Resentencing and the Decriminalization of Cannabis

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas calling on the Office of Cannabis Management, in collaboration with various Los Angeles County departments and community stakeholders, to develop a countywide plan to facilitate the resentencing of minor cannabis convictions.

Under Proposition 64, certain convictions qualify for reduction or dismissal. However, many people remain unaware that they may be eligible for legal relief, or are deterred by the cumbersome process.

“The war on drugs led to decades-long racial disparities in cannabis-related arrests and convictions,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We have a responsibility now to seek widespread reclassification and resentencing for those with minor cannabis convictions on their records, including the destruction of court records for youth.”

“This would remove barriers to employment, housing, financial assistance, and deepening social and economic disparities,” he added. “For many, this is the second chance that was due to them, and has been a long time coming.”

The motion, coauthored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, also seeks to prevent the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis-related offenses seen in other jurisdictions post-legalization. In Alaska, for example, while overall cannabis-related arrests fell after legalization, African Americans were still arrested for these offenses approximately 10 times more often than Caucasians were. In Washington, D.C. this racial disparity was closer to 4:1, and in Colorado, 3:1.

Eunisses Hernandez, policy coordinator with the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, supported the motion. “The act of getting someone’s conviction reclassified or dismissed off their record removes at least 4,800 barriers that prevent them from obtaining housing, employment and supportive services,” she told the Board. “Providing post-conviction relief services opens the door for new opportunities that allow people to fully integrate back into their communities after being impacted by the criminal justice system.”

She added, “Everyone in our communities benefit from having more people eligible for employment and other resources that allows them to support themselves and their families.”

 

 

Seeking Justice for Victims

Remembering the Legacy
of Mayor Tom Bradley

A new documentary, Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race, celebrates the life and legacy of Los Angeles’ first and only African-American mayor on what would have been his 100th birthday.

All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Remarks by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas during a recent screening of the film.

“Thank you to the March on Washington Film Festival, The California Endowment, and The California Wellness Foundation for hosting tonight’s event.

“Mayor Tom Bradley’s impact on Los Angeles is immeasurable. It is a privilege to reflect on these accomplishments in commemoration of his 100th birthday, and in the presence of some of his family, friends and colleagues.

Mayor Tom Bradley

“Tom Bradley has had a profound impact on my career as a public servant and elected official, from his support of my work with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and my candidacy to City Council, and his influence on the rest of my political career.

“He was not only the first and only African American mayor in Los Angeles, but he was also this city’s longest standing mayor. His accomplishments over his five terms as mayor are far too long to list, but three things stand out that cannot go unmentioned.

“First was Mayor Bradley’s work ethic and integrity. His work ethic was second to none. He arrived at City Hall before everyone else, and left after everyone else. He handled the job with humility and honor, providing an extraordinary example of leadership in the modern era.

“Second was his commitment to celebrating, recognizing and investing in the diversity of Los Angeles. Mayor Bradley understood that the great diversity in a city like Los Angeles was an asset, whether around religion, gender, race and ethnicity, nationality, class or profession.

The late mayor’s daughter, Lorraine Bradley

“His staff and commission appointments reflected this. In many ways, he opened up City Hall to those who had never before felt that government could truly represent and look like them. He built diverse coalitions that brought people together for the first time around a shared vision of change. He gave coalition politics a new meaning.

“Third, Mayor Bradley helped transform Los Angeles into a world-class metropolis. His contributions to the development of downtown L.A. are enormous, as was his work around bringing the Olympics to this city.

“I believe his leadership on building out L.A.’s light rail transportation system was particularly transformative in Los Angeles. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is in no small way an example of the legacy of Tom Bradley. Due to his efforts, two years ago, we dedicated the Expo/La Brea station in honor of his wife, Ethel Bradley. Together they laid the foundation for the light rail system we are benefiting from today.

“In closing, I want to thank all the partners in the room, who give me confidence that we will continue to honor Mayor Bradley’s legacy, today and moving forward.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with event panelists, including journalist Warren Olney, USC Professor Manuel Pastor, and the late Mayor Tom Bradley’s daughter, Lorraine Bradley.

Hate Crimes Still at Alarming Levels

Reported racial hate crimes in the County disproportionately targeted African Americans, who represent only about 9% of County residents but were 46% of the victims of racial hate crime. All data and graphics courtesy of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ 2016 Hate Crime Report.

Hate crimes remain at elevated levels in Los Angeles County, based on a recently released report from the County Commission on Human Relations.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas expressed concern over the 2016 Hate Crime Report, which documented 482 hate crime victims. The number is only one fewer than in 2015, when hate crimes surged 24 percent over the year before, and represented the highest total since 2011.

“The report reminds us that criminal activity motivated by bias and hate have not abated in the last year,” Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “The crimes described in this report are pernicious and despicable actions intended to strip away each victim’s sense of dignity, safety and belonging.”

