Governor Brown’s “Get Out of Jail Free” Approach

By Michele Hanisee

As Governor Brown enters his final years in office, legislation he has proposed, signed and vetoed in the past year make it crystal clear he wants convicted criminals to serve as little time as possible. Three changes in the criminal justice system illustrate his beliefs.

First is Prop 57 which the Governor wrote and campaigned for via extensive expenditure of time and money, yet does nothing to address recidivism. As we blogged about extensively, this proposition drastically shortened sentences to be served by convicted criminals. The goal of shortening sentences was accomplished by allowing the Parole Board to disregard sentence enhancements which had been imposed to reflect the severity of both violent and non-violent crime that criminals had committed.

Next is SB 620, a bill the Governor just signed which altered sentence enhancements for those who were found by a judge or jury to have used a gun in the commission of a crime. While the Governor eagerly signed six bills in 2016 restricting gun and ammunition sales, he doesn’t want those who actually use a gun in a crime to face the mandatory gun enhancements, so he signed SB 620 which removed the requirement that enhancements be imposed for using a gun in a crime.

Lastly is AB 1408, which passed the Legislature unanimously and made some common sense reforms to AB 109. The reform that caught the Governor’s ire and prompted his recent veto restricted parole violators to only three “10-day flash incarcerations” before a petition to violate parole had to be filed. The Governor denounced the idea as a “three strikes and you’re out approach,” preferring to allow repeated failures on parole without meaningful sanction. His veto message was pathetic and failed to address the merits of the legislation.

That is, of course, if the AB 109 violators can even be located by local probation officers; a perusal of the “most wanted list” from the LA County Probation Department is comprised of page after page of AB 109 parole absconders.

Governor Brown has in the past claimed that he seeks to make the criminal justice “more human, more just, and more cost-effective.” It appears the Governor is eagerly pursuing the “cost-effective” portion of his statement by reducing punishment for crime in every way possible. But it will be victims who pay the price.

Michele Hanisee is 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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