Judged by a Felon

Raul Riesgo
Public relations expert featured on Spanish language news outlets Telemundo and Mundo Fox News discussing both political and Latino community issues. He has also been a news reporter for two Los Angeles area newspapers.

There seems to be no end to California Democrats’ quest to upend our criminal justice system.

First it was letting prisoners out early, because the jails were overcrowded. Then it was reducing dozens of felonies to misdemeanors, reducing penalties for using guns to commit crime, and ending the bail system. Then Governor Gavin Newsom granted amnesty to 737 of California’s most vicious rapist, torturers and murderers. That was a doozy.

Now Democrat State Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley wants criminals convicted of serious felonies such as murder, rape, car-jacking, kidnapping, sexual offenses against a minor, hate crimes, and a host of other similarly serious crimes to be able to serve on a jury immediately upon release from jail or prison, even if they are still on parole or probation.

Sen. Skinner’s idea warps the meaning of “a jury of your peers.”

Under current California law a person convicted of a felony cannot serve on a jury. However, there is a pathway for convicted felons, after three years, to petition the court for a certificate of rehabilitation in order to help re-establish all of their civil and political rights.

There are valid reasons to help former convicted criminals be fully restored to society, but Skinner’s Senate Bill 310 eliminates the process in place and makes it automatic, without any scrutiny. Convicted felons would not have to demonstrate rehabilitation, contrition or have made amends.

Felons tend to be convicted of violent crimes or very serious property and drug crimes; crimes that have great and lasting impacts on their victims. How can legislators deem all ex-cons – including those still on active parole, probation supervision, or even life-long sexual predator status – as appropriate for selection in an unbiased, reflective jury pool?

Sen. Skinner’s assertion that having felons in the jury pool is necessary to ensure the pool reflects California’s communities tells me she’s a legislator with a dim view of those communities.

What are California Democrats trying to prove? If we are serious about helping the formerly convicted re-enter society, we should focus on rehabilitation, job training, and drug treatment.

The last thing we should do is blindly reinstate civil rights to criminals without any demonstration they deserve it and let them stand in judgment of other criminals.

SB 310 will be heard today in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Raul Riesgo is a public relations expert who has been featured on Spanish language news outlets Telemundo and Mundo Fox News discussing both political and Latino community issues. He has also been a news reporter for two Los Angeles area newspapers writing on variety of community and social topics. He authored a historical narrative on the development of the city of Pico Rivera, California. The book was featured on CNN’s Special Report “Latinos in America.”

 

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