Proposition 57 Will Hit Minority Communities the Hardest

By Eric Siddall

We have an incarceration problem in this country. Minority communities bear the brunt of this harsh reality. We need to acknowledge this fact and discuss a smarter, nimbler, and more humane approach to this challenge.

But we also have another problem. Far too many people of color are victims of crime, a fact often overlooked in the current criminal justice debate. We need to acknowledge and address this harsh reality as well.

Prop. 57 presents itself as an answer to this problem, but a closer look at the initiative indicates it will only make things worse for California’s minority communities.
First, a few important statistics. Despite representing 6.5 percent of the state population, blacks comprise 24 percent of its prison population. Male blacks who drop out of high school face a 70 percent chance of going to prison, compared to 17 percent of similarly situated whites. These facts should give us pause and demand reflection.

However, behind these incarceration numbers are numbers that are equally terrible. In the United States in 2015, according to the FBI, more than 50 percent of all murder victims were black, despite the fact that blacks comprise only 12 percent of the US population. 7,039 African-American men and women were the victims of homicide, out of a total 13,455 homicides nationwide. This means blacks suffer a rate of victimization more than four times higher than their representation in the overall population – this is unacceptable.

To be sure, overall homicide rates have dropped substantially since the early 1990s, which is something for which we should be thankful. In 1993, the year before California’s Three-Strikes was enacted, there were 1,944 homicides in Los Angeles County. By 2015, this number had dropped to 649.

Despite this remarkable reduction in the overall rate of homicides, minority communities still face the most significant impact of crime. Today, within a 5-mile radius of the Compton courthouse, there are approximately 118 criminal street gangs. In the past six months, there were 528 violent crimes in Compton per 10,000 residents, including 21 homicides. Fourteen of the 21 homicide victims were black, despite the fact that Compton is 40 percent African-American. Compare this to Brentwood which had a mere 18 violent crimes per 10,000 residents and suffered no homicides.

Frankly, considering these numbers, it might seem easy for the Westside family to vote “yes” on Proposition 57. Crime is not something they experience on a daily basis. They don’t have to take a different route to school in the morning because there is a yellow tape blocking off a crime scene. Crime for that family is an allegory. It is a conversation piece.

For the family in Compton, crime is a daily reality. Every other week, there is a body bag carrying a young male away to the coroner’s office. Every night there is an airship hovering over the city while a pursuit occurs on the ground of a carjacking suspect. If you look at a gang map, almost every inch of Compton is covered by a gang claiming a part of the city. Brentwood doesn’t even have a gang map.

My opposition to Proposition 57 is personal. For the past eight years, I was assigned as a prosecutor in the South Central Judicial District. This is an area that covers Compton and Watts. When I see these numbers, it makes my blood boil, because behind each number is a wounded family and community. Too often, I have sat in my office with a mother and father grieving over their young son. What I find morally reprehensible is that we continue to allow neighborhoods like Compton and Watts to experience huge murder rates while Brentwood is safe and sound.

This is no doubt that we need to take a compressive approach to crime that goes well beyond incarceration. We need to acknowledge that our high incarcerations reflect a societal failure. We need to address the socio-economic issues that underline the many problems of lower income communities.

Proposition 57 does none of the above. Read the one-page summary – the Proposition allows tens of thousands of violent, dangerous and career criminals to be released early.

It disarms us from attacking the criminal element, it releases prisoners back into vulnerable communities, it does nothing to address recidivism, and it breaks the promise we made to victims and witness. Proposition 57 is a well-intentioned disaster that will only lead to more crime, more death, and devastated communities.

Prop 57 – A prescription for disaster

Give me 2 minutes of your time and this video will explain why you should vote NO on Prop 57.

Law Enforcement Murders Expose the Bankruptcy of “Criminal Justice Reform”

By Eric Siddall

The recent murder of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Owens, Palm Springs Police Officers Jose Vega and Lesley Zerebny by career criminals is a bitter tragedy for their families, and a great loss for all of law enforcement and the communities they bravely served.

