Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Category: Justice Reform Page 1 of 5

Remember Black August

Pamela Price and Angela Davis, Fighting for Justice Reform

Black August began in the 1970s to mark the death of imprisoned Black Panther, prison activist and author, George Jackson. George Jackson died in a prison rebellion at San Quentin State Prison on August 21, 1971. His memorial service was held at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Oakland on August 28, 1971. His death sparked demonstrations here and around the country to protest the conditions under which he lived and died. In Attica, New York, prisoners launched a silent fast to commemorate Jackson’s life and mourn his death. Three weeks later, they staged what would become the most significant prison rebellion in American history.

Black August is a time to honor freedom fighters, and martyrs of the Black freedom struggle. It’s a moment of respect for those whose lives were lost in the struggle. A moment to appreciate those who are still dedicated to ending mass incarceration, racism and double standards in the criminal justice system. 

Angela Davis is an international symbol of the fighting spirit of Black August. While organizing on behalf of George Jackson and two other prisoners accused of murder, Davis herself wound up behind bars. In 1971, Angela was charged with criminal conspiracy, kidnapping and first-degree murder. A massive international movement formed to free her and she was cleared of all charges. The experience solidified her already deep determination to fight for fundamental change in America.

The Lessons of George Jackson

George Jackson was only 29 years old when he died. He was serving a “1 year to life” sentence. He was 18 in 1961 when he was arrested for participating in an armed robbery. Another 18-year old used a gun to steal $71.00. George admitted that he was in the car. Both young men pled guilty to the crime. Apparently, because George had a lengthy juvenile record, his life was considered “expendable.” He was only 19 when he was convicted and sent to San Quentin State Prison.

In the 9 years before his death, George Jackson co-founded a Black Panther Party chapter and the Black Guerilla Family at San Quentin. George became a committed activist who resisted racism and physical assaults inside prison walls. His eloquent prison writings were published and became immensely popular with an international audience concerned with the conditions of incarceration in American prisons and the unequal and harsh prosecution of Black, Brown and indigenous people. Prior to his death, he spent years in solitary confinement. By accounts from those who knew him, George Jackson was charismatic, intelligent, strong and soft-spoken.

In 1970, barely a year before his death, he was accused of killing a correctional officer at Soledad State Prison. The State never completed the case against him. He was killed a few days before the trial started.

The tragedy of George Jackson’s young life and death speaks loudly to our current movement for criminal justice reform. The idea that an 18-year-old should be incarcerated for “1 year to life” for being an accessory to a crime seems barbaric today. That he should die in prison less than 10 years later sounds like a tragedy that should have somehow been avoided. But it was, and continues to be the reality for too many Black, Brown and poor young people whose lives are considered “expendable.” Fifty years after the death of George Jackson, we are still fighting deeply embedded racial injustices and economic disparities in our criminal justice system.

A Scientific Basis for Change

In his book, “Just Mercy,” Bryan Stevenson says that “none of us want to be judged by the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives.” But, that is exactly what happened to George Jackson. Today, the neuroscience tells us that “adolescents often lack the ability to make mature judgments, control their impulses and consider the consequences of their actions.” In 2005, in Roper v. Simmons (2005), 543 U.S. 551, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the research of the American Psychological Association (APA) and rejected the death penalty for a 17-year-old. The APA also presented its early MRI research on brain function indicating that the brain continues to develop through young adulthood in areas that may bear on adolescent decision-making.

Point No. 4 of our 10-point platform incorporates the scientific research that was accepted by the United States Supreme Court, more than 15 years ago. We will not charge juveniles as adults. Nor should we expect a magical transformation in their decision-making the day that they turn 18. There is a transitional period that for some may be completed by age 25. For others, it may continue well past age 25.

When I am elected to serve as District Attorney of Alameda County, I commit to (1) stop over-criminalizing our youth; (2) stop charging and/or incarcerating youths under the age of 18 as adults; and (3) establish age-appropriate programs to prevent and address criminal violations by young people between the ages of 18 and 25.

Postscript

The incarceration, life and death of George Jackson shows that incarceration, as practiced in America over the last 60 years, does not work. It does not create positive outcomes in the lives of the person incarcerated, their victims, their families or their community. It does not make us safe. We must develop and embrace alternatives to incarceration that repair the harm, the person and the beloved community. All of us, and especially our children, deserve nothing less than our best efforts.

Angela Davis Endorses Pamela Price for Alameda County District Attorney

The Party Line

Janani Ramachandran, Assembly District 18 Candidate
Janani Ramachandran, 18th Assembly District Candidate

The Party Line

One does not need to look to Ohio to find a split in the Democratic Party. In my very own home district, California Assembly District 18, there is a spirited contest between grassroots progressives and the Democratic Party machine. On the one hand is a young South Asian woman, Janani Ramachandran, a corporate-free candidate, who claims Oakland as her base. On the other hand, Alameda resident Mia Bonta, an Afro-Latina, is riding the wave of popularity and corporate largesse created by her husband, Rob, in his quest to become California Attorney General.

