tv KQED Newsroom PBS October 31, 2015 2:00am-2:31am PDT
welcome to kqed newsroom are i'm thuy vu. new measures to protect golden eagles and more obstacles to home ownership. we begin with a look at efforts to reform the criminal justice system in california and across the nation. over the past year protests over police shootings have brought renewed attention to racial disparities in arrest, conviction, and incarceration rates. earlier this month president obama said as long as he is in the white house he will fight to make the criminal justice system fairer and more cost effective. >> 30 years ago there were 500,000 people behind bars in america. today there are 2.2 million.
the united states is home to 5 of the wor -- 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prisoners. every year we spend $80 billion to keep people locked up. many of the folks in prison absolutely belong there. our streets are safer thanks to the brave police officers and dedicated prosecutors who put violent criminals behind bars. but over the last few decades we've also locked up more nonviolent offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. that's one of the real reasons our prison population is so high. >> in california, efforts to reform the criminal justice system are already under way. one year ago, voters passed proposition 47. the landmark law reduces certain nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. it also gives felons convicted of those crimes an opportunity to have their sentence reduced. is prop 47 working? joining me to help answer that
question are george gascon, san francisco district attorney. brandon martin, research associate for public policy institute of california. david greenburg, chief deputy district attorney for san diego county. welcome to you all. mr. gascon, i wanted to begin with you. there are fewer inmates in california state prisons and local jails yet crime is up in some areas. is prop 47 working? >> i believe that it is. first of all, i think it would be a mistake to make any assumptions that prop 47 somehow is connected to any temporary increases in crime. there have been increases in crimes in other parts of the nation that are not impacted by prop 47. we have seen some jurisdiction where crime has stayed flat, others have gone up. we've seen san diego in the last month, crimes going down significantly in the county. i don't think we're going to explain month to month whether prop 47 is impacting these numbers yet. >> mr. greenburg, what concerns you about prop 47?
how is it working in san diego county where you are? >> well, what we have -- i heard people talk about recidivist rate. i was just provided statistical information from the city of san diego which does show that our violent claim rate has gone up about 8% since the enactment of prop 47. what we see is just a matter of how the system deals with everything. so when wetalked about people that have had their sentences reduced or people that were pending a case that had it reduced to a misdemeanor, of all of those individuals in san diego, at least, everybody that's had their sentence reduced, of those folks, 22% of those folks have had a new case filed against them. in san diego. so of those 22% that have had a new case filed against them in san diego, 65% were misdemeanors, 35% felonies. we're seeing what we call frequent flyer, we've had one
individual who's had 15 misdemeanor cases filed against him. so we're not talking about arrests or citations, actual cases. another person had four felony cases filed against him too. so it's really a matter of how people want to start working on these things. because people with significant criminal histories, if they commit just these possession of drugs or certain theft offenses, it's handled just as a misdemeanor. and oftentimes depending on the agency, they're not booked into county jail, they're given a citation to appear. so what we also see is an increase in our felony, our failures to appear in court, on the misdemeanor ftas as they're called. >> a comment on that, because what brian green bearing -- david greenburg, excuse me, seems to be saying is that the recidivism rate they're seeing in san diego county is much higher than other communities. what are you seeing in your study of how it's playing out? >> so we haven't seen any statewide numbers on recidivism. and that's sort of the issue
right now, is since it was passed in november, normally the crime information for statewide, which gives all counties at one time, is normally released a year at a time. and so once we get 2015 numbers, we'll have a better sense of what effect proposition 47 actually might have had on crime rates. it also can be complicated to do a statewide recidivism without sort of the yearly numbers as well. and so counties have been able to sort of do shorter-term studies which can cause problems when you look at just a six-month recidivism window. but until we have the statewide numbers, we can't say anything about the effect that proposition 47 has had on crime or on recidivism. >> mr. gascon, there has been discontent, there have been grumblings that people feel police officers in some departments are not arresting for misdemeanors because they figure, what's the point? these people are just going to
