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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Jan 19, 2015

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by Thomas F. Jackson

In 1968, a united black community in Memphis stepped forward to support 1,300 municipal sanitation workers as they demanded higher wages, union recognition, and respect for black personhood embodied in the slogan "I Am a Man!" Memphis's black women organized tenant and welfare unions, discovering pervasive hunger among the city's poor and black children. They demanded rights to food and medical care from a city and medical establishment blind to their existence.

That same month, March 1968, 100 grassroots organizations met in Atlanta to support Martin Luther King's dream of a poor people's march on Washington. They pressed concrete demands for economic justice under the slogan "Jobs or Income Now!" King celebrated the "determination by poor people of all colors" to win their human rights. "Established powers of rich America have deliberately exploited poor people by isolating them in ethnic, nationality, religious and racial groups," the delegates declared.

So when King came to Memphis to support the strike, a local labor and community struggle became intertwined with his dream of mobilizing a national coalition strong enough to reorient national priorities from imperial war in Vietnam to domestic reconstruction, especially in America's riot-torn cities. To non-poor Americans, King called for a "revolution of values," a move from self-seeking to service, from property rights to human rights.


King's assassination — and the urban revolts that followed — led to a local Memphis settlement that furthered the cause of public employee unionism. The Poor People's March nonviolently won small concessions in the national food stamp program. But reporters covered the bickering and squalor in the poor people's tent city, rather than the movement's detailed demands for waging a real war on poverty. Marchers wanted guaranteed public employment when the private sector failed, a raise in the federal minimum wage, a national income floor for all families, and a national commitment to reconstruct cities blighted by corporate disinvestment and white flight. And they wanted poor people's representation in urban renewal and social service programs that had customarily benefited only businesses or the middle class. King's dreams reverberated back in the movements that had risen him up.

It is widely believed that King's deep dedication to workers' rights and international human rights came late in life, when cities burned, Vietnamese villagers fled American napalm, and King faced stone-throwing Nazis in Chicago's white working-class inner suburbs. But King began his public ministry in Montgomery in 1956, dreaming of "a world in which men will no longer take necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes." He demanded that imperial nations give up their power and privileges over oppressed and colonized peoples struggling against "segregation, political domination, and economic exploitation" — whether they were in South Africa or South Alabama.

King's commitments to economic justice and workers' rights are becoming more widely appreciated today as we continue to confront all of the unresolved challenges King confronted in his day.

Beyond Civil Rights

Around 1964, King announced that the movement had moved "beyond civil rights." Constitutional rights to free assembly, equality in voting, and access to public accommodations had marched forward with little cost to the nation, he said. Human rights — to dignified work, decent wages, income support, and decent housing for all Americans — would cost the nation billions of dollars. In other speeches, however, King recognized that human rights and civil rights were bound up with each other, part of a "Worldwide Human Rights Revolution."

The practical experience of building a movement had already made these connections. In Montgomery's struggle to desegregate bus seating, for example, King heralded the American "right to protest for right," but discovered that it was inseparable from the human rights to work and eat. Why? Hundreds of African Americans were fired or evicted or denied public aid for expressing themselves politically, and King was intimately involved in campaigns for their material relief. This pattern continued throughout the 1960s. The southern struggle for rights became a struggle against poverty long before Lyndon Johnson's wars in Vietnam and on poverty.

Similarly, in New York City in 1959, King joined A. Philip Randolph and Malcolm X in supporting the white, black and Puerto Rican workers of New York's newly organized Local 1199. Over 3,000 hospital workers — laundry workers, cafeteria workers, janitors and orderlies — struck seven New York private hospitals. At the bottom of the new service economy they were legally barred from collective bargaining; excluded from minimum wage protections and unemployment compensation; and denied the medical insurance that might give them access to the hospitals where they worked. Harlem's black community rallied to their defense. King cheered a struggle that transcended "a fight for union rights" and had become a multiracial "fight for human rights."

Today We Continue the Struggles

King's commitments to economic justice and workers' rights are becoming more widely appreciated today as we continue to confront all of the unresolved challenges King confronted in his day. Joblessness is still pervasive under the official unemployment statistics, and wages remain too low to lift millions of people out of poverty. Conservative politicians and globalizing corporations have relentlessly chipped away at union rights and workplace safety. Tattered safety nets have become even shoddier for poor people who are not capable of earning. Forty-seven million Americans are, medically, second-class citizens. Unequal landscapes of wealth and opportunity in housing and schools still make the words "American apartheid" a dirty but accurate epithet. And again, in a different part of the world, our military wages a war of empire cloaked in robes of democratic idealism. On the right, complacent religious leaders preach family morality and personal responsibility, while neglecting our collective moral commitments to materially supporting "the least of these." But across the country too, citizens are uncovering stones of hope and finding new democratic determination. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go, as King would say. Lost ground and shattered dreams are bearable, he would have preached, as we continue the struggles for multiracial democracy, economic justice, and human dignity that were begun long ago, under even more challenging circumstances than we face today.

