Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wanted ...concluding part

For the last three years, the Spokane Municipal Community Court has assisted 143 participants obtain housing and case management assistance through collaboration between Better Health Together, Volunteers of America, Catholic Charities, and SNAPNine hundred bus passes have been provided by Catholic Charities to help participants get to their doctor appointments. Providence Consistent Care assisted 121 individuals in obtaining primary physicians and reducing visits to the emergency departmentOver 10,000 lunches have been provided to both participants of Community Court and library patrons demonstrating a need. Lion’s Club distributed 223 pairs of reading glasses to individuals in need, and scheduled 128 eye exams to obtain prescription glassesThree hundred twenty five participants have graduated, many of whom committed no offense after graduation. Over 2,600 downtown community service hours have been completed by Community Court participants in the same locality where the crime was committed. Skils’kin has enrolled approximately 65 participants for payee services. At least 50 participants have been referred to the Dental Emergencies Needing Treatment program (DENT)Roughly 2,700 individuals with no criminal charges accessed provider services offered at Community Court on MondaysOver 1,000 participants have been referred to Community Court each year, some without any infraction by the same officer who would have filed charges against them three years ago. The Downtown precinct officers and Spokane Transit Authority security team have greatly helped us redirect folks to programs. 
Herein lies my joy, but we are not there yet. Many of my clients are still lost in the system. Lost to a criminal justice system that is broken. They are lost to a system that perpetuates injustice by criminalizing poverty in the greatest nation on earth. We have to do more than the current status quo. For far too long, many of those who work in the criminal justice system do not understand how to communicate in the language of poverty. They believe everyone in America is a member of the middle class and they can read and write. Some think if we could just give them a piece of paper they would get their act together and make it in life. Some angrily ask, "Why can’t they pull themselves up by their shoelaces?" Forgetting many don’t even have legs (due to physical and mental disability) or when they do, they cannot afford the shoes.
So how can we achieve real change in the lives of those we serve? The answer lies in love. We are finding that when we show that we care about our participants in Community Court, they respond by obeying the law. The difference lies with case managers who care deeply about their clients’ predicament and work hard to help them. Love them until you see real change. From my experience, love and respect lie at the root of the success of Community Court in Spokane. When they find a prosecutor that used to routinely lock them up reach out to them with love, encouraging, prodding and offering genuine concerns about their plight, it surely makes a difference. When the judge, the prosecutor, and public defender are willing to show them love when they relapse or fail to show up for court appearances, they in turn will respond in kind by following court orders and obeying the law.
As the Center for Court Innovation indicated in a recent press release, we cannot underestimate “the importance of small gestures”. One thing Judge Logan insisted on when we started Community Court was the need to serve our participants a free lunch. She often had to stay up all night to bake cookies for graduates of Community Court. It is well known in Downtown Spokane that the Downtown library is where you get lunch as a homeless person on Mondays. While the drug treatment, job training, community service et al are important components, all of that would be of no avail if they were not accompanied by the feeling that the court staff and law enforcement in the field care about them.
We have helped many fellow citizens dream again. They have come out of the shadows and started to contribute to the improvement of their city. As one of the participants told me recently, “It is my city too, that is why I give back by doing community service.”
As we celebrate a brand new year, I want us to bear in mind my Christmas experience years ago. It doesn’t have to end that way. We need an extreme makeover of our misdemeanor criminal justice system to a more caring and supportive program that helps alleviate the pain of being poor and not compound it by fines and incarceration. Let this CCI clarion call to practitioners ring out loudly: “With your help, we will continue to redouble our efforts to transform lives, create a more humane justice system, and advance common decency.”  Yes, we need a community justice program in the mold of the Innocence Project for misdemeanants in our criminal justice system. It will take a desire to collaborate across platforms by breaking out of silos and barriers that easily barricade our community justice. To get community justice, we need you (my readers) to become more involved, as volunteers or providers of services, engage, participate, let your voice be heard, speak out, join with others. The reform is ongoing but it will take all of us working together to attain this worthy goal.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Wanted ...contd

