Lifers struggle for clear path to parole, but our problem is your problem too.
On January 5, 2015, the Second District Appellate Court accepted a petition for writ of mandamus for filing, and it was titled “Romero versus the State of California.” Upon success, the Court would issue a writ of mandamus, which is basically an order to enforce a court’s order, a law, or perhaps a regulation that exists. In this case, the mandate we request would enforce the settlement we achieved in the Butler case. Let’s face it: the State AGREED on paper to SET base terms for all indeterminately sentenced inmates they kept referring to as “lifers”. Logic rules — the words “set” and “indeterminate” CANNOT apply to the same thing. It is beyond dispute that they agreed to SET terms, but the lifers parole denial games continue. However, as with all the backward and illogical policies I have been explaining in all of these articles, this is yet another example.
The plaintiff in this case is Aldo Romero, a good friend of mine. He happens to be in the same court as Roy Butler was, so his claim is to be considered by the same justices who approved the Butler settlement. No one knows better what the settlement was intended to relieve, and so these justices will likely issue the writ of mandate in this case. I carefully prepared the petition itself, and presented a copious amount of actual evidence that can not be refuted. Just the other day, I submitted a paper that was given to a lifer that went to a hearing, and before he went in, his Board-appointed dumbstruck attorney came out to the foyer to ask him to agree that he was unsuitable for one year, “or else the Board was going to deny him parole for a long time.” He refused to agree, and insisted on going in to have his hearing. The lawyer went in, and came back out with the piece of paper, which stated that the hearing was now postponed because (all the sudden), the inmate “needed a psychiatric evaluation” or the hearing could not be held. Disturbingly, the paper had ALREADY had the “PAROLE DENIED” box checked off, which they just scratched off and wrote “postponed” on it. Six months later the hearing was held with the new psych evaluation that indicated no problem existed, and he was denied for a lengthy period of years. This happened between April and October of 2004. He has been in prison since 1987 on a 17-to-life total, and his name is Tommy Driver. Tommy is a great friend of mine, and his case is exceptional. I’m not quite through digging around in his case, but contact with his wife ensures that I will not lose contact with that case and I will be writing more about his unique issues soon.
That piece of evidence was just the tip of the iceberg. I also submitted the transcript from a Joint Legislative Committee on prison building hearing that was held in 1999 by Senators Polanco and Vasconcellos, as well as two Assembly members. The spotlight was on Board of Prison Terms (the same Parole Board as today) Chairman James Nielsen. Yes, that’s the same Senator James Nielsen you may know. An entire slew of citizens and public servants testified regarding his and the Board’s malfeasance. It would outrage anyone. IF the Legislature would have done something meaningful to address the Board problem then, right now the prisons would NOT be crowded to the point where they have to release inmates that reoffend at rates of almost 60%. It is astonishing that I make these claims over and over, and no one seems to take notice. “Lifers” who are suitable for parole indeed have a less-than one percent recidivism rate, and a near-zero violent crime recidivism rate, and yet they still will not release suitable “lifers” like Tommy Driver. Last month, the Fresno Jail kicked a non-lifer out TWICE IN THE SAME WEEK for crimes that just got restructured under Prop 47 from felonies to misdemeanors, and he went to his brother’s house and killed him. And, so, the State does not want to (and now can not) keep people like him in, but still refuses to let the people it CAN release who are safe, like Tommy Driver and Aubrey Grant (who is STILL in here since 1979 on a 15-to-life) out of crooked motive. And I will no longer restrain the truth. Senator James Nielsen has campaigned strongly on the tough-on-crime platform. The problem is, he is strongly tied to the prison worker unions, including the Parole Board he once chaired, and the Guard’s Union (CCPOA). I have been yelling it from the mountaintops that the voting public needs to oust every single incumbent in California’s Congress, because the longer people stay in public service positions like that, the less motivated they become to pass effective laws, and the easier they find it to make a lot of money from their already-salaried position. It isn’t Democrat/Republican that’s at issue here. Nancy Pelosi is a perfect example: she sat on ethics committees that were supposed to punish insider trading in Washington that involved Wall Street as a California Representative, yet she used that very confidential oversight information to trade stocks upon. When asked if she felt that was ethical all she could answer was that it “isn’t illegal.” ‘Technically, she was right. But is it ETHICAL? Well, if you invest in stocks or hedge funds, are you satisfied with your returns? Nancy Pelosi can’t seem to lose in ANY of her investments. I guess it’s hard to lose when you have all the winning lottery numbers handed to you.