Janani speaks compassionately of “standing in the gap” for immigrants, vulnerable women and children. She is a fierce advocate for tenants’ rights, understands the compelling urgency of criminal justice reform right here in THIS County, and is unapologetically unafraid to stand up for Oakland. Janani has enthusiastically embraced my 10-point platform and endorsed my candidacy for Alameda County District Attorney. Mia Bonta has not been heard from yet, and frankly, I’m not sure where the party line will be drawn in my race yet.

The Alameda County Central Committee’s Party Line

As an elected representative to the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee, however, I am restrained from endorsing Janani. Janani impressed me early on with her positive energy, fighting spirit and the brashness of youth. She brings all that and a good education to bear on her candidacy. Her positions on the Coliseum and Howard Terminal projects and solidarity with the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) align with mine.

Still, “the party line” says that I cannot endorse Janani because our Committee has endorsed Mia. Many delegates like me who actually live in Oakland voted to endorse Janani. But, as the former District Assemblyman, and now Attorney General, Rob Bonta cast a long shadow over the process. Rob personally campaigned for Mia, calling and texting delegates. Rob’s two main surrogates were outright bullies, trying to make sure that Mia got the Democratic Party endorsement. And yes, there was a serious problem with the ballots in the first endorsement vote which resulted in “no endorsement.”

I reached out to both Rob and Mia during the endorsement process. After all, I am Rob’s Woman of the Year for Assembly District 18 for 2017. The only response I got was that I should talk to Mia’s campaign manager at that time. Apparently, they realized that because I am a corporate-free candidate, a member of the California Progressive Caucus and I’ve been a proud Black woman all of my life, my conversation about Mia’s candidacy might feel challenging.

Where I Draw the Line

My dear friend Simona likes to say, “we’re here now.” Ballots have dropped, people are already calling me and asking my opinion, and decisions about whom to support have already been made. As you review your unusually short ballot, you only get 1 of 2 choices. I hope that you had an opportunity to hear both candidates in one of the many candidate forums, away from television ads and slick mailers. I’ve received 3 pretty and large pieces of mail from Mia’s campaign already.

A friend did an analysis of the contributions to Mia’s campaign and the contributions to Janani’s campaign. Mia has raised almost $700,000, mainly from corporations and corporate executives from outside of our district. The gaming industry has donated a lot of money to Mia’s campaign, obviously wanting to impress Rob. He has a long relationship with the gaming industry and holds regulatory power over gaming as Attorney General.

In contrast, Janani’s contributions are all corporate-free and come from much smaller donations. Janani has raised just over $200,000.00 for the special election and $160,000 for the 2022 election.

But as Mason said to Dixon, “this is where I draw the line.” I want someone to represent our beloved Assembly District 18 in Sacramento who will resist the State control of the Oakland Unified School District like it was her own and support our teachers, who will be passionate about intervening in gun violence in our community, who will support meaningful criminal justice reform and not take any contributions from police unions. Ideally, our representative will not be beholden to people who show open disdain for Oakland, and her tenure will not forever be tied to the power of one man – her husband.

What’s On the Line

This is a special election which means it’s a wild card election. “Money can’t buy you love” in California politics. And especially not in the 18th Assembly District. We are more radical than the people of Richmond who rejected Chevron’s million dollar campaigns to buy the Richmond City Council in 2012 and 2014. Mia Bonta did win Round 1 by 15 points. But, I suspect she will learn that running for office as a Black woman does not usually give you a leg up. According to the 2018 Oakland Equity Indicators report, Black people in Alameda County are 20 times more likely to be incarcerated than White people, and almost 25 times more likely to be incarcerated than Asians or other ethnicities.

What’s on the line, however, is important to note. The California Democratic Party’s policy for state electeds is that once someone becomes an incumbent, the entire party must support that person. Remember, “the party line.” Whomever wins this special election will become an incumbent, entitled to all the privileges of incumbency. They will likely hold the seat for 12 years, until they term out in 2032. Rob Bonta never had a serious challenger after he won in 2012. If Mia Bonta wins, she may not ever have a serious challenger, and a family dynasty from the tiny island of Alameda will represent most of Oakland, all of San Leandro and Alameda, for literally decades. Notably, the local City of Alameda Democratic Club endorsed Janani.

In the end, for me, a critical question is whether we elect a corporate-free candidate, or a candidate primarily financed by casinos, corporations and other elected officials. Grassroots democratic clubs, allies and respected elected officials from across the State have endorsed both candidates. Hopefully, together, we can turn out more than 21% of the voters. If you want to see a real fight in the Democratic Party, don’t go to Ohio. Come to the 18th Assembly District.

Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis

Reversing 51-50 Approaches in Alameda County with Jovanka Beckles, Mental Health Advocate

Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis has exploded! Did you know that more people suffer from mental health crises in Alameda County than anywhere else in California? According to the State Dept. Of Health Services, Alameda County has the highest rate of involuntary psychiatric holds (51-50) in the entire state. And we are FAILING miserably to respond to people in crisis.

Instead of responding with care or concern, we are putting people in custody in conditions of confinement that violate the U.S. Constitution. Alameda County’s 51-50 crisis is real. The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) is ready to sue Alameda County to force it to improve its mental health care services. DOJ’s four-year study with a preliminary report in 2017 and follow-up in 2019 is a harsh indictment of our County’s mental health system.

A Mental Health Crisis Should Not Be A Death Sentence

Too often, in Alameda County, a mental health crisis becomes a death sentence. The DOJ found that fourteen (14) people killed themselves in Santa Rita County Jail between 2015 and 2019. That is at a rate twice the national average. Jail staff estimate that about 40% of the people in Santa Rita need mental health treatment. Mental health staff are only allowed to treat people for two (2) hours a day. And the time allotted for each person is limited to 10-15 minutes. Plus, these “confidential” conversations take place where they can be overheard by other prisoners and the jail officers.

The DOJ found that Santa Rita regularly releases mentally ill people without a treatment plan or adequate medication. People leaving Santa Rita “often receive little more than a sheet of paper that lists programs in the community.” Not surprisingly, many of them show up at the John George Psychiatric Pavilion or become homeless. Between 2012-2017, 4,200 people released from Santa Rita ended up at John George within 30 days.

Between 2017-2019, the DOJ found almost 1,600 people were admitted to John George four or more times. Eleven percent (11%) of people discharged from the inpatient unit were readmitted within two weeks. DOJ investigators found many people occupying inpatient beds at John George had been cleared for discharge but had nowhere to go. In 2019, 39% of our unhoused community members reported having a mental health issue.

In 2020, Disability Rights Advocates sued Alameda County for the unnecessary segregation of people with mental health disabilities – especially Black people – in psychiatric institutions and failure to provide services to people with disabilities. Their investigation found that 55% of the people Alameda County psychiatrically institutionalized ten (10) or more times since 2018 are Black. Black men are 30% more likely to end up psychiatrically institutionalized when there is an emergency mental health crisis call compared to others.

A Death Sentence for Christian Madrigal

In the summer of 2019, Jose Jaime and Gabriela Covarrubias called 911 to request a 5150 transfer to a psychiatric facility to help their son Christian Madrigal. They called 911 as instructed by a Santa Clara Psychiatric clinic. Christian was only 20 years old and appeared to be having a psychotic break. The Fremont police were supposed to escort Christian back to the clinic. Instead, Christian was put into a WRAP device (a binding that covers the legs and torso) and taken to Santa Rita. There, Christian was chained to a door in his cell and left alone. As the deputies joked about his mental crisis, Christian used the chains provided to him by the deputies to hang himself. 

Christian’s family had to wait almost a year before the Sheriff’s office took any action against the supervisor. Instead of firing the supervisor, the he was able to retire with a full pension. In October 2020, the County agreed to pay Jose and Gabriela $5 million for the death of their son. Alameda District Attorney O’Malley did not investigate Christian’s death or file any charges. Jose and Gabriela just wanted answers. They were left in the dark for so long as to what really happened. O’Malley has not responded to their requests for information. Jose and Gabriela have endorsed me in the race for Alameda County District Attorney.

The Circle of the Crisis

Alameda County’s 51-50 crisis often starts and ends on the street. Even before the involuntary psychiatric hold (51-50) starts, police officers are forced to respond. They are ill-equipped to respond, resulting in the unnecessary use of force with tragic consequences. Across the County, heartbreaking stories of the death of a loved one cry out for change in our criminal justice system.

In July 2013, Hernan Jaramillo was having a mental health crisis and begged Oakland police officers for his life. Video footage was not released by police until 2 years after his death. It shows Mr. Jaramillo pinned to the ground by OPD officers who ignored his cries of “I can’t breathe.” That same cry was heard around the world on May 25, 2020, and the murder of George Floyd under similar circumstances galvanized the fight for racial justice. DA O’Malley’s office reviewed OPD’s investigation and concluded that no officer should be charged with anything.

In August 2018, Jacob Bauer was having a mental health crisis. His parents had contacted the Pleasanton police multiple times before the incident to warn them of Jacob’s mental illness and plead for care and mercy if police encountered him. As many as eight (8) police officers violently restrained Jacob. They tasered him and pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his body while he cried out in pain, saying “I can’t breathe.” Within minutes Jacob lay unconscious as an officer struck him in the legs with his baton and then stomped on Jacob’s chest three times. Paramedics who arrived on scene were at first denied access to the unconscious Jacob by Pleasanton police officers. DA O’Malley cleared all of the officers of any wrongdoing. Jacob Bauer’s parents have also endorsed me in the race for Alameda County District Attorney.