Next, a friend of mine, Barry Pfundt, from the Center for Justice, connected us with Dr.Darin Neven of Providence Consistent Care and the Hot Spotter team of first responders and treatment providers. The coalition helped shape the eventual program tracks as we decided to focus efforts on those labeled as "frequent flyers". We devised a means to work with the medical team and make Spokane Community Court the first community court in the nation to successfully connect the nexus between incarceration, poverty, and health issues. 
The Center for Court Innovation (CCI) flew in two experts to help serve as mentors for our court. We worked through all the restrictions, HIPAA challenges, unavailability of treatment beds to put together a court that recently celebrated its three year anniversary. From the very first moment we realized the dictum, “If you didn’t measure it, it didn’t happen” we connected with Washington State University Criminology department to serve as our evaluators. The partnership we struck with Professor Jackie van Wormer later inured to our county as she was subsequently appointed as our criminal justice administrator, a position where she currently manages the MacArthur’s Safety and Justice Challenge grant.
Concluding part next month

Friday, October 28, 2016

Wanted ...cont'd

Months later, the then presiding judge of Spokane Municipal Court, Honorable Judge Mary Logan, called for a collaborative meeting of all prosecutors and public defenders in her courtroom to address the establishment of Spokane Community Court. The two offices dug in their heels on what the court would look like. The prosecutor wants a more punitive court with the hope that the defendant would learn a lesson and quit committing crimes – something that is not anyway different from what we were currently doing. The public defender, myself included,wanted a court where everyone would have a chance, sex offender et al. The project never got off the ground. It suffered for years until Judge Logan found an ally in the new police chief, Frank Straub. The latter had been involved with Center for Court Innovations in West Plains, New Yorkand understood the advantages of having a court that cared about community needs and not just law and order type court
A small group started working on the project in the spring of 2013, and I was happy to be included by my boss. I immediately struck up a friendship with an unlikely ally, a prosecutor I had done battle with in numerous trials. What I didn't know is that I was not the only one disappointed with the system. The prosecutor, Adam Papini, started telling me how much disgust he often felt when at an arraignment hearing a person of color would come in from jail in shackles and would be offered a plea and credit for time served, in order to get out of jail, while others who could afford to bond out would come in from the street on bond, free as a bird and plead not guilty. We struck a partnership that endures to this day. We promised Judge Logan, that we would work collaboratively to make her dream of a court that cared "for the least of these" a reality. Along with the then municipal probation chief, Donna McBride, we spent night and day working hard to put together the community providers that today form the bedrock of Spokane Municipal Community Court.
With the help of the then deputy police chief (who is now our current police chief), Craig Meidl, we pulled the data and what we found was staggering. We found that the majority of crimes in our downtown corridor are low-level quality of life crimes, mainly trespass, pedestrian interference et al. We also pulled conviction and jail data and we found facts that confirmed my suspicion that my clients were serving life sentences even though they do not know it. The icing on the cake was when we struck up a partnership with Spokane County Medical Health Foundations, the then operators of the Hot Spotters program. We had sent them our jail and conviction data and we asked them to tell us the percentage of people on the list that frequently use the ER to access routine healthcare. They came back with a figure that astounded us all. We found that when my clients are not serving life sentences 30 days at a time, they are either spending the night in unsafe alleys or under the interstate bridge where the Spokane Fire Department spends hundreds of dollars to evacuate them to the ER
To be continued