Thomas F. Jackson is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and author of the prizewinning "From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for Economic Justice" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)

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JUSTINE FREDERIKSEN'S comprehensive story on Ukiah's most intransigent homeless couple, Kalisha and Scotty, perfectly explained the Mendo dilemma vis a vis the unhoused. We've also covered the adventures of Kalisha and Scotty who, even if they weren't a couple, would be a major prob singly. As a tag team, they're impossible.

KALISHA, a compact 5'0', weighs in around 385 pounds. Light on her feet and stronger than many men, she's known to smack Scotty around and he, her. Scotty's maybe half Kalisha's weight. If Kalisha doesn't want to be arrested, well, anybody who doesn't think cops earn every penny should try subduing her. But it's them against the world, and baby might make three if the terrifying rumor that Kalisha is pregnant is true.

Alvarez, Willis
Alvarez, Willis

WE'VE FOLLOWED THEM for a couple of years now, ever since the night they were evicted from the Adventist Hospital's emergency room where, at the time, they liked to camp out to watch television in the waiting room. As I recall, they were so indignant at being evicted they attacked hospital staff. It took the sorely put upon Ukiah Police Department to restore order that time.

ALMOST ALL THE REST of the County's frequent fliers are drunks or multiple substance abusers, as are Kalisha and Scotty. The straight-up 5150s (crazy people) aren't exactly rare here in our rural paradise whose economy is pegged to intoxicants, but they're a separate problem who tend to come and go. When they go dangerously off they're housed in a special unit for the vulnerable at the County Jail. We estimate that there are 40 to 50 non-crazy frequent fliers, almost all confined to Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg, and they're almost all lost to alcohol.

THE COUNTY'S police forces constantly deal with the homeless and the drunks, most of whom, in the days before America lost its way (it happened in '67), habitual drunks, and people unable or unwilling to care for themselves, were housed in state hospitals where, and contrary to myth that state institutions were snake pits, there were programs that attempted to make broken people whole again. As a nation, I'd say we were collectively more humane then than we are now. Now, we have "liberals" living off the broken, and non-liberals whining about the money spent on them.

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN deserves a special citizenship award for not only constantly drawing attention to the homeless in the Ukiah area, he spends many, many of his non-public hours cleaning up after them, especially in the areas that drain into the Russian River. As McCowen will concede, Mendocino County is overdue for a serious, concerted effort to house our houseless. Kalisha and Scotty, and versions thereof, and the forty or fifty intractable drunks? Until something more permanent can be worked out, our Superior Court, who now blithely run these people through their courtrooms many times a year, should give them all six months to a year in the County Jail. After all, they're repeat offenders, and some of them, given time to completely dry out for the first time in years, just might stay sober, learn to like feeling good again. But any serious attempt to address the socially demoralizing and endlessly public spectacle of free range drunks and versions of Scotty and Kalisha destroying public morale by their constant, untreated public presence, has got to involve the judges, the cops, the city councils, and the supervisors. There are no signs this will happen, but we live in hope!

HUMBOLDT COUNTY, which has a larger population of homeless people and larger problem with tweaker crime, maintains a “homeless court” that at least tries to get the drug and alcohol-addicted some help. There are many reasonably successful homeless models in various areas of the country that Mendo might learn from.

WE REMEMBER discussions between Sheriff Allman and (now former) HumCo Sheriff Mike Downey aimed at a jointly operated county farm located on land near Piercy whose owner was willing to lease the site for token rent for exactly that purpose. Revive that one.

MENDO already has a number of pieces in place, expensive pieces whose work, to varying degrees, which could be aimed at Kalisha and Scotty (metaphorically speaking here). There's the lavishly privatized Ortner Management Group whose alleged specialty is mental health, and there's what's left of non-privatized County Mental Health itself. And we've got the courts, the realignment program, Prop 63 money, and so on. If all this stuff somehow got on the same page, and they would get on the same page if the courts demanded it, we might at last get back to the future — a County farm where the chronics would spend time until they got straight. If they never got straight, they'd live out their days at Camp Mendo.

