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Prison reform legislation short on money and ideas, Kern Co says

September 19, 2011
Prison reform legislation short on money and ideas, Kern Co says

Prison reform tossed responsibility for low-level offenders to the county. Kern County says it will do a better job than the state in dealing with people who have broken the law – because it has no choice. But like other counties, they would have liked more money and ideas for managing people convicted of crimes.

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Ex-offenders may soon find a home in public housing

September 19, 2011
Ex-offenders may soon find a home in public housing

Shelter has always been a problem for people leaving prisons – felons typically aren’t welcome in public housing. That might change soon in Los Angeles County, which is bracing for an influx of low-level offenders they are newly responsible for managing, as are counties throughout the state. So how are other jurisdictions responding to their housing crisis?

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Prison reform comes to Merced when jails are already full

September 14, 2011
Prison reform comes to Merced when jails are already full

Merced County sees the October realignment of state prisoners into county supervision as a chance to try something different in their approach to crime prevention.

“Evidence-based practices show the more you do with lower-risk offenders the more damage you do,” said Scott Ball, chief probation officer and chair of the committee overseeing AB 109, the legislation mandating a historic shift in managing people convicted of non-violent crimes.

Like other jurisdictions in California, county officials in Merced are looking at AB 109, or prison realignment, as an opportunity to change corrections for the better. AB 109 was signed into law in April by Gov. Jerry Brown as a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which called for California to reduce its prison population by 34,000. After Oct. 1, all non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders will be sentenced to county jails rather than state prison. Once current lower-risk inmates finish serving their time in state prison, they will come under the supervision of county probation rather than the state’s parole department.

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Students starting school without whooping cough vaccinations

September 13, 2011

Despite a mandatory vaccination law that followed a pertussis outbreak last year, some California students are returning to class this fall without their TDAP booster shots.

The immunization law, passed last September, required that junior high and high schoolers show proof of a TDAP booster, the vaccination that prevents pertussis, also known as whooping cough, by the first day of school. Another bill passed this summer gave students an additional 30 days to get vaccinated.

Why the delay?

California Immunization Coalition director Catherine Flores Martin said that as of May, CIC had heard from about 20 percent of the state’s schools that they their students would likely miss the immunization deadline.

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Contra Costa scrambles to prepare for prison reform

September 12, 2011
Contra Costa scrambles to prepare for prison reform

“All of us are in frantic mode,” said Contra Costa County’s Chief Probation Officer Phil Kader. He spoke as he passed out a tentative budget to the 14 criminal justice and social service professionals who attended a recent budget meeting of the Public Safety Realignment Executive Committee for Contra Costa County.

On October 1, AB 109, called Public Safety Realignment, will shift responsibility for people convicted of non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual offenses to counties. Kader became supervisor of the county’s realignment plans in June, as mandated by the state law.

“I see this as an extraordinary opportunity and an extraordinary challenge,” Kader said.

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Refugee Farmers Grow Local Roots to National Market

September 9, 2011
Refugee Farmers Grow Local Roots to National Market

On an overcast morning recently, the New Roots Community Farm in City Heights was awake with the spicy-sweet smell of mint. Noeuth Ith, a Cambodian refugee who usually harvests the herb in small bunches to make spring rolls at home, was quickly hacking bouquets of green leaves from their bases and dunking them in water. With the help of other New Roots farmers, she boxed more than 30 pounds of the fragrant leaves to sell. A first for the International Rescue Committee farm, the large-scale harvest was commissioned by Earnest Eats, a granola company based in Solana Beach. It purchased the mint to make 10,000 dark chocolate mint bars available for sale on the company’s website this fall. If the bars sell, it could mark the beginning of a sustainable moneymaking venture for the farmers.

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Walking group a win-win proposition for city and residents

September 8, 2011
Walking group a win-win proposition for city and residents

For years, Santa Ana residents were scared away from their parks by high crime rates. Mattresses, drugs and other indications of illicit activities littered the park grounds. Public trails and walking areas were gradually being converted to dumping grounds and destinations for crime, residents told Gerardo Mouet, executive director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

About six years ago, members of Santa Ana’s Madison Neighborhood Association Mouet, about the poor the condition of nearby Madison Park and Pacific Electric bike trail. Mouet offered a solution, but not one rooted in the city coffers. Instead, he looked to the residents themselves.

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No clear successor yet in green alternatives to gasoline

September 6, 2011
No clear successor yet in green alternatives to gasoline

Buying a more fuel-efficient cars, which tend to be more expensive than conventional cars, is a difficult decision for the everyday consumer. But the choices are even more complicated for business owners in the Central Valley.

Adopting a more fuel-efficient model is better for the environment and air quality, making such a leap can be an economic challenge. In the Central Valley, home to many industrial and agriculture operations, some businesses must manage a fleet of vehicles that would be expensive to replace en masse.

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Finding healthcare in an alphabet soup of acronyms

September 5, 2011

Many California residents who don’t currently have health coverage will get coverage in 2014 through the federal health reform act. And now a federally-funded state program will get hundreds of thousands of low income adults coverage earlier than that through a program called the California Bridge to Reform. Under that program, patients are put into a Low Income Health Program, or LIHP.

Does the alphabet soup of acronyms and bureaucratic program names, income and property requirements leave low-income residents confused?

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Alameda Probation Chief sees opportunity in prison reform

August 30, 2011

When David Muhammad became the Chief Probation Officer for Alameda County six months ago, he had big ideas about how to change the system for the better.

“Departments around the country have been good at messing with people and not so good at helping people,” Muhammad said. That’s something he wants to change in Alameda County, especially when it comes to getting low-level offenders integrated into the community after they are released, instead of seeing them land back in prison.

Muhammad got his opportunity to oversee a big shift in corrections almost as soon as he arrived in Alameda County. His appointment as Chief Probation Officer coincided neatly with what many are calling California’s largest prison reform in decades. The change transfers responsibility for low-level offenders to the county, with probation departments playing a key role in the transition as well as the ongoing management of non-violent offenders.

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