Judge Allows Earlier Potential Releases for Repeat Offenders at California Prisons

SACRAMENTO — A judge is allowing California to proceed with plans to allow earlier potential prison release dates for repeat offenders with serious and violent criminal histories under the state’s “three strikes” law.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shama Mesiwala has lifted the temporary restraining order she imposed last month.

That order temporarily blocked California corrections officials from acting on emergency regulations allowing them to increase good conduct credits for second-strike inmates serving time for nonviolent offenses who are housed at minimum-security prisons and camps.

Their daily credits can now increase from half off their sentences to two-thirds off their sentences.

The ruling “clears the way for the Department to implement regulations that incentivize incarcerated people to participate in positive rehabilitative activities and avoid negative behavior,” corrections department spokeswoman Vicky Waters said in an email.

Twenty-eight of California’s 58 district attorneys moved to block the rule, but Mesiwala agreed with corrections officials that the prosecutors lacked standing to challenge the regulations.

The prosecutors argued that it would apply to those convicted of, among other things, domestic violence, human trafficking, animal cruelty and possession of weapons by inmates who have previous convictions for serious and violent felonies. California has a narrow definition of what constitutes a violent crime.

They argued that they had legal standing to challenge the rules because they “represent over 20 million Californians who have been impacted by these so-called emergency regulations.”

But the judge ruled Thursday that the prosecutors do not have legal standing, which is “fatal to their contention that they have shown a likelihood they will prevail upon their claims.”

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California Water Districts Will Get More Supply Than Planned

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Last month’s wet winter storms led California officials on Thursday to announce they’ll release more water than initially planned from state storage to local agencies that provide water for 27 million people and vast swaths of farmland.

The Department of Water Resources now plans to give water districts 15% of what they’ve requested for 2022. That’s up from last month, when the state said it would supply 0% of requested water beyond what was needed for necessities such as drinking and bathing. It was the first time ever the state issued an initial water allocation of nothing.

State officials stressed California’s drought is far from over and urged people to keep conserving water. But December storms that dumped heavy snow in the mountains and partially refilled parched reservoirs have provided some relief from what had been an exceptionally dry year.

Still, the state hasn’t seen a major storm yet this month, and most state reservoirs remain below their historic averages. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows much of California remains in severe drought.

“Dry conditions have already returned in January. Californians must continue to conserve as the state plans for a third dry year,” Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.

California stores and conveys water across the state through a vast network of reservoirs, dams and canals known as the State Water Project. It works alongside the federally run Central Valley Project to move water primarily from the state’s wetter northern region to the drier south.

Click here to read the full article at AP

Rewarding Failure In The K-12 System

California spends a lot on education. Ever since the passage of Proposition 98 in 1988, which guarantees to education a minimum of 40% of the general fund, per-pupil spending on K-12 has risen faster than any other category of state appropriations. And yet, for all that new money, the state’s education monopoly continues its history of failure to deliver a quality product.

Just last month, this column cited the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, showing that in 2017-2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available, per-pupil spending for the state’s K-12 public schools was $13,129 in inflation-adjusted 2019-20 dollars, the highest ever. Measured in the same constant dollars, per-pupil spending was $9,594 in 1999-2000.

California is quickly rising in the ranks in spending according to multiple metrics and we are now at least 17th highest in the United States. And many of these statistics are pre-pandemic, before the state plowed even more money into the system.

Where it excels in spending money, California lags in educational outcomes due to a clear hostility to meaningful education reforms. For decades, reformers have unsuccessfully advocated for more school choice, merit pay for teachers, advancement based on merit rather than seniority and the ability to fire bad teachers including some credibly accused of crimes against children.

The “reforms” coming out of the union-dominated Legislature will only make matters worse. The latest iteration of this is Senate Bill 830 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, that would change the way schools are funded. Under current law, schools get financial support based on a formula that includes average daily attendance. This bill would eliminate daily attendance from the formula, and with it the financial incentive for school personnel to attempt to get students in the building.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Criminals on Both Sides of the Bars

Prisons are supposed to be secure places where offenders are held accountable and prepared to lead law-abiding lives when released. In fact, that’s right in the Bureau of Prisons’ Mission Statement, “to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” However, that’s hard to do when some of those running prisons are criminals themselves. 

