By Michele Hanisee
The necessity of the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” continues to be demonstrated by the early release of violent inmates under Prop 57. The initiative will fix one flaw of Prop 57, which purported to release only “non-violent” inmates while deliberately failing to define which crimes qualified as “non-violent.”
In a previous blog, Meet the Violent Inmates Getting Released from Prison we highlighted four decisions of early release under Prop 57 which prove that the Parole Board is releasing inmates convicted of violent crimes. In each instance the board acknowledged the violence of the men’s crimes, and that all but one committed additional offenses while in prison. Nonetheless, they concluded that there is no reason these men shouldn’t be released early.
Recently, opinion pieces authored by retired FBI agent Thomas Parker and George Eskin each used the same talking points and at times, word-for-word identical arguments. They claimed that no violent inmates were being released. For their benefit, we would like to provide two more recent decisions that illustrate the problem.
Jason Marcel McClain
Jason Marcel McClain was sentenced to 10 years, 4 months in state prison in 2012 after being convicted for 1) Assault with Force Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury, and 2) Criminal Threats.
These crimes involved McClain preventing his girlfriend from leaving their bedroom during an argument. McClain slapped her across the face, choked her with both hands, placed scissors against her throat and threatened to stab her, then picked up a piece of a broken chair and threatened to beat her head with it and cause her brains to splatter over the wall.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office opposed early parole. However, in April, 2018, Deputy Commissioner Keith Stanton approved McClain’s early release under Prop 57’s “non-violent” parole process. While noting the crime above occurred within five years of a 2006 conviction for robbery, and that McClain failed to enroll in self-help programming that would have helped him deal with “the underlying causes of his prior criminality and assist in reducing the risk of recidivism,” he stated McClain did not present an “unreasonable risk of violence at this time.
John Jerome Ursich
In 2010, John Jerome Ursich was sentenced to 13 years in state prison after being convicted of Assault with a Deadly Weapon. In this crime, Urisch stabbed and hit the victim, causing the victim to be hospitalized for two months. This was not Ursich’s first crimes of violence; he had been convicted on two different occasions for robbery.
Although the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office opposed early parole, Deputy Commissioner Richard Jallins granted early release under Prop 57. Why? Well, according to Commissioner Jallins, the fact that Ursich had not committed a violent felony in the 15 years preceding this crime of violence (excuse us, “non-violence”) or been incarcerated for causing physical injury to a victim in the five years prior to this incident mitigated Urisch’s risk of violence. Thus, since it had been 7 ½ years since he last committed a crime of violence, his early release was granted because it was found Ursich did not present an “unreasonable risk of violence at this time.”
It cannot be contended with a straight face that the two inmates highlighted above are “non-violent” offenders. We understand the Governor, who was the driving force behind Prop 57, has a philosophical opposition to imprisonment, as reflected by Prop 57, and by 1059 pardons and 37 commutations in his past two terms (the previous three Governors combined issued only 28 pardons over a 20-year period).
The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act would, among other things, reclassify crimes that Prop. 57 considers “non-violent” – including rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child under age 14 and domestic violence – to prevent the early release of inmates convicted of these crimes. It also would hold serial thieves accountable, reinstate DNA collection for a number of misdemeanors and create judicial oversight of the broken state release system. For more information about the Act, please visit www.keepcalsafe.org
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.