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A READER WRITES: “No doubt you've enjoyed every polished phrase in the wine mob's masturbatory 24-page snow job about "sustainability" (undefined in 24 pages), that arrived in the Sunday PD. Then, tucked away on page T2, older wine guy Lance Cutler is quoted, "The local wine industry has been taken over by corporations run by businessmen, and they are determined to squeeze every last drop they can out of the revenue stream." And soon, with legalization of marijuana, the conversion of the North Coast into a full-blown Intoxicant Disneyland for rich tourists will really take off. Happy happy!”

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A Northern California man who was convicted of masterminding a plot to blow up two federal facilities and had his 20-year sentence cut short because prosecutors failed to turn over all their evidence to defense lawyers says he was entrapped by a female FBI informant for whom he harbored romantic feelings.

Eric McDavid spent nine years in federal custody for what FBI agents alleged was as an eco-terrorist plot in the name of the Earth Liberation Front. In his first interview since his Jan. 8 release from prison, the 37-year-old Placer County resident told The Sacramento Bee ( that he is even more distrustful of the government now than he was before his 2006 arrest.

"Nobody could ever get me my nine years back," McDavid said in the interview. "What was taken in those nine years, you can't get that back."

The same judge who presided at his trial ordered McDavid released based on the government's failure to turn over the evidence, which included emails and a love letter from McDavid to the undercover informant, who has been identified in court papers only as Anna.

Defense attorneys say the communications would have bolstered their argument that McDavid was induced by sex and that the alleged conspiracy was hatched only at the prodding of the informant, who supplied money for bleach and other bomb-making supplies. Prosecutors have said the emails and letter were withheld inadvertently and would not have changed the outcome of his jury trial.

McDavid pleaded guilty to a lesser charge this month as part of a plea deal in which he was sentenced to time served and also agreed not to sue the government. McDavid, however, insists he and two co-defendants who testified against him never planned to destroy a hydroelectric dam and a US Forest Service genetics lab, as federal officials claimed.

"No, we were not going to blow anything up," McDavid told The Bee. "The Nimbus Dam stuff, that was her idea. That was Anna's idea."

He recounted the day he and the two co-defendants were arrested in a Kmart parking lot. He said he was loading parcels in the trunk of a car when he heard the door locks click closed and wondered why Anna was talking on a cellphone inside.

"And right then, there must have been around nine vehicles pull up screeching, doors opening before vehicles even stop. I got a Suburban about 15 yards off to my right, Ninja turtles jumping out, AR15s, everything," he said. "And I just go, 'Oh, that's what that was'."

McDavid said he is trying to figure out what his next steps will be. He is thinking about teaching yoga, a practice he learned in prison.

"I can bake," he said. "If you need bread for a thousand guys, or cakes or cookies or turnovers or doughnuts."

(Courtesy, the Associated Press)

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Letter to Editor,

Regarding Bruce McEwen's piece (AVA, January 14, 2015) concerning legal maneuvers by District Attorney David Eyster as to Judge Clay Brennan, who usually presides in Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg: While Mr. McEwen wrote quite critically of Judge Brennan regarding a recent day of court hearings in the Ukiah Courthouse, I offer an experience in counterpoint:

About 18 months ago, I was present in Ten Mile Courtroom when Judge Brennan presided in a sentencing hearing. The defendant was an older man who suffered from a mental disturbance and was on government disability. He had clearly experienced a hard life. He was a first-time offender for the crime at hand, and he had, as I recall, plead guilty to possessing internet pornography of underage females. This material had been found during a search of his home by a probation officer.

Judge Brennan spoke eloquently and at length about the ongoing damage to the underage victims in such circumstances. The defendant, in tears, spoke of his remorse and his intent to never engage in such activities again. Judge Brennan noted the possible penalties for this crime, weighing these possibilities against their impact on the defendant's apparently fragile and precarious social/economic circumstances. Judge Brennan noted finally that he did “not want to destroy your life” by imposing overly harsh penalties on the defendant that might throw him into an ongoing life crisis.

Though I don't recall the exact terms of the sentence, the terms set by the judge seemed to me justly stern while not onerous. Judge Brennan ended the hearing with a serious admonition that if the defendant ever came back to court on similar charges, a different approach would be in order.

This hearing of 15-20 minutes was, I felt, a model of considered and conscientious community-based justice. I left Ten Mile Courtroom that day impressed and moved by what I had observed in this matter. It seemed to me — I am a social worker by profession — that justice with a fair balance of measured discipline as well as compassion had been administered by Judge Brennan.

