Joaquin Palomino

Volunteer Reporter/Producer

The sun is beating down on Islais Creek, a small marine channel in Hunters Point that opens out into the Bay.

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. The statute was one of the first of its kind, and while 24 other states have enacted similar laws,...

EastBayExpress.com

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. "Through it all, our officers maintained courageous calm. ... They...

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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...

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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. Yet you are going to pay, on this officers behalf, punitive damages, said community activist Rashida Grinage at the June 19th city...

The $18 billion foreclosure settlement announced last month for struggling California homeowners could take years to materialize. The nations five largest mortgage servicers have three years to deliver mortgage relief to troubled borrowers, with no penalties for noncompliance until 2015... Governor Brown is negotiating a last minute compromise on a November tax initiative . It will include a 5-year tax hike on sales and incomes over $250,000 a year. A recent poll showed the measure was...

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. Were standing in the University of California at Berkeleys Haas Pavilion, a place thats 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,...

Photo by Peg Hunter

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. Tomorrow evening, San Franciscos Occupy Bernal is hosting a forum to discuss the more than 80 Families facing eviction or foreclosure on Bernal Hill. The movement is still going strong, but its also having some growing pains. Zappo Montag, a longtime Occupy Oakland activist, has been feeling...

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UC Berkeley is home to the countrys 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. Theyve taught researchers a great deal about Californias prehistoric past. It turns out that the human skeleton, indeed the skeleton of any mammal is a very good guide to that animals life, explains Tim White, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. So it...

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 Across the bay, the city of Pleasanton is coming to the close of a six-year lawsuit. Oakland-based urban...

Yesterday, we heard how politics have shaped Californias 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. We know that in that tug of war, rehabilitation has been losing. In the last fiscal...

Photo courtesy of Flickr user MikeCogh/http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/5997920696/

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 doesnt go anymore, then all of a sudden you are trying to find a meaning for your life and you want to go home. The system seems to work. Only...

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 California now gets about 5% of its...

When you look at the numbers, many long held truths about crime crumble. Like this one: who do you think is more likely to become a life-long criminal: a rapist or a car thief? It turns out those who commit the most serious crimes actually re-offend at lower rates. Murderers have the lowest recidivism rate out of any California prisoner. Why is that? Over the next couple days, well spend time talking about a population called Lifers. Theyre inmates, usually convicted of murder, whove been...

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a Napa County residents 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 A state senate bill, authored by Leland Yee, could prohibit salary increases for University of California and California State University executives within 2 years of either tuition increases or state budget cuts. The bill comes at a time...

BARTs 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 Researchers at UC San Francisco have developed a system to determine the likelihood of death within six months to five years for elderly patients. At present, physicians are often shooting in the dark...

For anyone whos been there, the news that Downtown Berkeley is one of the Bay Areas poorest neighborhoods probably comes as a surprise. The citys median family income is $90,000, which is twice the national average. And downtown doesnt seem much different from the rest of Berkeley. Walter Krosure has lived in Downtown Berkeley for 30 years. I met him at the Center Street Farmers Market, and he was eager to tell me about his Berkeley. There are some really nice success stories, he says. Youve...

Early this morning police took down San Franciscos Occupy encampment the last large Occupy camp in the Bay Area. Seventy people were arrested, a few on felony charges of assaulting an officer Meanwhile, anti-tax groups filed a ballot measure today in response to Governor Browns tax initiative, which would raise sales tax by half-a-cent and create new taxes for the wealthy. The ballot measure would lock in recession-era spending levels and redirect money from schools to pay off state debt....

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.