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Open Forum 2012

Open Forum 2012

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Numbered Days for Men’s Central?
Lee Baca stood in the unseasonably warm April sun outside his Monterey Park headquarters andsaid words that seemed unthinkable back when we released our annual Jails Report last September: “I believe Men’s Central Jail needs to be decommissioned,” Baca said. “I’m committing to that goal.” Baca failed to commit to a timetable, but he did say he’ll close the dangerous, crumbling facility even if a replacement jail is not built.
e announcement came at a joint news conference between the ACLUand the Los Angeles Sheri
’s Department that coincided with the release of a report commissioned by the ACLU.
e report, titled “Evaluation of the Current and Future Los Angeles County Jail Population, was authored by noted criminal justice expert James Austin, and it outlines how Men’s Central could besafely and e
ectively shuttered. If Baca follows through, his actions could mark the beginning of a majornationwide shift in how we as a society deal with those convicted of crimes and those awaiting trial. 
e grossly overcrowded L.A. County jail system is the world’s largest, with a population of some 22,000inmates. An additional 7,000 inmates will soon be funneled into the system as a result of AB 109,passed by the California Legislature after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce its prisonpopulation.
e cramped conditions in L.A. County jails have had violent consequences: last fall, our Jails Report for the first time contained testimony of civilian witnesses who saw firsthand savage beatingsof inmates by deputies. It also included declarations of about 70 current or former inmates who hadfallen victim to deputies’ batons.For years, the sheri
has insisted that the only way to fix the problem is to fund nearly $1.5 billion in new  jail construction. But the Austin Report arrives at a very simple conclusion -- that fixing the jails doesntrequire building new ones; rather, o
cials should reduce the jail population. Because three in fourinmates are in jail awaiting trial, Austin recommends pre-trial release for low-level inmates not yet foundguilty of a crime, and allowing low-risk, non-violent felons to participate in rehabilitation programs inthe community rather than incarcerating them. If Baca is true to his word, he could lead the way in breaking the nation’s addiction to mass incarceration.
   N   o   n   p   r   o   fi   t   o   r   g   U .   S .   P   o   s   t   a   g   e   P   a   i   d   S   a   n   F   r   a   n   c   i   s   c   o   C   A   P   e   r   m   i   t   7   8   8   0
Numbered Days forMen’s Central Jail?
In the Capitol
Belinda Escobosa Helzer NamedDaily Journal Top Attorney
Unidos Against 1070
Citizenship Delayed
Chapter Roundup
2011 Bill of Rights Dinner
Towards a SAFE California
Get Involved! List of LocalActivist Networks
   A  m  e  r   i  c  a  n   C   i  v   i   l   L   i   b  e  r   t   i  e  s   U  n   i  o  n  o   f   S  o  u   t   h  e  r  n   C  a   l   i   f  o  r  n   i  a   1   3   1   3   W    8   t   h   S   t  r  e  e   t   L  o  s   A  n  g  e   l  e  s ,   C   A   9   0   0   1   7  -   4   4   0   2
NOVEMBER 2011 - MAY 2012VOL. 87 NO.2
ACLU/SC Legal Director Peter Eliasberg speaks to reporters as Sheriff Lee Baca looks on.
A Step Closer to Justice for Our Vets
Sometimes, Leslie Richardson still dreams about the burning bodies.Growing up in South L.A., Richardson just wanted to get out. He got his chance when he joined the military in 1973. He eventually became a military policeman, working inGermany as an undercover drug agent. “One day we came across people involved in the heroin trade burning inside a VW bus,” he said. “My instinct was to help them and save them, but it was too late and we could not save anyone. I watched as they burned alive.
e burned bodies were gruesome; the smell, the whole scene was gruesome.”It was the start of a long downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. By 2007, he was living in his car or moving between short-term treatmentfacilities.
e Veteran’s Administration told him that it had no treatment facility on its 387-acre West Los Angeles campus that could give him what he needed -- stable, long-term housing.
at was in spite of wording in the 1888 deed that granted the property to the government thatit would be used only to provide long-term housing and services to vets. Instead, much of the property is leased to various clients, including arental-car agency and a hotel laundry facility.In March, a federal judge ruled that the case we brought against the Department of Veterans A 
airs last year on behalf of Richardson and tenother local veterans can move forward, denying most of the government’s motion to dismiss.
e court found that Congress has made “crystalclear that [its] intention was to ensure that the [West Los Angeles VA Campus] was used primarily to benefit veterans.”
is ruling is extremely important for our clients because they so urgently need treatment,” said ACLU/SC Sta
Attorney David Sapp. “Wehave asked for an expedited trial schedule so we can get our clients the stable housing that will help them recover.” Without that long-term housing, Richardson has little hope for his future. “I cannot be here permanently,” he said. “It is too stressful to recoverin short-term placement after short-term placement. I have no idea where I will go next.” We’ve returned from Sacramento and our first ever ACLU of CaliforniaConference and Lobby Day, and the 2011-2012 California legislative session isheating up. During the second part of this two-year session, we are continuing ouradvocacy and lobbying for a broad civil rights legislative agenda, including priority bills to reform our broken criminal justice sentencing system, expand access toreproductive health care services, and prohibit public schools from chargingstudents illegal fees. Here’s a glimpse of what we’re working on this spring.
SB 1506 (Leno)
is bill would convert simple possession of drugs from a felony to a misdemeanorand reduce the collateral consequences of a felony conviction, including barriers tohousing, employment and social services.
e Legislative Analyst’s O
ce estimatesstate and local savings of close to $1 billion over five years.
Status: Headed to the Senate Floor.
