Archive for May, 2014

LA County Sheriff’s “CRRC”

Monday, May 26th, 2014

And it begins – the rehabilitation of the LA Sheriff’s Department…

LA County Sheriffs Department calls for a Do-overInterim LA County Sheriff John Scott’s news conference last week announced the opening of the Sheriff’s Department’s Community Reentry and Resource Center (CRRC). It’s a new component of the department’s  Education Based Incarceration/Merit Program. 

As he has several times before, Scott stood in contrast to the Department’s typically defensive posture, indifference toward matters of prisoner reentry, and former Sheriff Lee Baca’s endless insistence that only more money can resolve overcrowding and the problems faced in running the nation’s largest jail.

In terms of my love-hate relationship with the LASD, some of these men are cops this former criminal happens to be rooting for. I’ll set aside my cynicism and suspicions to appreciate Scott’s effort to repair the damages wrought by corrupt, Nazi-gang-affiliated, vengeful Department brass (and –as described by insiders– its cult-like following).

SO LONG LA Sheriffs Spokesman Steve WhitmoreIt’s no small thing that this first high profile attempt to reverse the Men’s Central Jail’s inhumane and festering image addresses the causes of recidivism rather than demonstrating a tougher resolve or blaming budget woes. Scott is clearly borrowing a page from the national dialog on prison reform, and yes, it’s a little Simpsons-esque to watch this particular department pitch their newfound forbearance to the public. But folks, this is how it’s gonna be for a while. Luckily, I’ve spoken with several respected officers in the department who have an impressive sense of humor about their profession and their beleaguered employer.

And what is the LA County Sheriff’s Community Reentry and Resource Center?

Through the CRRC, return-to-the-community services such as drug and alcohol treatment, job placement assistance, temporary shelter, tattoo removal, family reintegration, and mental health counseling will be made available to anyone emerging from the building that’s been making headlines as “one of the worst jails in America.” Its offices have been set up right across the street from the ‘ol dungeon itself (the one the county might either expand, tear down or, if there is a God, turn into a mall).

So what’s it like to walk out of Men’s Central Jail, anyway?

This might be difficult to imagine if you’ve never experienced it, so I’ll start by describing release from MCJ this way: it’s like being kicked out of your own failure, especially if you don’t have someone ready and waiting to get you out of the area. (more…)

According to You: Average Americans Are Dumb

Monday, May 19th, 2014

55% of America’s dummies believe they are the smartest Americans…

Make room for genius__Where Excuses Go to DieBut 55% of us know we’re smarter than they are. YouGov is a British polling firm that dangles the alternate currency digital carrot of redeemable points and “cool rewards” to survey takers, then sells its gathered intelligence to clients around the world. America is a country that loves free movie tickets, raffle prizes, and gift cards, all of which can be earned by participating in YouGov’s data harvesting efforts. According to YouGov, some of this data says that 55% of Americans believe the “average” American is dumb, or more accurately, that they themselves are smarter than their compatriots.

WHERE WHAT THE WORLD THINKS GOES TO DIE_What’s funny is that this global marketing outfit, YouGov, probably pays next to nothing for results like this, which it markets and sells to the world at what we can only surmise is a tidy profit. Surely their acquisitions people lock in gift cards and movie tickets for pennies on the dollar before offering them up. Then they trade mere eligibility for those products and services for our most valuable natural resource: personal time. What do I mean? Well, keep in mind that “reward points” are only as good as their ease of redeem-ability. By the time you find out how many hoops you have to jump through in order to cash in, access to your opinions and whatever other data can be mined from them will probably have been sold the world over many times. (more…)

No Excuses Book Review #1

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

The Skies Belong to UsThe Skies Belong to Us: Love & Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking

In the end, Brendan Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking, is about character. Though it was published nine months ago, it’s a fun choice for No Excuses Book Review #1.

I’m not old enough to remember the plague of airline hijackings that took place in and around American airspace during the hippie era, but I do remember laughing with my mom through a television rerun of The Out of Towners, a 1970 Jack Lemmon comedy. In it, everything that can go wrong for two hapless New York tourists does, and despite the appearance of a happy ending, the two find themselves on a hijacked plane just before the credits roll. “This plane is going to Havana, Cuba!” announces the hijacker as he brandishes a gun. (Apparently a lot of these folks were aiming for Cuba; they envisioned a revolutionary paradise when, in reality, Castro jailed ’em instead.)

Initially that’s why I picked up this book: Because I am old enough to remember the aftermath of the ’60s and ’70s skyjacking plague.

In The Skies Belong to Us, Brendan Koerner provides readers with a central romantic antihero narrative on which his exhaustive research hangs. But nothing hangs so long as to slow things down. Koerner’s approach and writing is solid as cement, yet it moves as quickly as a TV news crawler. (more…)

The Mall at Men’s Central Jail

Monday, May 5th, 2014

The LA County Jail doesn’t need tearing down, it needs Rick Caruso.

LOCK DOWN SHOPPING TOWNThe Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail is an overcrowded dungeon, a house of horrors for pre-trial prisoners, the physically disabled, the mentally ill, and even jail visitors. An ongoing federal investigation into allegations of brutality at MCJ has exposed ghastly conditions, corruption, excessive force, free roaming retaliation, and secretive factions of Sheriff’s deputies and jailers.

In other words, give me a better location for a mixed-use mall and I’ll show you how to shake a set of handcuffs!

With the fate of Men’s Central uncertain, why not take a page from the old-timey tours and gift shops currently operated at Folsom and Alcatraz? Or from Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, fresh from its annual reunion of former guards and inmates? Even better, why not go upscale and consider something along the lines of Boston’s quaint Liberty Hotel, formerly known as the infamous Charles Street Jail? All are popular tourist attractions that generate big bucks, serve as walkable warnings to the wayward, and provide the public with glimpses into America’s penal history – and future.

WHITE WOMEN COME AND CHECK OUT THE PRISON PRICESToo soon for a custody-themed Cellblock Shopping Town? Too “insensitive” of an idea? What’s stopping us, bad taste? Ha! Prison ideation saturates media and advertising anyway, so why not give the secret “crimeshopper” in all of us a little fun?

Let’s go from jail rats to mall rats and rake in the tax revenue!

Why not plan a “Shopping Daycation” around a jail-themed Apple Store or J.Crew? Men’s Central will forever be remembered as O.J. Simpson’s courtroom hotel and where lady-puncher Chris Brown will spend his 25th birthday: why shouldn’t the city cash in? Yet turning a civil rights cesspool like LA’s Men’s Central Jail into one of SoCal’s hippest destinations for designer handbags and iPhones is the one idea no one has proposed.

Until now. Welcome to The Fashion Industrial Complex – the Mall at Men’s Central Jail. (more…)