Low-income communities will be devastated by felon-freeing fiasco

By Eric Siddall

Gov. Jerry Brown’s woefully misguided bid to free thousands of dangerous felons from state prisons would slam low-income, minority neighborhoods that are already battered by disproportionally high crime rates.

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

These hardened criminals would not be paroled to wealthy communities. Rather, they would be unleashed on poor, primarily minority neighborhoods where they previously preyed upon the hard-working residents.

There is compelling statistical evidence to support this assertion.

While crime has surged throughout most of Los Angeles during the past year, it has decreased in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, which are home to most of the city’s wealthiest communities. A growing number of experts believe the crime increase is due in no small part to Proposition 47, a 2014 voter-approved initiative that turned a host of serious felonies into misdemeanors, resulting in the early release of thousands of felons.

We can see that granting early release to dangerous criminals has already increased crime in lower-income areas. Brown’s initiative would further hammer these battered communities.

We are by no means suggesting this is an intentional aim of the people who are trying to qualify the felon-freeing initiative for the November ballot. What we are saying is that this is atrocious public policy, and that it’s imperative that those promoting it take a step back and consider the law of unintended consequences.

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, when freed, would commit more crimes that would land them in prison once again. This pretzel-logic does not make sense anywhere except, apparently, in the state Capitol.

The initiative inched closer to reality earlier this month when the California Supreme Court authorized Brown and his allies to start gathering signatures to qualify it for the ballot. In doing so, 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.

It would be wise for us to assume a worst-case scenario will come to pass and the initiative will qualify. Accordingly, we must – starting now – leverage every resource we have to defeat it in November. We cannot allow some of our most vulnerable residents to continue to bear the impact of misguided, opportunistic public policies.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  He can be contacted at esiddall@laadda.com.  The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.


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