Tag Archives: Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly Fought MoveOn to Defend Facebook’s Infamous Beacon Program

I believe I used a Prodigy email address to sign an online petition calling on congress to “censure President Clinton and move on” back in 1998. As I’m sure you know, out of those efforts rose the organization MoveOn, which sent emails to my Yahoo account for years and to my gmail for the last six years or so. It has been one of my favorite organizations, through their ups and downs, for a decade.

Which is why I simply can’t fathom the blunder they made yesterday, thrusting themselves into the California Attorney General’s race to fluff former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer (best oxymoron ever) Chris Kelly. In the final days of the campaign, no less.

MoveOn’s fluffing of Kelly began yesterday morning when staffer Marika Shaub posted a link on MoveOn’s FB Group, “Facebook, respect my privacy!” Shaub urged the 180,000 members to share a note from Chris Kelly with all of their Facebook friends and later MoveOn sent an email to an unknown number of members of MoveOn’s giant list with Chris Kelly’s message (I received it twice).

As I long-time Moveon member and devoted supporter, I was shocked that MoveOn’s current leadership seems to have so little understanding of the dynamics and history of the battle for privacy. It was only back in 2007 that MoveOn went to war with Facebook, scoring a major victory for privacy by leading the organizing to shut down the infamous “Beacon” program. MoveOn was attacked repeatedly in the press by…Chris Kelly — who was not defending privacy, but defending Beacon. In fact, Kelly made so much money eroding privacy at Facebook that he’s dumped over $12,000,000 into his attempt to buy the California Democratic Party nomination for Attorney General.

If, like MoveOn apparently, you have forgotten how Chris Kelly fought MoveOn to defend Beacon, follow me after the jump. If you remember the history better than MoveOn, feel free to check out how Chris Kelly’s campaign is already using MoveOn as a validator — against attacks on Beacon, in the LA Times.

Here’s a reminder from The New York Times Chris Kelly fighting MoveOn to defend Beacon:

MoveOn’s demands could be satisfied by making the Beacon feature “opt in.” Right now, users who don’t want the information displayed need to opt out after purchases at each participating external site.

However, Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said MoveOn is “misstating the way this process works.”

He said the purchase appears only in the news feeds of confirmed friends and on the individual’s profile (users have control over who can see their profiles), not to the “world.” Mr. Kelly also pointed out that two ways to opt out, at the point of purchase on the external Web site, via a box that pops up, but fades away in under a minute and the next time they sign into their accounts. If users ignore the notification, the purchase information will be displayed, but nothing happens until the user signs in.

Chris Kelly was mocked for this over on ABC News’ site:

The argument made by Facebook in support of this is disingenuous, and uses that old trick I learned in my PR days of isolating one error in the opponent’s claim and using that to dismiss their entire argument. In this case, Chris Kelly, Facebook’s “chief privacy officer” (one of those new corporate titles that’s going to come back and bite companies) told the New York Times that MoveOn is “misstating the way this process works.” In particular, he said, the purchase is only shared with confirmed friends and on the user’s own profile, not to the “world.” At the same time, he does confirm, that if the user ignores the notification and fails to opt out, the purchase information will be automatically displayed.

And this coming from the Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook.

Chris Kelly’s attacks on MoveOn to defend Beacon made the hop across the pond, getting picked up by The Times:

A Facebook spokesperson said that MoveOn.org was “misrepresenting how Facebook Beacon works”.

He said: “Information is shared with a small selection of a user’s trusted network of friends, not publicly on the web or with all Facebook users. Users also are given multiple ways to choose not to share information from a participating site, both on that site and on Facebook.”

Earlier this year, Facebook shrugged off privacy fears when Chris Kelly, the group’s chief privacy officer, told The Times: “We have always said that information [submitted by users] may be used to target adverts.”

“Shrugged off privacy fears”?

Of course, Chris Kelly was mocked, MoveOn was right:

So far, about 13,200 out of over 55 million members have joined MoveOn’s protest group and Facebook is standing by the statements of chief privacy officer Chris Kelly, who told The Wall Street Journal that the company has been transparent with users and that it welcomes feedback from those who have concerns. According to the Journal, Kelly acknowledged that the company could change its policies based on customer reactions but that so far he says reaction has been “fairly muted.”

While the Beacon scandal was the most extreme example, the fact of the matter is user privacy was continually eroded at Facebook during the time Chris Kelly was in charge of privacy. Play with this interactive chart, click on the different years to watch what happened to privacy at Facebook.

