CA voters may upend national crime policy again

CA voters may upend national crime policy again

prison - california department of corrections photoThanks to a new ballot measure, Proposition 47, voters in California could soon eliminate the last vestiges of the state’s tough-on-crime reputation. In a sea change from the 1990s, when high-profile, grisly crimes seized the state’s attention, Californians have helped drive the national conversation about criminal justice toward a kinder, gentler approach.

But the reality propelling interest in the new measure is that California has proven unable to effectively run its prison system the way that courts — including the U.S. Supreme Court — have demanded.

Major changes

Proposition 47 landed on the ballot with the backing of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne. If the measure passes, the most frequent current crimes that carry felony convictions will be downgraded to misdemeanors. Prison time will be lowered, too, for such crimes to one year at most from the current three-year maximum.

That, as the Los Angeles Times reported, would be good news for Californians convicted of “drug possession, petty theft, possession of stolen goods, shoplifting, forgery and writing bad checks.” Those crimes made up 58,000 of the Golden State’s 202,000 felony convictions (based on 2012 figures, the most recent available). “Analysts say about 40,000 such cases would be reduced to misdemeanors; the initiative exempts offenses involving more than $950 and people with criminal records that include violence or sex offenses.”

The arguments for and against Prop. 47 haven’t surprised many California residents. On the one hand, it has long been common knowledge that California’s incarcerated population is high — by absolute measures, and relative to other states’ levels. In a black eye for Gov. Jerry Brown, his administration has been ensnared by the courts in a complex and awkward process called “realignment,” a way of shifting inmates from crowded state prisons into the county jail system.

On the other hand, Californians have not forgotten their state’s more sensational and frightening crimes. One of the worst even received mention during the recent gubernatorial debate between Brown and Neel Kashkari, his Republican challenger.

To ease overcrowding, California released Jerome Sidney DeAvila from prison; soon thereafter, in 2013 he committed a heinous crime involving rape and murder. The state’s police chiefs’ association has decried Prop. 47, saying the “dangerous and radical” measure will “endanger Californians.”

Easing up on convictions and sentencing would give California’s justice system a much-needed reprieve as it struggles to obey court orders to de-crowd. Yet it would be certain to ratchet up the risk of more violent crime — perhaps to a historic degree. In short, Prop. 47 has become associated with two different outcomes, one which many Californians desire, and one which none do.

An unprecedented coalition

With the measure poised between competing outcomes, its fate in November may come down to a public relations campaign. Oftentimes, ballot measures sink or swim depending on how voters view their fiscal implications.

Not so with Prop. 47. Although it would save the state some money, the amount recouped — a few hundred million dollars — would be a relative trifle given the size of California’s budget of more than $100 billion a year for the general fund.

That has placed a premium on presentation for Prop. 47’s key supporters. In fact, the coalition of activists and public figures behind Prop. 47 has raised eyebrows nationwide — suggesting that America’s traditional political battle lines have been scrambled when it comes to criminal justice reform.

Liberal and progressive support for a softer approach to crime has, predictably, given Prop. 47 a substantial push; George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center, based in Washington, D.C., kicked in $1 million.

At the same time, observers took special notice when former Republican U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also a 2012 presidential candidate, teamed with billionaire Wayne Hughes to promote Prop. 47 in an opinion piece for the Times. If conservative-heavy states in the South could reform their own prison systems, claimed Gingrich and Hughes, surely California could as well.

The voters will have their say on Nov. 4.

16 comments

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  1. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 16 October, 2014, 20:13

    Look, America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Yes, that’s a fact in the land of the free! lol. The US JustUs system is a massive multi-billion dollar industry that provides all the king’s men with blue-collar jobs that pay medical doctor compensations. Go look at the per capita prisoner population comparisons from nation to nation. Wikipedia has it. America is BY FAR #1. Much higher than Russia, China, South Africa, or any of the ME nations. Leaps and bounds over any of the european union nations. If this new measure passes it won’t reduce the prisoner population. Trust me. They find more excuses for locking people away. All those jail guards need to make payments on their F-250’s and their homes on the ocean! lol. Gotta take good care of the King’s men!!! 😀

    Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 18 October, 2014, 02:58

      Land of the free and home of the brave rings empty with stats like those LIC!! 🙂

      Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 18 October, 2014, 03:38

      There’s a literal reign of terror going on in America and it keeps getting worse BY THE DAY. It’s every bit as sinister and evil as the NAZI’s were! Citizens need to demand of their lawmakers end to this oppression. This is not the type of thing that goes on in free country. 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • LetitCollapse
        LetitCollapse 18 October, 2014, 09:20

        Yes, Mr. Donkey. Our nation is in the state of distress for sure. Corruption and fascist rule reigns. At one time we were truly the beacon of justice, freedom and integrity. The other nations envied and admired us. Today we are viewed as the new soviet empire. Sad. How they could take something so beautiful and screw it up so badly, I will never know.