Friday, September 23, 2016


I felt terrible that I couldn't do more to help my client. I was distraught at the end of that trip. As an immigrant from Africa, I believed no one should die the way my client died, helplessand without dignity, in the greatest nation on earth. I was mad at myself and mad at the system that perpetuated such injustice against my client. I felt deeply that the criminal justice system punished my client for being poor. Especially when I recalled the times some of my clients had to either use their meager earnings from Social Security Disability to pay for the cost of alcohol evaluation mandated under his probation or the one that had to donate his blood at the plasma center to get money for treatment. I left the House of Charity that day, determined to get out ofthe misdemeanor criminal practice. I was sick of it all.
When I got back to the office after the Christmas holiday, I went straight to my boss’soffice, but before I could unload on her, she asked me to sit down as she had good news to tell me. She said as a result of my hard work fighting for my clients, she nominated me as one of the Employees of the Year and that I would be having lunch with the mayor. This news further infuriated me as that is not what I wanted to hear. But I had to contain myself as I have high regard for her – after all she had been the only one willing to give me a chance to practice law in America when all other doors were shut against me. I calmly sat down in her office and told her about my experience over the Christmas holiday. I informed her that I was at the point of quitting my job. My boss, as usual, sprang to her feet, gave me a hug, and pleaded with me not to take such drastic action. She assured me that she, along with others, were working hard to come up with something. This is why she fought so hard to establish Spokane Municipal Court. She encouraged me to attend the lunch with the mayor. 
At that lunch, the mayor asked everyone at the table to talk about their accomplishments, everyone did except me. Instead, I unloaded my predicament. Everyone at the table just listened in silence as I retold my story of anguish in seeing my client die a horrible death that could have been prevented.
To be continued

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wanted: Innocence Project for Misdeameant

I remember distinctly my "Damascus road" experience. Not because there was a "shining light" from heaven on my path but because of a rude shock and awakening I had. It was Christmas time and I had gone along with other members from my church to feed and provide warm clothing for the homeless at Catholic Charities homeless shelter in Spokane, Washington. As we walked into the entrance to the dining hall, a notice board on the wall caught my eye. As I drew closer, my mouth went ajar. The piece of paper glued to the board contained the list of the homeless folks who died in my city that year. Out of the dozen people on the list, I had represented four or five of them in one form or another.
When I inquired the cause of death for one of them, an individual I believed I got out of jail on numerous occasions by pre-trial motion victory, outright victory at trial, or sometimes with credit for time served guilty pleaI broke down and wept when they told me that he died of complications from frost bite and a cancerous liver exacerbated by Korsakoff alcohol-induced dementia. The saddest part for me is that I knew about his serious health concerns months before his death, as he usually brought to me the paperwork from his numerous emergency room visits. It was on one of those papers I learned more about Korsakoff syndrome, but I didn’t do anything about it. I told him to go see a doctor. His response then was that when he needed to see a doctor he’d go to the ER as he has no primary care physician. His ER papers clearly stated that Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by a severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1) and that Korsakoff syndrome is most commonly caused by alcohol misuse, but certain other conditions also can cause the syndrome. 
Unlike now, there was no Affordable Care Act, and he had no health insurance. He only visited the hospital emergency room when he was seriously sick. Numerous times he would tell me he wanted to attend alcohol treatment, but he couldn't afford it; and no insurance covered an addiction recovery program at that time. So I fought tooth and nail to make sure no treatment conditions were imposed on his probation. When the court did, despite my several protestations,and he came back on probation, I reminded the court he could not afford to pay for it, so I got the least punitive sanctions, 30 days credit for time served instead of the maximum 90 days for asimple misdemeanor.
To be continued

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wanted: Innocence Project for Misdemeanor Offenders

