In an address to a crime victims' rally at the State Capitol last Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown empathized with victims and talked about providing prison inmates with a transformative experience so that they "learn to respect the law and not just respect gangs."
"It is remarkable that the Governor has the chutzpah to go to a rally of crime victims when his policies have reduced the consequences of crime for thousands of habitual felons and left them in California communities to commit new crimes," said Michael Rushford, President of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
The Foundation, which defends the rights of crime victims' and law enforcement in state and federal courts, notes that in 2011 Brown signed AB109, a 400-page inmate realignment measure, to reduce the state prison population, which had the effect of releasing nearly 30,000 convicted felons into California communities and barred their return to prison for new convictions of most felonies. At the time, the Governor touted the new law as a way to comply with the court-ordered reduction of inmates, save the state millions in tax dollars, and utilize rehabilitation programs to turn criminals away from crime.
According to the Foundation, Brown's law has not worked. FBI statistics indicate that crime is on the rise in most California cities and that the state's prison costs have increased by billions of dollars. "In effect, the public is paying the state to make neighborhoods more dangerous," said Rushford. Examples include the rape of a woman in her Sacramento home by a criminal released under Realignment just weeks after the law took effect and the April 2012 beating of a young Stockton woman, leaving her permanently disabled, by a habitual criminal 12 days after his release under Brown's law.
In addition to the widespread problems caused by Realignment, the Foundation points to Proposition 47, a deceptive measure adopted by voters in 2014, which was supported by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Democratic Party. Every professional law enforcement organization in the state opposed Prop. 47 because it downgraded felonies, like firearm and identity theft and possession of date rape drugs, to misdemeanors. "But the Governor, who says he sympathizes with victims, took no position on it. Today, county sheriffs and district attorneys across the state say that Prop. 47 has caused increased crime, including violent crime," Rushford added. Last October the Governor vetoed SB333, a bi-partisan bill to restore felony status to the possession of date rape drugs with the intent to commit rape.
The Foundation reports that while the Governor was addressing victims last Thursday, paid signature gatherers were working to qualify an initiative he is promoting, "The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016," for the November ballot. Rushford says that the act would give habitual felons, even those with previous convictions of violent crimes, parole eligibility from prison after serving only the base term for their current offense. This would eliminate the sentence increases for career criminals adopted by the Victims' Bill of Rights and Three Strikes initiatives.
"It is hard to imagine what more the Governor could do to increase crime in our state. His concerns about crime victims clearly do not extend to doing anything to protect them from criminals," said Rushford.
CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.