“The report shows targeted populations span the breadth and diversity of our county, proving that hate crimes affect not only communities of color, LGBT communities, or communities of faith,” he added. “In truth, anyone can be victimized.”

The Commission’s executive director, Robin Toma, said, “We are extremely concerned that reported hate crimes remained at an elevated level in 2016, and major cities across the country, including the city of Los Angeles, have already reported increases in hate crime during the first half of 2017.”

Significant findings include:

  • 81% of homophobic crimes were of a violent nature. There were 31 anti-transgender hate crimes, a 72% increase; 97% of them were violent.

    For the first time in many years, gay men, lesbians and LGBT organizations comprise the group most frequently targeted for hate crime reported in the county, surpassing anti-African American hate crimes. There were 118 crimes based on sexual orientation in 2016, comprising nearly one-quarter of all hate crimes, and the rate of violence was high – 81 percent – including the murder of a gay man by his own father. Of transgender hate crimes, 97 percent were of a violent nature, the highest of any major victim group.

  • Hate crimes in which there was evidence of white supremacist ideology grew 67 percent, from 63 to 105, mostly acts of vandalism in which swastikas or other hate symbols were used. This constituted 22 percent of all hate crimes reported in 2016, up from 13 percent in the previous year.
  • Anti-black hate crimes declined 19 percent from 139 to 112, partly due to a reduction in hate crimes by Latino gang members that targeted African Americans. Nonetheless, reported hate crimes in the county disproportionately targeted African Americans, who represent only about 9 percent of county residents but represented almost half of victims of racial hate crimes.

  • Anti-Latino crimes increased slightly in 2016, from 61 to 62, three quarters of which were violent.
  • Anti-white crimes jumped from 11 to 27, a 145-percent rise. White comprised 11 percent of racial hate crime victims, but represent about 27 percent of the county population.
  • There were 101 religious hate crimes in 2016, with two-thirds targeting the Jewish community.
  • During the post-2016 presidential election period, hate crimes increased 9 percent, from 75 to 82. It is important to note that those 75 crimes in 2015 represented a sharp 47 percent rise from the previous year, due in part to about a dozen anti-Muslim/Middle Eastern crimes following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

The Commission has produced an annual Hate Crime Report since 1980, making it one of the longest running reports of its kind in the nation. The majority of the data is derived from law enforcement agencies. Given the well-documented problem of underreporting, however, the Commission also collects information from school districts and universities, community-based organizations and directly from victims.

“The fact that white supremacist crimes grew 67 percent is alarming, particularly in the aftermath of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville,” Commission President Isabelle Gunning said. “It seems that organized hate groups everywhere are feeling emboldened and increasingly visible.”

Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas called for more unity and inclusiveness, as well as taking action to address hate crimes. “We are all collectively responsible for identifying and reporting threats that could lead to hate crimes, as well as making concerted efforts to provide welcoming and safe environments for all County residents,” he said.

Sweeping Advances to Keep Youth
Out of the Justice System

In a historic move, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a roadmap for diverting thousands of youth from the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and for connecting them to a comprehensive array of supportive services – education, employment, housing, healthcare and more – to help them thrive.

Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Diandra Jay, Board of Supervisors

“Giving youth access to supportive services as an alternative to arrest and incarceration is both morally imperative and fiscally responsible,” said Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion. “We need to manage our resources smartly, and be more humane and less militaristic in dealing with young people so they can lead better lives and be an asset to their communities.”

“The best juvenile system is one that keeps kids out of it in the first place,” added the motion’s coauthor, Supervisor Janice Hahn. “With the action we are taking today, our County departments are going to better work together to keep children out of court and in school.”

Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, a nonprofit that works extensively with youth in the juvenile justice system, expressed “enthusiastic support” for the motion. He said, “We know that punishment doesn’t work when it comes to helping young people who are struggling, as health conditions – many rooted in childhood trauma – are often at the root of the behavior that leads them to the justice system in the first place.”

The Board voted to accept the recommendations and strategies of A Roadmap for Advancing Youth Diversion in Los Angeles County developed by its Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee. It also called for creating a Youth Diversion and Development division within the Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR).

“Since its creation two years ago, the ODR has successfully diverted more than 1,300 adults from the County’s jails,” noted Judge Peter Espinoza (Ret.), director of the ODR. “What has been missing from this work has been a dedicated effort to keep young people out of the justice system. By launching this youth diversion and development work at ODR, the County is poised to offer a continuum of supportive services to the entire community and further reduce arrests and incarceration.”

Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas underscored the achievement by adding, “By launching this work, Los Angeles County can and will lead the nation in promoting youth wellbeing, addressing racial disparities, and embracing cost-effective approaches.”

L-R: Office of Child Protection Director, Judge Michael Nash (Ret.); Office of Diversion and Reentry Director, Judge Peter Espinoza (Ret.); The California Endowment President and CEO Dr. Robert Ross; and LA County Assistant CEO Fesia Davenport, testifying in support of the  motion. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors