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Letters

CRUISING IN THE MAINSTREAM

In Erin Aubry Kaplan’s recounting of a recent cruise trip [“The (Minor) Agony on the Ecstasy,” May 23–29], it was amusing to read her reaction to inadvertently meeting people who supported the war with Iraq. She sounds like a zoologist who just stumbled on an entirely new genus of mammals. She then feels the need to explain how she could possibly tolerate, let alone eat dinner with, these repulsive alien creatures. This was no doubt necessary for her to maintain her impeccable liberal credentials with her co-workers and friends back home. After all, as she hastens to inform us, these people exemplified “mainstream American values that [she] hardly encountered at work every week.”

At a time when more than 70 percent of Americans supported the war with Iraq, it’s remarkable that the L.A. Weekly is such a hermetically sealed environment that its writers would be shocked to encounter one person who might disagree with their opinions. You really ought to get out more. What I’ve always suspected has just been confirmed: The L.A. Weekly preaches diversity in everything but thought.

—Alistair Latour Los Angeles

SCHINDLER TWIST

Regarding Greg Goldin’s article “Light and Open” [May 23–29]: Like the devotees of West Hollywood’s Schindler House, I too oppose the destruction of the remaining single-family homes on Kings Road, as they provide a welcome respite from the “canyon effect” created by the street’s large, boxy condominium complexes. However, with its imposing sidewalk-adjacent wall of bamboo, the Schindler House itself contributes to the canyon effect. Unlike most other single-family homes on the street, which have kept their front yards open, the Schindler House has walled itself off from the community in which it sits. In this regard, the keepers of the Schindler House seem as selfish as the developer next door. If they want others to make sacrifices to preserve their own light and open space, they first should do the same.

—Jeff Jacobberger Los Angeles

ROVE OR RIEFENSTAHL?

Does John Powers [“George of the Jungle,” May 9–15], like so many other journalists writing on the event, get it only partially right?

A powerful leader descends from the skies. He proceeds to a place where he addresses assembled lines of citizens in uniform. Top Gun or Triumph of the Will? Karl Rove or Leni Riefenstahl?

History’s precious little moments repeating themselves. It’s déjà vu . . . oh you know the rest.

—Ray Greenfield Los Angeles

PERLE, POLICIES AND PROFIT MOTIVES

Your excellent article on Richard Perle’s myriad conflicts of interest as a member of the Defense Policy Board [“Perle the Impervious,” April 11–17] neglects to mention that he is also a director of Autonomy Corp.

Autonomy makes software to sift through e-mails and phone calls to identify patterns deemed to be suspicious. Subsequent to Perle’s joining the company as a director, Autonomy signed contracts with the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, the National Security Agency and the FBI.

The company is now well-positioned to play a key role in the Defense Department’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) initiative, which aims to develop a comprehensive database on all U.S. residents. TIA was discussed at the February 27 meeting of the Defense Policy Board cited in your article.

Revelations that U.S. security policy may be compromised by high-level officials’ profit motives should concern us all. We, the citizenry, must demand directly that government ethics rules be enforced. For starters, Perle must go.

—Gabriel Demombynes Oakland

A PUBLIC BLOGGING

Regarding Marc Cooper’s Dissonance column in the May 9 issue: Maybe Cooper could spend less time documenting the cocktail chitchat at these limousine-liberal parties he seems always to be attending, and reminiscing about the old days as Allende’s speechwriter, and spend more time documenting the very real excesses on the right happening now.

I suggest Cooper start up an Internet blog, where he can snipe at the left to his heart’s content, thus freeing up those valuable column inches in the Weekly so his staff mates can continue the real journalism he seems to have retired from.

—Alfredo Tryferis Los Angeles

THE CASE FOR L.A. DRUG COURTs

Joe Domanick, in his article "High on Justice" [May 15-22], demonstrated that his instincts are partly accurate: dedicated, knowledgeable, hard-working judges are essential to have a successful drug court. Moreover, Domanick’s heart is in the right place: "drug addicts should be treated as people with a disease, not as criminals." However, his limited snapshot view led to some profoundly erroneous conclusions. Specifically, his statement that the Los Angeles County drug court judges lack "courage and compassion" is disturbing as it is entirely untrue.

 

Drug court judges in Los Angeles County have gotten it right. These judges have not only shown "courage and compassion," but many have volunteered much of their own time and money to ensure that the addicted drug court clients receive the best possible comprehensive treatment services. L.A. judges have taken a leading role in developing and improving drug courts. Los Angeles drug courts have been chosen as "mentor" courts by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) and others, helping to improve drug courts throughout the United States. L.A. judges have served with distinction as board members and officers of the NADCP and the California Association of Drug Court Professionals. Many of the L.A. judges have been employed as faculty members in judicial training programs in California and other states, conveying best practices in court-based treatment.

Los Angeles County judicial leaders, district attorneys, public defenders, probation officers, the sheriff and drug treatment providers started planning for the first drug court in 1992. The first drug court began in May 1994. Los Angeles County now has 12 community drug courts, one sentenced offender and two juvenile drug courts, more than any other county in the nation. This has happened because L.A. judges and others have convened several times each month for over eight years to identify and secure resources and constantly manage the evolution of our courts to incorporate the best techniques and latest knowledge, and to maintain the very high standards of the L.A. drug courts. L.A. judges sit on the State Judicial Council’s Collaborative Justice Court Committee, which provides policy direction and training statewide for drug courts, mental health treatment courts, domestic violence courts and Proposition 36 courts.

