Felon-freeing initiative advances

By ADDA Board of Directors

Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to flood California communities with dangerous felons after they have served only a fraction of their prison sentences has inched closer to reality.

The California Supreme Court on Friday authorized Brown and his allies to start gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that would offer early release to certain inmates, including those who had prior convictions for violent felonies. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye stayed a lower court ruling that had halted Brown’s measure after the California District Attorneys Association sued to block it.

Under Brown’s dangerous initiative, a prisoner would be eligible for parole after serving 50 percent of the sentence for his primary offense – regardless of any enhancements that had been added onto the sentence and regardless of previous strikes for heinous crimes such as rape and murder.

The initiative would deal a devastating double blow to public safety. By basing parole eligibility on the primary offense only, it would eliminate prosecutors’ ability to use sentencing enhancements to secure plea bargains. More disturbingly, it would further gut California’s voter-approved and highly successful three strikes law. A criminal could have three, four, even ten strikes and still be eligible for a parole hearing after serving just half his time for the primary offense.

Gov. Brown has admitted that the impetus for his ill-advised initiative is to reduce prison overcrowding. To accomplish this, he wants to release dangerous prisoners who very likely would commit more crimes that would land them in prison once again. Apparently this is what passes for logic these days in the state Capitol.

Brown cannot claim complete victory yet. Friday’s ruling was a temporary stay; the full Supreme Court is scheduled to review the lower court’s ruling this week.

Of course, Brown has appointed three of those Supreme Court justices. If the Court green-lights his initiative, the ADDA will leverage every resource we have to defeat it at the ballot box in November. We simply cannot allow state voters to be hoodwinked by the misleading arguments that Brown and his supporters will bombard them with.

Brown’s felon-freeing initiative would be bad enough if it were the only threat to public safety that California residents face. Combined with other obscenities such as Prop. 47 and attacks on the state’s cash bail system, it would be devastating.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. 

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