California criminal justice

Luisa Beck

A note to our readers: the names of formerly incarcerated men and their families in this story have been changed to protect their identities.

 

“My whole life, I never had a job.”

At the age of 51, William Bennett was one of the oldest people in California who could claim that. But in June 2013, eight months after leaving prison, that was about to change.

“Either Monday or Tuesday I’ll be working on the freeways,” he said. “580 or 880. Picking up trash. First job ever.”

Leila Day

Not long ago there was a food fight at Ralph Bunche High School. And Angel Hernandez is in trouble. He’s 18, a senior, and he’s not admitting anything happened. He’s slouched in his chair in a circle in a room whose walls are covered with positive messages: ‘Respect,’ ‘Listen,’ ‘Trust.’ His mom, Maria Ramirez, sits at his side. Also in the circle is the cafeteria worker Miss Mina, and she looks pretty ticked off. “Everybody starts throwing stuff,” she says. “I said excuse me, how old are you guys? You guys want to clean up my kitchen?”

Sara Brooke Curtis

When people get into trouble with the law, they normally don’t have a chance to have a conversation with their victims. To explain what happened. Hear about the damage they caused. Say they’re sorry. But there’s a growing trend to try and make that happen, so both parties can move on.

Peter Merts

Earlier this month, students in Zoe Mullery’s creative writing class for San Quentin inmates held a reading of their work at the prison. The public was invited to the reading, and one of the audience members asked the inmates if they thought going to prison was the only way they could have changed their lives for the better.

The older we get, the harder it is to think of ourselves as “old.” But as far as the government is concerned – specifically, the federal corrections system – you’re “aging” or “elderly” once you turn 50. California houses one of the country’s biggest populations of elderly prisoners. And gradually, it also releases them.

Finding work for ex-felons

Apr 4, 2013
Americaworks.com

Angel Barerra has a felony conviction. He thinks that’s kept him from finding work. In order to give people like Barerra a better chance, some California counties have implemented “Ban the Box” – they’ve made it illegal for employers to ask about felony charges on job applications.

Under CC license from S_falkow. http://www.flickr.com/photos/safari_vacation/5929769873/

It’s been a significant year for criminal justice in the Bay Area, but many of the challenges have come late in the year.