        Reply this comment
  2. T Mind of Ted Your God
    T Mind of Ted Your God 16 October, 2014, 21:40

    There will be just as many prison guards the day after this passes. It’s a good measure but Californians won’t pass it— people hate crime especially these low level pests.

    Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 17 October, 2014, 20:18

      The real crime takes place at the RAGWUS meetings. 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • LetitCollapse
        LetitCollapse 17 October, 2014, 22:00

        Good luck to the Bruins tomorrow, Mr. Donkey. I see they’re 7 point favorites. But Cal is no slouch this year. So the Bruins had better take an early lead. My Ducks are playing the UW Huskies. That won’t be a gimme either. If the Ducks have an off day the Dogs could sink their canines into them. And then there’s Stanford the following week. Oh my!

        Reply this comment
        • Donkey
          Donkey 18 October, 2014, 02:56

          Thanks LIC, the Utah loss just killed me!! 🙂

          Reply this comment
          • LetitCollapse
            LetitCollapse 18 October, 2014, 09:13

            Yeah, I was shocked that UCLA lost to Utah. But the Bruins have a darn good team. Those 2 losses in a row knocked them right out of the AP top 25. But they can still salvage a decent season and might even still have a shot at the PAC12 championship. Hundley is a good QB but I’d like to see Neuheisel get a little more playing time. He shined against Texas. He reminds me a little of Kellen Moore, that former outstanding QB at Boise State who plays in the NFL for the Lions. The PAC12 is a strong conference. Any given team could win on any given day, except for Colorado. They really suck! 🙂

          • LetitCollapse
            LetitCollapse 18 October, 2014, 21:22

            The Bruins didn’t have an easy time with Cal, but came up with a “W”. I knew Cal was no pushover. They’ve improved. The Bruins are still in the mix. The Ducks stomped the Dogs at home today. The big test will be Stanford in 2 weeks. Stanford beat the Ducks twice in a row. In the 3Q Az State is beating Stanford 14-0. Az has some good teams this year.

  3. NorCal Libertarian
    NorCal Libertarian 17 October, 2014, 12:25

    Old-tyme Western justice needs to be reinvigorated! Placerville still has its Hanging Tree. Why let it just sit there unused?
    Vote “NO” on EVERYTHING….BONDS and Propositions!

    Reply this comment
  4. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 18 October, 2014, 23:17

    Come on, folks. Smarten up! If voting could actually change anything the government would’ve already made it illegal! THINK! 😀
    But keep voting and paying your taxes. Voting entices you continue to pay your taxes since it feeds you the illusion that your voice actually makes a difference. In reality, it doesn’t. The ruling class determines your future. They’re in the driver’s seat. You’re just along for the ride. Once you understand your place in society and accept it, it becomes easier. Acceptance is a critical element in achieving serenity. Enjoy your journey! 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • T Mind of Ted Your God
      T Mind of Ted Your God 19 October, 2014, 10:25

      Collapso– You don’t pay your taxes?

      Reply this comment
      • LetitCollapse
        LetitCollapse 19 October, 2014, 14:00

        As little as possible, tedtard. Why should I support those of you lined up at the feeding trough? California has more poverty than any other state in the union. Sooner or later it will start eating into you pension benefits! hah! The State will ensure that the impoverished get theirs before you get yours. And that’s for damned sure! lol. Old gray headed pensioniers don’t riot or loot!!! LOL! Those on the welfare rolls will trump your rights!!! LOL! 😀

        Reply this comment
        • T Mind of Ted Your God
          T Mind of Ted Your God 19 October, 2014, 16:59

          LOL
          I KNEW that you were a deadbeat!

          lmao…..and a tax cheat!

          Reply this comment
          • LetitCollapse
            LetitCollapse 20 October, 2014, 09:04

            “As little as possible” does not equate to a ‘tax cheat’.

            I think a retraction and an apology are due. Waiting………

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