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Archive for March, 2019

Last Tuesday’s press release from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections read very much like the one of OCTOBER 13, 2016:

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections Division of Probation and Parole is a Step Closer to Earning ACA Reaccreditation

 

Auditors praise Louisiana’s Division of Probation and Parole

 

BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, American Correctional Association (ACA) auditors gave perfect scores to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Division of Probation and Parole (P&P) during the reaccreditation audit. ACA staff conducted a thorough review of the Probation and Parole’s policies, procedures, and practices this week, and praised the Division, calling it a cohesive unit that runs effectively and efficiently. The Division of Probation and Parole must obtain 100 percent on mandatory standards, and 90 percent on non-mandatory standards in order to receive accreditation. P&P scored 100 percent on both mandatory and non-mandatory standards. ACA accreditation is a voluntary process, but one that is tremendously important to the overall safety of the public, P&P staff and those under community supervision.

The ACA requires reaccreditation every three years. Some of the things auditors look for include:

  • Written policy and procedures to establish a training and staff development program for all employees
  • Assessments that cover administration and management, the physical plant, Division operations and services
  • Quality of life concerns for staff and individuals under community supervision, and programming available to those under community supervision

“Accreditation is a good indication of the high levels of public safety and professionalism in our Division of Probation and Parole,” said Secretary James M. LeBlanc. “I’m very proud of the men and women in this division who work very hard each day and strive to make this one of the best community supervision divisions in the country.”

“We do the best we can do to influence people’s lives,” said Eddie Porter, ACA Corrections Consultant. “You never know who you are having a positive impact upon. But I will praise you, you are having a positive impact on the people you supervise.”

“My Probation and Parole staff are the key to the success of our reaccreditation,” said Pete Fremin, director of the Division of Probation and Parole. “We have a dedicated staff who are committed to public safety, and genuinely passionate to the successful rehabilitation of the people they supervise.”

ACA grades each participating community corrections division across the country on 174 standards, 6 of which are mandatory.

The reaccreditation process continues in August at the American Correctional Association’s summer conference in Boston, Massachusetts. At that time, representatives from the Department’s Division of Probation and Parole will go before the Commission on Accreditation to defend the results of the audit. 

LouisianaVoice has written about ACA accreditation on several occasions because the real criteria for accreditation is not how well prisons are run but how much is paid to ACA and because of the COZY RELATIONSHIP between LDOC and ACA, going back at least as far as previous LDOC Secretary Richard Stalder, a one-time ACA president, and continuing with president secretary Jimmy LeBlanc.

But LouisianaVoice is not the only one to write about the shady accreditation procedures of ACA. Prison Legal News had an interesting STORY back in October 2014 about how the courts have taken a dim view of ACA accreditation and how accreditation does not necessarily translate into a well-run program. In fact, the story said, some prisons have experienced significant problems despite receiving ACA accreditation.

Perhaps the most critical story is the 2013 ACCOUNT of how an assistant director of probation and parole attempted in 2011 to have the department push judges to refer offenders to the Academy of Training Skills (ATS) in Lacassine, run by Chester Lee Mallett of Iowa, LA. In Calcasieu Parish. In 2012 Jindal appointed Mallett to the LSU Board of Supervisors. Jindal, in 2010, had appointed Mallett to the State Licensing Board for Contractors.

Mallett and several companies controlled by him contributed more than $30,000 to Jindal personally, $242,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party and $75,000 to the Republican Governors Association during the time that Jindal was president of the association.

Despite the memorandum from DOC, most judges and district attorneys have shied away from ACS. One judge said he threw the letter in the trash can “as soon as I received it,” and a district attorney told LouisianaVoice he wanted nothing to do with the facility.

In that same story, it was revealed that Stalder, while serving as Louisiana State Corrections secretary in 1993, canceled spending on psychiatric counseling for troubled teens so that he could give out $2.7 million in raises to his staff.

