Reduce the Damage Caused by Prop 57

Michele Hanisee
President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys

A Los Angeles Times article highlighted the continuing fallout from Prop 57, with the poorly drafted initiative allowing early release of numerous violent felons and the early release of sex offenders not far behind after a recent court ruling. Of course, it didn’t have to be this way, and it is thanks to Governor Jerry Brown.

Governor Brown, who boasted that he wrote Prop 57 himself, hijacked an unrelated initiative that changed direct file procedures in Juvenile Court and inserted his felon early release provisions. Opponents sued, citing a 2014 law that prohibited wholesale changes in pending initiatives and required 30 days of public comment so flaws could be corrected before an initiative circulated for signatures. As the Associated Press pointed out, a Sacramento Superior Court Judge initially blocked the initiative ruling that the Governor’s changes were “the type of mischief that the Legislature had in mind” when enacting the law.

However, since time to gather signatures for the ballot was running out, Governor Brown chose not to wait and write a precise measure accomplishing his stated goal of only allowing early release of “non-violent” felons. Instead, he appealed the ruling to the California Supreme Court, which granted Governor Brown his wish and allowed signature gathering to proceed for the newly amended Prop 57.

Justice Ming Chin noted in his dissent to the Supreme Court ruling that Brown’s initiative had received “no feedback and no round of suggestions” (emphasis in original). He pointedly noted that Prop 57 was “exactly the sort of measure that would greatly benefit from public comment and the opportunity to make amendments” and “easily expose its drafting flaws”-which Justice Chin then detailed for several pages.

Now, the chickens have come home to roost. With sex offender early release on the horizon, Governor Brown has now been reduced to falsely railing that Prop 57 “explicitly protects the public and bars such releases.” Of course, the Governor is unable to cite any language in support of his statement because no such language exists. The California Supreme Court will spend the next few years grappling with cases occasioned by the many flaws in Prop 57, which Justice Chin highlighted two years ago. And, the early release of violent felons will continue unabated.

A concerted effort is now underway to reduce the damage caused by Prop 57 and its cousin, Prop 47 The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act would, among other things, reclassify crimes that Prop. 57 considers “non-violent” – including rape of an unconscious person, sex trafficking of a child under age 14 and domestic violence – to prevent the early release of inmates convicted of these crimes. For more information about the Act, including how you can help get it on the November 2018 statewide ballot, please visit Keep Cal Safe and follow the progress on [email protected]

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