The Criminal Justice Shell Game

By Eric Siddall

When criminal justice experiments are not supported by structural reform, the result is more senseless murders, like Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer. It is time for the state to stop its cheap attempts at fixes to the criminal justice system, and implement meaningful reform. AB 109, Prop 47, and Prop 57 have been failures. All were hastily crafted social experiments passed without input from law enforcement or victims’ rights organizations. They were passed because the state was being cheap. Sacramento has been derelict in its duty to the People of the State of California.

Here is the nasty little secret of these three experiments. Sacramento was tired of paying the bill for public safety, so they decided to pass the buck to the counties. AB 109, moved low level offenders from state prison, which the state pays for, to county jails, which the county pays for.

It also curtailed the power of parole agents (paid by the state) to monitor and punish parolees. Instead it shifted the responsibility to probation. Guess who pays for probation? The county. Guess who has next to no expertise in dealing with harden criminals? Probation.

Here is what we lost. Parole agents specialized in dealing with hardened criminals who had been sent to prison. If a parolee was found in violation, parole could send him back to prison for a year. Parole agents were no joke. They kept tight control over their wards. Today, thanks to “reforms”, a parole agent can only punish a parolee with 10 days in the county jail.<

Prop 47 reduced many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Misdemeanor offenders are sent to county jail. Again, the county pays the bill. Notice the trend.

Prop 57 gives the parole board (different from parole agents) unfettered power to release state prisoners. Interestingly, this reform did not address the issue at the county level. Again, the net result is less expense for the state.

So, while it is true that these reforms on their own did not cause Officer Keith Boyer to get murdered by Mejia, it is irresponsible to ignore the fact that the state has, over the last decade, wiped its hands of its public safety obligations and shifted the burden of monitoring harden criminals to probation-an organization not equipped to deal with the Mejia’s of the world. Did these reforms on their own allow Mejia to murder Officer Boyer? No. But the state exiting the public safety business did contribute!

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. 

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