By 1995, ACA had accredited all 12 prisons in Louisiana, passing the last two with 100 percent scores, all while the head of Louisiana’s prison system was serving as ACA’s national president—an arrangement some might consider a conflict of interests. That same year, however, more than 125 prisoners sued Stalder for mistreatment within the prisons and a month after it accredited the state prison at Angola, it was reported that about $32 million in repairs were needed for it to meet safety requirements. Prisoners with fractures were splinted and then not seen for months.

Stalder rejected all the claims, saying that he and his staff deserved “a pat on the back” but in June of 1995, Federal Judge Frank Polozola criticized Stalder for the way in which he ran the state prison system.

Later that year, a doctor and a nurse reported severe problems with medical treatment at Angola. Prisoners with fractures were splinted, and then not seen for months, leading to bone deformities. Air from a tuberculosis ward was drawn into the main infirmary. A Justice Department report also found the prison’s medical records to be in terrible shape, according to Advocate reporter Fred Kalmbach.

In June of 1995, Judge Frank Polozola was critical of Stalder for his efforts to hold more inmates in the parish and private prisons of Louisiana, suggesting that Stalder was doing so in order to receive more money from the state government, which pays the sheriffs $21 per day per inmate in a private or parish prison, Advocate reporter James Minton wrote.

Polozola accused Stalder of catering to Louisiana’s sheriffs by refusing to allow state prisoners, who were supposed to be in the private prisons only temporarily, to return to the state prisons.

Just months later, Stalder was in trouble again when he allowed a can relabeling plant to open illegally at the Angola Prison. He was fined $500. Inmate William Kissinger, a legal adviser to other inmates, then sued Stalder for $600,000 after he reported the relabeling plant to authorities and was consequently removed from Angola prison and put on a prison farm.

The prison at Angola, meanwhile, received the same score from the ACA in 1996 as it did when it was first accredited in 1993.

In 1998, the new Jena Juvenile Center came under fire for widespread problems, including a near-riot, poor teaching and security and physical abuse and in 1999 the juvenile facility in Tallulah was taken under state control after five years of repeated problems with private ownership despite its having received accreditation and a positive report only six months earlier from ACA and Stalder.

Although the Louisiana state juvenile facilities attracted attention during 1997 for reports of abuse from guards at the facilities, Stalder himself was not in the spotlight until a private investigator found evidence that Stalder had allowed a priest who had been imprisoned for child molestation to receive special treatment at Wade correctional facility while Stalder was a warden there.

Because Jena’s goal was to meet the accreditation standards, The ACA was also criticized and characterized as “not highly respected…they will judge a facility on whether they have policies and procedures in written form,” wrote Times-Picayune reporter Steve Ritea.

In 2010, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) trumpeted the reaccreditation of five of its private prisons by ACA. But what CCA did not reveal was that it had paid ACA more than $22,000 for those five accreditations, that CCA employees serve as ACA auditors, that CCA is a major sponsor of ACA events or worse, and that accredited CCA facilities had experienced major SECURITY PROBLEMS.

CCA, it should be noted, is one of several private prison companies that have made major contributions to Jindal.

We can now look forward with optimism and confident anticipation to the results of the August ACA conference in Boston when the LDOC’s Division of Probation and Parole will defend the results of the audit. We just know the division will pass with flying colors—all of them green.

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You want to know how politicians skew their poll data?

A poll commissioned by Candidate A, for example may contain loaded questions like:

If you were asked to choose between Candidate A, who believes in the sanctity of life, and Candidate B, who believes in killing babies, would you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B?

Or:

If you were asked to choose between Candidate A, who believes people who rape and kill should be given stiff jail sentences and Candidate B, who believes we should open the prison doors, would you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B?

Candidate B, of course, actually stands for a woman’s right to choose and he believes our prisons are overcrowded with non-violent offenders, but Candidate A doesn’t couch his poll questions in that manner. Instead, Candidate B is a baby-killer who wants to turn hardened criminals loose on an unsuspecting public.