Chris Kelly got amazing rich eroding privacy at Facebook, which MoveOn honorably fought. Until yesterday, when out of incompetence over the history of their own campaign and cluelessness over progressive politics in the largest state, they came to the aid of Chris Kelly during the final days of his $12 million vanity campaign.

Californians don’t want an Attorney General doing for Justice what Chris Kelly did for privacy. It would be nice if MoveOn were leading the charge against Chris Kelly, instead of giving him cover to defend himself against ads criticizing Chris Kelly for his role in the Beacon scandal…when he fought MoveOn.

PG&E Commits Facebook Identity Theft for Prop 16

Several weeks ago, I noticed that one of my friends on Facebook was a “fan” of Proposition 16 – PG&E’s Monopoly Protection Act that is easily the worst measure on the June ballot.  After I chewed him out for it, he expressed shock to even be on that page.  Apparently, PG&E had added him on as a supporter without his consent.  Today, just as the Prop 16 campaign boasted that it now has 50,000 “fans” on Facebook, I received a press release from the Sunrise Center in Marin County – who complained that some of their own staffers (who are working hard to defeat Prop 16) have also been added as “fans.”  Besides exposing a serious loophole in Facebook’s privacy features, it also proves that PG&E’s $40 million campaign to pass Prop 16 includes committing identity theft.

Christy Michaels, the Corte Madera-based Sunrise Center office manager, said she was surprised to hear from a friend that an ad showed up on her friend’s Facebook page claiming, “Christy Michaels likes Prop 16.” When Christy went online she found she was named as a supporter of PG&E-funded Prop 16 on the Sunrise Center Facebook page and her personal page.

Women’s Energy Matters (WEM) is reporting these incidents to the Secretary of State, Attorney General, California Public Utilities Commission and State Senator Mark Leno, asking for immediate investigations and injunctions against PG&E and Facebook. WEM, Christy, and Kiki are advocates for Marin Clean Energy, the community-run alternative to PG&E that launched May 7th and provides local residents and businesses twice the renewable energy as PG&E at the same cost.  If Prop 16 passes, local communities would require a two-thirds vote to create a similar “public option” to PG&E – which scares the giant utility company because they would have to face competition.

Barbara George, Executive Director of WEM commented, “The whole point of Facebook is to be in touch with people you know and trust, so for PG&E’s campaign to misappropriate Facebook identities and friends lists in order to falsely claim that people ‘like’ Prop 16 is an intolerable invasion of privacy and subversion of democracy. The June 8 election on  this measure has been tainted by massive false advertising and dirty  tricks, and Facebook identity theft is a new low. PG&E is already spending $46 million on TV and print ads promoting Proposition 16 which, if it passes, would make it virtually impossible for communities to follow Marin’s lead to provide cleaner cheaper power for their residents and businesses.”

Attorney General Jerry Brown should consider pressing criminal charges against PG&E, who appears to have committed identity theft.  Ironically, Facebook’s former Chief Privacy Officer — Chris Kelly — is running to replace Brown in next week’s election.

Kamala Harris’ Personal Attacks Can’t Mask Her Record

More than six weeks after the Department of Justice released disturbing statistics about the increase in San Francisco’s crime rates during SF DA Kamala Harris’ tenure as District Attorney, Harris continues to run scared from her record. With Friday’s release of a video comprised of TV news footage showing local outrage at Harris’ revolving door system of justice, her failure to pursue the death penalty against a hardened cop-killer, and her dropping of prosecutions related to the San Francisco crime lab scandal, Harris still has provided no answers to the people of San Francisco or to California voters.

In the video, one police officer expresses his anger and disappointment about Kamala Harris’ refusal to seek the death penalty against a convicted cop killer:

“The people of San Francisco should be outraged by this. These…criminals know in San Francisco if you want to commit a crime, you come here, you do it, you plead it down. The next thing you know you do three months when you should be doing 12 years in state prison for it.”

Those aren’t the Kelly campaign’s words. They are the words of a San Francisco police officer on the evening news.

Instead of responding to these damaging news reports, Harris’ campaign has again resorted to personally attacking Attorney General candidate Chris Kelly and manipulating statistics to hide her abysmal record on crime.

Harris fails to acknowledge that the video itself is a compilation of actual news reports from Bay Area television stations, including responses from law enforcement and regular citizens about the rising crime rates in San Francisco. And their effect is devastating.