In the Palm Springs murders, the suspect charged has gang ties and was convicted in a prior shooting. In Los Angeles, Sheriff McDonnell commented that Steve Owens death should start a serious conversation about policies that allowed the gunman to cycle in and out of custody for years.

The recent and proposed changes to our criminal laws, led by Governor Brown, the State Legislature, and via ballot initiatives foisted on the public by pro-criminal “justice reform” groups, have made and will make all Californians less safe. They are the driving reason why California’s violent crime rate increase was more than twice the national average in 2015, and why California suffered near double increases in the property crime rate in 2014 and 2015 while the rest of the nation saw property crime rates decline in both those years.

First, let’s start with the supervision of the violent career criminal charged in the execution murder of Sgt. Owens following his release from prison in 2014 after he served a six-year sentence for armed robbery. According to news reports, we have learned that on three separate occasions in the last two years he was arrested for new crimes, suffered two new criminal convictions, but no parole hold was ever placed on him by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). A September 2015 arrest for driving under the influence resulted in a 28-day jail sentence and probation; an April 2016 arrest that resulted in another sentence of probation and credit for 15 days’ custody, and in July 2016 he was arrested again.

Had the justice system worked properly, this violent criminal would have had his probation revoked for the April 2016 or July 2016 arrest, and this felon would not have been on the street and able to murder Steve Owen. Instead, in what it is clearly an attempt to game statistics and make the recidivism rate for violent ex-felons look lower than it actually is, it appears that parole holds are not be being placed on violent felons when they violate probation by having either new arrests or convictions for new crimes.

What keeps me up at night is that if Prop 57 passes, the people at CDCR are the ones Governor Brown assures us will be carefully screening the tens of thousands of inmates his Prop. 57 makes eligible for early release from prison.

Next, thanks to Prop. 47, the stolen firearm that the career criminal had in his possession was only a misdemeanor offense. The pro-criminal folks behind Prop. 47 reduced the crime of possession of a stolen gun from a felony to a misdemeanor offense; Governor Brown vetoed a bill earlier this year that overwhelmingly passed the state legislature and restored the crime to a felony.

Further, although this career criminal has two prior robbery convictions, Prop. 36 wiped away the potential 25-life sentence, the judge previously had the discretion to impose for being an ex-felon in possession. Passed in 2012, this proposition changed the three strikes law by permitting life sentences only when the current crime is a serious or violent offense. Felon in possession of a gun is not a qualifying offense. Also, AB 109 ensured that if this felon had been sentenced to prison for possessing the gun, a violation of parole upon release would result not result in a return to prison, but instead a short stint in local jail.

If Prop. 62 is approved by the voters in November, the career criminals charged in these recent cold-blooded murders of peace officers will not face the death penalty. Instead, they will at most face a sentence of life in prison without parole. I say at most, because if you read the writings of those who lead the campaign to repeal of the death penalty you know a ballot initiative to eliminate life without parole is next on their agenda. In their view, replacing the death penalty with life without parole removes “one terrible idea only to replace it with another” as in their view “life without parole is as dehumanizing as death itself, and in some ways, it is even worse.” This is one reason why I, like other Deputy District Attorneys, support Proposition 66 – would preserve the death penalty for the most heinous criminals by enacting critically needed reforms to the system.

California ended the crime wave that started in the 1970’s and continued into the early 1990’s with measures such as determinate sentencing and three strikes. Incarcerating for lengthy periods of time felons who had committed violent crimes and had long criminal records led to a remarkable and sustained drop in crime. Proponents of lowering criminal penalties claimed that public safety would be enhanced, but that has been disproved by crime statistics, just as their estimates of “cost savings” through decreased incarceration have not materialized but in fact have in fact been dwarfed by the increased costs to residents and businesses from the rising crime rate.

