In a statement released today, a Sacramento-based crime victims group blamed a California law, signed by the Governor in 2011, for allowing the man charged with the hit-and-run deaths of three teenaged Santa Ana girls to remain on the streets.
The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been tracking the impact of AB109, the Governor’s so-called Public Safety Realignment Law, since it took effect in October 2011. The law transferred responsibility for criminals convicted of roughly 500 of what supporters define as “low level” felonies, such as hit-and-run, assault, spousal abuse, commercial burglary, drug dealing, identity theft, and auto theft from the state to California counties. Realignment prohibits prison sentences for criminals convicted of these crimes, requiring counties to sentence them to terms in overcrowded local jails, or a combination of jail time and probation, home detention, or a treatment program.
Earlier this week the Los Angeles Times reported that the suspect, Jaquinn Bell, has a long criminal record, including a conviction last August for drunk driving and hit-and-run for which he served 10 days in jail. According to the Foundation, prior to Realignment, Bell would have been sentenced to at least a year in county jail or state prison for that conviction and would still have been behind bars, instead of running down the three young trick-or-treaters last Friday.
“These three young girls died because the Governor and the Legislature decided to leave habitual criminals like Jaquinn Bell on the streets instead of behind bars,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford. “It’s time for Californians to wake up to the fact that most of the people they sent back to Sacramento on Tuesday don’t give a damn about their safety,” he added.
CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.