Wanted: Innocence Project for Misdemeanor Offenders
The success of the Innocence Project in exonerating people on death row and those serving life sentences is well-known. Prison wardens often say they fill more requests for stationery by prisoners to write to the Innocence Project than any other commissary request. The reputation of the project is well-earned. From the moment the project won the first DNAexoneration in 1989, the organization has spread its gospel to 37 other states where 215 African Americans, 105 Caucasians, 25 Latinos, and two Asian Americans have regained their freedom. My call in this piece is a demand for similar freedom for those serving life sentences in our county and municipal jails in increments of thirty days or ninety days at a time.
I am a public defender that takes special pride in winning cases at trial. I love trials! Did I say I love trials? I meant the ones I win! It's why I went to law school. I enjoy crushing my opponent, even when I get bruises (losses) here and there. I assume it's due to the fact that my clients did not tell me the whole truth or the jurors were biased. It is never my fault. Call it hubris, ego, or chutzpah, I am guilty as charged. When I go to trial I wear the white hat. I am the only one with that hat. I fight for freedom for my client. It's war to me. I know my client’s freedom totally depends on me. I am the only thing standing between them and the governmental machinery set in motion when the 911 call is made or when the officer informs my client he cannot leave the scene of the incident.
This is where I was six years ago, after 15 years of misdemeanor criminal practice. I had won some, and lost some; I was literally having the time of my life. Yes, I don't get paid much and I have a huge caseload, but at least I thought of myself as the last frontier for freedom for the masses and the hoi polloi from the pernicious government prosecutors who are all out to persecute, but not prosecute, my clients.
To be continued

Friday, June 17, 2016

Just Asking Series: Did Jonathan Had the Mo Ibrahim Prize in mind when he handed over voluntarily?

Here is one in my "Just Asking Series": Did Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had the Mo Ibrahim Prize in mind as a retirement prize when he handed over power?
I am just asking but it seems his aide are so taken aback that he didn't get the prize.
They shouldn't because the loot they took out of Nigeria should suffice for them...just saying

The Smoking Gun for that Fantastically Corrupt Tag is in Local Govt Fraudulent Judgment

When Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, was overheard telling Queen Elizabeth II that Afghanistan and Nigeria were “fantastically corrupt countries, “and possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world,” the outraged by many Nigerian was deafening. The only person that was not surprised by the allegation was Nigeria’s own president, Muhammadu Buhari, who said he is not asking for apology from Cameron but a return of looted asset. Thanks to an exclusive investigative report by Saharareporters we now know why Buhari countermanded his press officer in admitting the allegation.

Saharareporters month long report on two decidedly fraudulent court judgments out of Justice AFA Ademola, Abuja Federal High courtroom is nothing more than a smoking gun for that fantastically corrupt tag. And it tarred whatever credibility Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mohammed Adoke may have had. The scheme was fantastically concocted and fantastically orchestrated to divert the sum of $1.6 billion meant for the 774 local government council to private account, some of whom are senior advocates of Nigeria.

This perfidious scheme is further proof of widespread malfeasance of the Goodwill Ebele Jonathan’s misrule and further tarred his regime whatever goodwill he might have obtained through successful transition. Some have argued that we may never have known that such corruption existed in GEJ government if he did not hand over government peacefully but my retort to that is simple: why give him credit for something he is constitutionally mandated to do. What sort of mindset makes us turn a guy that presided over the massive theft of our national treasury to an hero just because he decided to honor the will of Nigerian electorates in a free and fair election he lost?

What still baffles me is the stone cold silence of the Nigerian Bar Association to the graft of his members indicted by the report. Not only did Adoke by passed the Federal Executive Council through his own personal fiat, Okonjo-Iweala actually authorized the payment of consultants who were never parties to the suit, while the local government who should have been beneficiaries were left holding an empty bag with zero dime! The compromise and filthy stench written all over this greed reaches to high heavens.

The last question is why did the local government never appeal the suit? Did they even know about the action? Are they complicit? Did the loot go round in “Ghana must go” bags typical of such misdeeds? All of these questions we will find out if the Buhari’s government muster the will to pursue this investigation. As for us in diaspora, it is time we challenge all the institutions abroad celebrating the empty achievements of Okonjo-Iweala, while ignoring her graft and complicity.

