By Eric Siddall
As the public learns inmates convicted of violent crimes will receive consideration for early parole, and all inmates not serving a life without parole or death sentence will be in line for earlier release via newly invented sentence credits, the backers of Prop 57 appear a bit worried. Thus, the news that Mark Zuckerberg gave $1 million to the “yes on Prop 57 campaign”. Apparently, it takes a lot of money to convince people of the falsehoods which are the foundations of Prop 57.
Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg, living behind his gated and guarded estates in Palo Alto or Hawaii, doesn’t care that Prop 57 will allow rapists an early release from prison. Or, maybe just wants to buy a little political influence with the Governor, and figures a $1 million contribution to the issue that Governor is spearheading is a way to accomplish that goal.
As to the Governor, it’s becoming increasingly hard to understand his arguments for Prop 57. On the one hand, the Governor touts Prop 57 because it gives judges the sole power to decide whether a juvenile will stand trial as an adult. This was the cornerstone of the initiative the Governor hijacked so he could bring his inmate freeing scheme to voters. But, apparently, the Governor’s trust in judges only goes so far. To hear the Governor tell it, a Parole Board is in a better position to decide how much time an inmate should serve, not judges who, before imposing sentence listened to victim’s statements, as well as those of the prosecution and defense.
One thing is very clear; Prop 57 is designed to drastically reduce the state prison population, not because of overcrowding but because of an ideology that discards victims and wants to give ever more chances to convicted criminals. Recent changes in the law has have already reduced the prison population and lessened punishments. Realignment legislation transferred nonviolent, non-serious felons from state prison to county jails to serve their sentences. Proposition 36 amended the “Three Strikes” law to release additional inmates. Finally, Proposition 47 reduced many theft and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, again shifting sentences from state prison to county jail. As a result, the prison population has been reduced 24 percent from the high of 2007.
As Gregory Totten, Ventura County District Attorney made clear, what is also undeniable is that more lenient treatment of criminals has not made the residents of California safer. Instead, violent crime is up, with a 10 percent increase (15,000 more cases) in 2015 alone, including homicides (up 9.7 percent), robberies (up 8.5 percent) and rapes (up 36 percent). Property crime has soared near double-digit statewide in each of the past two years, while the rest of the country saw property crime rates drop.The state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that if Prop. 57 passes, 30,115 inmates will be eligible for early release. Tragically, the result will be that more residents in California will become victims of crime.
As Jackie Lacy, Los Angeles District Attorney, pointed out, “They are recommending release of people we never would have expected would have occurred so soon. I’m concerned about people who really haven’t served a significant amount of time.”
Zuckerberg’s million dollars cannot hide the fact that Prop 57 allows – indeed, it requires – parole consideration for very serious offenses, including rape of an unconscious person, human trafficking, lewd acts against 14- and 15-year-olds, domestic violence, active participation in a street gang, inflicting corporal injury on a child and assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer. And parole consideration is required after the defendant serves the sentence for a single count (less time off for good behavior), even if the defendant was convicted of additional crimes.
The saying goes that lying is a costly activity. The “yes on Prop 57” campaign is proving this adage in spades.
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.