Victims’ Rights in California: On Paper, in Practice

Suzanne Neuhaus and Phillip Argento

Diane Lefer: The restorative justice model is able to keep the compassionate focus on those who have suffered most from violent crime–the victims, while still addressing the factors that drive crime and recidivism and without denying the humanity of the imprisoned.

Los Angeles: Epicenter of High School Dropouts — Or Are They Pushed?

Attorney Laura Faer

Diane Lefer: Most kids who don’t finish haven’t “dropped out.” They’ve been “pushed out” by a culture of zero-tolerance, punishment, and removal that disproportionately affects children of color.

“La Razón Blindada”–Theatre of Confinement and Liberation

razon blindata

Diane Lefer: For those unfamiliar with contemporary experimental theatre from Latin America, Vargas’ work is a fine introduction with its stylized performances, heightened language, philosophical concerns, and its exploration of the dynamics of power.

Rebooting California

Gray Davis

Diane Lefer: Why does it matter? This year, once again, California not only failed to pass a budget by the deadline but delayed it longer than at any other time in our history, causing chaos and hardship for vendors, employees, and municipalities while harming our credit with rating agencies and raising the interest we pay.

Will Tedi Snyder Die in Prison?

Diane Lefer: Though the Supreme Court ruled on May 17 in Graham v. Florida that juveniles must not be sentenced to life without parole for any crime short of homicide, California continues to impose sentences so extreme they are the effective equivalent of life without the possibility of parole.

Crime in the California State Assembly

Diane Lefer: We are all shamed, but it’s time to call out the people who belong on the roll call of shame, the Assembly members who so fear being called soft on crime that they couldn’t bring themselves to do the right and rational thing.

Peace Crimes

aristizabal

Diane Lefer: “Nightwind”–the play we created in 2004 about his experience and his brother’s abduction, torture, and murder by a death squad–has toured the US and the world, including Afghanistan, to raise global opposition to the practice of torture. Performing it for the first time in Medellín, the city where the atrocities took place, Hector was nervous.

Is There a Plan for Longtime Residents in the Master Plan for University Park?

lefer_3

Diane Lefer: According to Uriarte, speculators aren’t just driving out longtime residents but taking advantage of the students, too. “Where a family used to rent a house, or apartments used to be rented as one-bedroom or two-bedroom, now the property-owners rent by the bed.”

Fast 4 Freedom

curb

Diane Lefer: AB900 was a huge victory for the prison-industrial complex. “People are making a profit out of putting people in cages,” said Geri Silva.

Ready or Not. Here They Come! Youth Reentry from Probation

father greg boyle

Diane Lefer: As our Probation Department moves in the direction of reform, the good news is that the department recognizes the need for reentry services for kids coming out of the system–often traumatized, unable to read and write, set free on the mean streets in an abysmal job market while carrying the stigma of lockup.

To LA’s New Probation Chief: Condolences on Your Appointment

Los Angeles Probation Chief Donald Blevins and wife Laura.

Diane Lefer: why would anyone take on the challenge of cleaning up a department long known for abusing rather than helping the kids in its custody, losing track of money and ID badges, punishing whistleblowers and protecting wrongdoers?

Oscar Grant Trial: Armed and Dangerous

Johannes Mehersele

Diane Lefer: The murder charge played well with the furious community, but given how hard it will be to prove intent in this case beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve jurors, did the DA’s office think the more serious charge would make an acquittal more likely?

Buried Alive

tedi snyder

Diane Lefer: Though the Supreme Court ruled on May 17, that juveniles must not be sentenced to life without parole for any crime short of homicide, we expected no surprise and no mercy when we arrived in court Friday morning for the sentencing of young Tedi Snyder. But Judge Ohta did not hand down the preordained 80-year-to-life-sentence. Not because such a sentence is, in effect, equivalent to life without parole, but rather because he, the judge, was recovering from surgery.

Slum Housing: LA’s Hidden Health Crisis and a Model Response

Diane Lefer: Slum housing has a negative impact on residents’ health–even when the building doesn’t collapse on top of you while you sleep which is what happened to some tenants of slumlord Frank McHugh. But today, more than 3,000 low-income families enjoy better health and almost as many now live in improved housing thanks to the Healthy Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors Collaborative, a groundbreaking partnership among community organizers, grassroots nonprofits, and tenants from South Los Angeles and downtown, all working in coordination with city and county agencies, legal professionals and health care providers.

