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Inmates' Movements Restricted

August 12, 2000|JOCELYN STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State parole officials have ordered all residents of halfway houses in Los Angeles County to remain indoors, beginning this weekend, to avoid any violence around the Democratic National Convention.

"In the event that there is civil unrest, we would like that our inmates not be a part of any activity or not be victims of any violence," said Doris Mahlum, administrator of the county's inmate reentry program.

The restrictions will affect about 500 residents of halfway houses in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Hollywood, Long Beach and Inglewood. None will get weekend passes.

Beginning Monday, employed residents may go to work, Mahlum said, but the unemployed must remain indoors until further notice.

The move also was prompted by concerns that traffic congestion might hinder the staff's commutes and jeopardize security.

Dan Tokaji, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the decision is problematic if its intent also is to prevent residents' participation in protests, such as a demonstration against the death penalty or discrimination in the prison system.

"It raises some serious First Amendment issues," he said. "Things that the government may ordinarily do to exercise police powers, it can't do for the purpose of limiting speech activities."

Only four facilities are in the city, and none is close to Staples Center, where the convention is being held, but the movement of all halfway house residents will be limited.

"Throughout all 10 of the facilities, we have the same restrictions," Mahlum said. "If we put something out for one facility, it applies to everyone."

Although residents will not be allowed to leave this weekend, they will be allowed to receive guests, Mahlum said.

"They are our responsibility, and their safety is our responsibility," Mahlum said.

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