Governor Brown's Prisoner Release Initiative
is a Bad Idea
by George Hofstetter
When Governor Brown contacted ALADS to request we not oppose his proposed initiative for the November ballot initiative allowing for the early release of prison inmates, we told him we would consider his request.  As detailed in my
February blog , the ALADS Board then discussed and decided to oppose the initiative.  Events since that decision only confirm our decision was correct.
Despite Governor Brown's repeated claims, his initiative affects only "non-violent" inmates, it is clear that is not true.  As detailed by Eric Siddall and others, all prisoners benefit from his early release initiative, as it is broadly written to allow the Parole Board unfettered discretion to ignore sentence enhancements on prisoners whether they are serving time for a violent or "non-violent" offense.  Sentence enhancements allow judges to increase sentences by punishing criminals for conduct which distinguishes their "base "crime from that of other criminals by taking into account aggravating factors.  These could include using a gun, inflicting great injury, stealing large sums, committing crimes to benefit a gang, or victimizing the elderly.
Even newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times are catching on to what the Governor intends to do.  A Times story stated, In practice, the initiative essentially would undo many of the sentencing enhancements added to the penal code by state lawmakers and ballot measures, such as the Three Strikes law, approved by voters."  More detailed examination of all the drastic changes the initiative would make can be found in this detailed analysis by the California District Attorneys Association  
In fact, one only needs to read Governor Brown's own statements to see his real motivation for this initiative.  He wants to return sentencing laws to the days of the 1970's before he signed the current determinate sentencing law.  Most recently, he told an audience of "criminal justice advocates" the determinate sentencing law is a "mistake" that he intends to "clean up." 
What Governor Brown intends to do in his "clean up" is take the power of determining the time a convicted criminal should serve away from judges who impose individual sentences after hearing from the prosecution, defendant, and victims.  Instead, he wants to empower Parole Boards to ignore those judge imposed sentence enhancements and release inmates early, using whatever criteria the Parole Board dreams up
In short, the Governor longs for a return to the "bad old days" of his first term that began in 1974, when Parole Boards freed inmates who had served extremely short sentences.  In 1974 , for example, three years was the average sentence served by 54% of inmates in for robbery, 64% of inmates in for assault, 86% of inmates in for burglary and 94% in for auto theft.
There is a reason Governor Brown keeps insisting that his initiative is targeted to a small group of "non-violent" inmates; he knows the public will not vote for a measure which will allow all inmates' early release after judges imposed a carefully considered sentence.  However, as the Governor continues to talk and his initiative is subject to critical scrutiny, the truth about what he aims to do is revealed.  Along with others in the public safety community, we will do everything we can to try to ensure that the facts about this initiative are explained to the voters and that this bad idea never becomes law.
George Hofstetter is President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. ALADS is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.  George can be contacted at
# # # 
 If you have friends who would like to receive ALADS Email Blasts click here.
ALADS Facility: 2 Cupania Circle, Monterey Park, CA  91755
See what's happening on our social sites!