Mandatory Minimums: Cruel and Usual

Juvenile Justice

Diane Lefer: The right to a speedy trial turns out to mean nothing when you’re a juvenile, even a juvenile being tried as an adult. After almost three years in lockup, with no trial scheduled, her son agreed to plead guilty to get it over with. “Even the judge couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘They gave you a strike and a felony for that?’”

LA Youth vs. the Probation Department: Who Is More in Need of Intervention?

Probatoin

Diane Lefer: Problems in the department–the largest probation department in the world–are well known. Probation, with its $700-million budget, is monitored by the Department of Justice and sued by the ACLU. Young people are incarcerated for offenses no more serious than truancy and curfew violations. Probation officers known for physically abusing youth in their care remain on the job…

LA Youth March for Respect — and Justice

March_1

How far would you go for respect? How about a 50-mile march starting Sunday morning, December 13, at Juvenile Hall in Sylmar and ending Wednesday night with a candlelight vigil outside the lockup in Norwalk?

How to Visit Your Loved One for the Holidays

Prison

You know how much a visit means to someone who’s locked up. And you know that one of the major factors that prevents recidivism is for a prisoner to retain family and community ties. So you set the alarm and get up early and out of the house by 5:00 a.m. to drive the three hours up the Central Valley so you can be one of the first non-appointment visitors milling around waiting to be called.

Health and Human Rights in South Los Angeles

homeless

While the LA Times was writing about gang violence in South LA, more than 700 people gathered on June 5th for the first South Los Angeles Health and Human Rights Conference to consider the institutional violence visited on the people who live there. At the California Science Center, health care professionals, community organizers and advocates [...]

Prisoners’ Rights: An Oxymoron?

prison

More than 100 people of all races and all ages traveled to Watts from several California counties on Saturday May 30, sharing a single desire: Bring our loved ones homes. They weren’t talking about family members serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. These are the families torn apart when someone is sent to prison with an [...]

Occidental Petroleum and Death in Arauca

oxy

Who doesn’t love a story of reform and redemption? And what a story it would be if LA-based Occidental Petroleum — after causing so much death and destruction in Colombia — could have really changed enough to merit the nomination the company received a year ago. The US Embassy in Bogotá recommended Oxy for the [...]

Humvees in Tijuana: The US and the Mexican Narco-Wars

drug-wars

How worried should Americans be about the drug wars being fought just across the border? Under the Merida Initiative, the Bush administration committed $1.4 billion in military assistance to Mexico and the Senate is now considering a House move to increase this year’s figure by $410 million. This seems as foolhardy to me as the [...]

Honor the People of Conscience

albertomora

As the President-elect prepares to fulfill his word to close Guantánamo and ban torture, there’s more he can do. Sure, I’d love to see members of the outgoing administration prosecuted and hope it will happen. I doubt, however, that President-elect Obama will move in that direction. But if he truly wants to be a healer, [...]

End the War on Immigrants: Bringing It All Back Home

wall at the border

When the Bush administration came up with a special classification, “enemy combatant,” and a special site—Guantánamo—to put prisoners beyond the purview of human and legal rights, I had a shock of recognition. The trial run had taken place right here in the US when we threw due process out the window for that other special [...]

Essential Questions from Ft. Benning and from Putumayo

Now that President-elect Obama has pledged to shut down the detention camp at Guantanamo, will the infamous School of the Americas be next? And what about Plan Colombia–that other blot on US honor in the Western Hemisphere? This weekend, November 21-23, thousands of activists gather at the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia, as they do [...]

Beyond Red and Blue

by Diane Lefer – Barack Obama says we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States, and after his election, I heard from friends and relatives—progressives all–who live in places like Alabama, Alaska, and Kentucky all saying we are here, too, along with millions of others working for change in the so-called [...]

What’s New — and Wrong — about Proposition 9

The Proposition 9 initiative gives a variety of rights to crime victims — certainly a laudable goal, however most of these provisions merely duplicate guarantees already in force. The new provisions? Those are the troubling ones.

Juvenile In/Justice and Proposition 6

It’s called the “Safe Neighborhoods Act.” Who could object to that? But Proposition 6 will require that more kids be tried as adults. It will classify more kids as gang-related felons, even if they are not gang members. For many, it will take away the possibility of early parole based on education, training, and good [...]

Free Trade, Cocaine, and Civil War

plan-colombia

The proposed Free Trade Agreement between the US and Colombia stalled in Congress this spring very rightly due to Colombia’s abysmal human rights record. But with civilians still being killed by the military and with a record 42 union leaders assassinated this year, the Bush and Uribe administrations brought 80 supporters to the US in [...]

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