The Passage of Prop 57 
 Will Impact California For Years

by George Hofstetter
George Hofstetter
With the passage of Prop 57, California has continued down the path of diminishing public safety via initiatives which perversely promise the opposite.  Governor Brown made passage of this initiative his personal crusade as it embodied his unsupported views on crime, punishment and how long an inmate should serve for their crimes. 
 
Last time Governor Brown was still in office, voters had enough and firmly rebuked his views. This time, he will be out of office before the inevitable crime wave produces a similar backlash and innocent victims.
 
Prop 57 embodies all that is wrong with the initiative system; a poorly drafted initiative, a misleading official ballot description, and a failure (with a few exceptions) by the media to critically examine an initiative. 
 
In the instance of Prop 57, Governor Brown refused any outside review when drafting the initiative, and in a bizarre rant blamed his inclusions of violent felons for early parole on prosecutors opposing the initiative. 
 
As Eric Siddall with the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys pointed out, the State Attorney General's office wrote the official ballot description stating Prop 57 only applied to "non-violent" felons before later admitting it simply parroted the Governor's initiative description and had performed no independent analysis.
 
Despite the Governor's campaign admitting the early parole provision applied to violent felons, newspapers continually referred to Prop 57 as only applying to "non-violent" felons. In the few instances they noted it also applied to violent felons; they blithely accepted the Governor's assurance that future administrative regulations would block its inclusion of violent felons without inquiring how such tinkering with a constitutional initiative would survive a court challenge.  
 
When Governor Brown was last in office, his preferred system of parole boards deciding sentence length was in effect. With the crime rate more than doubling during his term, the legislature passed, and Brown reluctantly signed the current determinate sentencing law, a move he has resented ever since. 
 
There was also Rose Bird, Brown's choice to be State Supreme Court Chief Justice as she shared his views on crime and punishment.  She was removed from office by voters because, as one chronicler of Bird put it, the voters cared only that she " did not care about victims of crime ." Her atrocious rulings in numerous criminal cases not only led to her removal but that of two other Supreme Court justices.
 
The truth of the matter is that those inmates currently in state prison are there because they have earned their way there.  In some cases, their initial crime was heinous. However, the vast majority of inmates in state prison are serving time because their prior criminal record makes them unsuitable for local custody.  The sentence enhancements which lengthen their sentences and which Governor Brown objects to reflect their prior record, the harm they caused in their current crime, and the manner in which they committed their crimes.
 
The out of control crime rate of 1970 through early 1990's was reversed by lengthy sentences for convicted criminals.  Unfortunately, voters have accepted the false promise that lessened punishment will continue low crime rates.  Prop 47 kicked off this trend, essentially making inconsequential many property crimes while promising a safer California and substantial cost savings. Instead, the property crime rates have risen for two straight years in California while dropping nationwide and the meager decreases in costs have been dwarfed by the cost of crime experienced by the state's residents and businesses.  Prop 57 continues this dangerous path, only this time the criminals that will be the benefactors of its leniency are even more dangerous.
 
California has now rolled a pair of sevens when it comes to crime and punishment.  Governor Brown may be celebrating Prop 57's passage, but it is innocent Californians who once again will be suffering the fallout from indulging the Governor's personal beliefs on crime and punishment.
 
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 ghofstetter@alads.org.

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