So I offer this experience to you and your readers as a contrast to Mr. McEwen's piece, which I thought contained rather mean-spirited commentary about Judge Brennan. Thanks for allowing me to provide this example of a judge who clearly in this instance honorably and fairly fulfilled his difficult role.

Chuck Dunbar, Fort Bragg

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Jan 18, 2015

Anderson, Evans, Jones, Luna
Anderson, Evans, Jones, Luna

DEBORAH ANDERSON, Ukiah. Domestic battery.

WILLIAM EVANS, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)

ALYSSA JONES, Kirkland, Washington/Ukiah. DUI, possession of switchblade.

JEREMIAH LUNA, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.

Maldonado-Mata, McPeak, Motts, Pena
Maldonado-Mata, McPeak, Motts, Pena

RAFAEL MALDONADO-MATA, Ukiah. DUI, minor in possession of alcohol, possession of controlled substance and smoking-injecting device, giving false information to police.

TODD MCPEAK, Woodenville, Washington/Ukiah. Honey Oil manufacture, possession of pot for sale, armed with firearm.

RHONDA MOTTS, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.

JOSE PENA, Willits. Possession of more than an ounce of pot.

Pena, Rodriguez, Shannon, Wolfe, Wright
Pena, Rodriguez, Shannon, Wolfe, Wright

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, Willits. Possession of more than an ounce of pot.

SEAN SHANNON, Willits. Domestic assault, false imprisonment with violence, sodomy.

RICHARD TILLMAN, Ukiah. Under influence of controlled substance, child endangerment, probation revocation.

LARRY WOLFE, Ukiah. Drunk in public, resisting arrest.

ERIC WRIGHT, Ukiah. Resisting arrest, probation revocation.

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by Sonya Nesch

1-18-15 — In delving into Mendocino County Mental Health, and Mental Health Services Act Budgets, the following patterns appear and questions arise:

  1. No Beginning Balances and Ending Balances? Where are they? MH has a $1.3M balance for services as of June 30, 2011 (page 51). This balance doesn’t appear under MH Revenue in FY 2011-12. Where did it go?
  2. Understated Revenue from $1M to 13.6 M
  3. Overstated Appropriations from $1M to 1.9 M
  4. Overstated Salaries & Employee Benefits by inflating number of employees

Inflating “Employee Salaries and Benefits” allows the supervisors to think staffing is appropriate and allows opportunity for “carryovers”. How much of the 2013-14 $8.8M carryover is due to “Unanticipated Vacancies” with MH, MHSA and AODP severely understaffed but with many “allocated” positions padding “Employee Salaries and Benefits”? The following chart shows the decreases in staffing levels and grossly inflated “allocated FTE” for 2013-14.


Where are the 2 known MHSA employees counted now?

Who are the 26 AODP employees, where do they work and what do they do? Only 3 are known.

How many employees does Mental Health really have? Only 14 are known.

Why does staff inflate Mental Health employees? We know that MH employee salaries are inflated with 12 DSS Katie A employees and an unknown number of Probation Department employees. Staff says MH is reimbursed for this but it does not appear to be true for each of the years it has been done. How many Probation Department employees are on the MH payroll? What years was Mental Health reimbursed and for how much? How much should they have been reimbursed?

  1. Contingency Fund Rollover – Are there Mental Health Contingency Funds that had a carryover and how much is in each? There are additional mysterious funds (Reserve, Special, Services, Designated) and then all the “Transfers” that are not defined in the budget. Where does this money go? Why?

The “Mental Health Services Fund” looks like this. Why is Mental Health selected for this?

General Fund: $232,190

Debt Service Fund: $43,737

Pension Obligation Fund: $348,819


Over $1M is taken out of Mental Health patient Revenue and given to the County when you add the .5 million dollars of A-87 money (BU 5802) put into the General Fund. Is this a fair share compared to other Departments? How is this calculated?

Do Supervisors see the shocking differences between the Mental Health Budgets in September and the January Final Budget? Why are there 2 different sets of 2012-13 Mental Health 4050 “Actuals” with wildly different revenues and expenditures? Why aren’t “Actuals” Actual?

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You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it — it's the 
only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks 
your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually 
 But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of 
a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, 
drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, 
the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything 
that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is 
singing, everything that is speaking… ask what time it is and 
wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be 
drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be
 continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

— Charles Baudelaire

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A Redwood Valley man, part of a Santa Rosa law firm, was arraigned Friday in federal court on suspicion of multiple charges including money laundering of $300,000, the United States District Attorney's Office said.

