Sensible and Needed Reforms to AB 109 and Prop 57

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Sensible and Needed Reforms to AB 109 and Prop 57

By Eric Siddall

Assemblyman Ian Calderon has proposed a sensible reform to fix some of the problems of AB109 and Proposition 57. This legislation came about when it was clear that the gang member who murdered Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer was given repeated 10 day “flash incarcerations” for each of his five separate parole violations. Under the prior system, he could have spent a year in prison for just one violation.

AB 1408 implements three basic reforms. It requires county probation departments to seek parole revocations for a third violation. It requires consideration of an inmate’s entire criminal history by the parole board. Lastly, it increases information sharing between the state and the county regarding the criminal history.

AB 109 artificially deflated the recidivism rates. It did so by shifting parole responsibility for many felonies to county probation departments.  AB 109 also shortened parole violations by creating a new system of 10 day “flash incarcerations.” AB 1408 will help address these shortcomings.

In a recent blog we highlighted the violent history of the “Most Wanted” parolees being sought for parole violations by the LA County Probation Department. It certainly does not help public safety when repeated parole violations are dealt with by a slap on the wrist via a 10 day “flash incarceration.”

Assemblyman Calderon’s legislation is a sensible first step to advance public safety.  He noted this legislation was a product of intense discussion with law enforcement, and that it endeavored “to set some practical ground rules and enhance the tools available to law enforcement operating under these reforms.”

We noted in a previous blog the failure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to publish offender information that had previously been available for years.   With the vast majority of parolees now supervised by county probation it is hard to assemble accurate information on parolee recidivism.  The state should certainly provide that information so the public can evaluate whether this attempt at “parole reform” has been effective, or simply a way to game statistics regarding recidivism rates.

The problems AB 109 has created can only be addressed via state legislation.  We applaud Assembly Calderon for taking the first step in that direction.

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.
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What Is the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Hiding?

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What Is the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Hiding?

By Michele Hanisee

Trust us, they said. We know what’s good for you and the state of California.

That was the message hawked by Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature when they pushed and passed a variety of initiatives that gutted the criminal justice system. They did so by weakening parole (AB 109), downgrading a host of crimes to misdemeanors (Prop. 47), and making dangerous felons eligible for release when they have served just a portion of their sentences (Prop. 57).

Governor Brown and his allies sold these laughably flawed programs by cynically invoking compassion, fiscal prudence and an obligation to open prison gates to comply with court orders.<

Crime began rising throughout the state shortly after the dismantling of our safety net began. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that state voters should not have bought the snake oil from its peddlers.

But what we don’t have is critical, big-picture data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Data, for example, on the rate at which felon parolees return to prison. Data on what crimes the prisoners committed. Data on the overall recidivism rate.<

The CDCR used to dutifully post the “Recidivism Rate Report” which contained valuable information in a prominent place on its website. But in 2012 and 2013 – not long after AB 109 became law – it stopped. While not one major media outlet questioned this abrupt end of public information, the question everyone must ask is why? Would publication of the data in an easy to find place expose issues in prison realignment?

The CDCR may argue that while they have not published a report in the same format as they did prior to AB 109, that they report on prison population changes and current makeup in reports like the one titled, An update to the future of California Corrections. One would first have to find the report buried on an obscure page of their website. Then, one would have to carefully review the 57-page report to find on pages 27-29 the information that the CDCR used to post in an obvious location.   While other areas of the report contain additional information about the population, similar to the 2013 and earlier reports, one has to wonder why the CDCR stopped assembling the critical information in an easily accessible format, but decided instead to bury the information in various other publications.

We do know that the prison population did not include those whose supervision was transferred to County Probation Departments.   Convicted felons like Michael C. Mejia, the gang member with priors for robbery and grand theft auto, and the suspect in last month’s murder of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer. A beneficiary of AB 109, as documented by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, “the killer had been on parole following his release from prison in April 2016, and in the next few months violated parole-five separate times in seven months-for possessing drugs and failing to comply with police officers.

But we don’t know what the larger data sets show about who is in prison, for what crimes, and who has been returned to prison on parole violations. The CDCR, which promises “A safer California through correctional excellence” no longer posts the raw data on their website, which raises questions.

When the Governor and Legislature ask state voters to blindly trust them because they know what’s best for us, the least they can do is require the CDCR to post information that allows us to judge their statements through the prison of hard, clear data-data they posted year after year until after AB 109 went into full effect.

>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. To contact a Board member, click here.
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The LA County “Most Wanted List” and AB 109

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The LA County “Most Wanted List” and AB 109

By Michele Hanisee

Controversy swirls around AB 109, with the recent murder of Whittier Officer Keith Boyer by a parolee whose multiple parole violations resulted in nothing more than 10-day “flash incarcerations” being the most recent and tragic example of AB 109’s failures.  No definitive study has been done on the fallout from AB 109, but anecdotal evidence abounds to rebut the defenders of AB 109 who vehemently insist that its provisions have not made our communities more dangerous.

One repository of evidence of how AB 109 has made our streets less safe is found in the description of 120 persons currently on the “L.A.’s Most Wanted” list of the Los Angeles County Probation website, with whereabouts unknown.  For each wanted person there is a recitation of their criminal history, which unquestionably makes them dangerous.  Each listing then helpfully answers the next logical question of why county probation is supervising such a dangerous person: “Under the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, better known as Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109) the responsibility of lower-level offenders was shifted from the State to Los Angeles County,” with the wanted person “qualified to be released to the supervision of probation, under AB 109, because his current commitment offense…was defined as non-serious and nonviolent under the California penal code.”

The laundry list of prior crimes these wanted parolees had been convicted of establishes their dangerousness.  They include attempted murder, robbery, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, oral copulation, sodomy, elder abuse, battery with serious bodily injury, terrorist threats, possession of loaded firearms, and burglary. However, because their most recent stint in prison was for, as the probation department notes, a “non-serious and nonviolent” offense they are supervised by county probation rather than state parole.  Of course, if eventually caught these dangerous parolees will face a maximum of 180 days custody[MH1]  in county jail, not state prison.

So these dangerous convicted felons have disappeared into our communities and are refusing to report to probation. Would it be cynical to suspect that it is because they are up to no good and perhaps committing more crimes at the expense of L.A. County residents? Of course not. It is a more convenient truth to believe that AB 109 hasn’t made our community more dangerous.

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. To contact a Board member, click here.
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