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice found that employees of the Bureau of Prisons have committed rape and murder, taken cash to smuggle drugs and weapons into prisons, and stole government property such as tires and tractors. In addition, the IG found that BOP employees had filed false reports, incited violence, lied, were stalkers, and took bribes. Since 2019 more than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for these crimes.

Those crimes were committed by the people that are supposed to be “correcting” the behavior of inmates. Good luck with that!

Last November, the Warden of the women’s prison at FCI Dublin in California was indicted for groping a female inmate, asking two inmates to strip naked for him, and taking and storing photographs of a naked inmate in her cell.

He is also accused of trying to deter one of his victims from reporting the abuse by telling her that he “was ‘close friends’ with the person that investigates allegations of misconduct by inmates, bragged that he “could not be fired.”

This year another BOP employee at FCI Dublin was arrested on charges he coerced two inmates into sexual activity. It appears that some randy foxes are guarding the henhouse.

I have a unique perspective on the crimes committed at the Dublin prison. I was inmate 06833-097 at the Dublin prison complex from March 1994 to February 1995. At that time, it was an all-male labor camp. While imprisoned there similar corruption happened regularly.

One day, I was exchanging my tools at the Tool Shed. Clay and Joe, the inmates assigned there, told me that the foreman of the landscape crew had come into the shed and ordered them to go and pick up cigarette butts in the maintenance yard behind the shed. This was odd because there were plenty of inmates assigned to sweep up the butts, and the shed would be left unsupervised while they were out in the yead.

However, Clay and Joe knew better than to question the foreman. After several minutes passed, they saw him put something in the back of his pickup and drive off. They returned to the tool room and noticed two empty outlines where brand-new Skilsaws had been hung just that morning. When Joe and Clay reported the missing saws to their supervisor, he listed it as an “inmate theft.”

Because I had been in government other inmates would tip me off about staff thefts. For instance, in the week before the prison would take inventory prior to the start of a new fiscal year, several inmates told me to keep my eyes and ears open. They predicted that word would spread through camp that the Supply Room door had been left open and the officer was nowhere to be seen. Sure enough, soon inmates were scurrying back and forth between the Supply Room and their lockers with their arms full of socks and underwear.

Later that afternoon a surprise shakedown of all the inmate lockers was called and all the extra items were confiscated. The officers returned the inventory to the Supply Room. The scam was that a couple of days later when taking inventory, it was “discovered” that there were shortages for many items carried on the books. The shortages were attributed to “inmate theft” thereby covering up all the clothes that the staff pilfered for their families the preceding year.

As for staff dalliances with the female inmates, I learned that prior to my arriving at the camp several officers had been frog marched out the prison gate for having sex with female prisoners in return for smuggling in drugs and cigarettes.

The women’s prison was adjacent to the Garage where I was assigned for much my time at Dublin. We were able to visit through the fence with the women inmates. While this is secondhand info, it was confirmed by the women inside the fence as well as male inmates who were in the camp when this occurred. The BOP brushed the scandal under the carpet. Rather than charging the officers for their crimes the offending officers were merely reassigned to other prisons.

The crimes I have described were committed by “bad apples” among prison officials. I admire many of the who have dedicated their lives to keeping prisons safe while helping prisoners become better people. The work of these heroes is undercut when the prison system doesn’t cull these bad actors from their ranks.

The Roman poet Juvenal wrote, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Who will guard the guardians? If prisons are to send inmates home better than when they went in the ethics of the corrections profession must be restored. The acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons just announced he is stepping down. However, real change requires more than a change at the top. It means a fundamental change in the BOP the culture that has tolerated such criminals among their ranks. The Bureau of Prisons needs a top-to-bottom housecleaning. And  it needs it stat.

Pat Nolan is the Founder of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union conservativejusticereform.org

Governor Newsom Declares State of Emergency Over Winter Storms In 20 Counties

Record precipitation levels, road closures spur action by Governor

Governor Gavin Newsom issued a State of Emergency in 20 counties on Thursday due to winter storms that brought unprecedented rain and snowfall across the state over the past week.