Robert Anderson, a Santa Rosa attorney from Redwood Valley, along with partner Scott Steever, of Rohnert Park, were each indicted before a federal grand jury in San Francisco on Dec. 18, 2014, on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, six counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

Anderson voluntarily surrendered and made his initial appearance Friday in federal court in San Francisco. Steever was arrested and made his initial appearance Thursday in federal court. The men were each released on $100,000 bond.

According to the indictment, Anderson and Steever, who were both partners at the law firm Lanahan, Steever and Anderson LLP, formerly known as Lanahan and Reilly LLP, in Santa Rosa, spent approximately $300,000 that was to be held in a trust account for a client, identified in the indictment as B.M., and used the money to pay expenses that were not related to B.M.'s representation.

In November 2009, B.M. gave the law firm the $300,000, according to the indictment. Some of the money was intended to be used for outstanding legal issues and the remaining balance was to be returned to her.

The U.S. District Attorney's Office stated that shortly after the check was deposited, Anderson and Steever, and law firm employees acting at the defendants' direction, began spending B.M.'s funds without authorization on expenses unrelated to the representation of B.M.

By April 2010, all of the funds held on behalf of B.M. had been spent. In March 2012, after an attorney acting on behalf of B.M. asked for an accounting of the money remaining in the account for the benefit of B.M,, Anderson sent B.M.'s attorney an e-mail in which he falsely represented that, as of February 2012, B.M. had a remaining trust balance of more than $252,000, according to the indictment.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Anderson and Steever are scheduled for an initial appearance on Feb. 4 in federal court.

(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal.)

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THE MESMERIZING GOLDEN GRATE BRIDGE ‘ZIPPER TRUCK’ that lays out $30 million safety barrier every day

by Wills Robinson

For more than 50 years, a worker was forced to sit on the back of a truck and slowly drop plastic tubes to set out lanes on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Every day, their direction and positioning changes to account for commuter traffic, meaning an employee had to go through the arduous task every 24 hours.

But a new piece of mesmerizing machinery means the traffic set up the 1.7-mile San Francisco structure can be completed in a matter of minutes.


A new 'zipper truck' has been introduced. The vehicle automatically lays and moves a lane barrier as it drives over the bridge.

Last weekend, the bridge was closed so the new safety barrier, designed to reduce the dangers of head-on crashes, could be set up.

For the longest period in its nearly 80-year history, the bridge was closed early Saturday to all but pedestrians, cyclists and buses to install the barriers on the 1.7-mile-stretch.

A survivor of a 2008 head-on crash on the bridge spoke Sunday from her wheelchair to help inaugurate the new barrier, made of steel-clad concrete blocks that can move across the span's six lanes to accommodate traffic demands.

Dr. Grace Dammann, who pushed for a safer median barrier since becoming paralyzed from the crash, said she decided to drive in the 'suicide lane' because she and her daughter were running late. Brian Clark, who was driving in the opposite direction, had just learned his father had terminal cancer.

'He passed out at the wheel, crossed over and hit my car,' Dammann recalled.

She said she and Clark became friends as they urged the district to approve the $30 million barrier.

'I am so grateful,' said Dammann, who came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Clark. 'Brian and I thank you.'

(Courtesy, the London Daily Mail.)

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SOLAR-POWERED WATER WHEEL is Cleaning Baltimore's Inner Harbor

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My grandfather (step) had many stories about Pancho Villa. He (Uncle Louie we called him) was born in 1900 in Mexico. Watching the Brando movie one afternoon, he got so upset, he was cussing in Spanish, and complaining about the false depiction of Villa. He hated that they made a hero out of him. "He was a cold-blooded killer!" he said, "He would find white people and rape the women in front of the husbands and fathers and then kill them, before torturing the men to death!" He said that he had helped his uncle take care of their horses, and they always paid way more than it cost. I loved hearing his stories, he could tell you about the "Roaring 20's" and it didn't look anything like the Humphrey Bogart movies. "They would machine-gun down the whole family on the porch just to get one guy!" Wish I would have had enough maturity back then to record his stories. He fought in two world wars, and helped train recruits in his early 50's for Korea. I can remember arguing with him about whether Anthony Quinn was Mexican. I said he was an Arab. Because of course when I was a teenager, I knew everything!

