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February 10, 2007

California dreamin' nightmares

Howard Bashman has collected helpful materials highlighting two on-going important California sentencing stories:

February 10, 2007 at 03:07 PM | Permalink


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Politics. Gotta love it. Note what is not said in the sacbee.com rape case. How many years would the man get without the aggravating enhancements? The story does not say, nor does it say what all the charges were so we can look it up. The defendant was 43, so either way he would likely spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. No mention of that. The story also suggests the jury needs to evaluate criminal history. ("Prosecutors wanted to give Brown the longest sentence allowed by state law, 56 years, because of aggravating factors such as the exceptional cruelty of the crimes and Brown's long list of prior convictions.") A jury is not needed for that.

The story reads like a slap at the USSC and "activist judges."

Posted by: George | Feb 10, 2007 3:34:54 PM

California prison reform activist, columnist and mother of a prisoner harshly sentenced

Professor Berman:

Your website is an oasis of information for those who are the parents and family members of California prisoners especially.

I have a few desperately poor families whose loved ones have ideal cases of ridiculous sentences.

Do you have any students who could help us sort through a few travesties?

We are befuddled by the proposed Senate Bill 40 which addresses sentencing and Cunningham and whether or not we should support or oppose it.

We have made great strides in bringing our issues such as medical neglect and overcrowding by filing 27 wrongful death lawsuits ourselves.

My son in prison graduated from Blackstone as a paralegal, we are in dire need of fine legal minds on a number of life and death circumstances, bills and individual cases including those relating to Jessica's Law.

This is our website and I publish a daily newsletter which is how we finance our protests and supplies, copies, etc. Everyone sends in $5 a month. If you have any students that would like to subscribe to see the real world suffering of these families and the prisoners in California, I am happy to waive the $5 a month in exchange for some research and hopefully this experience will give deeper meaning to those pursuing legal careers.


Everyone is a volunteer, we have no paid staff but a tremendous amount of heart. The lawyers out here in practice are running up against brick walls that the system has in place on purpose, the entire thing is corrupt from arrest through parole and is blowing wide open in the press. People in prison are dying preventable deaths due to medical neglect and overcrowding, yet the Republican politicians keep coming up with more punishing bills to further their careers.

It is extremely challenging to organize the families who are emotionally and financially devastated but our group does have some doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers and even journalists who have a loved one lost to the prison industrial complex.

I can be emailed at rightor1@yahoo.com, I need volunteers on many different skill levels.

Rev. B. Cayenne Bird

Posted by: Rev. B. Cayenne Bird | Mar 2, 2007 3:25:22 PM

Of course, our questions are basic since we don't know what to ask in most instances, but everyone is concerned with retroactivity, particularly of Cunningham. It is my understanding that there is no application of these decisions to anyone who plea bargained. Is that correct? We also see quite a bit of disparity in sentencing. Is there an easy way for prisoners to look up other cases similar to theirs which might help them make a case for disparate sentencing in their appeals? We are so grateful for any help, you have no idea where most of our UNION members are living - one step from homelessness after sacrificing everything to fight for their loved ones to prevent them from going to our horrible prisons

Posted by: Rev. B. Cayenne Bird | Mar 2, 2007 3:33:47 PM


I am the mother of a prisoner in Rev. Bird's group, we have the prison reform and criminal just reform issues on the front burner and the front page out here in California. A lot of people are dying unnecessarily in this prisons and there's too much injustice. The above article talks about extending prison sentences of sex offenders. This seems unconstitutional to me, is it?

Stephanie Gooding, realsimple778@aol.com

Posted by: Stephanie Gooding | Mar 5, 2007 11:02:03 AM

My husband was sentenced to 2 years in prison in California, but he has to serve 50% of his time for a non-violent crime. Has the laws changed where the inmates have to serve 35% of their time in the place of the old law 50%?

Posted by: SADA | Mar 6, 2007 9:33:40 PM

SB 40, the sentencing bill related to the Cunningham decision was amended yesterday, we don't know whether to support or oppose this bill. Any comments are appreciated as we are lost in the legal language.

Here's the link to it.


Posted by: Rev. B. Cayenne Bird | Mar 10, 2007 2:15:21 AM

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