Watch this short web video of recent news media reports about Kamala Harris’ job performance as District Attorney.

Kamala Harris video

Harris can’t dispute and in fact hasn’t disputed the numbers from the DOJ, which show that violent crime and homicides have indisputably and tragically increased in San Francisco during her tenure, while crime fell statewide.

Instead she relies on faulty data comparisons to try and paint her record as something other than what it is. In March, when they were first confronted with these statistics, the Harris campaign tried to obfuscate the truth by quoting statistics from a six month period in 2009 and compared them to statistics from 6 months in 2008. The problem is that Kamala Harris hasn’t been D.A. for 6 months. She’s been D.A. for 6 years.

This time the campaign is choosing to compare San Francisco’s crime rates to individual cities, ignoring the methodology of the California Department of Justice, the very department she says she wants to lead as Attorney General, in order to make her numbers look better. This is a distortion of the facts, plain and simple.

Here is what the DOJ statistics show. In the period of time that Kamala Harris has been District Attorney in San Francisco:

  • The homicide rate in San Francisco County in 2003 was 8.8 per 100,000 population. The homicide rate in San Francisco County in 2008 was 11.6 per 100,000. That’s a 32% increase.
  • The violent crime rate in San Francisco County in 2003 was 732.5 per 100,000 population. The violent crime rate in San Francisco County in 2008 was 808.0 per 100,000. That’s a 10% increase.
  • The robbery rate in San Francisco County in 2003 was 392.3 per 100,000 population. The robbery rate in San Francisco County in 2008 was 493.7 per 100,000. That’s a 26% increase.

Watch the video. Look at the DOJ stats. Those are the facts.

Another fact. Kamala Harris’ track record proves that she is simply not up to the job.

— Brent Blackaby
Kelly for Attorney General

Chris Kelly, Karl Rove, and The AG’s Race

Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly has launched a Karl Rove-style attack against Kamala Harris, the San Francisco District Attorney who has raised conviction rates in SF to the highest level in 15 years.

The San Francisco Examiner takes a closer look at Chris Kelly’s latest false claims in his new video, which Chris Kelly has surely expertly placed on your Facebook homepage, Google searches, email inbox, or all three in recent days.

According to the Examiner, Kelly’s attacks are just plain wrong.

then Kelly’s ad claims, “Under Harris SF Homicide is Up 32%” and “SF has the highest homicide rate in the state.”

Whoa! That’s news to this city crime reporter.

While homicides were the highest they’d been in more than a decade in 2008 – there were 98 – that’s nowhere near the tally in Oakland, where there were 124 homicides in a smaller population.

And Kelly uses statistics from the state Department of Justice, which are only complete through 2008. If he considers 2009, then that 32 percent number goes way down. There were only 45 homicides last year, the lowest tally in five decades. (SF Examiner)

As of today, Kelly has contributed $4 million-and-counting of his own Facebook bucks in an attempt to become the first-ever candidate for Attorney General to successfully buy the office. While Kelly has thus far demonstrated an impressive ability to churn out platform papers that coincidentally read like a checklist of Kamala Harris’s actual accomplishments, he has so far stuck to attacking Kamala rather than explaining why Democratic voters should make him our nominee.

Disclosure: I work for Kamala Harris, but all opinions are entirely my own.

Don’t Sue President Obama

This week we celebrate President Obama’s signing of landmark health care reform legislation into law. Thanks to this historic bill, 32 million Americans will gain access to health insurance, health care will become more affordable, and no American will ever again be denied coverage when they get sick or because of pre-existing conditions.

But before the ink was even dry on President Obama’s signature, the attorneys general of 13 states — led by Florida Republican AG Bill McCollum, trying to score political points in his campaign for governor — immediately filed a lawsuit to try to block the new law in the courts. One of my Republican opponents, Tom Harman, is even encouraging current California Attorney General Jerry Brown to join them.

This is the ultimate frivolous lawsuit, brought to you by the GOP — the party of “NO” — and we can’t let them stand in the way of progress.

Sign my petition to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and these 12 other AGs today — and urge them to drop their lawsuit against the historic health care reform bill!

As California’s next Attorney General, I will always fight to put the people’s interests first, not the special interests or any narrow partisan political interest.