Or maybe, in Candidate A’s poll, Candidate A wants to bring jobs to the people of Louisiana while Candidate B, by tightening restrictions on tax giveaways to greedy corporations who don’t really produce that many jobs anyway, is cast as one who wants to drive business and industry from the state.

You may even be asked something like, “If you were told that Candidate A loves his family and teaches Sunday School and Candidate B beats his wife and kids, would you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B?”

Candidate A may be a womanizer who never sets foot in a church and Candidate B may be a devoted husband and father. No one has claimed that Candidate B beats his wife and kids, but you were asked a hypothetical question that implies that he does and phrased in that manner, you are naturally prone to support Candidate A even though you may know zilch about either candidate.

It’s really easy. And just because I’m using an example provided by the Trump campaign, don’t for a moment believe that the practice is limited to Republicans.

It’s not. They all do it.

But this one is especially egregious.

The Trump campaign, which somehow has me on its mailing list, sent this poll before the Mueller report was released. But to submit your response, you’re taken to another page which gives me the choice of contributing to his campaign in amounts ranging from $35 to $2,700.

“At this critical moment, we’re asking our strongest supporters:

“Do you think it’s time for this WITCH HUNT to conclude once and for all?

YES

NO

“This is the most important survey we’ve sent you this year.”

TAKE THE POLL

I tried to vote but without pledging a contribution, my poll response was blocked. In one attempt, I even received a text from the campaign informing me that I had entered an incorrect response.

So, by accepting responses only from those who contribute (and if one is prone to contribute to the campaign, it’s a pretty good bet the poll response would be sympathetic to Trump), the poll results necessarily showed heavy support for Trump, a fact he trumpeted in his tweets as “overwhelming evidence of a witch hunt.”

As pointed out earlier, this practice is by no means the exclusive tactic of Trump.

All candidates do it.

So, the next time you are polled about your political preference in the upcoming election cycle, be careful to listen to how the questions are phrased in order to get a good read as to how the poll is tilted in favor of a certain candidate.

And the next time you read about some candidate is doing well in his privately-commissioned poll, take it as biased—because it is. It’s going to be a poll tailored to the individual candidate and not an accurate reading of the electorate.

That’s just the way the game is played—by both sides.

And we are the losers.

 

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The year was 1966.

I’ve written about it before. That’s the year I walked into the offices of the Ruston Daily Leader to answer a classified ad for the job of an advertising salesman. With zero experience, publisher Tom Kelly hired me at $65 per week (a $5 cut from my previous job of climbing telephone poles).

I don’t recall ever selling a single ad, but I did morph into the position of sports editor before moving on to the Monroe Morning World as a reporter.

But this is not about my professional odyssey. It’s about the evolution—and the near-extinction—during my lifetime of the newspaper printing press.

Kelly, who is retiring after nearly 70 years in the newspaper business, has written a manuscript for a book on this very subject, so I’m not writing this to steal his thunder but to promote his effort which probably should be taught in every college communications school (They don’t call ‘em journalism schools anymore, they’re communications schools. The very sound of it sticks in my throat.)

I’ll never forget the smell that permeated the old building. It was a combination of hot lead type, printer’s ink and stale cigarette smoke. Typists sat at old, clanking linotype machines, setting stories in hot, molten lead—one column-width line at a time (thus the name linotype).

When it cooled, the individual lines of now cold lead were arranged to form a single page of the newspaper. A page dummy was printed for proofreaders.

Also contributing to the smell of the newsroom was something called a Fairchild photoengraver.

Photos were placed on one end of a cylinder and a sheet of plastic on the other end. The machine was started and a white-hot laser burned the photo’s image into the plastic sheet which was used to produce what was usually an indistinguishable square or rectangular-shaped black blob that passed for a photo on the newspaper’s finished page.

