This is a breakdown of each CA Proposition as researched by Debra Dowdy. She has taken the time to research the facts as given by the Ballot Initiatives and information available on ballotpedia.org. At the end of the description, she and I give our vote for each Proposition. There is also a linkable list of Propositions at the bottom of the post. We hope this will help you learn more about these important initiatives. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and vote!
CA Proposition 57. Criminal sentences. Parole.
I printed out the actual proposed law and it’s 11 pages. 10.5 of those deal with changing the law so that juvenile offenders are automatically tried in juvenile court rather than criminal court. The DA can make a motion to transfer a minor back to criminal court and the juvenile court judge decides if that’s appropriate or not.
The real hubbub about this initiative is the proposed Constitutional amendment (again, caution!) to make it easier to release non-violent felons from prison if they behave themselves or earn some rehabilitative or educational achievements. Sounds good at first blush.
(If you’re interested, I was part of a discussion with Sheriff Mims and Councilman Brandau on my son’s show, The Kick. Go to the link below to see it. We talked about Propositions 57 and 63.)
Some background: The U.S. Supreme Court has told California that we must reduce our prison population because of overcrowding. That may have some bearing on this issue. An alternative might be to reopen the Coalinga prison and move some prisoners there.
This is something that should have been addressed by our Legislature, but no politician wants to vote to release felons. So Gov. Brown took it on and it’s now in our laps to decide.
In the proposed change there are only four sentences about this proposal to release felons. So there’s not a lot of detail. The Dept. of Corrections (unelected bureaucrats) will be deciding the rules later.
According to the California District Attorney’s Association, “non-violent” felonies are not defined anywhere in California law–only violent ones and that’s a very short list. [See Penal Code section 667.5(c).] Therefore, anything that’s not violent is non-violent by default. They list over 100 crimes that are non-violent. The list includes rape, sodomy, oral copulation with a unconscious person, child abduction, human trafficking, terrorism…and on and on. If a felon qualifies for release, they would have to go to the parole board and plead their case. 7000 felons would be eligible at this time to do this.
Certainly rehabilitating prisoners rather just punishing them makes sense, but that’s not really addressed in this proposed constitutional amendment. I think there’s a desire in California to reduce or eliminate criminal consequences for most drug crimes–hence the move to legalize marijuana. What we have to remember, however, is that 95% of drug arrests are now misdemeanors, not felonies, thanks to Prop. 47. Also thanks to Prop. 47, crime is on the rise in Fresno, but that’s another discussion.
Seems to me that we need to develop some true and effective rehabilitation programs with clear expectations and consequences. If you do well, you get rewarded with early release. If you don’t, you stay put. And if you re-offend, back you go. We need to balance helping felons reform and keeping the public safe.
IMO we should toss this back to the politicians who aren’t doing their jobs and make them hash it out. Since is would amend our Constitution, we have to get it right the first time because it will be extremely difficult to change it. What are the chances of that?
Debra Dowdy is voting – No
Chris Dowdy is voting – No
Links to all other CA Proposition for the 2016 Ballot: