Former Governors Support of Gov. Brown on Prisons a Double-edged Sword

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

There is good news and bad news for Governor Jerry Brown in accepting support of California’s former governors challenging the federal court panel’s order to release prisoners from the state’s prisons. All former California governors supported Gov. Brown with a brief to the Supreme Court asking the court to stay any prisoner release ordered by a lower federal court until the Supreme Court can consider the matter. However, the support of all former living governors puts Brown on a tightrope because of his realignment program.

Brown championed AB 109 moving prisoners to county jails from state prison in part to deal with the overcrowding problem in the state prisons. Local authorities squeezed by the extra burden have reduced some prisoners’ sentences, which has resulted in prisoners released early. In turn, there has been a recorded increase in crime in California.

This increase in crime is one of the chief arguments cited by the former governors in their legal brief. The former governors claim that the action of releasing additional prisoners demanded by the court panel will result in “irreparable harm from increased crime.”

Pointedly, the brief notes that, “Irreparable harm not only is likely to result from the denial of the stay …, it already has occurred…. (my emphasis.)  Is that what Governor Brown wants to hear?

The brief points out that the prisoner releases are not “necessarily the cause of the increased victimization.” However, the brief says that the increase in crimes indicate that the three judge panel’s reliance on “experts” who said there was no danger to the public in reducing the prison population was wrong.

The FBI statistics cited in the brief show that in the last year while the realignment program was in effect the percentage change of violent and property crimes in cities of over 100,000 in population has jumped more in California than in the nation.

Below are the statistics taken directly from the brief.

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Senator Jim Nielsen has been a vocal critic of AB 109. Nielsen uses the same recent FBI statistics to make the case that realignment is not working. He writes that,  “The reality is that tens of thousands of inmates are being released into our communities without state parole supervision.  Even violent felons have had their state parole slashed from three years to one, and felons/parolees face little to no consequences for their continued victimization. Thus, these criminals have no fear of arrest.”

While the governor welcomes the support of his fellow governors, he walks a tightrope in both defending the realignment program as a success while relying on increased crime figures to back his effort to get the Supreme Court to intervene.

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