Have you ever been a victim of a crime? I was and it was a very unpleasant and stressful experience. My friend and I went hiking at Mt. Rubidoux one morning. We didn’t want to carry our purses, so we decided to place them in the back of her Jeep Cherokee Laredo. I placed them underneath my friend’s baby stroller where the purses were out of sight. The back windows had a dark tint, so you couldn’t see what was in the back of the car. We felt safe leaving our belongings in the car because the car had an alarm and nothing in the back of the jeep was visible. We were wrong! We were being watched by thieves that saw me place the purses in the back of the car. After a two-hour hike, we came back to the car to find a broken back window and my purse was gone. They waited for us to leave the car and then they broke the back window, reached into the back and grabbed my purse. We were in complete shock and disbelief. Soon, I began receiving fraud alert calls and text from my banks and credit card companies. The thieves who stole my purse did not waste any time. They immediately began to use my Driver’s License, debit card, credit card, checking account. We filed a report with the Riverside Police Department. I also went to the Temple City Sheriff’s Station and filed a report. Deputy Villanueva stated “This is what the California voters voted yes on, to allow criminals credits for good behavior and this is what they do. These are career criminals that go into jail and get right back out thanks to propositions 47 and 57.” I then had to drive back to Rancho Cucamonga to the Sheriff’s Station to file another report for identity theft. As I walked into the sheriff’s station, 2 people walked in before me. I heard the first person telling the deputy that she needed to file a report for identity theft. She stated to the sheriff “I don’t know how they got a hold of my social security number because my card is lock in my safe.” Soon Deputy Schnell took down my report. She stated “This is what Prop 47 and 57 are doing. Giving good behavior credit to criminals that will never reform.” Prop 47 and 57 give credit to felons and non-violent criminals for good behavior and pretty much reward criminals that are supposedly rehabilitated, but these props are punishing the public and failing to protect law abiding citizens.
California voters voted “Yes” Proposition 47 on November 4, 2014. Proposition 47 reduces nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors. “It reduces certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors” (cdcr.ca.gov). Crimes of petty theft, fraud, identity theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks are now sentenced as misdemeanors. Proposition does not allow immediate release of these convicts. Felons that are currently serving a felony conviction for these nonviolent crimes must petition to the court for resentencing. Prop 47 allows a felon convicted of these nonviolent crimes to apply to have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. There is a problem with Prop 47. Many of these felons qualifying for sentence reduction are repeat offenders. They are aware that nonviolent crimes like, petty theft, drug possession, fraud, identity theft, fraud, receiving stolen property and forgery that are $950 or less will now require a misdemeanor sentencing. This bill also applies to grand theft, shoplifting, and drug possession. “The crimes are non-serious and nonviolent; most offenders are currently being handled at the county level. This proposition reduces the length of sentences, jail time and/or community supervision. They go into jail and get right back out and repeat the same crimes. Crime has risen because of this proposition.
Proposition 57 is a public rehabilitation act of 2016. Sixty-four percent of California voters voted “Yes” for this prop. California Governor Jerry Brown supported this bill. He stated that “It’s a cost-serving measure to address the ballooning prison population” (Hernandez). This bill is supposed to stop career criminals by emphasizing rehabilitation. It gives the decision of sentencing to a judge instead of a prosecutor “To determine whether juveniles charged with certain crimes should be tried in juvenile or adult court” (CDCR 1). This Act “Establishes a parole consideration process for nonviolent offenders who have served the full term for their primary criminal offense and who demonstrate that they should not be considered a current threat to public safety” (CDCR 1). In addition, inmates will be able to earn credits for “Good behavior”. They can earn these credits by completing rehabilative, educational, or career training programs. This system is supposed to assist in rehabilitating inmates, so when released they don’t commit the same or new crimes. This proposition will allow about thirty thousand inmates who are eligible the opportunity to earn credits or time off their sentence. Detective Mutuku stated “The enactment of Proposition 57 actually reclassified certain extremely violent crimes to now be considered nonviolent offenses, crimes that actually include the word violence in their description such as domestic violence (Penal Code 273.5PC). Along this same reclassification were crimes involving us of deadly weapons (subsections under Penal Code 245PC), crimes against minors (Penal Code 273/d), and certain rapes (subsections under Penal Code 261 and 288), not to mention other heinous crime.” This bill “will allow criminals convicted of rape, lewd acts against a child, gang gun crimes to be released early from prison” (Voter’s guide). These are the reasons that California Law Enforcement, Courtroom Prosecutors, Sheriffs, Policy, local community leaders and Crime Victims are so opposed to this proposition.