Corrections were made and the page was laid in an antiquated flat-bed press in some mysterious arrangement that allowed the pages of the newspaper to come off the press in order and neatly folded in all the right places.

Kelly went on the hunt for a new press. He found one, a tubular press, somewhere in Tennessee. The move from the old flatbed press to even a used tubular press was, to us, like a giant leap from the Model T to space travel.

In 1968, the old offices burned to the ground and Kelly still managed to get the paper out that same day, thanks to the cooperation of sister-paper the Minden Press-Herald, which printed the paper in time for delivery.

The paper moved to its present location and finally joined the 20th century in going to an offset press system, a vast improvement over everything else we’d ever seen. In the mid-1970s, The Leader went to computers to replace typewriters and I have to say I had a lot of trouble adapting.

After all that, Kelly once observed that the paper had a “million dollars-worth of equipment so we can give the paper to kids on a bicycle to throw the papers in subscribers’ ditches.”

This past week, I was in Ruston and had occasion to visit the Louisiana Tech campus and my old newspaper and its publisher, Cody Richard, son of The Leader’s former production foreman, Elbe Richard. What I heard during each visit was disheartening.

First, I learned that my old college newspaper, The Tech Talk, no long exists as a physical, hold-it-in-your-hands newspaper. The publication that had chronicled Tech’s history for so many years at which Wiley Hilburn, Reggie Owen, Pulitzer Prize winner Stan Tiner, and a score of others had learned their trade, has gone digital, as has the school yearbook.

Blaspheme.

Then, when I visited with Cody, I learned that the Bastrop Daily Enterprise would publish its last edition on March 29.

It’s a sign of the times. First, it was the slow, tortured death of the nation’s afternoon papers. That went down in the ‘90s before the power of the internet sapped what remaining strength the printed page might have had. The first afternoon paper to die in Louisiana was the New Orleans States-Item, in 1970, followed quickly by the Monroe News-Star in 1980 (actually, the afternoon News-Star was discontinued but kept the name as its sister paper, the Morning World, simply took the News-Star name), the Shreveport Journal and the Baton Rouge State Times, both in 1991. I’m told the last standing afternoon daily in America was in Slidell but it, too, ultimately ceased publication.

Hastening the death of The Enterprise was the shutdown of the International Paper Mill in 2008, eliminating 550 jobs. The closure of the paper mill, of course, was due largely to the decline in the demand for pulp which was a direct effect of the decline of newspapers, thanks to the surge in digital publications.

In other words, a ripple effect: the internet causes a decline in demand for newspapers which causes a decline in demand for pulp, which causes paper mills to shut down, which, finally, resulted in the closure of a newspaper that has been around more than a century.

And eleventh-hour EFFORT to by a group of investors to save the publication was announced Friday but it’s probably only a matter of time for The Enterprise.

Finally, Cody Richard informed me that the number of newspaper printing presses in Louisiana is now down to only three—Baton Rouge, Ruston, and Lafayette—and that the Lafayette Advertiser will soon close its press operations in favor of contracting its printing elsewhere. (An update from a reader puts the number at four with the Lake Charles American Press having its own press. The number, of course could grow should it be learned that there may be others, but the point is the number of presses has been drastically reduced.)

It’s a trend of the times: Fewer and fewer papers are family-owned anymore. Conglomerates like Gannett have moved in and, intentionally or not, systematically destroyed local journalism with staff cuts in sacred homage to the bottom-line gods. Along with reporters, presses were deemed expendable, an unnecessary financial luxury to the stockholders.

That’s an incomprehensible development to someone who has worked in the business for half-a-century.

When I walked in the door of The Leader back in 1966, every weekly and daily paper in the state had its own press. Arcadia, Jonesboro, Farmerville, Winnfield, Natchitoches, Many, Mansfield, Opelousas, Ponchatoula, Hammond, Jena, Denham Springs, Lake Providence, Delhi, Winnsboro, Ferriday, Jonesville, Amite, et al—they all had their own presses where they printed their publications in-house. Even The Tech Talk had its own press.

