of prisoners”; federal law assigns them the task of dealing with the crisis that the State of California has created, like it or not.  As Judge Karlton stated at the hearing, the first order of business has to be to “protect society,” but they—and we—can’t ignore the chronic and long-standing constitutional violations that are going on in CDCR.

    Are judges perfect?  Of course not; they are flawed just like the rest of us.  But I will say that in my experience the vast majority are hard-working, highly intelligent, caring people who are extremely interested in crafting solutions that work in the real world.  Again, I condemn Mr. McEnerey’s broad-brush, unsupported ad hominem cheap shots at these judges.

    Finally, if you have a specific problem with some of our Superior Court judges here in Santa Clara County, your ire is misdirected at the 3 judges at issue here, all of whom sit on the federal bench.

  21. #22- James,
    It is certainly nice to see that we can agree on several points made in your comments. The first being that the front line people need to be involved in resolving this complex issue. My question to you is, if these judges are so unhappy with the laws on the books, why don’t they work with experts, and community groups to change them? They certainly have the knowledge, money, and power to do it!

  22. #23 Kathleen:

    Glad we can agree on many things too. 

    You raise a very interesting point about judges advocating for changes to the law.  Of course you are right about their knowledge and money (though they’re paid far less than their peers at big law firms, as I’m sure they’d point out); and, sure, they have lots of power.  But the specific power to lobby for changes to the law is more problematic. 

    Judges are really hamstrung by the need to remain absolutely impartial in disputes that may come before them.  To take this case as an example, if Judge Reinhart were to lobby hard for a change to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (the federal law that created the 3-judge-panel model to deal with prisoner release issues), he would not be able to be part of the decision in this case without at least the appearance of impropriety.  The lawyers would argue that he came into the case with his mind made up about how the law should be interpreted because he testified “so-and-so” to Congress.

  23. #25- James,
    My Philosophy instructor always said, “There is no greater thief than a man/woman in a suit, carrying a brief case with attorney after his or her name.” wink
    You raise a very valid point about the need for judges to abstain from said battles in these situations, and to remain impartial. As a mediator of 25 years, I know that burden well. Too bad we can’t have a committee of experts, and interested parties appointed to review antiquated laws! Perhaps our new President will bring about the changes you and I, and many others strive to make to our wonderful judicial system! Okay, I can dream can’t I! wink

  24. Judges were lawyers. What does that tell you about our Judicial System.
      LaDores Cordell was an exception to the good ole Superior Court Boy’s Club.
      Some Lawyers, Judges, or Priests would lose in a pissing contest to those that have been had! 2009 should be the year we hear from the abused. I’ve had it with Johnmichael “Off’Em” Oconnor and Kathleen and her side kick Christen. Kicking a dead horse is pathetic. Yet they continue to pick up a check in the name of change and dedication. Just good old BS!
      Drunks down town puke on Tom’s 6 million dollar side walks, yet the same thing is happening on San Jose Inside’s posts.
      Try getting this stuff into the Merc, along side Joe Rodriguez’s best taco series. Dream on!
      Racisum is a learned responce. Hitler, KKK,Minute Men,were all very good students of the Racist degenerates.
      It will be very interesting to watch the Police, lawyer,Judicial systems try to work with in the Obama structure of Government.
      You know who you are , and You are being watched. The free ride is over!
                  Shark Bite

  25. #28 Christen,
      No point! Simply my thoughts about who we are. It appears you want to get it on! Sorry, I never do it with nameless dead horse kickers.
                      Shark Bite

  26. #29- Shark Bite,
    You’re the one who fired the first shot, so now that I know the name toothless fits you, you can swim back to your rival blog.