get a citation, they're not going to be sent to jail anyway. is that happening in san francisco? >> i think it's happening in many jurisdictions. first of all let's touch upon the recidivism rate. quite frankly if prop 47 population maintained a 22% recidivism rate, we should all be very happy because recidivism rate statewide has been as high as 70%. 22% recidivism rate would be a tremendous feat if in fact that is what is occurring and stayed there. but i think that the problem that you ask is an important area to explore. first of all, a misdemeanor conviction is not a get out of jail conviction. it implies that you could be in jail up to one year. and officers do not have to cite and release. there are many reasons, in fact, there are ten different factors within the penal code that allow an officer to actually book somebody for a misdemeanor arrest and some counties are doing so, others are not. i think that the problem is that
we in law enforcement, i include myself in that generation, we grew up in a system where we got used to locking up a lot of people and we felt that that was the best way to provide for public safety. we continue to increase the number of prisons that have to be built. we built 22 prisons in 30 years. we built one uc campus. we went from a budget of 1 billion a year in corrections to $10 billion a year. we went to a failure rate of about 70%, meaning 70% recidivism, by 2005-06. we have a system that is broken. and what we did is we began to use prison systems as a hospital for the mentally ill and those with substance abuse. >> let me ask david greenburg to come back into the conversation at this point. you made two points i think we'd want to respond to. 22% recidivism rate is actually an improvement, according to mr. gascon. and also david greenburg, do you
agree with his assessment that prop 47 is not a get out of jail free card? >> so i'll address the first part. on the 22% recidivism, that is solely on the individuals that have had a petition to reduce their sentence granted. and it's not even one year. we're closing in on a year. whenever you do studies like the other person on the panel said, you need a longer-term period of time. most of the time when you do a recidivism study you're looking for a three-year period of time. i can be corrected if i'm wrong. it's usually a three-year period of time on those recidivism rates. so i would say right now what we're looking at is not a good thing, that that many people on that small population -- we're not talking the general population, we're talking that small group of individuals. and then in terms of the get out of free jail card, there's two things to that. many of the theft offenses now are 180-day maximum jail
sentence. so someone that could have gone to local prison because they wouldn't go to state prison because of ab 109, local prison, the maximum tear is 180 days. so you think, oh, 180 days, that's fine. but factor in good time credit, you're talking 90 days of actual time. on your possession of drugs cases, it's 364 days of a sentence actual time more like 162 days. >> ab 109, you're talking about realignment? >> correct. so what happened is all of the offenses that are listed and contained within prop 47 are offenses where if a person was convicted of those offenses as a felony, they would be housed in the local jail. they would not go to state prison. they would only go to state prison if they had a prior strike conviction, for instance, robbery, voluntary manslaughter, residential burglary. if they had those types of convictions they would go to prison.
otherwise they would already be handled and stay locally. >> are you seeing cases where some offenders are learning to beat the system, perhaps? i read about one man, for example, who was arrested with a calculator in his hand to make sure that the things he was stealing did not add up to more than $950, at which point it becomes a felony. are you seeing cases like that? >> you see those cases. yes. i mean, the people that are hardened criminals, they understand what's going on. and they can change their behavior to deal with that. i don't disagree with the district attorney that for those people that want help, we need to offer them help. i can speak in san diego. all of the offenses that were made straight misdemeanors now, except for possession of heroin or cocaine, all of those other cases were called wobblers. you could file them as a misdemeanor if you wanted. you can deal with them in any manner you wanted. in san diego what we would do is you look at the offender, you look at the criminal history, you look at everything about that person and say, what's the best way to handle this person?