In years past, Steve Owen’s death in the line of duty by this poster boy of a criminal justice system gone awry would have led to the serious conversation Sheriff McDonnell called for. However, since California is only in the early stages of a crime wave unleashed by these changes, with the proponents still claiming it is “too early” to draw conclusions, I am not optimistic that a serious conversation will occur. Instead, it will take a few more years for the public to accept statistics proving the arguments of the pro-criminal crowd for reduced penalties only led to more crime. Sadly, those statistics will consist of tens of thousands of real people unnecessarily victimized because of foolish experiments on the hardworking residents of California.

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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. To contact a Board member, click here.

Prop 47 Fallout Continues: Once Again CA Suffers a Rise in Property Crime Rate as Nation Sees a Decline

By Michele Hanisee

Just released FBI statistics for 2015 document that as in 2014, following the passage of Prop 47, California suffered a significant rise in the property crime rate.  By contrast, the rest of the nation saw the property crime rate fall in both 2014 and 2015. Thanks to Prop 47, California continues to stack failure when it comes to the property crime rate while the rest of the nation enjoys 13 straight years of decreasing property crime rates.

Prop 47 was a bill of goods sold to voters as an enhancement of public safety and was specifically aimed at reducing punishment for property and drug crimes.  A large number of felony theft offenses were made inconsequential misdemeanors with no threat of arrest, conviction or incarceration.  As we have documented in prior blogs, thieves in California have been emboldened by Prop 47 to commit theft and then refuse to appear in court when caught and cited. Tens of thousands of Californians have become victims of crime, thanks to this terrible initiative.

The increase in the 2015 property crime rate over 2014 in California was substantial and across all areas of the state as measured in the FBI metropolitan statistical areas.  Here in Los Angeles/Long Beach/Glendale, the property crime rate increased by 9.72%. Examples from both northern and southern California tell the same story of a rising property crime rate. Anaheim/Santa Ana/Irvine saw property crime rate increase by a staggering 23.88%; in Francisco/Redwood City/South San Francisco the property crime rate soared by 13.99%, and in San Diego/Carlsbad the rate jumped 5.99%.

Keep in mind these increases are stacked atop the increase in the property crime rate across California in 2014, a year the rest of the nation saw property crime rates fall 5%. After the release of the 2014 statistics, the Prop 47 apologists claimed that nothing could be garnered from a single statistical year.  The 2015 statistics, with the rest of the nation again seeing a drop in property crime rates, demolish that argument.

As it has become clear that Prop 47 has driven the rise in property crime rates across California, Prop 47 proponents have resorted to inventing bogus benchmarks in attempts to hide its impact.  For example, as detailed in an article by Susan Abram, the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice claimed last week that California counties reporting large jail decreases did not see greater increases in crime than those California jurisdictions that did not release prisoners.  That is akin to that saying that after several boats capsized, everybody on the one boat drowned at the same rate-never mind those in the other boats made it safely to shore. The figures on crime that tell the true story are published by the FBI and the California Attorney General, and both show increases in crime.

Realizing this rather a futile smokescreen attempt failed to explain the post-Prop 47 crime wave, the study’s author resorted to the forlorn claim that with the passage of Prop 47 the “voters have spoken.” Actually, the voters didn’t speak; they were fooled by slick propaganda of Prop 47 proponents.  Voters were told Prop 47 would save money, that criminals would flock to drug treatment, and that public safety would be enhanced by not incarcerating thieves. Instead, the promised “savings” from Prop 47 failed to appear but residents and businesses have borne the heavy costs that come from increased crime, drug courts have collapsed across the state as defendants are no longer forced to attend and complete drug rehabilitation, and for the second year in the row Californians are less safe than fellow residents nationwide.

Of course, Prop 47 is only the warm-up act for a public safety disaster in California.  As we have repeatedly blogged, Prop 57 – A “Criminal’s Bill of Rights is on the November ballot. It will allow early release via parole of tens of thousands of dangerous California state prison inmates serving lengthy prison sentences due to the harm their crime caused, weapons they used, or their serious and violent prior criminal records.  It will also accelerate the release of all other prison inmates by allowing the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation to invent sentence credits and decrease time to be served.

The old saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you-fool me twice, shame on me.”  With FBI statistics documenting the public safety disaster that is Prop 47, it remains to be seen if voters will take this adage to heart as they contemplate the next public safety disaster known as Prop 57.