California stands to gain tremendously from health care reform. Of the 32 million Americans who will get health coverage under the bill, as many of 7 million of them will be Californians, and everyone in our state will gain more security and stability in their health insurance coverage.

That’s why I will do everything in my power as California Attorney General to defeat efforts to repeal or overturn this critical health care legislation.

And we can start, today, by urging these Republican attorneys general to drop their frivolous lawsuit against the new health care bill.

Sign my petition to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and these 12 other AGs today — and urge them to drop their lawsuit against the historic health care reform bill!

Do you want the attorneys general from Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho, Louisiana, and South Dakota telling Californians that they can’t have health care reform?

I don’t.

The people of California want and deserve the benefits of health care reform. Please join me in speaking out today, and urging these attorneys general to drop their frivolous lawsuit.


Don’t Play Politics with Our Kids’ Safety

Protecting kids from online predators has always been one of my highest priorities.

While serving as chief counsel for Facebook, I worked with Attorneys General across the nation to help build a safer internet — and I’ve seen some of the ideas I’ve championed enacted into law.

One of those ideas I championed was requiring convicted sex offenders to provide their online identifiers as part of their registrations, and as a result, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was able to announce that more than 3,500 registered New York sex offenders were removed from MySpace and Facebook under the state’s “e-STOP” law that we crafted together.

On Tuesday, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris held a public media event to introduce a bill she is sponsoring in the legislature that purports to keep online predators off social networking sites, including Facebook and MySpace.  

But here’s the problem: Her bill doesn’t do anything that the big sites haven’t already done, and there is no real way to enforce its provisions — which KGO-TV reported on Tuesday. Click here to watch KGO’s report on Kamala Harris’ flawed plan.

As I called for last year, we must implement the full “e-STOP” solution here in California — not feel-good half-measures. We can’t afford to play political games with our kids’ safety.

Click here to watch a video clip about my efforts to make the Internet safer — and then urge your legislators to pass “e-STOP” right here in California!

The success of “e-STOP” in New York demonstrates that effective, 21st century law enforcement must embrace new technology, working hand-in-hand with online social networks and other websites to enhance safety.

Under “e-STOP,” convicted sex offenders in New York must now share email addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers with the state, which the state in turn shares with social networking sites for removal — going beyond Kamala Harris’ inadequate proposal, which does not proactively remove registered sex offenders from the membership rolls of these sites.

We can and should do more. Our “e-STOP” measure worked in New York, and it can work here. I hope you’ll join me in getting this important legislation passed.

In order to protect California citizens, it’s critical that our next Attorney General understands 21st century public safety issues — and knows how to apply new technologies and solutions to solve them. Catchy slogans and half-measures aren’t enough. I believe I’m the right person for the job, with the the right mix of experience in public policy, technology and law to fight traditional, violent crime as well as “today’s crimes” like identity theft and corporate fraud.  

To learn more about my ideas as a candidate for Attorney General, or to share your own ideas, please visit my website at www.kelly2010.com.  

Gov. Schwarzenegger: Don’t privatize CA prisons

(Calitics will promote to the front page a reasonable number of candidate diaries that the Editorial Board believes communicate substantive policy positions of which the Calitics community should be aware – promoted by jsw)

Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger introduced his latest bad idea for solving our state’s budget crisis: privatizing California’s prison system.

Prisons must be managed with public safety, inmate welfare, and rehabilitation as top priorities — not maximizing corporate profits. What’s more, we can’t facilitate the creation of new powerful corporations with the financial incentive to lobby for the imprisonment of more and more residents of our state.

Turning over control of some or all of California’s prisons to private corporations would be a disaster for California — and we can’t let it happen.

So I’ve launched a new petition — on Facebook and also on my campaign website — to spread the word and build opposition to Governor Schwarzenegger’s privatization proposal. I hope you’ll take a minute to join me, urging the governor and your legislators not to privatize California’s prisons.

For six years, we’ve had a governor who failed to manage our prisons — and now he wants to avoid responsibility for the consequences of his mismanagement.

Solving this crisis requires a serious and thoughtful reorganization of the way California manages incarcerations, prisons, and public safety systems in general. To reduce the prison population, we must deter crime and reach young people early, before they begin down the criminal path, channeling them into more productive pursuits.

Please sign my petition to Governor Schwarzenegger and your legislators now (on Facebook here, and on my campaign website here).

Prison and sentencing reform have many complex elements, and one-stop-shop solutions such as privatization are not the answer.

