The sun is beating down on Islais Creek, a small marine channel in Hunters Point that opens out into the Bay. Homeless camps, graffiti, and factories surround the area, but there’s also a small, quaint park with native cherry trees and a gravel boat launch. Bo Barnes, a laid back man with shoulder length hair and an easy smile, is getting ready to take me out kayaking on Islais Creek.
On the afternoon of June 29, 1998, Trina Gomez and Maximilian Patlan were closing a branch of Fidelity Financial Services in Fullerton, California, when two men knocked on the door. They asked if they could make a payment, so Patlan let them into the bank. Once inside, one of the men punched Patlan in the face and ordered him to lie on the ground. The other man pulled out a shotgun and forced Gomez to collect all of the available cash. Minutes later, the two thieves walked out of Fidelity with more than $5,400 in cash and personal checks. The armed robbery and assault happened so quickly that Gomez and Patlan later had difficulty identifying the perpetrators.
Throughout the 1990s, tough-on-crime laws were extremely popular in California. Numerous pieces of legislation lengthened prison terms for many crimes, and the War on Drugs locked up an unprecedented number of small-time criminals. However, it was California's Three Strikes law — approved by an overwhelming majority of voters in 1994 — that exemplified the tough-on-crime mindset of the decade.
In January of 2011, 38-year-old Lamar Deshea Moore walked into the Detroit Police Department's sixth precinct and opened fire. Two officers were hit in the head with shrapnel, a commander was shot in the back, and a fourth officer was shot in the chest, although a bulletproof vest saved her from serious injury. "As you can imagine, utter chaos and pandemonium took place," Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said at the time.
Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, two things shaped the Oakland Police Department. The city had one of the highest crime rates in California, and four police officers calling themselves the “Riders” beat, robbed, and framed hundreds of residents in the flatlands of Oakland. For years the officers were praised for sweeping drugs from the rough streets of West Oakland. But in 2000 over 100 plaintiffs came forward and accused the “Riders” of kidnapping, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, and battery.
Last Month, the Oakland city council voted to pay $40,000 in punitive damages for an officer who illegally strip searched two suspects in public. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson, who currently oversees the department as they make court-ordered reforms, referred to the strip-searching case as an example of how stuck the OPD is in their dysfunctional behavior.
The $18 billion foreclosure settlement announced last month for struggling California homeowners could take years to materialize. The nation's five largest mortgage servicers have three years to deliver mortgage relief to troubled borrowers, with no penalties for noncompliance until 2015...
Jorge Gutierrez is not big for a basketball player; 6 foot 3, 195 pounds. But you can always spot him on the court by his shoulder-length curls, which he ties into a pony-tail. We’re standing in the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas Pavilion, a place that’s become a second home for Gutierrez. I ask him to teach me a crossover dribble, but he wants to start with the basics. “A free throw is one of the easiest shots in the game, so I have a kind of routine for myself,” Gutierrez says, holding the ball in the palm of his hand.
Last Friday, 18 Occupy Cal protesters were detained in the early morning after setting up another on-campus encampment. On Monday, around 700 demonstrators convened at San Quentin to Occupy the prison.
UC Berkeley is home to the country’s second largest collection of human skeletons outside of a graveyard, about 12 thousand total. Some are thousands of years old. The University has unearthed and studied these remains for centuries. They’ve taught researchers a great deal about California’s prehistoric past.
Yesterday, the city of San Francisco sued a federal pipeline safety agency, claiming they have "abjectly failed" to oversee a California natural gas pipeline safety program. The lawsuit cites three natural gas pipeline explosions, including the 2010 San Bruno explosion that killed eight people. Three major natural gas transmission lines run under densely populated areas of San Francisco…
Yesterday, we heard how politics have shaped California’s prison system, and about the push and pull between rehabilitation and punishment. “At the end of the day, corrections was about the bumping of heads of those people that think prison should be for punishment and those people that think that prison should be for rehabilitation,” says JB Wells, who spent almost three decades stuck between the two ideologies.
A life sentence with the possibility of parole is one of the only sentences in California designed to encourage the convicted to reform. Lindsey Bolar, who served 23 years in prison before receiving parole, believes “lifers make up your best population in prison.” After serving between 20 and 25 years, Bolar says, “you know that the mad stupid stuff doesn’t go anymore, then all of a sudden you are trying to find a meaning for your life and you want to go home.”
Come early March, California might be clean out of money unless the Legislature takes action, says Controller John Chiang. The shortfall is projected to last seven weeks, during which time Chiang recommends borrowing money and delaying some payments. How did the state end up in such a bind? Chiang says California was spending $2.6 billion more than was included in the budget while tax revenues coming into state coffers were $2.6 billion below projection…
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a Napa County resident’s challenge to a state law that imposes a 10-year ban on gun ownership for anyone convicted of a violent misdemeanor. The resident claimed the law violated his constitutional right to possess a firearm…
BART’s San Jose extension is one step closer to breaking ground after the Federal Transit Administration approved a $900 million grant. Two new stations are planned, one in Milpitas and one in the Berryessa neighborhood. Construction could begin as early as the spring and will cost $2.3 billion…
For anyone who’s been there, the news that Downtown Berkeley is one of the Bay Area’s poorest neighborhoods probably comes as a surprise. The city’s median family income is $90,000, which is twice the national average. And downtown doesn’t seem much different from the rest of Berkeley.
Early this morning at UC Berkeley, police clearned an Occupy Cal encampment which had been set up for a second time Tuesday night on Sproul Plaza. Almost all campers left voluntarily, except for two who were arrested.