so many people that get picked up on drug offenses that had strike -- prior convictions in san diego, we would dismiss the strike prior and try to handle them locally. and in fact a lot of those folks would be in our drug court, which is very effective, and we've seen a reduction in people in drug court. so those folks now don't have as much incentive to be in drug court unless they're completely down and out. whereas before, maybe we could get them to see the light a little earlier. so i don't disagree that we want to try to do that. but what happened is we've lost a lot of tools and flexibility to accomplish that goal. >> i want to jump in at this point. you bring up drug court, which is very interesting. i want to ask you about that, brandon martin. because without the threat of a felony conviction, what incentive is there for people to go to drug court and get the kind of rehab they needed? because that was part of the thinking behind prop 47 was to give people a second chance in life. >> yeah, part of the thinking
behind prop 47 was the thing about second chances. we don't have at this point numbers on the statewide use of drug courts after proposition 47. several counties have reported some dips. but i believe as the district attorney said, in terms of handle it locally, there are ways to sort of expand who you're selecting for drug court and other incentives that the county could handle within the law. >> so prop 47 with all the releases, there are some monetary savings, quite significant. where will that money go and how will it be spent, when will we start seeing it being spent? >> so that money will become available in 2016. it will come back to the counties and the cities for drug rehabilitation, for mental health services, for k-12 education, for victims of violent crimes. i think when we talk, for instance about drug court, it's
important to remember that there's still, as brandon indicated, there are other ways to get people into drug court. if we really want to make drug court more of a tool, then perhaps we should create legislation that requires that drug court be mandatory. i think that the problem with the whole concept of this hammer that weer talked about is that hammer is so damaging across the board. when you have people that get a felony conviction for a low-level offse, you are precluding them from doing so many things like getting housing, getting employment, being re-inter greated into society. we reassure they continue to stay in the system and prop 47 is trying to move away from that. >> we'll see how it continues to play out and maybe bring you back in a year, see how things have progressed in a year from now. thanks to all of you. district attorney george gascon, brandon martin ppic, david greenburg, chief deputy district attorney in san diego. >> you're welcome. if you've ever driven
through the alta mont pass near livermore you've noticed thousands of turbines in the area. those turbines generate energy from the wind but they also pose a threat to the thousands of birds that fly through the alta mont. hundreds of birds of prey die in collisions with turbines every year. this week one of the largest wind farm operators at the alta mont says it's shutting down all its turbines. the company want toth replace them with more efficient turbines. kqed science reports biologists say such steps are needed to protect threatened species. >> reporter: the alta mont pass east of san francisco is home to hundreds of bird species. they hunt and play in the midst of 3,000 wind turbines. those turbines can be deadly, especially to golden eagles. >> there's an eagle right there. >> eagle, eagle! >> below the horizon -- >> reporter: biologist doug
bell, sean smallwood, and joe diganado study golden eagles. >> it's got white in its tail which means it's a younger bird. characteristic of a golden eagle is that the birds have what it at the base of the tail and wings in their earlier years, year 1 to year 3 or 4. >> reporter: many young golden eagles live in the alta mont says biologist doug bell. >> the alta mont pass wind resource area is adjacent to one of the densest nesting populations of golden eagles in the world. >> reporter: golden eagles are protected under federal law. it's illegal to kill a single eagle without a permit. according to county estimates, 35 golden eagles were killed by the alta mont turbines in 2013. scientists call the alta mont a population sink. >> their population's going down the drain. the alta mont is killing more eagles than the local population can reproduce.