No more.

Today, the Shreveport Times prints in Longview, Texas; The Monroe News Star in Jackson, Mississippi; The New Orleans Times-Picayune in Mobile. And the Times-Picayune isn’t even a full-blown daily anymore. The Opelousas Daily World, the first paper in the world to go offset, is printed elsewhere now. Smaller publications (where they still exist: many communities no longer have a local paper) are left to scramble to find someone to print their papers.

It’s a cost-cutting move made necessary by diminishing ad revenue as more and more readers go digital. You need personnel to run and maintain a press and maintenance itself is not cheap. By shutting down an in-house press, a paper even saves on utilities.

But it doesn’t make it any easier to watch the slow death of something that is such an integral part of one’s life.

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Folks, there’s less than a week left in LouisianaVoice‘s March fundraiser and we’re still a couple thousand dollars short of our goal.

It’s fun being retired and able to write about official corruption and misbehaving on the part of those we put in place to look out for our interests. It’s rewarding to be able to shine a light into those dark corners of questionable expenditures, illegal transactions, and downright corruption.

But as a retiree, I’m doing so on a fixed income. I’ve already cut my cable TV to keep costs down but everything else keeps going up.

I’m in the middle of obtaining my tax-exempt 501C(3) status which costs money and I’m also preparing to file two public records lawsuits, one of which will probably require a trip to Shreveport for a court trial.

Bottom line, LouisianaVoice needs your help. Please click HERE or on the yellow DONATE button (below, in column at right). Or you may mail your check to: LouisianaVoice, P.O. Box 922, Denham Springs, Louisiana 70727.

And as always, thanks so much for your continued support of honest, transparent government.

 

 

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A prudent individual who follows the news might well be asking what the hell’s going on out at LSU?

It’s certainly a fair question.

The disconcerting stories have been piling up at Louisiana’s flagship university with each new story causing more head-scratching than the last.

In 2015, SIGMA CHI fraternity was kicked off campus for three years following an investigation into drug use and hazing on October 17 at the chapter house. A fraternity member’s overdose death that same day was not connected to incidents at the frat house, investigators determined.

In September 2017, PHI DELTA THETA’s general headquarters announced that it had formally suspended and revoke the charter from its LSU chapter following the binge-drinking and hazing death of Maxwell Gruver despite the fact that the fraternity had an alcohol-free housing policy and a blanket anti-hazing policy in place.

Then apparently unable to see the writing on the wall, DELTA KAPPA EPSILON (DKE), better known as the Dekes made infamous by the movie Animal House, got its charter revoked by the national organization following the arrest of nine present and former DKE members following reports of hazing that involved urinating on pledges and forcing them to lie in ice water, on glass.

Without attempting to minimize the gravity of those incidents—students died, after all—binge drinking has always existed in frat houses as boys away from their mommies and daddies for the first time, go more than a little crazy on testosterone overload.

But what about the adults at the Ole War Skule? How do they explain their unrestrained behavior of late?

First there was the LSU basketball program that came under the dual microscopes of the NCAA and the FBI. Head coach WILL WADE was suspended after FBI wiretaps caught him allegedly discussing payments to a recruit with sports agent Christian Dawkins. The player, Javonte Smart is a standout freshman guard.

Actually, Wade was not suspended until he refused to meet with LSU administrators to discuss the investigation. Wade initially agreed to talk but canceled when he learned NCAA investigators would be in the meeting.

But the basketball probe took an ugly turn.

Before news of the basketball investigation became public knowledge, another scandal rocked Baton Rouge when it was learned that JOHN PAUL FUNES was arrested for embezzling more than $800,000 from the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation.

Funes made more than $283,000 per year as president of the foundation which is the fundraising arm of OLOL hospital that raises money for such projects as the new OLOL Children’s Hospital.