SB 1338 (Kehoe)
is bill would ensure women receive comprehensive reproductive health carefrom local providers they know and trust by authorizing nurse practitioners,certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to provide safe, early abortioncare by aspiration, under the terms of their licenses.
Status: While SB 1338 had strong support in the Legislature, it failed to pass the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. We will continue to review our options  for ensuring that all women have access to care by providers they know and trust inthe communities where they live.
AB 1081 (Ammiano)
is bill would require jails, consistent with federal immigration policy, to honorICE detainers only if the individuals were previously convicted of serious or violentfelonies.
Status: Headed to the Senate Floor.
AB 1729 (Ammiano)
is bill would require schools to implement alternative discipline beforesuspension, except in cases related to alcohol or a threat of physical violence toanother person.
e bill would require that schools document their attempts atcorrection before suspension.
Status: At press time, headed toward a vote by the  Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 1575 (Lara)
is bill would provide all school districts a common means for ensuring thatstudents are receiving a free public education, as well as a process for parents andstudents to have their concerns about fees heard.
Status: Headed to Assembly Floor.
is fall, our Community Engagement and Policy Advocacy team will be hittingthe streets to pass the SAFE California Act, the initiative that has recently qualifiedfor the November 2012 ballot that would replace California’s death penalty. Weneed your help! To find out more about how you can get involved with ourlegislative or initiative campaign work, please call Clarissa Woo at (213) 977-5241.For more ways to get involved with our most urgent advocacy campaigns, visitour website at www.aclu-sc.org.
Give gift memberships to your friends andloved ones and we will send them an ACLUt-shirt or coffee mug. Memberships start at
for equality for all.Please call 213-977-5248, or send a checkand information to ACLU Membership,1313 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017.
THANK YOU for keeping the ACLU strong!
meet and greet opportunities, walk-on parts, set visits and dining withtop celebrities throughout the year, and beginning November 1st, aspecial holiday auction!
Special items pledged for this year include:
and Eva Mendes
Spring into Action with ACLU Activism!
Attorney of the Year Award
For Belinda Escobosa Helzer, director of our Orange County O
ce, the fight for social justice started early.
e Orange County native grew up in a Latino neighborhood, where she saw people victimized by circumstances beyondtheir control, like theirskin color, where they lived, or their parents’immigration status.“Police often detainedand searched individualssimply because they wereLatino,” she said. “Highschool graduates, raisedin this country, had theirdreams of attendingcollege shattered whenthey discovered thattheir undocumentedstatus excluded themfrom scholarships andfinancial aid; and police labeled youth as ‘gang members’ andharassed them largely because of where they lived.”  While she felt powerless to help at the time, what she saw eventually led her to become a civil rights attorney -- and in April,to being named one of the Daily Journal’s Top Women Lawyersof 2012, recognizing Southern California female attorneys whohave made a mark in the legal field. “I have worked with amazingco-counsel,” she said of the award, “especially my colleagueshere at the ACLU, dedicated organizers, and most importantly courageous clients. Without our clients’ willingness to speak upabout the injustices that they have su
ered, we would have nochance to e
ect change.” Belinda has been with the ACLU/SC since 2005, fulfilling adream she’d had since she became a member in her early 20s. Lastyear, she scored a major victory against Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and the Orange Police Departmentin
Vasquez v. Rackauckas 
, which a
rmed the right of OrangeCounty residents to a court hearing before being included in agang injunction which severely limits their lawful, day-to-day activities.Still, she recognizes that much of our work takes place outsidethe courtroom. “I try to approach a problem with an open mindabout the solution,” she said. “Not every civil rights problemis solved through litigation. Even if litigation is part of thesolution, it may not be the only part – there may be a community education component -- do people need to know their rights? Ora policy fix -- could a piece of legislation fix the problem? Sincebeing at the ACLU, I have had the opportunity to work on many of the issues that led me to be a lawyer in the first place. I feelreally lucky.”
¡Estamos Unidos! 
Estamos Unidos 
? is the question. And ¡
Estamos Unidos 
! is the answer,” called out ACLU/SC Executive Director Hector Villagra to a crowd of students when the cross-country caravan
Estamos Unidos 
stopped at East Los Angeles College (ELAC) on April 23.
Estamos Unidos 
means “we are united,” and is a coast-to-coast caravan organized by the ACLU and allied groups. It kicked o
in San Francisco April 22 and is designedto encourage the communities it visits to work together to stop discriminatory lawslike Arizona’s SB 1070.
e ACLU/SC hosted the ELAC stop, where local band Las Cafeteras sang songscalling for unity, justice and dignity, rallying the students against anti-immigrantlegislation. Students signed petitions and armed themselves with “Know YourRights” materials.
Estamos Unidos 
caravan returned to Southern California in mid-May where itcontinued to collect and share stories of people harmed by discriminatory policies,distributed information about the constitutional rights that belong to all of us,and invited community members to participate in an online campaign at
, by texting UNIDOS to 74700 or by following “miACLU” onFacebook. We’re also asking people to sign a petition to President Obama, urginghim to continue his opposition to SB 1070 copycat laws and to reform federalprograms that have resulted in record detentions and deportations during his firstterm in o
ce -- more than one-million people.

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