For Governor Schwarzenegger to proclaim that the answer to our failing and costly prison system is to move from public to private management is out of touch with reality.

Thanks so much for standing with me and making your voice heard on this critical issue.

— Chris Kelly, Democratic candidate for California Attorney General

Innovation First: Using Technology to Fight Crime

It’s great to be here blogging with you at Calitics! I look forward to stopping by frequently as my campaign for Attorney General continues over the coming weeks and months.

Today I want to share some news with you — and get your feedback.

In today’s fast-paced environment, California deserves better than ineffective policies that are out of touch with ever-changing technology and fail to keep our communities safe. As the next Attorney General of California, I will apply an innovative, fresh, and tech-savvy approach to fighting crime and protecting the citizens of California.

So this week I’m rolling out my new plan, Innovation First: Using Technology to Fight Crime, which will combat the fiscal, legal, and public safety problems that Californians deal with on a daily basis. This is a call to action. The next Attorney General must be willing to utilize new and innovative tools that reduce crime, keep violent offenders off our streets, protect our children, and provide local law enforcement with the resources they need to fight crime.

Details of my new plan on the flip.

You can learn more about my Innovation First plan here: http://www.kelly2010.com/innovation

For too long, the state of California has thrown more taxpayer money at substandard “public safety” systems that don’t cut it. Violent crime is on the rise and police patrolling our cities streets are dying. Rehabilitation programs intended to re-engage offenders are carelessly monitored and haphazardly organized. This is costing time, money and resources that the state of California can’t afford to expend.

Given my background as a policy advisor to President Bill Clinton, and my experience working with Attorneys General from around the country while serving as Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, I will be able to quickly implement and utilize new technology and innovative solutions that will reduce crime and make California safer.

My first priority is to make certain that California’s forensic technology is on the cutting-edge and that our regional crime labs and local law enforcement have the necessary tools to deal with complex crime scene investigation and analysis. I will also review training techniques from the California Criminalistics Institute to ensure that essential forensics training programs are made available to the appropriate California law enforcement agencies.

Also, as Attorney General, I will also work towards improving efficiency of our DNA analysis and hold laboratories accountable for performance measures. I will put cost saving measures in place to prevent spending taxpayer money on costly private DNA analysis laboratories.

Second, I will create a standardized crime mapping system across the state of California so local enforcement agencies can work together more effectively and efficiently. This will allow law enforcement agencies to accurately evaluate crime data and better respond to criminal acts in real-time. Additionally, I will work with law enforcement in all 58 counties to form strategic partnerships, including building cross-jurisdictional and regional crime analysis information sharing systems.

As Attorney General, I will conduct an assessment and overhaul of all essential technology upgrades that are necessary for police and sheriffs to effectively combat crime. This will include upgrading databases and outdated computer systems with technologically advanced systems and mapping technologies that highlight criminal hotspots for officers to target.

Third, I will develop and implement an effective Global Positioning Monitoring System that would increase and improve supervision and monitoring of parolees. In the past, the transformation from prisoner to parolee has failed to keep Californians safe.

In particular, the recent Jaycee Dugard case is a tragic example of what can happen when our officers are not held accountable for proper investigation and for monitoring of tracking technology. The California Inspector General’s November 2009 report into the kidnapping, hostage holding and sexual assaults on Jaycee Dugard revealed the systematic failure of California’s parole and probation system.

As Attorney General, I will develop and implement an effective Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring policy, set training and performance standards for all parole agents and increase accountability for California’s parole and probation enforcement supervisors.

Fourth, as Attorney General I will work with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to prevent high-tech Internet fraud and identity theft.
Internet fraud and identity theft are becoming increasingly prevalent in our state. Californians need advanced computer privacy technology and innovative law enforcement to ensure our online safety. Internet fraud and identity theft costs California taxpayers millions of dollars. With the proper allocation of innovative and smart resources, these types of crime can be avoided.

As Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, I have first hand experience working with Attorneys General around the country to promote a trusted and safe online experience. In New York, working with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, I helped craft the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (E-Stop). Under this law, sex offenders who previously had used the internet to commit a crime or who are determined to be a high-risk threat would have their online usage restricted by the state’s parole board, including making it a violation to use unregistered e-mail addresses. This is the first step in updating Megan’s law for the digital age.

