Morning Report: No One’s Sure How Private Prisons Ban Would Work in San Diego

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A security guard walks around the exterior of the Otay Mesa Detention Center. / Photo by Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft

Private prison companies run or have involvement with five facilities in San Diego County, but no one is sure whether a new state bill to ban private prisons in California would impact any of them.

Private prison companies CoreCivic and the GEO Group both operate re-entry programs in San Diego, but re-entry programs are exempted from the bill. CoreCivic also runs a residential center in southeastern San Diego that serves the Federal Bureau of Prisons and San Diego County. A spokeswoman said the county isn’t sure yet whether the facility would be impacted if the bill is signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Then there’s the two private facilities that serve the federal government: the Otay Mesa Detention Center near the border, and the Western Region Detention Facility, which holds U.S. Marshal detainees downtown.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, one of the authors of the bill, said it’s not clear whether the measure could be enforced against federal facilities.

“If the federal government has a contract, I’m not sure we’ll be able to prevent that if it’s on their land,” Gonzalez said. “I’m assuming it would end up in litigation.”

Some advocates worry that if the federal government does adhere to the bill, it would just result in detainees being held in out-of-state facilities, where they might be farther away from their families and other resources.

Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature this year.

Ex-Southwestern Professor on Leave From New Gig After VOSD Investigation

A former Southwestern College professor who was allowed to quietly resign despite the discovery of a trove of nude photos and sex videos on his work computer has been placed on leave from his new role at San Diego City College following a VOSD investigation.

Hours after VOSD contributor Katy Stegall’s story about former Southwestern professor John Tolli was published on Thursday, a spokesman for San Diego City College told Stegall that Tolli had been placed on paid leave.

Southwestern officials had agreed not to mention the results of an investigation of a Title IX complaint made to the college with future prospective employers when Tolli resigned last June.

Stephan Says DA Knew of Rape Kit Change, But Didn’t Approve

District Attorney Summer Stephan said last week that her office did not know or approve of SDPD’s decision to test certain rape kits under less rigorous standards than it typically employs, after Voice of San Diego revealed the practice in an investigation last month.

Stephan has now walked back that claim.

Instead, Stephan said in a follow-up email to VOSD that SDPD had revealed the change to a rape kit testing working group that included a member of her staff prior to adopting the procedure.

She maintains, however, that her office didn’t approve the change and that SDPD implemented it unilaterally. She also said that she was not personally informed of the new policy.

“SDPD did notify the working group they were changing their approach to testing in certain categories,” Stephan wrote in an email to Voice of San Diego. “While our representative on the working group was informed, SDPD took the action unilaterally and we, as an office, did not approve. At the time, I was not informed of the change.”

After Stephan’s initial statement, SDPD announced it would test all kits under the same standard going forward. And, the department announced it would join a DA-led coalition including the Sheriff’s Department and all 11 other policy departments in the county to send their untested rape kits away to third-party labs to be analyzed without interfering with the labs’ daily responsibilities from new cases. That means SDPD will send its roughly 1,700 untested kits away as part of the countywide effort.

How Diversity Among School Administrators Matches Up With Students They Serve

Less than a third of the county’s school administrators are people of color.

That doesn’t match the region’s student body, 69 percent of which are non-white.

In this week’s Learning Curve, VOSD’s Will Huntsberry took a look at diversity among school administrators across San Diego County and caught up with Maritza Koeppen, who said she is one of only three Latina superintendents in the county.

Huntsberry also ranked the region’s 45 school districts by how the percentage of diverse students matched up with the number of administrators of color at each district.

Thomas Jefferson Law School Tries to Reassure Its Students

The dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law recently assured students they can still take their bar exams outside the state if the school loses its American Bar Association accreditation, VOSD contributor Lyle Moran writes for Above the Law.

As Moran reported for VOSD in June, an American Bar Association panel voted to strip Thomas Jefferson of its accreditation but the school will remain accredited as the process plays out.

Moran has previously written about the string of financial and academic challenges the school has faced. It was placed on probation in November 2017 with a warning that quick action and overhauls were needed for the school to hold onto its accreditation.

News Roundup

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke at the county Waterfront Park downtown drawing an estimated 8,500 people. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced and endorsed Warren. Gonzalez’s husband, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, also endorsed Warren. Gonzalez had been supporting Julian Castro. Months ago, a bevy of local Democrats endorsed Kamala Harris, including Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Toni Atkins.
  • City labor unions have filed a lawsuit to try to invalidate the city’s 2012 pension reform measure, the latest in a series of steps to try to restore pensions for city workers hired after Prop. B passed. (Union-Tribune)
  • Horton Plaza’s new owner is quietly working to transform the outdoor mall into a tech campus. (Union-Tribune)
  • The 20-year-old suspect accused of attacking a Poway synagogue, leaving a woman dead and others injured, entered a not guilty plea to murder and other charges on Thursday. (Patch)
  • The San Diego Zoo, Mission Valley malls and Cowles Mountain parking lot are the city’s hot spots for car break-ins, according to an analysis by NBC 7 San Diego.
  • The city is moving forward with digital water meters despite ballooning project costs and a slew of customer complaints and oversight issues, as documented in a joint investigation by VOSD and NBC 7.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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