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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. 

False statements might be Prop 57’s winning formula

By Michele Hanisee

Early polling shows Gov. Jerry Brown’s dangerous felon-freeing initiative is being supported by state voters, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. The falsehoods the Governor continually repeats-that his initiative only applies to “non-violent” felons-has crowded out the truth. Two-thirds of the people surveyed said they agreed with Proposition 57’s goals of freeing “non-violent” felons, while just 26 percent said they were opposed.

The ADDA sounded the alarm early on about Brown’s misguided bid to free thousands of dangerous felons from state prisons. Under this initiative, felons would be eligible for parole after serving 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.

Though disturbing, the poll results should not be surprising. Opponents have raised virtually no money, while Brown has hauled in $7.5 million in support of the initiative. The Governor, knowing that his initiative is complex and that he has received no pushback about his demonstrably false statements from journalists, is also using his political muscle to reduce opposition to a simple “no position.” As an example, last month the governor maneuvered to quell potentially powerful opposition to it from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) to take no position on the measure – even though the California District Attorneys Association strongly opposes it.

It’s unfortunate that media in this state has refused to ask Brown the tough questions about his initiative. When the Governor chastises a county sheriff for correctly identifying a dangerous inmate eligible for release, you would think that might pique some journalist to critically examine the initiative. As Deputy District Attorneys, we understand all the Penal Pode sections affected, know the inner workings of the criminal justice system, and have done our best through our blogs to expose the truth. However, absent media scrutiny, voters will simply accept the false assurances of the Governor as to the scope of his initiative. Failed policies such as Prop. 47, which reduced a number of serious felonies to misdemeanors and is widely seen as a contributing factor to the recent surge in crime statewide.

If Prop. 57 passes, you can bet it won’t be long before there’s a direct link between its perverse provisions and an even greater explosion in crime than we’re already seeing. Combined with Prop. 47, it could deal a brutal blow to safety and security in every California community. When the voters realize the Governor misled them on the scope of his initiative, it will be too late.

Sadly, the people who will be hammered hardest by this latest disastrous experiment will most likely be low-income, minority neighborhoods that are already battered by disproportionally high crime rates. The hardened criminals who will reap the benefits of Brown’s folly will be unleashed on the poor, primarily minority neighborhoods to prey upon the hard-working residents.

If there’s any silver lining to this week’s Prop. 57 news, it’s that the poll is the first public poll on this measure. But with the election less than seven weeks away, it should nonetheless be deeply disturbing news to everyone who cares about public safety. We can only hope that the media pins the Governor down on the specific sections of his initiative, and runs his explanations by those such as us who can explain in detail if the answer is accurate. We believe the public would have a different reaction to Prop 57 if there was a factual explanation of its scope.

Please share this or our other related blogs on social media.  To read or share the blogs, please click on the hyperlinks below: (1) Prop 57-A “Criminal’s Bill of Rights.” (2)  Governor Brown, Time to Debate Prop 57 (3) Jerry Brown, Line 1 – It’s Your Flawed Initiative Calling (4) Proposition 57 Unmasked: A Detailed Analysis of the Misleading Initiative (5)Those Who Care About Victims of Sex Crimes Should Oppose Gov. Brown’s Initiative (6) Stanford Sexual Assault Case Typifies California’s New Approach to Criminals (7) Governor’s spokesperson confirms his initiative will allow early release of violent inmates (8)  Gov. Brown: Longing for the 70’s (9) Governor Brown’s Power Grab (10) The truth will defeat an oft-repeated lie (11) Low-income communities will be devastated by felon-freeing fiasco (12) L.A. Gangs Will Love Governor’s Ballot Initiative (13) Felon-freeing initiative advances (14) A Radically Dangerous Experiment with Public Safety and (145 Wait in Line Governor

New polling data should alarm responsible gun owners

By Michele Hanisee

Law-abiding gun owners in California have cause to be gravely concerned these days.