Finally, California’s justice system must have up-to-date, efficient computer systems. Tracking criminal activity and maintaining accurate data will improve legal services for Californians while also saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Given our state’s budget crisis, improving computer-based systems is something our state cannot afford to ignore.

It is time for to take the state of California in a new direction, to take a new path. In particular, it’s time to stop judging politicians on a curve, especially when it comes to crime. Crime, coupled with misused resources to fight crime, not only costs lives but also precious resources and money at a time when California is in dire need of economic strength and stability.

I aim to combine my service in government and experience in the private sector to deliver for Californians in this new role, but I can only do so with your help. Please join me at kelly2010.com and at facebook.com/chriskelly to begin the long process of rebuilding our broken state.

To read more about and endorse my Innovation First plan, please visit http://www.kelly2010.com/innovation

And if you have any feedback on my plan, I hope you’ll share it in the comments.


Cross-posted at Huffington Post

Saying No To Tough On Crime, Yes To Sensible Prison Policy That Works

In between budget posts, I’ve lately been in a bit of a tiff with Chris Kelly, an Attorney General candidate and former Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, over his stale, predictable fearmongering about potential early prison releases.  There are a bunch of other estimable candidates in the Attorney General’s race, one who did himself a ton of good yesterday by leading the fight against the offshore drilling proposal.  So maybe I shouldn’t take too much time on Kelly.  But there’s a short-term policy fight coming up next month to determine how to implement $1.2 billion in cuts to the corrections budget, and with some good activism and common sense we can stare down the Tough on Crime crowd and post a needed victory for sensible criminal justice policies.  Therefore it’s worth looking at Kelly’s latest post:

The prison release plan is supposed to save $1.2 billion, but that’s just accounting trickery. In fact, a Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study finds that nearly 70% of early-released inmates are rearrested within three years, 20% of them for violent crime. That will mean more than $3 billion in increased costs from crime while causing serious harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.

I’ve spoken to police chiefs, law enforcement groups and civic associations throughout California about the issue, and they’re deeply worried about the crime wave this scheme will unleash. It will be hard enough to make San Jose a safer community in tough economic times without the problems caused by early release.

Obviously, Kelly hasn’t talked to the California Police Chiefs Association, which endorsed the plan as a smart step to begin to move away from the failed prison policies of the last thirty years.  Foremost among these new ideas is the concept of targeting resources – instead of warehousing the terminally ill or blanket strict supervision on everyone released regardless of determining possibility of recidivism, we can put resources into programs that provide opportunity for prisoners to pay their debt to society and move on.  This deal doesn’t do all of that, but it does, for example, put ill and infirm prisoners under home detention or in a care facility, which doesn’t impact public safety and saves money.  It offers incentives for prisoners to complete rehabilitation plans.  It reviews the cases of illegal immigrants in jails instead of just tossing them in the lap of the ICE to deal with, which would actually be the kind of misguided policy Kelly warns against.  And most important, it includes an independent sentencing commission, outside of politics, which can look at our sentencing laws and make recommendations for the legislature to adopt on an up-or-down vote.

Using the buzzword of “early release” of “dangerous prisoners” is an old Tough on Crime ploy from way back, evoking memories of the Willie Horton ad in the 1988 Presidential race.  It’s irresponsible and not relevant to what is being discussed.  We have the perfect Tough on Crime prison policy right now – and it’s not working in every respect, to the extent that federal courts have stepped in to take control of it.  Overcrowded prisons cannot fulfill their core mission of rehabilitating those jailed, and that’s especially true where nonviolent offenders who need medical treatment for addiction and not incarceration are concerned.  Brute force has not worked in making the state safer and has certainly caused our budget to skyrocket.  And the truth is that more sensible policies can save money and create better prisons at the same time.

We need real reform in prison and parole policy, through concentrated resources, community corrections, and maintaining manageable prison capacity for those who really need to be there, and what will get decided in the legislature next month represents an important step.  It can be easily derailed by fearmongering from the likes of Chris Kelly, trying to win an election on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised, on whom such brute-force policies typically rain down.

Over the next month I’ll be looking far more closely at this issue, as it’s the first big battle in regaining control of our state.  And it’s a winnable fight.

More Toughy Toughness From Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly, who thinks he’s running for Attorney General next year, has responded to my criticism of his perpetuation of fearmongering “tough on crime” policies with an email to supporters:

The politics-as-usual crowd is attacking my opposition to the early release plan — even saying that “Chris Kelly is making a fool out of himself” for standing up for safe California communities.  Well, releasing 20,000 convicted felons early might be Sacramento’s idea of prison reform, but it isn’t one that will keep California safe — and it won’t save a single dollar in the process, which was the whole rationale for doing it in the first place!