In Northern California, many cities saw massive amounts of rain, with higher elevation areas seeing snow levels that have not been seen for decades. A 51-year-old snowfall record in Lake Tahoe was shattered earlier this week, turning what was considered by many to be another underwhelming ski season to one where the amount of needed snow is now around 160%. Power was also knocked out in many areas.

Meanwhile, Central and Southern California have also seen unprecedented precipitation amounts, with Los Angeles’ famed Union Station even seeing flooding on Thursday due to unexpended rainfall. So much has fallen across the state this month that drought conditions, once seen as dire for 2022, have now been significantly mitigated with new snowpack in the mountains and many reservoirs regaining water lost from the last several years.

“While the storms have brought positives, the rain and snow fall have conversely knocked out power, shut down roads, closed freeways, and brought flood, landslide, and blizzard emergencies in different parts of the state, necessitating the Governor’s Thursday order. The main focus of the order is around recovery and response efforts, including receiving funds and support to reopen freeways and roads as soon as possible to get other forms of assistance out,” noted the order.

20 counties are covered in the order, including Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Sierra and Yuba Counties.

A new State of Emergency Order by Governor Newsom

On Wednesday, shortly before releasing his emergency proclamation, Newsom hinted at an upcoming order and said that “At my direction, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has activated the State Operations Center to monitor storm conditions and coordinate all necessary assistance. I want to thank all our emergency responders for working diligently through trying weather conditions to keep our communities safe. I strongly encourage all Californians to avoid making the situation worse and refrain from traveling on mountain roads until conditions improve.”

The governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) added on Thursday that some regulations will be skipped and a closer coordination of state services will occur to speed up the state response to the storms and their effects.

“For the last week, the team here at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has been coordinating the response to these storms on behalf of the state,” explained Cal OES director Mark Ghilarducci in a statement. “We are also closely coordinating with and supporting the work of state partners like Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire and others to rapidly respond to issues as they arise.”

Rescuers and first responders , who have been fielding calls across the state for several weeks, also noted the increasing urgency on Friday.

“You know, this is post-Christmas with New Years on the way and all sorts of other thins going on, like people travelling home into or out of California,” said David Lyons, a Los Angeles County rescue workers who has been working during the floods, to the Globe on Friday. “A lot of drivers here don’t do so well in the rain, so as you can imagine we’ve been busy. Luckily the weather has now been clearing up for us.

“If this emergency order makes our jobs easier and it saves lives, then it’s good. You won’t hear any arguments from any of us. We’re here to save lives.”

Despite improved weather conditions, the emergency order is expected to stay in place into January.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) called on Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday to take all possible measures to help Northern Californians without power, including deployment of the National Guard to provide generators to families until power is restored.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe

Many Californians Will Likely Be Infected During Omicron Surge. How Bad Will It Get?

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is now spreading rapidly across California, fueling big upticks in infections across the state. 

At least three California health systems have reported that Omicron appears to account for 50% to 70% of new cases, state health officials said Thursday, and clinical and wastewater data suggest Omicron is now spreading in most parts of California.

However, the full scope of this latest wave remains to be seen. 

Cases are expected to spike, perhaps to unprecedented levels. Some hospitals are likely to again come under stress from a renewed influx of COVID-19 patients.

But for now, officials say they can contend with the surge by doubling down on common-sense safety practices and promoting vaccinations and booster shots, rather than resorting to new lockdown orders.

Los Angeles County provided a glimpse of what may be to come. A day after reporting 6,509 new coronavirus cases — which was more than twice the figure from the day before — county health officials reported an even higher infection total Thursday: 8,633.

“These numbers make it crystal clear that we’re headed into a very challenging time over the holiday,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “If our case numbers continue to increase at a rapid pace over this week and next, we could be looking at case numbers we have never seen before.”

What will the next few weeks look like?

As Omicron is still a relatively new arrival — its presence was first confirmed in California just three weeks ago — there are many unanswered questions as to what its impact will be. 

One thing that seems certain, though, is that the variant can spread rapidly. Already, Omicron now constitutes 73% of the nation’s coronavirus cases, up from 13% the week before, according to federal estimates.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say early forecasts suggest a large surge of infections could be reached by early January, and “the peak daily number of new infections could exceed previous peaks.”

“This rapid increase in the proportion of Omicron circulating around the country is similar to what we’ve seen around the world,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing. “Although this is a reminder of [the] continued threat of COVID-19 variants, this increase in Omicron proportion is what we anticipated and what we have been preparing for.”

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

With California’s Congressional Maps Set, Candidates Swoop In

After months of stall as they waited for new district lines, California’s congressional incumbents and challengers rushed to declare their candidacies Tuesday as key matchups, including a potential high-stakes contest between Orange County Democrats, began to crystallize.

The redrawing of California’s congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization boundaries will shape the contours of the state’s political landscape for the next 10 years. Politicians, however, immediately turned their attention to a more pressing question for the next 11 months — where they will run in the 2022 midterm election.

Soon after the state’s independent redistricting commission approved the new maps — in some cases, within minutes of the vote — incumbents had announced reelection plans and specified which of the reconfigured seats they’re seeking.

The flurry of announcements underscored how antsy California politicians are to introduce themselves to new voters, scope out potential challengers and, in some cases, physically relocate, in response to the commission’s work.

“We have our maps now. We’re talking to all of our members to see who’s running where,” said Jessica Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party. “We will be pushing on those [recruited] candidates we think are ready to step up to the next level.”

The new district lines were not drawn according to partisan considerations — the independent commission is not allowed to take partisanship into account. But the lines were broadly good news for the Democratic Party. All of the seats now held by Democrats will tilt even more blue with the new boundaries. By contrast, five of the 11 seats held by Republicans will grow more competitive.

But the shuffling has led to at-times awkward maneuvering for candidates of both parties, especially in Orange County and the Central Valley, two of the most politically contested parts of the state.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

One Indicator Shows California’s Recovery Is Incomplete

Despite assurances that California’s economy is a treasure to behold – “We are world-beating in terms of our economic growth,” says Gov. Gavin Newsom – the post-pandemic recovery has a gaping hole in it. State unemployment is the highest in the country.

Federal data for October show that the jobless rate improved from September’s 7.5% to 7.3%. That puts the state in a last-place tie with Nevada, and far off Nebraska’s best-in-the-nation 1.3%.

Texas and Florida, rivals in many ways, posted far better numbers in October, 5.4% and 4.6% respectively.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports nine of the 15 metropolitan areas posting the highest jobless rates in the country are in California. This includes the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area statistical area, which has an unemployment rate of 7.1% – 373rd in a list of 389 metro regions.

Newsom can brag about California “dominating in every category,” and being home to the “fastest growing companies, the most influential companies in the world,” as he did at October’s California Economic Summit.

But an economy that has a jobless rate as high as this state’s isn’t fully healthy, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Public Policy Institute of California’s November survey found that 52% expect bad times ahead, while only 47% expect good times. Four months earlier, the outlook was just the opposite: Only 44% expected bad times ahead, while 54% thought the future looked good.

Legendary California journalist Dan Walters recently pointed out that eight of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates in October were red states, and nine of the 10 states with the highest jobless rates were blue. It’s a sharp reminder that public policy plays a substantial role in joblessness.

“It could just be coincidence, of course, but maybe those red states with low unemployment rates have regulatory and tax policies that encourage job-creating investment and maybe California and the other blue states with high jobless rates are perceived as being hostile to business,” he says.

Walters was being charitable. Taxes and regulation always impact job numbers, and both are uniquely heavy burdens for California businesses. Regulation stifles innovation, which promotes job growth, and we know taxes negatively affect employment because lawmakers say as much when they hand out tax breaks to companies expecting them to put people to work.

Lockdowns also figure in the state’s high jobless rate. Many businesses that were forced to close never reopened, and some that did still aren’t operating at full capacity. By October, the state had regained only a little more than two-thirds of the 2.7 million jobs that were lost due to the lockdowns.

California policymakers have come to think they can do whatever they want, and the hard work of previous generations that built this state will save them from the negative economic consequences that spin off their plans. It doesn’t work that way, though. There’s too much garbage in, garbage out in Sacramento.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article first appeared in the Pacific Research Institute

Crooks Steal 40 Firearms From Gun Shop As California Crime Wave Continues To Surge

Crooks made off with nearly 40 firearms during a smash-and-grab burglary at a California gun shop early Thursday morning, a report said.

