Minutes from December 18, 2018 Open Board Meeting-San Bernardino County Public Defenders Office

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Open Board of Directors Meeting

Norton Regional Event Center
1601 E. Third St., Suite 138
San Bernardino, CA 92408


Present:   Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Carole Beswick, Ann Bryan, Mike Burrows, Kevin Dyerly, Adam Eventov, Louis Goodwin, Mark Kaenel, P.T. McEwen, John Mirau, Roman Nava, Keven Porter, Michael Rivera, Dan Roberts, Kristine Scott, Paul Shimoff, Phil Southard, David VanVoorhis and Steve von Rajcs.

Guests: Kellie Byward and Catherine Prichett

Announcements: 1) The reservation form for Washington, D.C. advocacy was distributed along with the trip policy adopted March 24, 2018.  Both will be e-mailed to the membership.  Meeting dates for the Washington, D.C. advocacy trip will be March 11, 12, & 13, 2019.

M/S/P: Minutes from December 11, 2018

David Van Voorhis introduced Thomas Sone, Assistant Public Defender, San Bernardino County.

The San Bernardino County Public Defender’s office has navigated many changes over the last ten years.  The criminal justice system, with new legislation such as AB-109, Prop 36, Prop 47 and Prop 57, has altered the responsibilities of the public defenders.  Under the direction of Public Defender, Christopher Gardner, appointed January 2018, the office has converted to a department focused on collaboration with other agencies like the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, Probation, mental health professionals and community groups.  These partnerships and relationships are unusual and set their office apart from most others.

The Public Defender’s office has made it a priority to have social workers on staff to assess their clients ,who often have problems with mental health and/or drug and alcohol addictions.  The office recognizes these issues and others prevent individuals from becoming contributing members of society.  Of the 270 staff members, they currently have 12 full time social workers and may add additional staff in this area.

Of the 55,000 cases they handle, some 2% go to trial with the majority dismissed or diverted to the appropriate services.   For those incarcerated, social workers provide “release plans” to assist with housing, work, healthcare and counseling.

There are as many as 100,000 felony convictions related to marijuana that could be decriminalized and reduced to misdemeanors under Prop 47 (which expires in 2022) but require individual petitions to apply.  The Public Defender’s office is engaged in an outreach program to assist and relieve those affected.

Their office personnel are sensitive to, and have received, formal training regarding implicit bias.  Mr. Sone referenced the ongoing Harvard study, Implicit Association Test (IAT).  The test measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about.  For more information or to take one of their online tests: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/education.html

Part of their outreach is to children with parents in jail who are at a high risk for truancy and poor academic performance.  One program provided children a book with a recording of their parent reading the book, which encouraged reading and parent familiarity.

Mental health is one of the biggest challenges for many of their clients.  Hospitals typically will not take in individuals convicted of felonies or misdemeanors.  The one closest facility, located in Los Angeles, has a 6-month waiting list and State hospitals have a 90-120 day wait.   Services and support are very much needed in this area.

The County Board of Supervisors has been very supportive of the department and its inclusive efforts as it aligns with the counties cradle to career initiative.

A Q & A period followed.

Meeting Adjourned 8:30 a.m.