Would you rather be a victim of rape or identity theft? There is no difference. A crime is a crime. California propositions 47 and 57 are failing. The majority of California voted yes on these propositions. Those who failed to do their research when supporting these propositions, failed to realize which criminals would be released in an effort to decrease the overpopulation. Also, failed to recognize the relation between “non-violent” and “violent” felonies. These bills are rewarding repeat offenders while jeopardizing the safety of the public. Why should criminals be rewarded for behaving how they should have been behaving in the first place? Inmates, criminals, felons should not be rewarded for acting like civilized human beings. Due to these propositions, crime is on the rise. From break ins to identity theft, law abiding citizens are becoming victims of crime. Law enforcement officials are against propositions forty-seven and fifty-seven. According to law enforcement official “This new law provides early parole consideration and will place more felons back on the streets without addressing crucial program gaps” (Hernandez 2). Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten expressed his concern by stating that these propositions “Would spur a mass release of prisoners to parole based only on the findings of state correction employees” (Ventura County Star). This act will overturn Marsy’s Law, three strikes you’re out bill. The worst criminals will be treated as if they were first-time offenders. These laws are to emphasize rehabilitation for inmates, but what about victims of rape? Can they be rehabilitated after being violated? Nothing will ever give back what was taken away. What about an innocent child that fell victim to child molester? Nothing can compensate for these victims. Some criminals can be rehabilitated, but will this erase the crime or the emotional scarring of the victims? The answer is no. I’m completely opposed to these propositions.
Detective Mutuku stated “Statistically speaking, the passage of Proposition 47 has drastically increased the rate of property and drug-related crime within the state of California; as is cited in the FBI’s UCR-coded criminal statistics.” These propositions are going to continue to fail because without the fear of actual extended physical incarceration or sometimes no incarceration at all, there will be extremely low deterrence in the commission of these now reclassified nonviolent felonies. Statistically certain crimes are on the rise, but more importantly, so has a once existent optimism in the criminal justice system.
Recidivism is another reason why propositions 47 and 57 are failing. Recidivism is “A tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially: relapse into criminal behavior” (Merriam-Webster). Proposition 47 and 57 greaten the chances of recidivism. “Past aggression is a potent predictor of future aggression and informs the predictor of violent criminal recidivism” (Swogger et al.). The majority of felons/criminals are repeat offenders. They display “good behavior” while incarcerated, which leads to the courts and parole board to think some of the inmates are rehabilitated. “Establishing risk of sexual recidivism is a key aim of such assessment, studies following offenders in the community have suggested that it is also important to consider sexual offenders risk of violent recidivism” (Howard, et al. 267). Once released, the majority fall back into criminal behavior and repeat the same or new crimes. Many will continue to engage in either drug or property crime without fearing any of the consequences. This also occurs because criminals are aware that sentencing for many nonviolent crimes are much more lenient. They do not fear incarceration because they serve shorter sentences. Reducing felony convictions is not the answer to relieve prison over population.
Prisons, jail, correctional institutions bring in revenue. The state of California should use the money made from prisons to build more prisons. In addition, building private incarceration facilities would help reduce over population in these institutions. Detective Mutuku stated “The addition of private incarceration facilities may be part of the solution in regards to the influx of criminals being released from incarceration and, being on community supervision.” The number of private prisons have grown which has led to major profits for companies running them. “The largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), reported revenues of one billion six-hundred and seventy-five thousand in 2010 alone” (Bricker and Diaz). If California was to the route of privatization, these private prisons would have to meet strict criteria. They would be required to do this in order to gain state approval. These companies can use the revenue made and build more prisons in California. Another solution would be to cut back on overtime for law enforcement. They money being paid on overtime instead can be used to build more prisons. This would alleviate the prison overcrowding. This is a better solution instead of giving inmates credits to reduce time being served or reclassifying violent crimes down to nonviolent. Rewarding criminals for behavior that they should have already been displaying is not the answer. These bills are pretty much erasing the criminal justice system. They are pretty much giving career criminals a “Get out of jail free card” and hindering laws that were meant to protect the public. This also reduces the possibility of juvenile criminals to be rehabilitated because they will have no fear of the consequences that come with a life of crime. Propositions 47 and 57 are making a mockery of the justice system and they need to be repealed.
Brickner, Michael and Shakyra Diaz. “Prisons for Profit Incarceration for Sale. “Human Rights, vol. 38, no. 3, Summer 2011, pp. 14-17. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=71530930&site=ehost-live.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Proposition 47, What you need to know about Proposition 47. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2017. http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/new/prop47.html
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Proposition 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, 2017. http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/propositions57/
California Secretary of State, California General Election November 8, 2016. Official Voter Information Guide, www.Voterguide.sos.ca.gov
Howard, Philip D., et al. “Predicting Nonsexual Violent Reoffending by Sexual Offenders: A Comparison of Four Actuarial Tools.” Legal & Criminological Psychology, vol. 20, no. 2, Sept. 2015, pp. 267-287. EBSCOHOST, DOI. 10.1111/LCRP. 12027.
Legislative Analyst’s Office, Proposition 47 Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statue. 4 Nov. 2014. www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2014/prop-47-110414.aspx
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. https://www.Merriam-Webster.com/dictionary/recidivism
Mutuku, James. 27 April. 2016, Riverside, Ca. Interview. Detective, Riverside Police Department.
Orange County Public Defender. Changing Your Record Under Proposition 47. http://www.Pubdef.ocgov.com/search/default.htm?q=proposition+47
Swogger, Marc T., et al. “Impulsive Versus Premeditated Aggression in the Prediction of violent Criminal Recidivism.” Aggressive Behavior, vol. 41, no. 4, Jul/Aug 2015, pp. 346-352. EBSCOhost, doi: 10.1002/ab. 21549Ventura County Star. Editorial: “Prop. 57 moves prison reform forward.”, 26 Oct. 2016.