With the November election just seven weeks away, a new California Counts poll indicates state voters overwhelmingly support Proposition 63, the misleading anti-gun ballot measure that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing.

The so-called “Safety for All Act” would, among other things, make it harder to obtain ammunition and guns, prohibit the possession of large-capacity magazines and criminalize the failure to report lost and stolen guns.

As we wrote back in March, the initiative might seem to make sense on the surface. But in this case, the image is at stark odds with reality.

For one thing, this initiative would do nothing to stop criminals from acquiring ammunition, guns or large-capacity magazines. But it would make it prohibitively difficult for responsible gun owners to obtain ammunition for sport and home defense. Plus, while imposing unreasonable burdens on responsible gun owners, it would actually incentivize criminals to commit residential burglaries and armed robberies of gun stores.

Even our liberal governor, Jerry Brown, recognizes the folly of targeting responsible gun owners. In vetoing a 2013 bill that would have criminalized the failure to report gun thefts, he noted that responsible owners would report a theft and irresponsible owners would not, regardless of what the law says.

Newsom has raised almost $4 million in support of Prop. 63. His massive money haul has clearly had an effect: 93 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans support the measure, according to the California Counts poll.

As prosecutors, we would enthusiastically support any proposed law that promised to be a realistic tool against gun violence. But Prop. 63 is simply bad public policy.

Its passage would have zero effect on criminals – other than to encourage them to commit more crimes. At the same time, it would criminalize the conduct of ordinary citizens.

The ADDA encourages all of its members to do everything they can to spread the truth about this misguided, and misleading measure. Please share this or our other related blogs on social media. To read or share the blogs, please click on the hyperlinks below: (1) The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend (2) Ballot measure on guns, ammo hinders law enforcement (3) Safety for All Act is a dangerous misnomer (4) The “Ammo Police” is not the answer to criminal use of firearms

Prop 57 – A “Criminal’s Bill of Rights”

By Eric Siddall

Governor Brown’s Proposition 57 is a “Criminal’s Bill of Rights.” It grants convicted felons a constitutional right to get released after completing only a minimal part of their sentence. In some cases this number can go as low as two percent of their original sentence. This new “Criminal’s Bill of Rights” trumps earlier constitutional amendments aimed at protecting victims. It effectively overturns anti-crime measures like “Three Strikes.”

Brown wrote Proposition 57 to overturn two decades of anti-crime legislation. He takes dead aim at Article 1, Section 28 of the California Constitution, otherwise known as the “Victim’s Bill of Rights.” However, he won’t directly call for the repeal of these laws because they are popular. So, instead, he made the ingenious move of creating a constitutional amendment to undermine and gut all these prior measures.

How does he do this? He grants the right to accelerated release via increased and unchallengeable sentence credits for all inmates. The governor’s appointed bureaucrats at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will now determine all sentencing credits.

He wipes out the effects of sentencing enhancements and priorable offenses. Again, he does not do this directly, because it would be incredibly unpopular. Instead he removes these additional sentences from consideration for parole eligibility. This means that someone who committed a drive-by shooting will be treated the same as a person who committed a drive-by shooting, but also did it for the purpose of benefiting his gang and had a prior armed robbery conviction.

Brown wanted this as constitutional amendment to make it difficult for reversal of these new rights for inmates when, as will happen, the crime rate climbs with the accelerated release of dangerous felons.

The governor ignores the reasons behind lengthy prison sentences.  Long sentences are the result of enhancements or consecutive sentences, designed to increase punishment for those criminals who choose to engage in more egregious conduct.  Whether imposing additional time for the physical or economic harm caused, the weapon used, or the choice to continue to commit serious or violent crimes despite having prior convictions for same, the increased prison time is reflective of increased criminality by the individual. It is rather bizarre to suggest that we should treat the first time offender the same as the harden criminal.

These enhancements are in recognition of the rights of crime victims and the harm they have suffered at the hands of the defendant.  They have been effective tools in reducing crime. The current crime rate for serious and violent crime is less than half what it was under the “indeterminate” sentencing scheme the governor adores.  Apparently the governor believes that the less than ten years typically served for murder under that scheme, and approximately three years for violent crimes such as robbery and assault, was more than adequate.