In April 2020, San Leandro police shot and killed Steven Taylor in a Walmart store on a Saturday afternoon. Steven Taylor was allegedly mentally ill, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He appears to be in a mental health crisis when 2 San Leandro police officers approach him. He refused to put down a bat and pulled away as the officers tased him. They then shot and killed him in front of dozens of shoppers. The video shows that an officer actually tased Steven Taylor as he lay on the floor bleeding to death. Only one officer has been charged by DA O’Malley, her first ever prosecution of a police officer for an in-custody death.

Reversing Approaches to Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis

In May 2020, I introduced a resolution at the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee to call for an independent investigation into Steven Taylor’s murder. The resolution called upon the California Attorney General to “investigate, manage, prosecute or inquire about any incidents of use of deadly force by law enforcement officers to ensure that the laws of the State are being adequately enforced and in particular, to ensure compliance with AB392 codified as Penal Code Section 835a.” It passed unanimously, but then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra denied the request.

AB392, however, changes the standard for the use of force by police in California. Now, when we talk about “a reasonable police officer” we get to question that force is the first policeman’s first response to every situation. Additionally, AB1506, California’s Deadly Force Accountability Act, now requires the Attorney General to investigate all police shootings that result in the death of an unarmed civilian and issue a public report of the investigation. The law also requires the Attorney General to establish a unit by 2023 that will review police departments’ use of force policies upon request.

As the next Alameda County District Attorney, my job will include holding every police department in the County accountable under the new standards of conduct. I will also work to ensure that every police department, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, is committed to care and concern for those suffering from mental illness and/or addiction. I commit to advocate for the expansion of community-based mental health services with the Board of Supervisors and every decision-maker in our criminal justice system. Our County deserves nothing less and nothing else.

To join the conversation for new approaches to solve Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis, join me and Hon. Jovanka Beckles on Saturday, May 15th from 3-5 pm. RSVP at https://www.pamelaprice4da.com/mental_health.

O’Malley Strikes Back

Alameda County Court House
Alameda County Court House

In the midst of a pandemic, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley “strikes back” against charges that her office has a “troubling and extensive pattern of misconduct.”

In a commendable act of bravery, the public defender’s office took a public stance against the years of misconduct they have witnessed in DA Nancy O’Malley’s office. Their motion to disqualify the entire office from a case states that O’Malley “ignores misconduct in the ranks and in fact covers up that misconduct and, frankly rewards it.  . . .  Over the past decade, there has been a well-documented pattern of misconduct by some attorneys in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office that has gone uncorrected and unpunished.”

This public condemnation is unprecedented and quite courageous because of the strong possibility that the DA would retaliate. And retaliate she did.  Instead of addressing the issue head-on with transparency, DA O’Malley retaliated by instituting a blanket gag order on all her deputies. She prohibited her deputies from having any informal negotiations with the public defenders.

The people caught in the middle are the residents of Alameda County whose cases will now be delayed. Unfortunately, rewarding and promoting problematic deputies shows the people of Alameda County that O’Malley lacks the compassion and integrity needed to create a safer and more just system of justice. 

Lawyer A in the Motion

Ironically, the deputy DA whose misconduct triggered the motion is one of O’Malley top deputies. He is referred to as “Lawyer A” in the motion. In May 2018, on the eve of the 2018 primary election, Lawyer A (DDA “Butch” Ford) widely circulated a text message. He called me “a threat to community safety” who “must be stopped.” In 2019, DDA Ford received the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) Prosecutor of the Year Award. O’Malley was the President of the CDAA in 2019. She has since been implicated in the $3 million CDAA scandal of mismanaged funds.

The public defender’s motion alleges multiple cases involving alleged misconduct by DDA Ford. Then, there’s the case where DDA Ford asked for and received an 84-year to life sentence for a 15-year-old boy convicted of murder. In 2016, the sentence was overturned as excessive and unconstitutional. That case always bothers me a lot, especially for the hurt that all the families in that case suffered.

A Call to Action

In a related recent development, a 2-year study funded by the ACLU and the Urban Peace Movement found that policies and practices of the District Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of DA O’Malley, led to overcriminalization, needlessly cost the County money and promoted mass incarceration, and had a devastating impact on Black and Brown communities. We should not be surprised if DA O’Malley strikes back against this devastating report.

Both the public defenders’ motion and the ACLU report are a call-to-action to all who believe in freedom, justice and equality. Now is the time for a change. Now is the time to join the fight to restore public trust in our justice system. Please join us by making a contribution to our campaign today. Every dollar helps! Thank you.

