Friday, May 6, 2011

California Department of Corrections Misses Another One

March 25, 2011.

A six-year old girl innocently plays hide-and-seek with friends outside her Boyle Heights home.

Just another day in Los Angeles.

Then, the unspeakable happens.

Remember the catchphrase of summer 2009? "Missed opportunities," a term coined by Sheriff Warren Rupf when he tried to wiggle out of the most embarrassing clusterf*#ks and examples of parole/Department of Correction ineptitude in recent history.

In case you don't remember, he was the sheriff who tried to pass off mistakes made by the California Department of Corrections as, 'missed opportunities.' Those missed opportunities led to eighteen years of hell for a young woman named Jaycee Dugard.

According to police and parole reports, Jaycee was enslaved, raped, and forced to bear and raise children in a makeshift tent under lock and key by a parolee named Phillip Garrido. While many consider the Dugard case such an extreme case, and not the norm, there are too many stories of "missed opportunities" everyday in this country.

It happened that day when a little girl's innocence was forever shattered. Her game of hide-and-seek ended when a man lured her to the nearby Sheridan Elementary School. Her playmates knew something was wrong and immediately alerted her family. The child's uncle rushed to the school, and with the help of the janitor, he found his niece, chased down the suspect, and held him for custody.

Now for the kicker: the suspect accused of rape was out of prison on parole. He is identified as Edward Gonzalez, 28, hardcore gang member on parole for assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to commit great injury.

The questions are many and the answers are few.

Gonzalez is a parolee with a record dating back to 2005 and possibly even longer. He has been classified as a "High Control Supervision" case, a multi-termer with an extensive criminal arrest history for very violent criminal offenses.

What does all that mean? It means: watch him! This guy has a proclivity for violence! He is on our radar. We know about him. We have knowledge and knowledge is power.

There is no ambiguity in his record. His criminal history speaks for itself. Gonzalez was released on parole on Feb 18, 2009. By June of that year, he was in trouble for criminal threats, battery on a spouse/child, and for absconding parole supervision.

You would think enough is enough, forget it. Gonzalez was given another chance after he violated parole again in September 2010, not to mention the other parole violation in June 2010. More chances to ruin more lives.
Clearly the California Department of Corrections has failed to maintain their mission statement.

The California's Governor's Budget 2011-12 web page the CDCR's mission clearly,

"The mission of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is to enhance public safety through safe and secure incarceration of offenders, effective parole supervision, and rehabilitative strategies to successfully reintegrate offenders into our communities."

What's worse? This vicious attack happened at 7:45 PM on a FRIDAY. Yes, a Friday. Why was the school unlocked after hours?

The school has directly violated the LAUSD policy in keeping school grounds locked after hours. As stated in their own policy guidelines :
BUL-2426: Closing the Site
• Close and lock all interior and exterior doors, windows and transit
• Turn off air conditioning and heating units, fans and office machines.
• Free alarm sensors of ALL obstructions, including mobiles or other moving
• Just prior to departure, notify the School Police Department and turn on the
intrusion alarm system.

Despite this clear violation of school procedure LAUSD officials have refused to comment or support the family and community members affected by this heinous crime. Hmmm... worried about a lawsuit coming their way?

Whether it is the notorious headline-grabbing Dugard-Garrido case, or the less publicized rape in Boyle Heights, these are examples of bad guys committing crimes while on the radar of law enforcement. These are the criminals we know about, the ones we rely on society to protect us from, but instead they are released early, sentenced improperly, monitored ineffectively, or simply fall through the cracks only to reemerge to victimize again.

So as I evaluate the recent "missed opportunity" I ask the same questions you ask: why does this happen, how is it possible, where did the system break down, what are we going to do about it.

It's mind-boggling that when the "worst of the worst" have been identified there still are missteps and glitches that allow them to reoffend.

So is there a way to make it stop? What will force law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, parole agents etc, to make sure that they do their job?

Personal accountability.

What kind of accountability is expected of clerks, producers, DCFS workers, and the like?
What type of deterrents, checks and balances are in place to make sure innocent people don't get hurt or killed? Clearly, it's time we as society say "no" to mediocrity and hold those who slack off -- letting potential killers slip through the system -- accountable for lives that are lost or injured as a result of "clerical errors."

Just ask a six-year-old little girl in Boyle Heights.