Governor Brown’s Prop. 57 “Criminal’s Bill of Rights” has been sold on the falsehood that its provisions will be sparingly applied to a select group of non-violent inmates.  However, the more the governor talks, the more it becomes clear that what he really wants is reverse the long sentences that have kept the worst offenders in prison, because of some theory that long sentences don’t lower crime rates.  Prop. 57 is his attempt to return California to what he believes were the halcyon days of the 1970’s when the law protected criminals and victimized the victim.

Michele Hanisee: A yes vote on Prop. 66 is a vote for justice

By Michele Hanisee, Guest commentary

This is in response to your editorial (Sept. 9, Herald) urging a no vote on Proposition 66.

Those in support of abolishing the death penalty point to the possibility of an innocent person being executed. In California this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who commit a capital punishment-related crime will be prosecuted to full extent of the law. The innocent can take solace in knowing that a unanimous jury of 12 citizens must render the death verdict after an exhaustive trial where the accused murderer is represented by two highly competent attorneys and overseen by an independent judge who ensures a fair trial.

The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst offenders in California. These people have committed unspeakable atrocities against the citizens of California. People like Lonnie Franklin Jr. (the Grim Sleeper), who was just recently sentenced to death in Los Angeles for the killing of 10 young African-American women. Or Tiequon Cox, who was hired by an imprisoned Rolling 60s Crips gang member to kill. Cox entered the wrong home and murdered four people, including an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old. Then there’s Charles Ng, who was convicted of brutally murdering 11 people and most likely murdered 25 more. There’s also Lawrence Bittaker, who killed five young women after he raped and tortured them. The list goes on and on. To make matters worse, these horrific individuals, excluding Franklin Jr., have been sitting on death row for decades, costing California millions of dollars to house, feed, clothe, guard and provide health care to them.

There are 746 killers sitting on California’s death row. These inmates have murdered over 1,000 victims, including 226 children and 43 police officers; 294 victims were raped and/or tortured. These killers and their repetitive appeals are the reasons why a vote of No on Prop. 62 and Yes on Prop. 66 is recommended.

California’s death penalty is a dysfunctional mess that doesn’t bring justice to victims’ family members. However, by mending, not ending, the death penalty, we can change that.

Prop. 66 was written by legal scholars who know the ins and outs of the death penalty system. They have written Prop. 66 so that it speeds up the appeals process by eliminating legal and procedural delaying tactics while assuring due process protections for those sentenced to death. It ensures criminals sentenced to death are assigned a special appeals lawyer immediately by expanding the availability of lawyers to handle these appeals. Prop. 66 limits state appeals to five years instead of allowing for these convicted criminals to file appeal after appeal. However, the initiative does not impose a rigid deadline that must be met in every case as extraordinary cases may take longer. However, five years is generally sufficient to get through state appeals, even in the most complex cases.

While many point to the “exorbitant costs” associated with the death penalty, they forget how expensive it is to giving life without parole to these criminals. It’s estimated that it costs at least $50,000 per year to house, feed, guard and provide health care to someone in prison, and that it averages between 20 and 25 years from a jury’s sentence of death to an actual execution date. There are 746 inmates on death row, with an average age of 27, and average life expectancy of 74. Reducing someone’s punishment to life without parole will cost taxpayers $1.8 billion in housing costs alone.

What I along with other district attorneys, law enforcement officials and families of victims want is justice. Justice to impose a lawful sentence recommended by juries and imposed by judges across California. Some deem the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment; however, most Californians disagree and believe that those convicted of these horrible crimes are depraved. In fact, any time we are asked to vote on whether or not to abolish the death penalty, Californians repeatedly vote to keep the death penalty intact. This year seems no different. A recent poll conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley found that 75.7 percent of Californians surveyed support Prop. 66.

Voters understand that the criminals on death row have been convicted of the most heinous crimes. Voters also realize that those left behind, grieving families throughout California and their loved ones, don’t deserve anything less than justice.