#NoMoreDoubleStandard #AlamedaDA22 #JusticeDoneRight #JusticewithCompassion #StepForward2022

The CDAA Scandal

California District Attorneys Association, Sacramento California Office
California District Attorneys Association, Sacramento Office

This year, the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) scandal has been under media scrutiny for shady budget dealings under the leadership of Alameda County’s own DA – Nancy O’Malley.

O’Malley was the most recent past president and had leadership roles in the CDAA for the last decade. Recent news reports from the San Francisco Chronicle and Davis Vanguard have shown that the CDAA mismanaged more than 3 million dollars. The CDAA improperly shifted the money toward lobbying and advocacy efforts against progressive criminal justice reforms. The intended purpose was upholding environmental and workplace safety protections. 

The Sierra Club California, NextGen California, and the California League of Conservation Voters (to just name a few) have called the CDAA’s actions a “dereliction of public duty.” San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Salazer has called upon the entire CDAA Board – including DA O’Malley – to resign immediately. The California Attorney General is investigating, based in part on the request of the new executive leader of the CDAA.

This mismanagement hurts smaller and rural counties, where DA’s lack the resources to take on large corporations. In the wake of the CDAA scandal, there are state-wide calls from organizations and leaders to have Counties sever ties with the CDAA. 

The CDAA’s Problematic Record

The work of the CDAA has been troubling for at least a decade. As the State has been passing sweeping reforms in criminal justice through legislation, the CDAA has worked behind the scenes to fight reforms and instead, used its budget to push for harsher crime laws.

The CDAA actively worked to oppose needed modifications to three strikes laws. They poured money and muscle in the election to stop Prop 47 in 2014 which reduced penalties for most drug possession cases and low-level thefts. In 2016, they opposed Prop 57 which shortened prison time for nonviolent offenders and restricted the prosecution of juveniles as adults.

As reported in 2020 in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco County DA Chesa Boudin said:

“Law enforcement organizations have been advocating for policies and guided by philosophies that really haven’t changed in 40 years. They don’t rely on data or empirical evidence about what makes us safer.”

In fact, under DA O’Malley’s leadership – for the first time in CDAA’s history – a central California County DA withdrew from the association and called out the organization for working against statewide criminal justice reforms. Last month, in an op-ed in the Orange County Register, bar leaders penned an article titled – “It’s time for the DA associations to stop standing in the way of reform.” 

A Commitment to Change

Even before the CDAA scandal broke, four sitting DA’s created a new prosecutor’s association in California to counter the more conservative values of the CDAA. They join progressive prosecutors across the country who have separated themselves from the oppressive policies of the past. National organizations such as Fair and Just Prosecution are training new prosecutors and providing them with the tools to address the harms of past practices. 

And in a plea for sweeping reforms, Congresswoman Cori Bush (D. Mo.) has been asking voters across the country to bring change to their community by electing new DAs who uphold the values of equity and reform. 

I stand ready to uphold the values of equity, reform and compassion. These values have been missing from the Alameda County criminal justice system for more than a decade. I stand for embracing the reforms that Alameda County voters and the State legislature have passed over the last ten years. As a civil rights lawyer for 30 years in this community, I understand the imperative of constitutional policing and prosecutorial independence.

When elected to be the District Attorney of Alameda County in June 2022, I commit to take aggressive steps to restore public trust in our criminal justice system, ensure public safety, end mass incarceration and root out racial, socioeconomic and gender disparities within Alameda County’s criminal justice system. We deserve nothing less than that kind of leadership. Please go to pamelaprice4da.com to check out my full platform and make a donation.

Oath Keepers In Alameda County

Oath Keepers Booth at Urban Shield Event in Castro Valley, 2017
Oath Keepers Booth at 2017 Urban Shield event- Credits: Courtesy of CBS SF Bay Area

On January 6, 2021, everyday white citizens tried to overthrow the government. They were led by white supremacist organizations well-known to our government. One of those groups is the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist group that operates in Alameda County.

In Alameda County there are rumors that our Sheriff Greg Ahern is a member of the Oath Keepers. Suspicions are that, even if Sheriff Ahern is not a member, he embraces their beliefs. In 2017, the Oath Keepers had a booth at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s Urban Shield training program. The booth shown above was at a church in Castro Valley. The Sheriff’s Department is the only law enforcement agency for Castro Valley.

The Oath Keepers have long claimed to be composed of current and former police, military and first-responders. As the national news has reported all week, the group targets law enforcement for recruitment. The group was formed in 2009 in direct response to the election of America’s first Black president. They are largely responsible for the violent attack on the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

The NAACP and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson have sued the Oath Keepers for the January 6th insurrection pointing out that “the coup attempt was a coordinated, months-long attempt to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election, and to disenfranchise millions of ballots that were legally cast by African-American voters.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has long classified the Oath Keepers as an extremist anti-government group. The group is well known for attending Black Lives Matter protests heavily armed. They became famous when they showed up in Ferguson Missouri to intimidate protestors following Michael Brown’s murder.

The Santa Rita Jail

Given the Oath Keepers’ unholy infiltration of local law enforcement, it is not surprising that Alameda County has problems in Santa Rita Jail. Sheriff Greg Ahern runs the jail. Our jail is located in Dublin, the home of Alameda County Supervisor David Haubert, a known supporter of the Oath Keepers. The jail is known nationally for human rights abuses and racism.

Black and Brown people are the overwhelming majority of people held at the jail. In 2018, Black people were incarcerated in Santa Rita at a rate of 946 per 100,000 residents compared to 115 per 100,000 residents for whites. In 2018, more than 83% of the people incarcerated at Santa Rita had not been sentenced for a crime.

Since 2014, an estimated 42 people have died at the hands of police at Santa Rita jail. In 2017, a woman gave birth in an isolation cell without any medical assistance or help. Sheriffs deputies reportedly ignored her screams. When addicts are arrested, the jail does not always provide medical treatment or services. Instead, the deputies leave addicts to suffer with withdrawal symptoms by themselves. In 2019, inmates staged a hunger strike to protest their inhumane conditions at the jail.

Still, Sheriff Ahern, a Republican, continues to enjoy the support of the all-Democratic elected Board of Supervisors.

JoAnn Walker Is The Change

In 2022, for the first time since 1986, Alameda County will have a choice of who to elect to be the Sheriff. In January 2021, I joined JoAnn Walker who is a candidate for Alameda County Sheriff on our criminal justice reform slate.

JoAnn Walker is a 25-year police officer, an educator, a graduate of CalState Hayward and a Master Post-certified Instructor. Walker is well versed in issues of mental and emotional health, suicide and domestic violence. Because Walker is a Black female resident of Alameda County for more than 40 years, she is sensitive to the issues of race and gender discrimination that have characterized the Alameda County justice system.

JoAnn Walker knows that jails should not be used to fill the need for drug rehabilitation services, housing and mental health services. JoAnn Walker believes that we cannot continue to have a “double standard” for residents and law enforcement officers. I believe that JoAnn Walker will bring leadership with integrity to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

Let’s hope we take our best shot in June 2022. Please check out walker4sheriff.com. And then act accordingly.

Meet David Haubert

Former Dublin Mayor David Haubert  sits now on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Former Dublin Mayor David Haubert sits now on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors

If you live in Alameda County, meet David Haubert. He was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2020.

In what claims to be one of the most “woke” counties in America, we just elected a right-wing Republican to make consequential decisions about our lives. While we pride ourselves on our diversity, David Haubert believes that “Dreamers” should be deported.

In the County where the Black Lives Matter movement was birthed, David Haubert has embraced, and been embraced by the Oath Keepers, a gun-carrying fiercely anti-government, right-wing, militaristic group. The Oath Keepers are a far-right militia like the Proud Boys. These are “his people.”

Just like Donald Trump, David Haubert says he didn’t know who the Oath Keepers were when he attended their meeting as the guest speaker. I’m sure he thought they were “very fine people.” The white supremacist group was formed in 2009 in direct response to the election of the nation’s first Black president. 

In a County where women show up in droves at the annual Women’s March, Haubert is opposed to abortion. More importantly, he has pledged that as County Supervisor, he would seek to limit abortion-related county programs.

Democrats Elected Haubert

This right-wing Republican was elected to our Board of Supervisors with the support of many popularly-elected “democrats” in name only. Our County Central Committee fumbled the ball and then straight dropped it. We endorsed Vinnie Bacon, the progressive Clean Money candidate, and then did little to help out.

Haubert outspent and out-smeared Vinnie. His campaign was funded by major developers, contractors, landlords, property managers, oil industry sources and the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County. Fellow Supervisor Nate Miley campaigned hard for Haubert against the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate. Our Democratic Party Central Committee ignored Vinnie’s campaign’s pleas for assistance and simply watched him be defeated. This race was the most consequential race for Alameda County in 2020.

David Haubert is relatively young and our Board of Supervisors does not have any term limits. David Haubert could be with us for a very long time.

Prosecute Anthony Pirone

Bart Officer Anthony Pirone, holding Oscar Grant’s head down with his left hand,
with his left knee on Grant’s neck, moments before Oscar was shot in the back

In February 2011, Attorney John Burris called me and asked me to help him with a police misconduct case. It was the Oscar Grant case. There were 4 motions to dismiss the case filed by Bart and the numerous officers that John’s firm had sued. My firm’s assignment was to oppose the motion to dismiss Anthony Pirone. We did so successfully and kept him in the case.

