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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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