Justice is a reformed, not eliminated death penalty. I urge a NO vote on Proposition 62 and YES on Proposition 66.

Governor Brown, Time to Debate Prop 57

By Michele Hanisee

Governor Brown recently visited the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board to sell Prop 57, telling them “I could talk about this all day.” What Governor Brown needs to do is talk about this initiative in a debate setting, where his statements about the scope and application of the initiative can be discussed with an informed opponent. Today, the No on 57 Committee challenged the Governor to a debate on Prop 57.

It has become clear that Governor Brown is selling a story about his initiative to audiences that he knows cannot challenge him because they do not know the case law and penal code sections which will govern the initiative. Earlier this year, columnist Dan Walters described deciphering which felons Prop 57 applies to as “difficult- perhaps by design, to minimize adverse voter reaction.”

The most recent example of Governor Brown’s sales pitch was his claim to the Sacramento Bee editorial staff that opponents are trying to “spook” voters by suggesting violent criminals will be let out of prison early under his initiative.   He told the editorial board his initiative only makes inmates “eligible for parole” but that the Board would be unlikely to release the type of felons that opponents have been featuring, echoing the voicemail he left for Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims (covered in this blog), where he incorrectly claimed the inmate in question would not be eligible for release under Prop 57.

First, one only needs to look at Parole Board releases since Governor Brown took office in 2011: the parole board has released 1863 inmates serving life sentences-more than the four previous Governors combined. In fact, Governor Brown has had to reverse many Parole Board release decisions, most recently that of Manson family member Leslie Van Houten.

Secondly, the Governor deliberately ignores the part of his initiative that states “The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall have authority to award credits earned for good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements.” There is no restriction on the inmates to whom it applies; thus, these Department of Corrections can invent and apply new sentence credits for all inmates, meaning earlier release dates for all receiving the credit.

Another recent claim by the Governor was that ceding power to the Parole Board to determine when prisoners are released is comparable to the discretion of prosecutors. “They have discretion, just like the district attorneys who have unfettered discretion to charge or not.” Wrong, Governor. While District Attorneys have the discretion to file charges that only begins the legal process, as there are checks and balances to their power. There is an ethical obligation only to file charges provable beyond a reasonable doubt, and if a guilty plea does not occur a judge or a jury makes the decision on guilt. In contrast, the Parole Board can parole whomever it wants by whatever criteria (or lack of criteria) they desire, and that parole decision is made in a forum that is closed to the public and which is, in most cases, unreviewable by anyone-not the Governor, the Legislature, or Judges.

Other reasons cited by the Governor to vote for Prop 57 also have gone unchallenged. For example, the Governor touted the wisdom of havingparole boards determine release dates because “there was a lower recidivism rate” when Parole Boards determined the release date. The last time we had a penal system where the parole board determined release dates was in the 1970’s before the determinate sentencing laws took effect. So let’s look back to that time.

In the 1970’s and before the determinate sentencing law went into effect in 1976, crime was soaring in California. The crime rate (per 100,000 people) documents the increase in crime from 1970 to 1976: murders rose from 6.9 to 10; forcible rapes from 35.1 to 44.7, robberies from 206.9 to 275.4; aggravated assaults from 225.9 to 338.7; and burglaries from 1,753 to 2,174. That rise continued for a few years after the determinate sentencing law went into effect before the crime rate began to decrease drastically. How drastic? In 2014, in comparison to 1976, the crime rate in California had decreased by more than 50% in all categories listed above. In 2014, the murder rate was 4.4; rape 21.6; robbery 125.5; aggravated assault 236.6, and burglary 522.3. One reason for a decreased crime rate is that under the current determinate sentencing system, inmates serve longer time in prison.

When the Parole Board determined release dates, little time was served for serious offenses. How little? In the 1970’s, most inmates convicted of homicide served less than ten years. For example, 70% of prisoners convicted of homicide in 1972 were free after serving six years.   Other categories of crime saw equally short sentences; in 1974, three years was the average time served for serious crimes such as robbery, assault, burglary and auto theft.