Anthony Pirone was one of the first officers to arrive on the Bart platform in response to a call. Pirone immediately focused on Oscar and his friends, racially profiled them, punched and kneed Oscar repeatedly, and finally jumped down on Oscar with his full, 250-pound body weight, pushing Oscar face-down onto the concrete platform and pressing his knee on Oscar’s neck; all the while taunting Oscar by calling him a “nigger” and a “bitch-ass nigger.”

Anthony Pirone committed a hate crime against Oscar Grant. He is the one who literally set into motion the action that caused Johannes Mehserle to kill Oscar Grant. Yet, then District Attorney Tom Orloff made a decision not to charge Anthony Pirone with anything. Bart fired Pirone but he walked away a free man. 

Everyone who saw the videotapes of the events on that Bart platform knew what Pirone did. Everyone included me, my staff, the judge and all of the lawyers involved, including then Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. The civil lawyers were subject to a protective order in 2009 (meaning we could not talk publicly about everything we saw and knew) but DA Nancy O’Malley was not.

DA Nancy O’Malley knew in 2009 that Anthony Pirone was a liar. When she became the DA in September 2009, she did not re-open the case. Instead, she chose to turn a blind eye to Pirone’s racist torture of Oscar Grant because Oscar Grant was just another Black kid whose life did not matter. 

Just like Jody Woodfox’s life did not matter. Jody Woodfox was shot in the back by an OPD officer in July 2008, and O’Malley’s office covered up the murder for 12 years. Just like Alan Blueford and Kayla Moore and so many others, including brown, white and indigenous people like Andrew Moppin, James Greer, Joshua Pawlik, Jacob Bauer and Elena Mondragon. 

The family of Oscar Grant and our community are calling on O’Malley now to charge Anthony Pirone with felony-murder. This is the same rule applied to thousands of Black and Brown residents of Alameda County to coerce unfair plea bargains. The same rule used to incarcerate people for decades whose punishment did not come close to the crime. O’Malley has discretion but it should not be used unfairly or applied unequally. Simple Justice. That is all the family is asking for. 

Please support this demand for fair justice! Please sign the Petition and spread the word! 

TELL DA NANCY O’MALLEY TO CHARGE ANTHONY PIRONE WITH THE FELONY MURDER OF OSCAR GRANT III

California State Propositions-November 2020

2020 California Ballot Measures Personified by Alfred Twu
Credit: Alfred Twu

On November 3, 2020, California State Propositions will be decided by voters. Here are Pamela’s Recommendations for the California State Propositions-November 2020. It covers Propositions 14 to 25 with brief summaries and recommendations on how to vote.

Prop. 14: Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative – PYP SAYS YES

A “yes” vote supports issuing $5.5 billion general obligation bonds for the state’s stem cell research institute and making changes to the institute’s governance structure and programs.
A “no” vote opposes issuing $5.5 billion general obligation bonds for the state’s stem cell research institute, which ran out funds derived from Proposition 71 (2004) for new projects in 2019.

Prop 15: Schools and Communities First, Reform Prop 13 – PYP SAYS YES

Prop 15 is a tax reform measure to create a split roll property tax system and spend the revenue increase on education and other public services.

  1. Close property tax loopholes benefiting wealthy corporations.
  2. Cut small business taxes.
  3. Reclaim billions every year to invest in our schools and local communities.
  4. Exempt homeowners, renters, small businesses and agricultural land so they continue to be protected by Prop 13.
  5. Prioritize transparency and accountability by requiring public disclosure of all new revenues and how they are spent.
    Advocates estimate that Alameda County will receive almost $197,000 million in revenue.

Prop 16: Repeal Prop 209, Bring Back Affirmative Action – PYP SAYS YES

Voting “Yes” on Proposition 16 would reverse the ban on equal opportunity policies like affirmative action so that elected leaders can design programs that provide good jobs, better wages, and access to great schools for all Californians.

Prop 17: Allow Parolees to Vote – PYP SAYS YES

Prop 17 will amend the California Constitution so that Californians who have completed their prison term can fully participate in our democracy by restoring their right to vote.

Prop 18: Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries – PYP SAYS YES

Proposition 18 will allow Californians who will be 18 by the time of the general election to vote in the primary election. Voting Yes on 18 allows first-time voters to participate in the full election cycle, and builds a lifelong habit of civic participation.

Prop. 19: Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties – PYP SAYS NO

California’s Proposition 19 would make various changes to rules that allow Californians who are disabled or older than age 55 to transfer below-market property tax assessments when moving to a new home. These lower assessments could no longer be transferred to heirs once the property owner dies, in many cases. But, while the taxpayer is alive, it would make transferring below market assessments easier by eliminating certain exceptions in current law.