I’m apparently part of the “politics-as-usual” crowd for arguing against the mentality that has produced 1,000 sentencing laws in the last thirty years that increased sentences.  But some facts throughout this would help.  First of all, the 20,000 number from the Governor came in part from releasing all imprisoned undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a provision that was long ago scaled back, since ICE showed no interest in taking the responsibility, and the Governor circumscribed that proposal with so many caveats that only 1,400 of the more than 18,000 undocumented qualified.  In reality, the scale of release will be lower than initially proposed.  So Kelly is engaging in the familiar tactic of arguing against something that won’t happen so he can post a “win” after the fact.  

But the real danger of Kelly whipping up opposition to this is how it impacts any sensible sentencing or parole reform.  Here, Kelly shows that he has no idea what he’s talking about with respect to criminal justice policy:

Instead of protecting California communities, the politics-as-usual crowd ignores the fact that early release of more than 10% of the state prison population won’t just include “terminally ill, nonviolent drug offenders and people returned to prison for the crime of technical parole violations” — many dangerous felons will be back on the streets too.

The critics seem to have forgotten that a man with a technical parole violation shot and killed four officers in Oakland just months ago, and they also conveniently ignore that releasing 20,000 prisoners will disproportionally impact some of California’s most vulnerable communities.

The ignorance of this comment is stunning.  As Berkeley law professor and parole policy expert Jonathan Simon illustrated a couple months back, the Lovelle Mixon shooting was an example of what’s WRONG with our parole system, not what’s right.  The incident has been used to raise the fear of crime and the dangers of releasing felons.  What is not mentioned is that Mixon’s violation of ridiculously stringent parole policy, which meant a sure trip back to jail, arguably CAUSED the shooting, as Mixon vowed not to return to prison and chose to shoot his way out of the problem.  That’s aberrant behavior, and using it to make any larger point about how frightening it is to release prisoners is Willie Horton-izing to the extreme.  But it’s a function of the extreme pressure of three years of supervisory parole on everyone who walks out of California prisons.

But unlike many other states that also eliminated early release through parole, California continued to require parole supervision in the community for all released prisoners. And that, I think, is a big part of what’s broken. People are sent to California prisons for a determinate amount of time, based upon the seriousness of their crime. After they’ve served this sentence, it’s neither justified nor effective to add up to three years of parole supervision for each and every ex-offender – without making any distinction between those whose criminal record or psychological profile suggest they’ll commit a crime that will harm the community, and those who pose no such threat.

So the parole system has little real capacity to monitor and protect us from those who pose a danger of committing serious new crimes. And it exposes ex-offenders – many of whom pose little threat of committing such crimes – to the likelihood of being sent back to prison. (This is a really big problem, when you think of our prison overcrowding and our budget crisis).

Parolees are required to consent to searches of their person and property. If officers stop a car in Oakland, and somebody in that car is on parole, police have a lot of leeway to disregard normal constitutional limits on search-and-seizure authority. They can use any evidence collected in this situation against the parolee – and also, of course, can attempt to use the coercion of plea bargaining to get evidence against other people in the car.

In recent years, as many as 70 percent of those on parole in California have been sent back to prison – only a small percentage of whom have committed a new crime (14 percent in 2007); more than half were sent back for what are called “technical” parole violations. These parolees are “returned to custody” by the Board of Prison Terms, very often for conduct that would not earn them (or other California citizens) prison time in a court. Turning in a positive drug test is an example; even missing an appointment with parole staff can result in re-imprisonment.

Kelly asked his fans of the Protect California Communities Facebook cause to comment on my post about him, which has yielded a whopping 0 negative comments.  Maybe that’s because his Cause has attracted an almost-as-whopping 225 members, clearly a social networking firestorm rippling through the state.  Actually that number wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t come from a Cause promoted by THE FORMER EXECUTIVE FROM FACEBOOK.  The $175 raised on Facebook shows massive Web 2.0 acumen as well.

It’s also hilarious that Kelly thinks stopping release of nonviolent offenders harms public safety, not eliminating drug treatment and vocational training in prisons, or forcibly taking local government monies so they have to slash their public safety budgets, but that’s for another time.