Senator Burton received over $300,000 in campaign contributions from the CCPOA at one point (source: Fresno Bee report) . However, it’s the James Nielsens that hurt Californians the most. Anyone who reads the Joint Committee transcript I filed with this mandate petition will be outraged. As I stated: it affects you indirectly whether you think it does or not. Stock trades; crime rates; higher taxes without the representation to justify them; your children’s education and the rehabilitation of the criminals that WILL be released… it’s all relevant. If you have a loved one in jail or prison, especially a “lifer”, I know I am tugging at some heartstrings right now. Look, even seemingly irrelevant events are extremely important, because as always prison is an industry, and the employee unions that formed around this industry have doled out a LOT of money to keep it alive and vibrant. At this point, it’s burgeoning even under federal orders to release due to overcrowding. At this point, even when you think no one can win, private prison corporations out of state acquired contracts to open prisons to house the prisoners California was ordered to release, FOR California. Since California was the world’s fifth-largest economy, and manufacturers and Silicon Valley no longer are what they were due to jobs transferred overseas, it is clear that the prison industrial complex is now the only thing artificially propping up the economy, because the money these State employees make is spent in California, stimulating the economy. Should prisons shutter, California’s economy would recede or at least stagnate.
As a final example, the CDCR just announced it will no longer be accepting money orders or checks to be placed on inmate trust accounts. They now want family and friends to send the money to JPAY, which subjects users to fees. One might ask “why?”– well, there will be “kickbacks” to the State for that favor. In 2012, the CDCR opened a CCPOA “JPAY-type” service that charged a high fee to have money wired to the inmates’ accounts. No one used it. It’s called “TouchPay”. It almost went out of business, until the CDCR had a brilliant idea: they used the State Regulations (Title 15) to put a 30-day hold on Postal money orders, claiming that there were a “rash of recent counterfeits” to justify it. As a result, TouchPay’s patronage rose exponentially. I happen to know that the U.S. Postal service is owned by the Federal Government. Their money orders are printed on watermarked paper, with serial numbers and red, green, and blue security fibers just like our money is. As such, it is a federal bond, so legally, it doesn’t appear that a State agency can place any kind of hold on it, especially for that reason because it is all insured. If you had to pay a fee at the DMV and the agent told you that there’s a hold on your $100 bill because they have a new regulation due to counterfeiting, and it would be 30 days before your fee would be processed, how would you feel? How would you feel if you found out the DMV was requiring you to use JPAY, and that JPAY was giving them a kickback for making them the exclusive fund transactor?
That is what happened here. Our families are being taxed just to give us money for our use. So, our families are paying our fees. They are already being taken for 55% of those monies for OUR restitution fees to the State. In here, if we are fortunate, we make pennies an hour. The State rakes in the profits for that work, through the Prison Industry Authority. So where does all the money-grubbing end? — It ends with YOU. The Legislators YOU voted in are there and have made it possible for the CDCR and BPH (Parole Board) to write their own regulations. It’s time for you to demand that prisons actually provide reform programs and therapy that is effective and not just handed on contract to the lowest bidder with the highest kickback (END KICKBACKS!!!). This isn’t a business. Your victimization is not a business. Vote honest people in to your Offices. Demand that the Board be constituted of more than just retired Sheriffs or Crime Victim advocates. Your prisons are a business right now. You are a good customer.
To conclude, the other devastating evidence submitted in the mandate will be discussed in my next article. You will be astonished at how true all of this information is. It is almost a sure thing that the mandate will issue. The law demands it. You can judge for yourself, but I invite you to look into all the information contained in these articles. I challenge anyone to refute any of it.
Until my next, I sign off.
Written by Rudy while incarcerated in California.