The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, April 24, 2004

After prison rape, Lockyer winks at goon violence

It's election year, of course, and, by and by, those swing voters in swing states will be sniffing the cesspools that are the two main parties and deciding whether to plunge in one or other of them, or not.

In the Democratic pool, there are few globules of slime more noxious than California Attorney-General Bill Lockyer, who famously endorsed prison rape (ostensibly as a joke), and was subsequently handsomely rewarded for his joviality by the state's electors.

His latest contribution to criminal justice is a decision to let off the hook what are described as counsellors - I think that's a fancy word for goons - caught on camera administering a little jailhouse justice to two wards at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton (San Francisco Chronicle April 24). No fewer than six goons had themselves a party; but, it seems,
both local prosecutors and now Lockyer have found too many problems with the case to bring charges, noting that the wards appear to have started the fight and received minimal injuries.

the department could still submit the case to the U.S. attorney's office.

Which would not be the first time in California that the Feds would be called in to deal with a corrections injustice flunked by the State authorities - as I mentioned on February 7, Governor Schwarzenegger called in US Eastern District Attorney McGregor Scott to investigate the Folsom Prison riot of 2002.

Apparently, the Stockton case also involved falsified reports from 'employees' about the incident.

(Give the Chronicle its due, the piece ran on A1. As I've mentioned before, the online record suggests that there has been no shortage of articles from the leading papers of the state on the abortion that has long been the California corrections system.

The California voter has no excuse for ignorance of the situation. He's not ignorant: that's the way he likes it, apparently.)

Needless to say, it's complicated. In particular, there is no uniformity amongst the Black Hats.

For instance, Bill Lockyer once tried to take down the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) - in 1999, following (inter alia) the inertia in pursuing goons responsible for brutality at the Corcoran State Prison (my piece of February 3), he championed legislation (SB 451 of State Sen Adam Schiff) which would have given him the right to take over prosecutions from local DAs. The bill failed in the Assembly; apparently,
Lockyer quoted one Assemblyman, who had received $105,000 from the CCPOA, as saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm whoring for the CCPOA." The individual later denied the allegation.

A 1999 Salon piece also has Lockyer opposing the goons union on penal reform and hikes in prison spending.

Has there been a rapprochement between the goons union and Lockyer since SB 451 went down? His contributions statement at the Secretary of State's site does not disclose the CCPOA as amongst his contributors. But, then, he only comes up for re-election in 2006 (for which he has the small matter of $10 million in the bank already!).

If he was still the CCPOA's enemy, on Realpolitik grounds, I suppose I ought to be experiencing the warm glow of fellow-feeling. Rather than nausea.

California's voters generally appear supremely uninterested in penal matters [1]. So, one can't help feeling, if they don't bother, why should I? But, then, I don't bother - it's just fascinating to see how the jigsaw fits together. How it doesn't fit a neat TV movie story arc; the awkward exceptions and inconsistencies that reveal themselves with a bit of digging.

  1. Though not always: I mentioned Proposition 36 on April 18.

    There is a long tradition of penal reform on both sides of the Atlantic, of course. Starting with Beccaria and John and Elizabeth Fry, it's been a socially respectable outlet for the reforming impulse - for instance, Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon (a principle used in the construction of Pentonville Prison) was not exactly a piece of bleeding-heart liberalism.


Whilst the URLs are to hand: a Common Cause analysis (PDF) of the top ten contributors in California politics (unfortunately, the numbers are for the 1997-8 cycle, and the exercise has not been repeated for later cycles); a 1999 Nation piece on the Corcoran horrors; a CJCJ piece on the CCPOA in action; a December 2003 thesis on the politics of the California three strikes law.

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