OPEN FORUM - ACLU OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
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.
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