By Michele Hanisee
The Senate Public Safety Committee recently passed AB 2888 in response to the outrage in California and across the country over the probation sentence given to Stanford swimmer Brock Turner for his sexual assault of an unconscious woman.
AB 2888 would make prison mandatory for anyone convicted of eight specific sexual assault crimes, with most of those changes affecting sex crimes involving alcohol and any other “intoxicating or anesthetic substance.” However, this legislation (which I suggested in a recent blog) will be drastically undercut should Governor Brown’s initiative, providing for early release of sex offenders and other violent felons, pass this November.
The reaction to the Brock Turner sentence reflects the thinking of most people that sex offenses are degrading crimes that must be punished by meaningful incarceration. Even those considered liberal on crime and punishment such as State Senator Mark Leno weighed in to support the bill, with Leno referring to the sex crimes covered by the bill as “despicable crimes.” I say most, because predictably the ACLU was opposed, claiming mandatory prison sentences punish communities of color. No doubt sex offenders were grateful for the undying support of the ACLU.
However, this well intentioned bill and all other current laws punishing sex offenses are about to be drastically undercut by Governor Brown’s initiative. These include laws punishing sex crimes such as rape of an unconscious person, rape by use of an intoxicating substance, or rape where the victim was legally incapable of giving consent. Likewise, Penal Code Section 667.6, subdivision (c), permitting the imposition of a full, separate, and consecutive term for each violation of certain sex offenses and subdivision (d), permitting the imposition of a full, separate and consecutive term for additional crimes involving different victims or the same victim on a separate occasion, will be gutted by Governor Brown’s initiative.
How are these sex crimes law eviscerated? As the California District Attorneys Association analysis explains, Governor Brown’s initiative rewards prison inmates by allowing them to only serve the term for one count for which they were convicted (their “primary offense.”) Any additional time they were sentenced to by a judge, be it a consecutive sentence as in Penal Code section 667.6 or an enhancement for harm done or loss caused, can be ignored and the inmate paroled. Thus inmates convicted of sex assaults against multiple victims will only have to serve the same amount of time as inmates who committed one sexual assault against one victim.
Other laws affecting sexual offenses, such as those aimed at human trafficking, are likewise gutted. Governor Brown’s initiative allows for consecutive sentences for multiple victims of a human trafficker to be disregarded. In addition, the initiative allows for increased “conduct credits” for all inmates, including those convicted of human trafficking, thereby providing these inmates an earlier release from prison.
Governor Brown’s initiative devalues victims of sex offenses by allowing inmates to escape increased prison sentences imposed for multiple offenses or multiple victims. Those who believe every sex assault victim deserves a measure of justice by having the person who assaulted them serve time in state prison should oppose Governor Brown’s initiative.
Likewise, those who believe every victim of human trafficking deserves individual justice, and that the person trafficked should serve time for every person they put into sex slavery, should oppose Governor Brown’s initiative. As I perused the list of the legislators who supported AB 2888 and their reasons why, I wondered how many of them will be opposing Governor Brown’s initiative?