Archive | January, 2013

DA urges for DNA from Illegal Immigrants if they want to stay in the US

31 Jan

San Bernardino DA is urging Congress to require illegal immigrants to give a DNA sample if they want to be in the US. 

For those that are unaware, the DA in various counties keep DNA databases that are randomly run for links to criminal activity. While the DA is urging that this will only lead to a “few” criminal convictions, I still wonder the true intention… 



29 Jan


Gang Classification by Race is Ok in Prison

25 Jan

It was not long ago that California decided that inmates could not be segregated solely by race. Prison officials were ordered to end their use of an “unwritten policy” which had been in effect for at least a quarter of a century, and advised prison officials to separate incoming inmates by their race. 

It used to be that inmates of the same race were housed together for 60 days, a measure taken in part to reduce the risk of racial violence.  Once processed, inmates were assigned to a cell in one of the state’s 33 prisons on a largely nonracial basis. They were segregated again by race whenever they were transferred.

The policy now is that an offender’s race will not be used as a sole determining factor in housing.  However, this policy still needed to take into account the institution’s safety and security.  This policy was to be utilized in full force and effect starting in 2007.  

Recently, the court determined that there is no violation of the previous discussion when prison officials utilizes race as a sole factor for housing and segregating prison inmates affiliated with a gang.  So long as the prison official’s segregation is based on a means of addressing prison’s compelling interest in preventing gang violence race is allowed as the segregation factor. 

     In re Morales – filed January 23, 2013, First District, Div. Three

     Cite as A132816

Assault through Closed Door

25 Jan

Sometimes when reading the decisions of the California court, you wonder how they even made it that far.  While it may seem that it is common sense to not fire a gun through a closed door because you do not know who or what is on the other side, apparently a decision had to be made. 

Its official: Firing a gun through a closed door in the state of California with the intent to fire through the door is enough to constitute assault if someone on the other side is injured. 

In People v. Navarro – filed January 22, 2013, Second District, Div. Four (B235448), the Court held that even if defendant subjectively failed to appreciate the risk of harm from firing a gun through a closed door, he had the criminal intent necessary for an assault conviction, because a reasonable person would know a bullet could penetrate the door. Statute making it a crime to attempt to prevent or dissuade a person from contacting authorities to report a crime is not overbroad, and trial court properly instructed the jury in accordance with uniform California authority that specific intent to prevent or dissuade is a necessary element of the offense.

Lesson: Don’t fire a gun through a closed door. 

AK-47 in Pieces is Still an AK-47

23 Jan

California has decided that ordering the parts to build an AK-47 off the internet, and intending to put them together to build an AK-47 is enough to convict an individual for owning or attempting to own/be in possession of an assault weapon.

In the case of People v. Nguyen – filed January 18, 2013, Fourth District, Div. Three, the Defendant purchased a kit to make an AK-47 online. The court held that the Defendant was properly convicted of attempted unlawful assault weapon activity and attempted possession of an assault weapon. This conviction was upheld even though he did not finish putting together the parts. The reasoning: the Court found that since upon completion he would have assembled them into an “assault weapon” as defined by California statute, he was in violation.

So in conclusion, not only can you not own an assault weapon, don’t even own the pieces.

It seems like California is reaching more and more to restrict gun ownership.

Prison Numbers are on the Decline

20 Jan

Inmate populations at California state prisons have reached their all time low in 17 years. This statistic alone would lead one to believe crime is down but that’s far from the truth.

Inmate population on the prisons is down largely in part to the implementation of Assembly Bill 109. Before AB 109 the states inmate population capped out at 106,295 which was more than double what the system was designed to hold. Currently, the total inmate population is totaled at 132,618 which is approximately 155% of what it is designed to hold. In 1995, the prison population was 127,462.

So what was AB 109? It was the realignment that was designed to release non-violent offenders early and keep the state prison for inmates that have committed the serious crimes and are serving the longest sentences. So it seems that it is working, but what’s the effect?

County jails are increasingly becoming too overcrowded. While there hasn’t been any data to support an increase in crime since AB109 implementation, there has been an increase in alternative sentencing such as county jail instead of prison.

Los Angeles county jail has increased by the hundreds. Lancaster has seen an increase in violent crimes by 16%. Of the 39 murders committed in San Francisco by mid September of 2012, nearly a quarter were committed by an individual on post release supervised probation. Under AB109 state prisoners who were eligible for parole could be eligible for supervised formal probation.

