A Second Chance at a Better Life

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All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County is taking steps to help people clear their criminal records under Prop. 47. The Public Defender’s Office and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas recently joined forces to host a Jobs, Legal Services and Resource Fair in the Vermont Manchester area, offering assistance with everything from job-hunting to housing to reducing traffic fines. One of the day’s key offerings: legal help for those seeking a second chance under Prop. 47.

Image-10Hundreds of people flocked to the Rita Walters Learning Complex to meet with attorneys, County service providers, employers and community-based organizations. Aside from meeting several potential employers, including FedEx, Los Angeles County, and the Los Angeles Community College District, they were also able to apply for health insurance, housing, Cal Fresh/Medi-Cal and other  services. Several in the crowd also obtained free legal services to clear their record and to benefit from the Traffic Amnesty Program. 

FairAmong the many County departments present at the event were Public Social Services, and Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services. Southwest College and the nonprofits A New Way of Life and Drug Policy Alliance were among the partners. Several more fairs are planned throughout the County.

Prop. 47, approved by 60 percent of California voters in 2014, downgrades certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors, and requires misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less. No one is automatically released from state prison because of Prop 47. Instead, it allows those already serving a felony conviction to petition the court for resentencing. Those who have already completed their sentences can ask the trial court to downgrade their conviction.

Statement on the Passing of former
Attorney General and District Attorney
John Van de Kamp

John Van de Kamp“We have lost a brilliant legal mind and a dedicated public servant with the passing of John Van de Kamp.

“When I was a state Senator and he was chairman of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, we worked together in pursuit of legislation that would reform California’s criminal justice system.

“I was deeply impressed by his commitment to ensuring that justice is administered fairly and accurately so that the guilty are convicted and the innocent remain free.”

“He was man of integrity who will be deeply missed. I offer my sincerest condolences to his wife, Andrea, and daughter, Diana.”

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A Fighting Chance

It’s a knockout opportunity for kids in the Florence-Firestone area. At the Sheriff Department’s Century Station boxing gym, deputies and volunteers offer homework help and guidance — along with tips on throwing that perfect left hook.

The Sheriff’s Department’s Youth Activities League uses a sports-based approach to help kids and teenagers develop self-confidence and discipline. The boxing program in Los Angeles County’s Second District requires participants not only to condition themselves physically and mentally for competition, but also to eat well, live healthy, and keep their grades up. Several of the boxers have gone on to become junior champions.

Step into the ring and watch them show off their moves.

Fighting to Stop Human Trafficking

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Displaying a poster with the hotline to report human trafficking. (All Photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors)

Both the County and City of Los Angeles will strengthen enforcement of a state law intended to help victims of modern day slavery, under efforts announced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Nury Martinez on the last day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Under Senate Bill 1193, authored by then state Senator and now Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, certain establishments are required to display a poster listing a telephone hotline such as (888) 539-2373 and other information that would enable victims and members of the public to report human trafficking. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Martinez each plan to look into how more establishments can be brought into compliance.

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Supervisor with Councilwoman Nury Martinez

“The County targets certain locations for intensified awareness-raising, such as emergency rooms, urgent care centers, transit centers and motels, which provide prime opportunities for trafficked persons to seek help in escaping from their traffickers,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“SB 1193 must be enforced, because having access to that hotline information can be the one thing that saves her from the bondage of sex trafficking,” Councilwoman Martinez said. “When a young girl is being trafficked by a gang member pimp, she rarely knows whom she can turn to for help.”

Back in 2014, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed a motion calling on the County’s Chief Executive and District Attorney to check compliance with SB 1193. Shortly afterwards, he joined the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) in launching the Human Trafficking Outreach Project (HTOP), which trains volunteers to reach out to establishments mandated to comply with SB 1193.

More than two years after its launch, HTOP reported that more than 50 percent of the establishments visited by its volunteers remain out of compliance. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will request a compliance update from the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Integrated Leadership Team, a multi-department entity  charged with coordinating the County’s response to CSEC, which he established by motion in 2015.

“It is imperative upon all of us to do whatever we can to stem the tide and stop the worldwide business of human trafficking,” NCJW/LA executive director Hillary Selvin said, adding, “Human trafficking is slavery.”

Kay Buck, president and chief executive of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), said SB 1193 would help connect more victims to community support services such as those provided by her organization. “Since SB 1193 went into effect, CAST has seen a significant increase in the number of calls to our hotline, including calls from victims themselves seeking help,” she said.

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice has found that requiring the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline to be posted in public areas was the most effective way to increase the number of human trafficking arrests. From 2007 to 2015, the NHTRC provided more than 6,500 tips to law enforcement.

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