Southern California breaking news and trends

Report: Drug treatment has vast effect on reoffending

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New figures from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show a slight decline in the rate released prisoners reoffend.

New figures from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show recidivism rates are down for the second year in a row. 

In a constant attempt to determine what leads to reoffending, CDCR tracks the rate at which released inmates commit new crimes or violate their parole conditions. Its findings are issued in the department's annual Outcome Evaluation Report.

The 2012 report tracked inmates released in 2007-2008 for three years after their release and found that 63.7 percent returned to prison within three years. That's a slight improvement from the 67.5 percent recidivism rate measured two years ago. 

In a statement, CDCR officials attributed the decline to a risk assessment tool implemented in 2007 that classifies offenders based on their need for rehabilitation and likeliness to reoffend. That change targeted some offenders for particular in-prison programs and also cut down on the number of parolees returning to prison for less serious parole violations.


California prison officials try high-tech approach to contraband cell phones

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At a news conference on August 31, 2010, then Attorney General Brown announced that law enforcement officers had arrested key members of the Nuestra Familia gang who had orchestrated crimes from inside prison using cell phones.

People stuff them in footballs and toss them over barbed wire fences into prison yards. They're smuggled in by prison visitors or correctional officers who sell them for hundreds of dollars behind bars.

However the cell phones get in, Jeffrey Callison with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said contraband cell phones in California prisons are a growing problem.

"The number of contraband cell phones confiscated has risen each year, almost exponentially to 15,000 just last year in California," Callison said.

And that's created some high-profile problems.

Inmates have been found to be keeping Facebook pages, an inmate in South Carolina called a hit on a correctional officer from prison, and Charles Manson, kept inside one of the most secure cells in California, has been caught with cell phones twice


Judge certifies class action against LA sheriff's department

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L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca conducts an inspection of Men's Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles in this photo from December 2011.

A federal judge has given the go-ahead for a class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The suit alleges the department violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing wheel chairs, crutches, and other mobility devices - even when prescribed by doctors - to some jail inmates who need them.

The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Legal Center, and Winston & Strawn LLP, started in 2008. Since then, the sheriff's department has changed the way it treats inmates with disabilities. But, says Jessica Price, staff attorney with the ACLU, it hasn't done enough to accommodate inmates with mobility issues as they try to navigate jail life.

"Including access to programs and services," Price says. "And the failure to provide any sort of tracking system so that people who have orders for accommodations actually get those, including, for example, someone who has an order for a lower bunk."


Fullerton considers dismantling police department and letting others police their streets

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Fullerton may disband its police department. The department's been under fire since the death of Kelly Thomas. Here, Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, speaks to the media after a judge ordered two Fullerton police officers to stand trial in the death of his son.

The Fullerton City Council Tuesday will decide whether to authorize a study looking into dismantling the city's police department. The study would look into options like consolidating policing in North Orange County and contracting with the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Fullerton police came under heavy criticism after the beating death of Kelly Thomas last year. Three of the six officers involved in Thomas' death have since left the force.

But the move seems most motivated by finances: the 144-person department costs about $37 million a year to operate. More and more small cities are looking at their public safety services as financial liabilities, especially pension costs.

Another cost consideration with police departments is liability claims from car crashes, injuries, wrongful deaths and employment suits. Fullerton's liability costs were not immediately available.


LAPD steps up patrols of Sikh temples after Wisconsin shooting


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LAPD is stepping up patrols near Sikh temples in L.A.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it reacted "quickly" to the news of the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin by stepping up patrols near Los Angeles gurdwaras. 

According to a press release, LAPD also activated its counterterrorism network, opening communication lines with federal partners like the FBI.

"The LAPD maintained contact throughout the day to receive updated information to determine if there was a nexus to the Los Angeles Area Sikh community," stated the release.

Thus far, it appears there are no known threats to local Sikh temples. The move by LAPD is precautionary and to help local temple visitors feel safe.