LESS OVERCROWDING?!?!? For the state prisons sure AB109 did exactly what it was designed to do release the overcrowding in the state prisons. Inmates were crammed into bunks in the gyms which in many individuals opinions violate the Eighth Amendment.
The bunks would be double and triple bunks lined up row by row from one end of the gym to the other. California Institute for Men had approximately 200-250 people entering the prison on a weekly basis. This common area living posed so many dangers that hopefully AB109 relieved.

But now the same problem AB109 fixed is now in the county jails. All this accomplished was a shift in where the problem exists. Local jails are overcrowded and violent crime is on the rise. There has been a significant increase in assault on prison staff by inmates as a direct result of the overcrowding. Glen Helen Facility has also had two successful escapes in 2012.

So it looks like even county jails are looking to alternatives such as early release and work release programs and weekend jail. Currently in LA county twin towers a non violent offender might serve a few days on a 90day sentence. The other problem is that county jails are now housing inmates who have sentences that are far beyond the normal year county jail is designed for.

In Hesperian of the 88 burglaries committed since AB109 was implemented 30 can be linked to a single post release community supervision probation.

Where do we go from here?? AB109 was the best of the worst. The best news is local jails are looking to alternative and evidenced based rehabilitation programs instead of just building more jails. Finally California is beginning to realize we cannot just incarcerate our way out of the problem.

We have to rehabilitate the jail system before we can rehabilitate the individuals who need it. Simply housing individuals was never a smart idea and finally we are beginning to realize that.

Prison Gangs

18 Jan

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court strongly criticized the California’s use of segregation of gang members in prison.  It used to be that you were housed in solitary if you refused to assert your gang affiliation, or worse, the prison officials would assume that you were with a specific gang improperly and house you there anyways.  

The very first “gang” to ever appear in the sate system was the Mexican Mafia (La EME) which was created in the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy in the late 1950s.  Currently, in the state prisons the “gang members” primarily consist of Latinos from Southern California, which the Mexican Mafia has times to allegedly. Another known prison affiliation is the Nuestra Familia, another Latino gang, developed in Soledad Prison in the 1960s.  This organization was organized largely in part to protect younger Northern California inmates from members of the Mexican Mafia.  It is alleged that like La EME, Nuestra Familia has built close alliances with street gangs in its members’ home communities.

Another gang that has been a major contributor to racial frictions in prisons is the Black Guerrilla Family, which was founded in San Quentin Prison in 1966, gang experts say. The Black Guerrilla Family declined in numbers during the 1990s, but prison officials say that in about 2003 ago the group began a drive to rebuild its membership, recruiting heavily from black street gangs such as the 415 Kumi Nation, the Crips and the Bloods.

Additionally, there are two white gangs that operate within the prison system — the Aryan Brotherhood, which prison officials say was founded in San Quentin in 1967, and the Nazi Low Riders, an Aryan Brotherhood spin-off that first emerged in the juvenile prisons of the California Youth Authority in the 1970s — have contributed their own volatility to the ethnic mix inside state prisons.

All of these gangs have contributed to the racial segregation and gang formation that exists today in the prisons.  Most recently, the court made the decision regarding a formed “Prison Gang.”  The case involved two alleged members of the Northern Structure prison gang.  

The Northern Structure gang, also known as the Nortenos 14, was founded in 1984, by incarcerated northern California offenders. The gang consists of united gang members from violent northern California street gangs such as Varrio Santa Rosa Norte, Pachuco Loco, Varrio South Park, West Side Windsor, Brown Pride Norteño and several others. Northern Structure is governed by the Nuestra Familia.

In two petitions for habeas corpus challenging separate gang validation decisions by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in which prison staff determined that petitioners were active associates of the Northern Structure (NS) prison gang: 1) petition for Fernandez is denied, where three adequate sources, including a roster of prison inmates, support the validation of Fernandez as a gang associate; 2) petition for Saldana is granted because the debriefing report does not satisfy the evidentiary requirement specified in the regulations that requires that a debriefing report refer to specific gang-related conduct, and there is no other evidence indicating how Saldana was actually involved with the NS; and 3) the validation process employed by CDCR complies with due process requirements and there was no prejudicial error with respect to the limited disclosure of confidential source material.

The end story: all the CDCR needed was a rooster which was supported by other sources, such as testimony by prison inmates and that is enough to support the confirmation that you are a gang member.  

This case goes hand in hand with our last post, as the information that is required for the prosecution to press charges on individuals as gang members was drastically lowering, the recent decision that one gang member cannot be acting in futherance of a gang, might have some pull on how prison gang cases are also handled.