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Governor Brown’s Statement in Support of Prop 57 Provide More Reasons to Vote “No!”

By Eric Siddall

Governor Brown is quoted in today’s Los Angeles Times, providing his reasons why voters should support Prop 57, the early release of felons initiative.  Every one of his statements lacks both merit and a basic understanding of the criminal justice system.

First, the governor claims that his act would restore “deliberative thought” to a process driven by district attorneys chasing headlines and seeking re-election with a “quiet parole board” making reasoned parole decisions.

The reality is that very few crimes make it into the newspaper or are featured on TV or radio.  The vast majority of prosecutions result in prison sentences known only to judges, prosecutors, victims, police, and defendants. The cases that capture media attention are ones that involve murder-which carries a mandatory sentence. This “quiet” parole board the governor champions will become an unaccountable Kafkaesque prison release machine so “quiet” that victims won’t even be aware that the felon who victimized them is back in the neighborhood.

Next, the governor claims that if prosecutors are upset that with his listing of crimes eligible for release, that’s their own fault because prosecutors “created the damn violent list.”  False. The problem is not the list. The problem is your “damn amendment.”  The “damn violent list,” as you call it, singles out certain violent crimes for harsher punishment; it didn’t absolve other crimes of their violent nature or lessen their punishments. It was you, Governor Brown, who wrote Prop 57 and decided what crimes should be eligible for early release under its provisions.  We are simply pointing out that your amendment is poorly drafted.

Further, Prop 57 gives state prison officials constitutional authority to invent early release credits for all inmates not serving life without parole or a death sentence.  Governor Brown assured the Times that credits will be limited. How? Not by the state legislature, because it takes that power away from them. Not by judges, because it takes that power away from them. Instead, all credit making power goes to the Department of Corrections. In other words, it goes to the governor. Small comfort since Governor Brown will only be in office for two more years. The truth is the governor’s deliberate failure to include in Prop 57 any restrictions on invention of new sentence credits means there can be no confidence this new power will be used wisely.

The real reason Governor Brown is pushing Prop 57 is because he wants to try something new. He wants to experiment with public safety and see what happens. He wants to turn back the clock to a time where sentences were short, victims had no rights, and the felon was king. We simply cannot afford this radical experiment.

We will continue to fight against Prop 57. Please like and share our video: https://www.laadda.com/no-on-prop-57

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.

Rapists, Human Traffickers & Other Violent Criminals to Be Set Free If Prop 57 Passes

By Eric Siddall

As the Sacramento Bee pointed out, “The term ‘nonviolent felony offense’ comes from the language of the governor’s sentencing measure itself. If the measure is approved by voters, it remains to be seen how ‘nonviolent felony’ will be defined.

Governor Brown is spending millions of dollars on false radio adspromoting Prop 57, repeating that it only applies to “non-violent felons.” This claim is an attempt to fool the public into believing inmates who have committed crimes involving violence will not be eligible for the measures’ early parole.

In prior blogs, we have highlighted the multiple crimes of violenceeligible for early parole under Prop 57: including rape of an unconscious person, rape with a foreign object, assault on a peace officer causing injury, assault with a  deadly weapon, and many others.  The Governor has pushed back, citing the Attorney General’s ballot description that it only applies to “non-violent” inmates amongst other defenses.

Turns out, as the italicized quote above highlights, there was absolutelyno analysis by the Attorney General of the type of offenses and inmates eligible for release.  Instead, the Attorney General has acknowledged they only parroted Brown’s description of crimes eligible for early parole under Prop 57.   In short, instead of doing their sworn job the Attorney General’s office played politics.

To set the facts straight, this past opposition law enforcement leaders from throughout Southern California, including District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Sheriff Jim McDonnell held a news conference to speak out againstProp 57.
The simple and undeniable fact is that Prop 57 makes numerous inmates who have  committed violent crimes eligible to be released years early from their prison sentence.  Any ballot argument or statement by the Governor that says to the contrary is completely false.
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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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.