This fraudulent scheme should never be buried, many local governments in Nigeria could not pay their staff salaries, and many could not pick up garbage anymore. We need to form alliance with civil society to hire honest attorneys who will take this up on behalf of the citizens of our country. We should mobilize to force Nigeria Bar Association and the Legal Practitioner Privileges Committee to account for the misdeeds of its members. There has to be accountability, at the minimum, Justice Ademola must be disrobed and the legal practitioners who obtained payment fraudulently should be debarred and prosecuted. Otherwise we will remain a fantastically corrupt nation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

David Cameron Calls Nigeria Corrupt, and Its President Agrees

LONDON — It was a bracingly honest assessment, but the timing could not have been more embarrassing: Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, was overheard telling Queen Elizabeth II that Afghanistan and Nigeria were “fantastically corrupt countries,” and “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.”
He made the comments at a Buckingham Palace party on Tuesday, in advance of a summit meeting in Britain on the topic of corruption, and they created considerable awkwardness. (It was coincidentally the same party at which the queen was overheard complaining about rude behavior by Chinese officials during a state visit in October.)
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria said through a spokesman that he was “deeply shocked and embarrassed” by Mr. Cameron’s remarks — but he did not rebut them.
Asked if Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt,” Mr. Buhari responded: “Yes.”
Mr. Buhari, who has devoted himself to rooting out graft in Africa’s largest economy, added, “I am not going to demand any apology from anybody.”
He then turned the tables, in a sense, on the British, asking for their help in securing the “return of assets” that were taken out of Nigeria by corrupt officials and business people and are now held in British banks.
Nigeria was ranked 136th, and Afghanistan 166th, out of 167 countries in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index.
Mr. Buhari’s anticorruption campaign in Nigeria escalated last fall with the arrests of Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former oil minister, and Olajide Omokore, the chairman of a Nigerian oil company. A former defense minister, Bello Haliru Mohammed, was charged in January with corruption.
Plummeting oil prices have set off an economic unraveling in Nigeria, one of the world’s top oil producers, and the collective anger of a fed-up nation has poured out.
Afghanistan, a poor and war-racked country, has its own problems. It generates 90 percent of the world’s heroin, and the government and insurgents have battled each other for the profits from the drug trade amid recent Taliban advances and out-of-control corruption.
Mr. Cameron — whose main political worry is a vote scheduled for June 23 on whether Britain will remain in the European Union — tried to smooth over the gaffe on Wednesday. Without backtracking, he said Afghanistan and Nigeria had taken “remarkable steps forward” to counter corruption, and praised their leaders for “battling hard” to address the problem.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

When Corruption Inc. Fights Back

"When you fight corruption, it fights back"- Nuhu Ribadu

The ominous title of John Campbell blogpost at the American Council of Foreign Relations website on January 20, 2016 was apt "Corruption fights back in Nigeria". At the time, some Nigerians commented  glibly that the write up is too simplistic and that Buhari's fight against corruption is selectively targeted at the opposition party. Fast forward four months later, even the blind could see that any attempt to fight corruption in Nigeria must contend with a virulent fight back by Nigeria Corruption Industrial complex, also known as Nigeria Corruption Inc (NCI).