In addition to allegedly embezzling the money from the foundation, he reportedly also gave foundation funds to the parent of an LSU ATHLETE, supposedly as salary for a job.

The dust still hasn’t settled on the OLOL-LSU basketball drama even as new revelations keep popping up like some kind of Whack-a-Mole game of financial chicanery.

On March 19, a state audit revealed that the LSU SCHOOL of VETERINARY MEDICINE paid a faculty member more than $400,000 in salary and benefits over more than three years even though the “employee” failed to carry out his employment duties from August 2015 to September 2018.

Despite being told by LSU to appear for work for the Fall 2018 semester, and despite his failure to do so, he was still employed as of January 24.

“The faculty member knowingly received 38 months of LSU salary and benefits without performing commensurate work,” the audit said.

So, how in the name of fiduciary responsibility was this allowed to happen? Who was minding the store out at the School of Veterinary Medicine? Someone has to be held accountable for this.

Three days after that story made news, on March 22, it was learned that four LSU administrators earning six-figure incomes had RESIGNED after failing to comply with a state law that requires that they register their vehicles in Louisiana and obtain a Louisiana driver’s license.

The law was passed in 2013 at the urging of the late C.B. Forgotston in a bill sponsored by then State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite).

The four were identified as:

  • Andrea Ballinger, chief technology officer: $268,000 per year;
  • Matthew Helm, assistant vice-president in information technology services, $202,000;
  • Susan Flanagin, director in information technology services, $149,000, and
  • Thomas Glenn, director of information technology services, $14,000.

All four are from Illinois and three of the four worked part of their time for LSU from Illinois

In addition to their salaries, three of the four were provided stipends to help with moving expenses. Ballinger received $20,000; Helm $15,000, and Flanagin $5,000. So, just how were those moving expenses used by the three if they didn’t physically move here?

All four said had they known of the law requiring registering their vehicles and obtaining state driver’s licenses, they would not have taken the LSU jobs.

So, this was not explained to them when they were hired?

And persons making six-figure incomes are allowed to work for a state university while living three states away? Sweet.

Universities, by their nature, tend to be an autonomous part of the communities in which they are located, impenetrable to the outside world, but this is ridiculous.

Someone has to answer for these lapses and that someone begins and ends at the top of the food chain at LSU: President F. King Alexander on whose watch all the above events have occurred.

LouisianaVoice wrote extensively about ALEXANDER almost exactly six years ago when it became evident that he was in line to become the next LSU president.

King was appointed during the Jindal administration and Gov. Edwards indicated he wanted to keep King in place. Was that a wise decision in retrospect?

Former chairman of the Louisiana Board of Regents RICHARD LIPSEY is calling for the firing of both Alexander and Athletic Director Joe Alleva for what he calls a “lack of leadership.”

Alleva, you may remember, was athletic director at Duke before coming to LSU. While at Duke, rape charges were brought against the school LACROSSE team, charges that proved to be a hoax and which ultimately cost the local district attorney his law license over his eagerness to prosecute the players.

Alleva, meanwhile, didn’t even wait for charges to be filed. He cratered early and dismantled the lacrosse program before due process could be carried out.

Fast forward to LSU, 2015. Alleva badly botched the Les Miles situation, hovering on the verge of firing the likable coach before Miles saved his job with a 19-7 win over TEXAS A&M. But the die had been cast and everyone knew it was a matter of time before Alleva, who was born with a serious birth defect (no spine) would cave again to the big money donors who wanted Miles’s head.

Four games into the 2016 season, Alleva PULLED THE PLUG and fired Miles following a heartbreaking 18-13 loss at Auburn, proving once and for all he possessed the subtlety and tact of an air raid siren at a wake.

I don’t know if Lipsey’s recommendation is the needed remedy at LSU. The Board of Supervisors, after all, was appointed to oversee operations of the LSU system and not to be mere puppets of the governor.

Oh, wait, my mistake. Turns out they were.

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