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Reminder for the AV Health Center Concerned Citizens Committee (CCC) meeting date: We will meet Monday, January 19th, at 5:30 PM at Mary Pat Palmer's residence, 2400 Highway 128, between Gschwend Road and Floodgate on the West side, about the 16.3 mile marker. Easy to find, spacious living room so please come join us! The next AV Health Center Board meeting is January 28th at the AV Historical Museum. At the CCC meeting we will prepare a written statement to give to the board. If you have agenda items for the CCC meeting, please email or call Mary Pat:; 895-3007. Basic issues remain constitution and responsibilities of the Board and Transparency. Currently on the agenda: 1. the letter from Brad Wiley that you have received earlier; 2. the website issue; 3. elections of Heidi Knott and JR Collins; 4. end of year financial report.

— Mary Pat Palmer

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by Brad Branan

On a Saturday morning in 2010, Clearlake police showed up at the home of 38-year-old Jimmy Ray Hatfield after he barricaded himself in his bedroom and told his parents he had a bomb.

Hatfield was mentally ill and thought someone was going to kill him, his parents told police. After a lengthy standoff, he was brought to a hospital, given an antipsychotic and a sedative and transported to the Lake County jail, records show.

The jail nurse received paperwork from the hospital detailing his psychotic state, but said she did not review it because that was the job of another nurse. That nurse wasn’t scheduled to work for another day and a half.

By then, Hatfield was found unresponsive in his cell, hanging from a bed sheet.

The company responsible for the jail’s health care, California Forensic Medical Group, was accused by Hatfield’s family of negligence in his death and settled the case for an undisclosed amount. It has faced allegations that it failed to provide proper care in dozens of US District Court cases over the last decade.

CFMG is the state’s largest for-profit correctional health care company, delivering medical service in 27 counties, including El Dorado, Placer, Mendocino and Yolo. The company also provides jail mental health service in 20 counties.

The company started in 1984 with a contract to provide care in Monterey County and has consistently grown by taking over inmate health care in small and medium-size counties. Bigger counties, including Sacramento, tend to provide their own correctional health care.

Since the state started sentencing lower level offenders to county jails instead of state prisons in 2011, attorneys who successfully sued the state over inmate health care are now suing counties. That realignment has prompted more counties to rely on private companies such as CFMG to oversee jail health care to control costs and reduce liability.

At least three county grand juries have criticized the company’s role in inmate deaths. Some investigations have been spurred by a spike in deaths — four people in Sonoma County in an 11-month period ending in 2007 and four people in nine months in Santa Cruz County after CFMG took over health care in 2012.

Sonoma County officials are promising yet another investigation following the death of four inmates in less than a month last year.

A common thread in the reports and court complaints: CFMG allegedly provides insufficient mental health and detoxification services, two of the most persistent needs in jails.

In a 10-year period ending in May 2014, 92 people died of suicide or a drug overdose while in the custody of a jail served by CFMG, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of a state Department of Justice database. CFMG’s population-adjusted rate for such deaths is about 50% higher than in other county jails. Most of the people who died in such cases were not yet convicted of a crime, according to the state database, as is the case for most jail fatalities.

“There have been needless deaths under the watch, care and authority of this organization,” said Monterey County Public Defender James Egar.

The company has settled six lawsuits in five years but has not admitted any wrongdoing, said CFMG Chief Executive Officer Kip Hallman, who declined to provide the amounts of the settlements. He said that the company has faced litigation because it works in the highly scrutinized field of correctional health, and that legal challenges are not reflective of the quality of CFMG’s work. Hallman and others at CFMG declined to discuss the lawsuits.

Elaine Hustedt, chief operating officer and a company co-founder, said, “We’re proud of what we do. Are we perfect? No, but nobody is.”

Staffing vs. profit

Michael Bien, a Bay Area attorney suing the company in Monterey County along with Egar and the American Civil Liberties Union, said CFMG puts inmates at risk.

“The profit motive is inconsistent with constitutional levels of care,” he said. “The less medical and mental health products provided by CFMG, the more profit is consumed by CFMG.”

Bien said he hasn’t found anything improper about the company’s Monterey County contract, but he said the agreement creates an incentive to limit costs because the county pays CFMG a set amount, regardless of how many doctor visits or prescriptions are needed.

CFMG’s agreements in Yolo and Placer counties are similar, with the company agreeing to be “financially responsible for the medical costs of all persons” in Placer County’s jails for $3.7 million a year, and agreeing to provide services in Yolo County for $3.3 million a year. Robin Faille, a recently retired captain of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, said the agreement has allowed the county to keep medical costs relatively flat in recent years even as it took responsibility for more lower level offenders.