Black and Brown communities are often adversely impacted by generational poverty and face particular challenges to accumulate wealth in America, due to systemic racism and segregation in housing. Proposition 19 may increase the challenges to transferring home ownership to the next generation while maintaining the structural advantages that white Americans enjoy.

Prop 20: Tough on Crime Measure – PYP SAYS NO

Proposition 20 is a “law and order” measure to reverse the criminal justice reforms enacted by AB 109 (2011), Proposition 47 (2014), and Proposition 57 (2016). These three criminal justice reform measures reduced the state’s prison population.
A “yes” vote will create more felonies for which early parole is restricted; recategorize certain types of theft and fraud crimes as wobblers (chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies); and require DNA collection for certain misdemeanors. A “no” vote rejects this attempt to expand incarceration and revive punitive justice in California.

Prop 21: Expand Rent Control – PYP SAYS YES

Proposition 21 will allow for the expansion of rent control throughout California. It will give local governments the power to implement tenant-friendly protections that limit annual rent increases, prevent displacement, and make living in California more affordable for all residents.

Prop 22: Attack by Uber and Lyft on Labor Rights – PYP SAYS NO

Proposition 22 would consider app-based drivers to be independent contractors and not employees or agents. It only applies to app-based drivers for Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. If drivers are considered employees, they are entitled to the protections of minimum wage and benefit laws and workers’ compensation for injuries.

Voting “yes” on this initiative will Uber and Lyft to buy their way out of the law. Other business owners would continue to be subject to Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5). AB 5 was signed into law in September 2019. It makes many people employees who were considered independent contractors before the law changed. The change in the law has had a devastating impact on small businesses, particularly minority and women-owned businesses. Proposition 22 does not help us.

Prop 23: Dialysis Clinic Safety Measure – PYP SAYS YES

The measure addresses much needed safety improvements for patients received dialysis services. A “yes” vote supports this ballot initiative to require chronic dialysis clinics to:

  • have an on-site physician while patients are being treated;
  • report data on dialysis-related infections;
  • obtain consent from the state health department before closing a clinic; and
  • not discriminate against patients based on the source of payment for care.

Proposition 24: Consumer Personal Information Law and Agency Initiative – PYP SAYS YES

A “yes” vote will expand the state’s consumer data privacy laws. It includes provisions to allow consumers to direct businesses to not share their personal information; removes the time period in which businesses can fix violations before being penalized; and create the Privacy Protection Agency to enforce the state’s consumer data privacy laws.

Prop 25: Eliminate Cash Bail – PYP SAYS NO

Proposition 25 is opposed by a broad coalition of criminal justice reform advocates, including Justice LA and Human Rights Watch.

A “yes” vote upholds Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), which replaces cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trials. A “no” vote will repeal SB 10. SB10 was passed into law in 2018 after its backers sold it as the replacement for money bail.

In fact, SB10 was a backroom deal between legislators, judges, and law enforcement unions. While SB10 ends the use of money bail, it allows judges to order “preventive detention” with no avenue for release. The law lacks meaningful due process constraints and uses criteria so subjective that judges can choose incarceration in nearly every felony case (“the Black box”). It gives more power to judges and money to probation departments, without ensuring any reduction in the number of pretrial detainees. Many people will still be incarcerated before their cases are even decided.

Remember: if you vote by mail, sign your ballot envelope!

Emergency Release for Immigrant Detainees

Resolution Calling on Governor Newsom to Exercise Emergency Powers to Release Immigrants Detained in California Detention Centers

WHEREAS, While COVID-19 has already caused significant harm to those living freely in our society, it poses a more severe threat to those who are locked in institutional facilities like immigration prisons and detention centers, where close quarters, lack of resources for basic hygiene, and limited access to health services become breeding grounds for communicable disease that can result in innumerable deaths; and

WHEREAS, During a state of emergency, Governors are empowered to take drastic measures to protect the lives of people in their states, such as seizing control from private hospitals and releasing incarcerated individuals from crowded jails, and just as Governor Newsom has applied his broad emergency powers to impose a shelter-in-place order and close down schools and businesses, he can do so to close immigrant detention centers, many of which are private facilities as well as municipal and county run jails; and

WHEREAS, It is urgent that we protect our most vulnerable neighbors who are trapped in overcrowded detention centers that could become sites of major outbreak and death if we fail to act, and most of the people held by ICE, including very young children, have homes to go to or can access support from the hundreds of community organizations willing to help provide housing;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Alameda County Democratic Party urges Governor Newsom to use his emergency powers to release all immigrants currently detained in California immigrant detention centers in the interest of public health;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Alameda County Democratic Party also urges Governor Newsom to suspend the transfer of individuals from California state custody to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and halt the expansion of immigrant detention facilities.

Sponsored by: Paola Laverde (AD 15), Bobbi Lopez (AD 15) and Igor Tregub (AD 15)

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