so it's taking out more youngsters than they can produce and replace themselves with. >> reporter: that appears to be what happened to this young eagle. >> the primary injury on this bird is the left wing. there's an amputation at the carpal joint. the carpal bone is shattered. >> reporter: today the california department of fish and wildlife's krista rogers is performing a necropsy, similar to a human autopsy. >> we describe this as blunt-force trauma, consistent with a wind turbine strike, given the location where the bird was found. >> reporter: researchers knew the bird well. >> the transmitter is going to stay on here about three years. >> reporter: she was one of 18 golden eagles, like this one, that bell and dinardo are following through radio transmitters. >> go! >> reporter: four have diedur after hitting turbines. but not before revealing very useful information. >> one of the more valuable things we've learned from our
transmitters we place on eagles is they use the alta mont a lot. so that really means that everything they do out there is going to have an effect on golden eagles. >> reporter: shortly after the alta mont's wind farms opened in the 1980s, scientists discovered the turbines were killing hundreds of birds of prey each year. that hurt the development of wind energy, says the audubon society's michael lines. >> the alta mont was seen as a black eye for renewable energy. any time somebody was proposing a new wind farm it would raise the specter of the alta mont pass. >> reporter: 2005 some audubon society chapters and other environmental groups sued to get wind companies to protect birds here. >> so the companies agreed to remove portions of their turbine fleets from 2006 to 2018 when they were turn off all their old turbines. we wanted to move to getting the old turbines out of the alta mont pass. in a process called repowering up the 30 old turbines can be replaced with one single
turbine, which results in significantly less bird mortality. >> reporter: all the turbines in this wind farm, about 300 in total, have been turned off in preparation for repowering. soon they'll be replaced by just ten turbines. >> it's time to pull the old machines down and put new ones up. >> reporter: rick miller works for edf renewable energy, the california-based company that owns the wind farm. he says the repowering process will cost $35 million and will be partly offset by federal production tax credits for wind energy. turbines like this will produce enough electricity to power 12,000 california homes for a year. >> the turbines are becoming much larger, larger rotor diameters, taller towers. we've been able to reduce the number of turbines required to produce a tremendous amount of energy from the same site. >> reporter: that means there aren't as many for birds to hit. companies can also place the
turbines more strategically. scientists believe fewer turbines and better placement are key to protecting wildlife. >> 300 meters above ground -- >> reporter: ecologist sean smallwood has been studying birds in the alta mont since the late 1990s. he advises companies on where to p their turbines to minimize bird deaths. this wind farm called windeasta, "beautiful view," is one of the first. >> the repowering that happened there was very effective, i think. it probably reduced avian fatalities by 8% or better. >> this is where the old turbines were. this is nesting. fatality rate was high. when we repowered we put the now turbines on the top of the hill where the birds are not so the fatality rate dropped to zero. three years of monitoring, that's why. >> reporter: smallwood says whem the alta mont was first built, wind energy companies installed
over 7,000 turbines, more than twice as many as there are today. they gave little consideration to bird safety. >> those are the most dangerous turbines in the alta mont pass on record. 1 one is on record having killed one eagle per year for ten years. there's a lot of eagle traffic through the alta mont pass. >> reporter: the birds fly lower in some areas to avoid wind resistance and to hunt for ground squirrels. golden eagles have keen eyesight which is good for hunting prey but it doesn't help the birds detect wind turbines. especially when they're focused on other things. >> social interactions are very important. so an eagle responding to other eagles, chas each other around, chasing some other buries. these are dangerous social interactions that lead up to what we call events, near-misses. >> reporter: the federal government has recently stepped up enforcement of laws aimed at protecting golden eagles.
it's prosecuted two wind companies whose turbines killed golden eagles in wyoming. according to the u.s. fish and wildlife scott flaherty. >> the prosecution of those two companies certainly sent a message to dos across the country. there is incentive to come in and work with us. >> reporter: that incentive is new permits which allow wind companies to kill a small number of golden eagles each year. >> we approach the permits as a positive step which might seem a little counter intuitive. why would audubon be okay with people giving permission to kill birds? before, it was chaos, no real regulation, no real force nosement, birds were getting killed in large numbers. now we can actually track that, hold people accountable, take steps to remedy the problem. >> reporter: with :repowering ad a greater understanding of bird behavior, scientists and environmental groups hope there can be more clean energy with fewer bird deaths. unless you have a lot of money, buying a house in the bay area is not easy.