If the jail population exceeds a certain level or a single medical expense exceeds $16,500, at least some of CFMG’s contracts call for counties to increase reimbursements to the company.

Hallman said CFMG doctors and nurses make medical decisions based on the circumstances of each case and not because of financial considerations.

However, in a 2002 lawsuit over the suicide of a young man in the Yolo County jail, company co-founder Dr. Taylor Fithian conceded that he had written a letter to one of his Yolo employees expressing concern that inmates were making “too many emergency room visits, hospitalizations and orthopedic visits,” according to Fithian’s deposition in the case. The lawsuit was settled for more than $800,000, almost all of which was paid by CFMG, according to the Associated Press.

In the case against Monterey County and CFMG over improper medical and mental health care in the jail, a central issue has been staffing. The parties selected independent experts to review mental health and medical care.

Richard Hayward, a Bay Area psychologist, found that “the mental health service suffers from understaffing.” Dr. Michael Puisis, author of a textbook on correctional health, found that medical staff was not “performing at an adequate level” and “staffing issues are a major contributor to deficiencies.”

CFMG and Monterey County declined to comment on the case, although CFMG attorneys have denied the allegations against the company.

When the reviews were completed in 2013, the company had 2.65 employees per 100 inmates in the Salinas jail. Monterey County recently approved an additional $3 million annually for health care workers and sick inmate transportation. The sheriff says the money was needed because inmates are staying in jail longer under realignment and require care for chronic conditions such as diabetes.

CFMG has had similar staffing ratios in the State capital region. In Yolo County, the company had 3.59 employees per 100 inmates in 2013. In Placer County, it was 2.79 employees per 100 inmates. The industry has no specific standard for staffing ratios “but the number of staff must be sufficient to ensure that there are no unreasonable delays in patients receiving necessary care,” according to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

In Yolo, Placer and other counties, CFMG relies on part-time doctors and psychiatrists, compared to larger counties that have those professionals on site full time. In Yolo and Placer counties, CFMG must have a doctor in the jails a minimum of 10 hours a week, and psychiatrists have to be on site eight or nine hours a week. Nurses and social workers provide the rest of the services.

The counties can choose to have professionals on site more at an additional cost.

Dr. William Douglas said he served as company medical director in Glenn and Colusa counties by working one day a week. Hallman said Douglas was terminated in 2013 for reasons unrelated to medical care. According to court records, prior to working for CFMG, Douglas was fired from separate jobs by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Sacramento County for withholding treatment from inmates. He disputes those claims.

Placer and Yolo county officials said they were not aware of CFMG’s problems. Told that CMFG had about the same staffing ratio in Placer County as the one found insufficient in Monterey County, Maureen Bauman, Placer’s behavioral health director, said her county has never had a significant problem with CFMG service in its 16-year relationship with the company. Faille, of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, which has contracted with CFMG for 24 years, gave a similar assessment.

Suicides questioned

According to state Department of Justice records, 72 people committed suicide in the last decade while in a jail served by CFMG.

In recent years, the company’s suicide prevention efforts have been challenged in the federal lawsuits in Monterey and Lake counties, as well as in a third case in Ventura County.

In his examination of the Monterey County jail, Dr. Pablo Stewart, an expert hired by plaintiffs in the case, reviewed three suicides since 2010. “In each case, problems with the jail’s mental health and suicide prevention programs appear to have contributed to the suicides,” he wrote. He pointed to inmates who were not given medicine or psychiatric consultation prior to their deaths.

In Ventura County, inmate Daniel Hernandez had a history of mental illness severe enough that he was once ruled incompetent to stand trial. According to testimony cited by a U.S. District Court judge, a CFMG psychiatrist and other employees were aware of his condition and were responsible for “Hernandez receiving no treatment for his mental health condition in the three months prior to his suicide and grossly insufficient monitoring, and thereby contributed to his death.” Hernandez committed suicide in 2009 and the case was settled for $775,000, court records state.

In a written proposal made to Fresno County officials in 2013, the company said it trains employees to identify suicide risks and prevent suicide. Nurses ask questions about mental conditions when inmates are booked, and those at risk for suicide are seen by psychiatrists and watched by CFMG and county custody staff.

