In an odd and unexplained rule change proposal, California may ban chaplains from meeting with death row prisoners nearer than three hours before their scheduled execution.
The California Department of Corrections (CDCR) is engaged in a detailed revision of its procedures for ending the lives of prisoners sentenced to death. The elaborate set of rules specifies in minute detail death drug formulation, testing, staff training, protocols and numerous other aspects of executions.
When Stockton Bishop Stephen E. Blaire went out of the ominous steel gates of Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy late last Christmas eve, he was given a small but powerful painting of the cross being raised by three prisoners.
At 20 years old, Jerry Elster was a gang member in Los Angeles. Defiant and angry at a system that he viewed as against him from birth, his attachment to his community was non-existent.
“It was not difficult for me, at that age, to wrap myself in a cloak of resentment and bitterness,” said Elster. Having no ties to his own community, gang life attracted Elster and eventually he ended up killing a rival gang member.
Is the criminal justice system about protecting the innocent or punishing the guilty?
That’s the central question raised today in a special legislative briefing in the State Capitol sponsored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and attended by legislators, criminal justice experts, crime victims and other stakeholders, including representatives of faith-based organizations and supporters of Restorative Justice.
Catholic dioceses in California are offering special prayers and Masses in observation of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an annual event established in 1981 to draw attention to the people and families whose lives have been affected by violent crime. Please attribute this statement to the Most Rev. Richard Garcia, bishop of Monterey, the Most Rev. Armando Ochoa, bishop of Fresno, and the Most Reverend David O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, members of the Restorative Justice Committee of the California Catholic Conference:
In 2014 California voters strongly passed Proposition 47. Its goal is to reduce the huge number of people incarcerated in California for relatively small crimes, a number that had been growing far faster than population growth.
Prop. 47 authorizes the release of persons convicted and jailed for two types of crime: petty property crimes where the value of the goods was below $950 (typically theft, forgery, etc.), and personal use of illegal drugs. Violent crimes are excluded.
After having its death penalty protocols repeatedly ruled unconstitutional, California will once again attempt to rewrite the process to comply with court rulings. The California Catholic Conference will be among many speaking out against the use of the death penalty and the protocols at a hearing next Friday.
During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 19-25, 2015, survivors of crime and victims’ families gathered in Sacramento. Meetings and conferences were held throughout this week to honor and support crime victims and survivors, to discuss various victim-related topics and needs, and to promote a justice system that more effectively addresses the needs of survivors and prevents crime.
Solitary confinement is an extremely harmful practice, widely condemned as torture, but extensively used in California’s juvenile justice systems. Its overuse – just as in adult correctional situations – can do more harm than good.