Thursday, November 21, 2013

In the News: November 21, 2013

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Launches Initiative to Reduce Recidivism in California

LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today launched a new initiative designed to curb recidivism in California through partnerships between the California Department of Justice’s new Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry and the state’s counties and District Attorneys.

The Division will support counties and District Attorneys by partnering on best practices and policy initiatives, such as the development of a statewide definition of recidivism, identifying grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs and using technology to facilitate more effective data analysis and recidivism metrics.

“California’s District Attorneys bring vital experience to the challenge of reducing recidivism, and it is important their perspective is incorporated,” said Attorney General Harris. “This new division will support innovative, evidence-based approaches to recidivism solutions in California.”

“The decision to implement a new strategic plan that would ultimately help reduce crime and recidivism in our state is a powerful step forward, and I commend Attorney General Harris for her leadership in this area,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said. “It is a data-driven methodology that will not only better equip local DAs with resources and technical assistance, but one that will make our streets safer. As we continue to address the ever changing needs brought about by prison reform, this initiative is a much-needed, collaborative approach to tackling crime more effectively at the state and local levels.”

The Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry will consist of three subdivisions focused on program development, evaluation and grants. It will be funded through existing California Department of Justice resources.

The Division will use innovative technology, such as the Department’s recently created California SmartJustice system, to analyze offender populations and recidivism risk factors. SmartJustice, a new database and analytical tool created by the California Department of Justice, can track repeat offenders and offense trends to provide counties with more effective options in developing anti-recidivism initiatives.

In 2005, then San Francisco District Attorney Harris created a reentry initiative called Back on Track, which aimed to reduce recidivism among certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Over a two-year period, the program reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent. Back on Track was designated as a model for law enforcement by the US Department of Justice.

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McStay family, friends erect crosses near Victorville desert grave sites
Ryan Hagen, San Bernardino Sun

VICTORVILLE >> It took a little under 10 minutes for supporters of the McStay family to exit the 15 Freeway, park along a dirt road and walk the shrub-studded 50 yards to the previously unremarkable patch of desert where the remains of a father and mother and possibly their two children were found in shallow graves.

Close enough that some of the somber whispers of the several dozen people who gathered to pay their respects at a memorial Wednesday outside Victorville were drowned out by traffic barrelling up the interstate .

Remote enough that chance alone wouldn’t bring the motorcyclist who on Nov. 11 came across the remains — two now identified by dental records as Fallbrook residents Joseph and Summer McStay, and the others believed to be their sons Gianni and Joseph Jr. — the senior Joseph’s brother, Michael McStay, said.

“The area is so vast. How did four people end up here in the middle of nowhere, over 100 miles from where they live?” he told the group, his voice sometimes trembling with emotion but other times firm with conviction. “I believe, personally, that (they were found by) the prayers of all the people who were concerned about this case, concerned about the family. It just took a motorcycle rider driving by who was kind enough to call. I personally believe it was providence.”

McStay said he was still shocked and still grieving, but was finding reasons for comfort.

“We’ve got tons of people coming out, just showering us with love,” he said.

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