home prices in the region have jumped more than 8% during the past 12 months. according to data from corelogic in santa clara and san francisco counties, prices have increase ed by 16%. our guests made a documentary about their struggle to buy a home in this market. >> we live in silicon valley, california. home to google. facebook. apple. and just about every other tech company you can think of. >> it's the google car! >> lately it seems like the bigger the tech companies get, the less room there is for middle-class families like us. >> joining me now are the filmmakers, michelle joyce and steve fife, welcome to you both. >> thank you. >> why did you decide to film your experience? >> well, i've lived in the bay area my whole life. and we decided that we wanted to purchase a home in the bay area.
we're renters, we've been saving for years. and it seems like we just sort of woke up one day and looked around and prices had practically doubled. and suddenly we just realized that we've been completely priced out of the region. >> so you spent about nine months working on this documentary. you first posted it on facebook about two weeks ago. what kind of response have you gotten? >> there's been a huge outpouring. and a lot of the reaction that we've got is from people who tell us that they're in a very similar situation to us. very quickly after posting on facebook, the video had more than 200,000 views. and was shared more than 4,000 times. >> how did your understanding of the housing crisis change during this filming? >> we really take for granted some of the crazy things that we've learned through this process. for example, ghost houses are a big thing i think would be shocking to a lot of people. >> what are ghost houses?
>> ghost houses are unoccupied homes that were purchased for investment purposes, and the owner just doesn't want the bother of tenants, so it sits empty. in the middle of a housing shortage and a housing crisis, it's shocking to know that there are so many unoccupied homes. >> and is it primarily foreign investors doing this or all types of investors? >> the real estate agent we talked to said he estimated that 10% to 20% of the foreign investors who purchased houses through him leave those homes totally unoccupied. we're talking about houses that could rent for $4,000, $5,000 a month that are sitting unoccupied in areas where there's incredible demand and need for that housing. >> i want to ask you about the last sound bite in your documentary. because it was a very interesting one. and it comes from real estate agent ken delion, and this is what he says. >> i think that the person who's working hard at google has more
of a right to be here than somebody just because their parents were here and they complain they can't afford a home. get more education. work harder. that's my advice to them. >> that's quite a statement. why do you decide to end your documentary with him? and that quote? >> well, i feel like there's a lot of shameha involved in sayi, we've been priced out. i think a lot of people do feel that they've done something wrong or made some sort of terrible life ecision. and i think that a lot of people look at the struggling middle class and think the same thing. the cards are stacked against the middle class. it's a very economically hostile environment here. and i know a lot of people who are working as hard as they possibly could. there's one woman in the documentary, and she commutes for five hours one way sometimes to get to work. and you can't tell her to work harder. >> are you thinking of going out
of state? >> you know, we want to stay here as long as we can. but i'd be lying if i said we hadn't seriously considered moving out of the area. i've lived in the bay area for the past 15 years. but i grew up in australia. one of the dispiriting things we learned in researching the documentary is that sydney and melbourne and other majorm citis in australia are experiencing a very similar housing bubble. and a lot of the media reports in those areas are saying that a lot of that incredible increase is being driven by a large amount of unregulated money coming from mainland china as well. >> what impact do you hope your film will have? what's happening here as you pointed out is happening in a lot of other desirable destinations. >> right. it's happening all around the pacific rim. if you look at vancouver, b.c., median house rice there is $1.5 million. it's happening in sydney, australia. it's happening in auckland, new zealand. i think one of the things that we hope to do with the documentary is just to have a conversation about these things and to start the process of
looking at potential solutions. >> okay. well, it's certainly very interesting. you managed to weave a lot into your short documentary. thank you both for being here with us today. michelle joyce and steve fife. >> thank you. i'm thuy vu. thanks so much for watching. for all of kqed news coverage go to kqednews.org.
kacyra: it kind of was, like, the bang that set off the night. rogers: that is the funkiest restaurant. thomas: the honey-walnut prawns will make your insides smile. [ laughter ] klugman: more tortillas, please! khazar: what is comfort food if it isn't gluten and grease? braff: i love crème brûlée. sobel: the octopus should have been, like, quadripus, because it was really small. sbrocco: and you know that when you split something, all the calories evaporate, and then there's none. whalen: that's right.