These are just but a few rebuttals to the Governor’s carefully crafted talking points that have gone unchallenged.

The No on 57 campaign’s request to the Governor comes in response to the overwhelming demand for political discourse and the statement the Governor made that he can “talk all day” about Prop 57. We want to take him up on that offer. Governor it is time to debate Prop 57 so that voters can make a fully informed decision regarding this critical public safety issue.

Jerry Brown, Line 1 — It’s Your Flawed Initiative Calling

As the story about a voicemail message left by Governor Jerry Brown scolding Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims for her opposition to Proposition 57 goes viral, what is disturbing is the voicemail reveals the Governor’s lack of understanding of his own initiative.  As both the ADDA and ALADS have repeatedly written, and the Governor’s spokesperson has admitted, Proposition 57 will allow for the early release of violent state prison inmates.  Apparently, pointing this fact out irritates the Governor.

What prompted the Governor’s voicemail tirade was a mailer Sheriff Mims and other Sheriffs had signed featuring Arthur Lindsey, an inmate serving a 100-year prison sentence after being convicted in Los Angeles County.  The ten charges included rape of an unconscious person, rape by use of drugs, sexual penetration by a foreign object, oral copulation of an unconscious person, possessing a gun as a felon, and using an intoxicating substance to commit the sex crimes.  Under Proposition 57, he would be eligible for release after serving a scant eight years.

In his voicemail rant, the Governor chastised the Sheriff for what he called a “false” and “malicious” mailer.  However, what should be disturbing to everyone was this comment the Governor left:  “This guy was sentenced to 100 years, and he’s a registered sex offender, and on both accounts would not be getting out.”

Why is that comment disturbing?  Because not only was Governor Brown wrong, it reveals he simply does not understand his own initiative, yet chooses to berate those who do.

First, take the Governor’s point about “100 years” being disqualifying.  It is irrelevant how many years an inmate was sentenced to under Proposition 57; its very purpose is to void those long prison sentences.  Instead, Proposition 57 will free inmates like Lindsey as soon as they have served their base sentence (eight years in Lindsey’s case) even if there are 92 years left to serve.  How the Governor could cite the number of years left as a disqualifying factor is incomprehensible.

Second, the Governor’s claim that “he’s a registered sex offender” as a disqualifying factor is likewise puzzling.  As we both have pointed out in past blogs, the offenses of rape by use of drugs, sexual penetration of an unconscious person, and oral copulation of an unconscious person are crimes which do not qualify as “violent” under the Penal Code and therefore are eligible for early release under Proposition 57.  Being a “registered sex offender” is not a disqualifier either.  Nor are Lindsey’s prior convictions for rape and murder which must, under Proposition 57, be totally ignored for purposes of parole eligibility.

The Governor’s response when confronted with the undeniably frightening repercussions of his initiative was to promise that if Proposition 57 is enacted he will make sure that regulations will be passed by the CDCR to disqualify sex offenders like Arthur Lindsey.   Only the most gullible person would take comfort in that.

First, if excluding sex offenders from Prop 57 had been important to the Governor, he could have written Proposition 57 to exclude sex offenders from early release. He did not.  More importantly, since Proposition 57 is a constitutional amendment, it is doubtful that “regulations” with the wholesale exclusion of sex offenders would pass legal challenges based on equal protection, due process, etc.

The campaign to defeat Proposition 57 has put together a great website to educate the public –  One feature is a “meet your new neighbor page,” with this week’s poster child for early release being rapist Andrew Luster.  He was convicted of 20 counts of drug-induced rape, fled to Mexico mid-trial, and after conviction in absentia was recaptured and sentenced to 124 years in state prison, which was later reduced to 50 years on appeal.  These same inmates are also being featured on the trading cards that so offended the governor.  Under Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57, Luster will be eligible for immediate release!

We are hopeful that the trading cards and website will educate both the public and elected officials and perhaps end the chastising calls from the Governor.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. 

George Hofstetter is President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. ALADS is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.  George can be contacted at