From the President

March 27, 2015

We just wrapped up our annual two-day meeting in Sacramento, which includes a full day dedicated to our legislative day at the Capitol. It was a great opportunity for our member organizations to meet their state legislators, and explain to the legislators the importance of Probation and its role within the criminal justice system. The meetings also gave us an opportunity to review this year’s bills, those that were of concern to us and those that we support. Thanks to the following organizations who co-hosted this year’s two-day meeting: the Sacramento County Probation Association, the San Joaquin County Probation Officers Association, the Solano Probation Peace Officers Association, the Yolo County Probation Association, and the Yuba County Probation Peace Officers Association!

Of the bills discussed, we focused in on our two jointly sponsored bills for this year – SB 428 (Jury Duty Exemption) and AB 989 (Juvenile Records). Both of these bills are jointly sponsored by SCOPO and CPOC (the Chief Probation Officers of California). SB 428 would exempt probation peace officers from serving on criminal juries. Some of you have served on these juries, and know the uncomfortable feeling during the voir dire process when personal questions are asked, subsequently jeopardizing the safety of you and your family. Other groups like sheriff’s deputies and police officers are already exempt by the law, and yet others (i.e. judges and attorneys) are excused from the selection process by the nature of their job. Why shouldn’t we be afforded the same treatment on an ongoing basis? Some at the Capitol have argued that removing us from the jury duty pool would shrink the size of the pool for trials, but that is untrue. We are only asking to be removed from criminal proceedings; which would still leave us eligible for civil proceedings. Isn’t our safety enough to justify the change for our protection?

Passage of our other bill, AB 989, would correct an unintentional oversight by the passage of last year’s SB 1038 (Leno). That bill amended section 782 WIC and added 786 WIC, which automatically seals a minor’s record upon successful completion of their probation. The problem for us is that we know too often that a minor can be adjudicated at 13 or 14 years of age, satisfactorily complete their probation, and then be rearrested before they reach the age of 18. Current law would not allow us to pull our own records for dispositional reports; including making a recommendation pertaining to placement and/or rehabilitative placement. AB 989 would give us back access to information that is necessary to properly gain insight into a minor’s background and suitability for proper placement.

In addition to bills that we support, we also discussed bills that are on our radar and are of concern to us. Foremost to us, is SB 124 (Juvenile Solitary Confinement) which would effectively ban the use of “solitary confinement” for juveniles. The traditional usage of solitary confinement as an isolated and oppressive means to lock down youth for extended periods of time is just not used any longer in California. There are times where juveniles are temporarily separated from the general population for their own safety, the safety of other juveniles, or the safety of the staff. And, when those juveniles are separated from the general population their basic necessities are attended to, and are not suspended during their separation. Both their separation from the general population and the supervision of their basic needs are governed by Code of Regulations, Juvenile Title 15. Facilities have been run under Title 15 for many years, and every indication that I’ve received tells me that the current system works.

Reflecting on this last week’s activities, it reminded me of how important it is for all of us to do our part in educating legislators and the public about our issues. Not just at the state level, but in our own counties; especially with our local Board of Supervisors. Become informed about issues that are important to your members and our profession, meet and educate your legislators about the job we do and why it is important to adequately fund the work of Probation. All of us need to be fighting for the preservation and increase in funding for Probation, and for issues that are important to your quality of life – both for personal safety and for the quality of work you do on a daily basis.

Stay alert, stay safe, and stand committed.

Paul Brennan
SCOPO President