Los Angeles County has a large, diverse population. In developing its drug court system, this county has adopted a set of written standards and practices that insure quality, while providing the flexibility that allows the local communities to meet the needs of their residents. Representatives from Los Angeles secured a drug court exemption, preserving pre-guilty plea diversion when the state law eliminated it for all other situations. Los Angeles County benefited from this flexibility and currently maintains 12 extremely effective predominantly pre-guilty plea community drug courts treating in excess of a thousand people every year.

This pre-guilty plea drug court program design has many unique advantages. Addicts are most amenable to successful intervention when they are in the crisis of initial arrest and incarceration. To maximize success, intervention must be immediate and up front. A pre-guilty plea drug court allows the client to enter treatment immediately and to fully concentrate on recovery without the distractions of fighting the case. In the critical first hours after arrest, the client is not placed in the predicament of asking for the help drug court offers while simultaneously waiving other important rights granted to an accused. Furthermore, the defense lawyer may devote the majority of time during the initial interview discussing the client’s need for treatment rather than issues regarding innocence or guilt, waiver of rights, etc. The pre-guilty aspect of the drug court program can be used as a "carrot" to convince clients with severe substance abuse or co-occurring disorders to enter the difficult, intensive treatment regimen of the drug court instead of applying for a less intensive and less structured Proposition 36 program (that requires a conviction to obtain treatment).

Drug courts are dependent upon the creation of a non-adversarial courtroom atmosphere where a single judge and a dedicated team of court officers, staff and treatment personnel work toward a common goal of breaking the cycle of drug abuse and criminal behavior. A pre-plea drug court allows the judge, defense and prosecution to act based on what is best for the defendant’s recovery, instead of using the court’s scarce resources for litigation. The court team can apply the rewards and sanctions that help lead to recovery. The public is protected as the clients who graduate from drug court will become productive citizens, while the individual who does not make it can still be tried, convicted and punished.

Los Angeles County, as well as the state of California, is home to a large immigrant population. Efforts to secure permanent resident status or citizenship could be defeated by a criminal conviction, which may potentially lead to deportation and the ensuing breakup of families. Pre-plea drug courts avoid this danger to the immigrant and the family that relies on them. The successful completion of a recovery program will not only help the immigrant, but also his or her family and the community. Drug court participants must either be enrolled in an educational or vocational program or maintain employment prior to successful completion of the program.

Criminal convictions make it much harder for all individuals to obtain meaningful employment. Additionally, conviction can cause the loss of a professional license or prevent obtaining such license. By allowing recovery without requiring the entry of a plea, pre-plea programs speed the process of re-entry into the workforce. It is not uncommon that persons with a conviction, even if not sentenced, are denied employment.

 

Since a disproportionate number of our minority communities are impacted by the judicial system, the availability of pre-plea drug court programs is essential to the protection of their employment status. The judicial pioneers in Los Angeles County, in adopting this pre-plea drug court design, demonstrated uncommon insight and determination to develop a treatment program that would facilitate the clients re-entering society.

That is why it is so bewildering that Mr. Domanick cites Judge Manley in Santa Clara as a paradigm for the L.A. judges. Although Judge Manley is a recognized leader in treatment, in contrast to the L.A. Drug Court judges Judge Manley insists that in order to obtain treatment those suffering from the disease of addiction must plead guilty! In fact, Judge Manley is leading the effort to do away with funding for pre-guilty drug courts. We in Los Angeles County have learned that one size does not fit all. Los Angeles County’s dedicated judges, district attorneys, public defenders, treatment counselors and sheriff’s personnel have worked as a team to bring success to the client. The court teams have developed different tactics and strategies to mandate clients to reach the common goal of producing a productive citizen.

Mr. Domanick acknowledges some of the specific challenges in Los Angeles County (large homeless population, many clients with mental health issues, and underfunding, to name a few). The unqualified success of Los Angeles County drug court programs, given these circumstances, is remarkable. How Mr. Domanick concludes that the Los Angeles County judicial bench unfavorably compares to Santa Clara County flies in the face of reality.

I have attended many drug court graduations and seen first hand the awesome redemptive power of the L.A. program. Children have told me that because of drug court, they have a father for the first time. Women previously living on the streets, engaging in prostitution, have obtained proper shelter and meaningful employment; many of these women have reunited with their children after years of addiction. Often these stories have brought me to tears. One of the most dramatic examples I can think of is a man who was living under a local freeway overpass when he entered the Los Angeles drug court. When I last saw him, he was completing his master’s program at USC in preparation for joining their faculty.

The amazing success achieved by our drug courts in Los Angeles County (80 percent success rate for graduates) is unquestionable. I invite anyone who wishes to experience L.A. drug courts to attend just one of the approximately 40 graduations in Los Angeles County that occur every year. It only takes one visit to be convinced.

Michael P. Judge Public Defender Vice chairperson, L.A. County Drug Court Oversight Committee

 

I just wanted to thank the L.A. Weekly for having a writer who is not afraid of exposing his sanity. Marc Cooper’s opinions are right on the point, like his "Beat Bush" piece. Too often criticism is overblown rhetoric. For many of us who do care about social issues and policy differences with Republicans, we prefer real policy debates, not "the sky is falling" calls to arms.

Jonathan Lett Los Angeles

In his May 22 column Marc Cooper blames California’s $38 billion shortfall on President Bush, but the fact is the shortfall has nothing to do with President Bush and everything to do with Governor Gray Davis, the Democrat-controlled state government and the California voters who go on shopping sprees every November 7 spending money the state doesn’t have. The president has nothing to do with it.

Todd Honig Hollywood

 

 


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