By Eric Siddall
As crime rates rise and victims continue to be marginalized by some state legislators, the Los Angeles Times again provided a “criminal justice reform” advocate with a platform to expound on how the system is too harsh. This time it was Fordham law professor John Pfaff, who blamed budgetary incentives and the dark forces of prosecutors as reasons why criminal punishments are not lessened.
Pfaff’s uses nearly 1,000 words to explain his position. Oddly, considering the subject matter, one word is missing-victim. Not once did Pfaff mention victims of crime. This is not surprising. The new “criminal justice reform” movement is based upon the supremacy of the criminal at the expense of the victim.
Pfaff’s dismissal of victims can be seen in his false claim that there is “little to no evidence” that Prop 47 has led to an increase in crime. The facts, as documented in an FBI report (See Investor’s Business Daily), are that since the passage of Prop 47, California’s crime rate skyrocketed while the rest of the country experienced a minor uptick. A Washington Post story called Prop. 47 “A virtual get-out-of-jail-free card” and detailed how the law keeps “addicts out of jail, but not out of trouble.” Of course, to Pfaff the victims whom those numbers represent are insignificant statistics.
Likewise, Pfaff falsely claimed that Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper blamed the murder of Officer Keith Boyer on Prop 47. What Chief Piper correctly stated was that “We keep passing laws that keep raising crime. We have to think about what we are doing to our communities and officers by putting these kinds of people back on the street.” The accuracy of his statement was explained in detail by a blog by the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and an op/ed authored by the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association.
The professor makes other specious arguments, such as claiming that counties are incentivized to increase incarceration rates to get more state money. Apparently, Professor Pfaff does not know that our state constitution requires the state to reimburse counties for state mandates. Nor does he know that the state actually has a poor track record on fully reimbursing the counties and makes a practice of shifting costs to the counties to balance the state budget. He makes an equally absurd and contradictory claim that prosecutors charge felonies to send defendants to state prison so that the local county does not need to pay for the local jail.
Mr. Pfaff blames prosecutors for opposing lenient sentencing laws. On this point he is correct. We oppose reduced sentences for those who victimize our communities. We honor the mandate of our state constitution-Article 1, Section 28, the Victim’s Bill of Rights-which was passed by the voters by an overwhelming 83 percent. We continue to believe that the virtue of our system is that it protects victims while ensuring that defendants are given their constitutional protections. However, we will never accept the position of dystopians like Mr. Pfaff who are determined to give violent criminals the moral high ground and equate their position with those of the people they victimize.
Note: Eric Siddall is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law. He 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.