The suspects shattered the front door glass at Whitten Sales just after midnight and stole the guns that were kept in a safe at the store, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing Garden Grove Police Lt. Mario Martinez.

The owner of the business tipped off police to the burglar after seeing a suspect on surveillance footage, the report said.

By the time police arrived, the thieves were gone. Police said they fled in two BMWs.

The burglar comes amid a rash of smash-and-grab robberies in Southern California that have targeted high-end retailers.

Click here to read the full post at New York Post

California Lawmakers, Abortion Proponents Unveil Plan To Create Abortion Sanctuary State

Recommendations include funding abortion groups, funding support infrastructure at abortion clinics, improving Medi-Cal abortion policies

Dozens of California abortion clinics, pro-abortion groups, and lawmakers in favor of abortion presented a plan Wednesday to make California a sanctuary state for those wanting abortions in case the landmark Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women have the right to an abortion without state interference within the first trimester of a pregnancy. Despite a few challenges and alteration challenges in the last 48 years, the wording was only changed once. 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey changed the first trimester wording to fetal viability. Since then, it has been worded as “A person may choose to have an abortion until a fetus becomes viable, based on the right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Viability means the ability to live outside the womb, which usually happens between 24 and 28 weeks after conception.”

However, in recent years, a number of states have passed restrictive abortion laws, such as the Texas Heartbeart Act, which virtually ends nearly all abortions in the state after six weeks due to a detected heartbeat. Another case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenges a 2018 Mississippi law that banned abortions after 15 weeks.

The Supreme Court also reached a definitive conservative majority last year following Amy Coney Barrett being confirmed as the next Justice in place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had died in October 2020.

Now, with the Supreme Court giving indications that they would rule in favor of the state and ban abortions once again to some degree in the Dobbs case, with the most likely outcome kicking abortion laws back to the states, Californian abortion supporters are now putting a plan in place to welcome the influx of women seeking a legal abortion.

According to a report by the California Future of Abortion Council, 26 states would likely see abortion bans if Roe v. Wade is overturned, including Texas, Utah, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Florida. As California has a large number of reproductive clinics and a mostly non-harassment environment from protestors, the number of women estimated to come to California for abortions will go from the current 46,000 a year to 1.4 million a year, with the largest number likely to come from Arizona.

However, California abortion and reproductive care currently has many barriers for women seeking treatment coming from outside the state, including the long drive times to the state, high costs for things such as co-pays and deductibles, and difficulty in finding more specialized providers. An influx of Texas patients this year in California due to the new Texas law highlighted highlighted the potential issues of a sudden influx, and showed the areas where California needs improvement. With demand likely to go up by astronomical numbers should Roe v. Wade falls, California abortion groups and lawmakers started coming up with a plan on Wednesday to address this issue.

California’s sanctuary state plans

The California Future of Abortion Council’s report specifically has 45 recommendations for the state in a sanctuary capacity, including funding many abortion groups to provide care, funding support infrastructure at abortion clinics, improving Medi-Cal abortion policies, give more protections to those seeking abortions, and even help fund travel, lodging, and procedure costs for those otherwise unable to afford the procedure. The recommendations, written largely by abortion provider experts and lawmakers, such as Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego),

“We’re looking at how to build capacity and build workforce,” noted Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California CEO Jodi Hicks on Wednesday. “It will take a partnership and investment with the state.”

However, those opposing abortion in California plan to push back against those recommendations should they be enacted.

“We know that we aren’t going to get California to ban abortion should Roe be overturned,” explained Kathy Weber, a San Bernardino County anti-abortion group leader who assists women who choose to give birth after previously wanting an abortion. “Not the way the state is now. But we can try and stop the state from outright paying people to come here or to loosen laws here even more.”

“But it has been hard recently, especially with the Texas surge of people coming into California for abortions. When neighboring states get bans and California getting this huge influx as sort as an abortion-vacation destination like how many Americans go to Mexico to get dental work, this will be a big problem.”

“We don’t want California’s new growth industry to be abortion clinics.”

Proponents of the recommendations are currently eyeing multiple funding sources, including the state’s projected $31 billion surplus, for next year.

This article was originally published by the California Globe