But questions remain about whether the company dedicates enough resources to suicide reduction. About 20 percent of the inmates in CFMG jails were identified as having mental health needs in 2013. In Placer and Yolo counties, that is an average of 115 inmates each at any time. Yet the company is contracted to have a psychiatrist on site no more than nine hours a week, an average of less than five minutes of in-person psychiatric care each week.

Bauman, mental health director in Placer County, said inmates receive enough mental health care because a nurse with a psychology background and a clinical social worker also treat them. In Yolo County, two marriage and family therapists supplement the work of the psychiatrist.

Yolo County Capt. Larry Cecchettini said certification of the company’s work in the jail by the San Francisco-based Institute for Medical Quality shows that inmates receive proper care. The institute performs independent and voluntary reviews of correctional health services. Six of CFMG’s 27 adult jails have received the certification, while two have lost it in recent years.

In Yolo, Placer and other counties, the company also provides psychiatric care through telemedicine, psychiatrists who talk with inmates via video conferencing from CFMG headquarters in Monterey. The program lessens “the wait time for appointments that would otherwise not be able to be seen until the following week,” according to CFMG.

In a lawsuit filed in November, attorneys blame CFMG cost-cutting in general and telepsychiatry in particular for the May 2014 suicide of 37-year-old truck driver James Ellis Smith in the Lake County jail. Smith had a history of mental illness and made requests for psychiatric help during his four months in jail, but he was seen only three times by a psychiatrist on a video monitor.

That was “a wholly inadequate process for mental health care, with no purpose other than to save CFMG money by not having to bring a psychiatrist to the jail,” according to the complaint filed by attorneys representing Smith’s family.

CEO Hallman generally defended the use of telepsychiatry. “Telepsychiatry is a very effective way to deliver services,” he said. “The state of Texas provides all of its psychiatric services through telepsychiatry. In some rural areas, it’s the only way to get a psychiatrist.”

In a 2008 study in the journal Behaviorial Sciences and the Law, professors at East Carolina University found that telepsychiatry had the potential to improve access to mental health care in prisons and jails, particularly in rural areas. However, more research is needed on the effectiveness of the practice, the authors concluded.

Detox criticized

Alcohol and drug abuse are among the most pressing health problems in jails. They’re also a top cause of deaths in CFMG jails.

Twenty-one people died from alcohol or drug overdose in its jails in the last 10 years, second only to hanging and strangulation, according to the state database.

A related problem, drug and alcohol withdrawal, can contribute to fatalities. Longtime alcohol abusers can die from alcohol withdrawal, and people addicted to heroin and similar drugs can experience withdrawal symptoms that, combined with other chronic conditions, can result in death, according to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

Grand juries in Sonoma, Ventura and Santa Cruz counties have criticized CFMG for how it handles inmate detoxification. In a 2008 report titled “Death by Incarceration,” a Sonoma County grand jury found indications that “drug and alcohol withdrawal played key roles in three … deaths” and the company’s procedures failed to detect people at risk for alcohol withdrawal.

As a result, CFMG hired a national expert to craft a new method to identify and treat alcohol withdrawal, a process now used at all of its facilities, Chief Operating Officer Hustedt said.

Yet a Ventura County grand jury in 2013 cited failures in CFMG’s alcohol detoxification process as a reason for the death of a 53-year-old woman and recommended the county consider another medical provider. CFMG disputed the findings, pointing to evidence from the county’s medical examiner that the woman died from complications related to chronic alcoholism. The county stayed with CFMG.

In a May 2014 report, a Santa Cruz County grand jury examined five deaths, four of which happened after CFMG took over medical care in September 2012. The death spike led inmate activists to take to the streets of Santa Cruz, demanding an investigation.

Two of the four deaths on the company’s watch involved drug or alcohol detoxification, according to the grand jury report. One man told jail staff that he was detoxifying from heroin and methadone when he was booked at 10:45 p.m. in November 2012, but CFMG did not start treating him for withdrawal until 9:30 a.m. the following day. He died from withdrawal-related symptoms that evening, according to the report.

In its reply, CFMG disputed the claim that insufficient treatment played a role in either inmate’s death. Santa Cruz County also disputed the claims and said it would not implement the jury’s recommendation to improve detox services, saying that was up to the company, which uses “medically approved detoxification protocols.”

“It was all very frustrating,” said Nell Griscom, the grand jury’s forewoman.

(Courtesy, the Sacramento Bee.)


  1. Harvey Reading January 19, 2015

    The real eco-terrorists are welfare ranchers whose livestock destroy public lands.

    • LouisBedrock January 19, 2015

      Good article in current Harper’s about these parasites.

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