In Nigeria, the endemic corruption in our body politic is not only deliberate and purposeful but deadly when it fights back. It is a corporation with huge arsenals in its armory and a "for profit" enterprise (I meant parasite). The hydra headed monster has several phalanges it can call up in its fight back. For instance, when cornered NCI could always rely on the retinue of Senior Advocate of Nigeria some of whom are permanently on its pay roll. If that fails, they could notch it up a bit, by summoning their Rolodex of retired, tainted but powerful justices also known as "legal luminaries". These are justices who retired as civil servants but today owns oil blocs and billions of dollars stashed away in Seychelles Islands.
How are they deployed? Check out the communique issued recently by some "legal giants" who met at a center in Lagos to pilloried the Supreme Court decision on Saraki's CCT trial. These "legal giants" and "leading legal luminaries" to quote Vanguard newspaper, wants CCT tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, to resign to ensure fairness in the matter. Their conclusion is neither grounded in law or facts, in actual fact, one could argue that they stood facts on its head when they claim that Umar is facing threat of prosecution. Danladi Umar, like every Nigerian who dare to fight corruption had a petition filed against him (by the way, this is another modus operandi of NCI, when cornered they cried "tu quoqe"- what about you!). The petition was first investigated by the Goodwill Jonathan administration and summarily dismissed. It was again refilled recently and dully investigated and dismissed by EFCC. There is no doubt that our "legal luminaries" care less about fairness or the constitution but rather to do the bidding of those who strut them out to defend the indefensible.
There is however more arsenals in the armory of NCI, if legal luminaries could not do it, they can always turn to law makers, who can be called upon to abandon their duties at the National Assembly and march in lockstep to any tribunal for solidarity during trial of any member of NCI shareholders. It doesn't matter if the nation's task or budget is delayed, corruption fight back is more important than law making for NCI. They don't care!
Perhaps, the most perfidious of NCI shenanigans in their corruption fights back gimmick is the "rent a crowd" scheme. Like the youth earnestly ask for Abacha crowd of yore, NCI can always round up hungry masses who for a fee can be made to carry placards proclaiming the innocence of any accused corrupt officials. They will of course follow up with "journalist for hire" who will help write sponsored slanted stories in major newspapers.
When you look at all of their gimmicky moves, one could pessimistically concludes that there is no hope for Nigeria, but I beg to disagree. In fact, their desperation is a sign of their end. Gone are the days when a slanted story in Lagos/Ibadan/Kaduna/Enugu press will bury reform efforts in Nigeria. Now, they have to contend with hundreds of bloggers and the indefatigable Saharareporters. Folks who will risk life and limb to get out the stories of corruption online before the muezzin call in Nigeria. The real heroes however are those judges, who like Ceasar's wife remains above board and refuse to compromise at the danger of losing their promotion, like the judge who dismissed Obanikoro's lawsuits against Punch and saharareporters. Others are those brave protesters in Abuja who refuse to look at every news stories from Nigeria from an ethnic prism. Therein lies our hope.

Sent from my iPa

Friday, March 4, 2016

Boko Haram Falls Victim to a Food Crisis It Created

"Ti ounje ba ti ku ro ni inu ise, ise bu se." - Yoruba adage (literally translated as "when you divorce hunger from lack,you reduced poverty")

When I read the above caption news story on the New York Times website, I went through several emotions, at first I was nonplussed and then I was elated which quickly turned into a sad sobbing state. The truth of the matter is that the entire story will ordinarily sound comical until you think of the human cost of the dastardly acts of Boko Haram and the harm done by these callous fundamentalist.

Without much ado, below is the story culled from New York Times 3/6/2016:

MORA, Cameroon — At first, the attack had all the hallmarks of a typical Boko Haram assault. Armed fighters stormed a town on the border with Nigeria, shooting every man they saw. But this time, instead of burning homes and abductinghostages, the fighters gathered cows, goats and any kind of food they could round up, then fled with it all. Boko Haram the Islamist extremist group terrorizing this part of the world, is on the hunt — for food.
After rampaging across the region for years, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and farms, Boko Haram appears to be falling victim to a major food crisis of its own creation. Farmers have fled, leaving behind fallow fields. Herdsmen have rerouted cattle drives to avoid the violence. Throughout the region, entire villages have emptied, leaving a string of ghost towns with few people for Boko Haram to dominate — and little for the group to plunder. 
“They need food. They need to eat,” Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor of the Far North region of Cameroon, said of Boko Haram. “They’re stealing everything.”
Across parts of northeastern Nigeria and border regions like the Far North, trade has come to a halt and tens of thousands of people are on the brink of famine, United Nations officials say. Markets have shut down because vendors have nothing to sell, and even if they did, many buyers have been scared off by the suicide bombers Boko Haram sends into crowds."
To read more go to