Rehabilitation of Inmates and Prisoners

When we go back in history, there was a time when those incarcerated would receive vocational training, such as wood shop, electric shop, metal shop, upholstery, plumbing, gardening, and most importantly learn any other skill that would increase their basic knowledge, enhance their self esteem, provide an opportunity for a more positive transition to life outside of prison or jail, and decrease recidivism.

Unfortunately, as the budgets for nearly everything else seem to have increased, the amount allocated to skills building activities within the penal system has substantially decreased and to some extent has become nonexistent.

Recently, with the devastating wildfires, inmates have been allowed to volunteer to assist in fighting these catastrophic disasters throughout California. It has been reported the savings to taxpayers has been in the millions of dollars. Inmates get paid a $1. an hour for fighting the fires, and two days off their sentence while serving in this capacity (in contrast for one day off a sentence for each day of good behavior.

Some commentators object to this policy as they believe the prisoners are being treated as a “captive labor force.”Although there are clearly disadvantages to the utilization of inmates to fight wildfires, there are countless proponents who believe the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.

Only more time and continued [forensic] studies will produce reliable data evidencing the nature and extent of support and/or activities associated with time spent in prison or jail greatly enhance an inmate’s knowledge, social, physical, vocational, emotional and other positive skills, contributing to unprecedented levels of rehabilitation.

 

 

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDINGS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT

In California, an increasing number of law enforcement officers are using body cameras [more commonly referred to as “body cams”], which are attached to their clothing to record the encounters and work they perform while on duty.

Proponents claim the goal is to increase the public’s trust and confidence in all peace officers, including the most obvious such as the police, sheriffs and CHP; as such, there may be 25% or more police agencies currently utilizing these devices. Additionally, it affords officers an opportunity to have actual evidence of their work in the field, and to defend against false accusations such as police brutality. Others accept transparency and police accountability as a valid premise, however, note the fact these devices can be shut-off and/or not turned on as a reason they feel far less confident in the process.

In criminal cases, body cam footage is available to defense lawyers as part of the discovery. On the other hand, such video records are not readily available in civil cases. However, during the earlier 2017 sessions of the California legislature, Assembly Bill 748 would have made the footage of body cams a public record; although proposed and later amended, AB 748 remains unapproved at this point. Hence, the public does not have an absolute right to the disclosure of video and audio recordings by law enforcement officers.

This subject might seem straightforward to most observers however, it is not. One of the arguments against the public’s right to obtain such audio and video recordings involves a person’s individual right to privacy. Whether it is a traffic violation, a misdemeanor &/or a serious felony, all of us believe in the premise “one is innocent until proven guilty.” As such, an individual’s identity, license number, address and other personal information that is part of the cam footage is and should remain protected. Until the Legislature adopts standards that can be incorporated into a bill that is passed and then signed by the governor, or becomes a referendum initiated by a vote of the public,  the matter remains an open issue depending upon the local jurisdictions in California and/or the courts that may deal with it on a case by case basis.