Pubdate: Thu, 16 Oct 2014
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.


In a commentary in this newspaper last month, former San Diego Police 
Chief William Lansdowne lamented the rapid growth of the state's 
prison population, noting that it far outpaced overall population 
growth. He was right. He noted that the Legislature over the years 
had enacted hundreds and hundreds of new anti-crime bills, most of 
which added felonies and increased the length of prison terms. Right 
again. And, he wrote, despite the get-tough policies, California 
continued to have the highest recidivism rate in the nation. Very 
true. Finally, he cited government figures showing that most state 
prisoners suffered mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse 
disorders. And, of course, he was right about that, too.

But Lansdowne's solution to the problems couldn't be more wrong.

Proposition 47, the Nov. 4 ballot initiative sponsored by Lansdowne 
and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, proposes simply to 
allow for the early release of thousands of those prisoners, along 
with their addictions and mental problems, back to the streets. The 
measure also makes a nod toward increasing the social services 
available to those troubled felons, but it is a relative pittance.

Specifically, Proposition 47 has three main provisions:

It would reduce six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, 
even if there were previous convictions: possession of small amounts 
of nearly all illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine and 
methamphetamine; check forgery under $950; writing bad checks under 
$950; receiving stolen property worth less than $950; shoplifting 
less than $950; and grand theft of less than $950.

It would allow inmates already serving felony sentences for such 
crimes, including those convicted under the "three strikes" law, to 
petition for resentencing and release. Estimates are that 
7,000-10,000 prison inmates would be eligible to petition for resentencing.

Savings to the state from the reduced prison population would be 
divied up between mental health and drug abuse programs, school 
programs to reduce truancy and dropout rates, and the state victims 
compensation fund.

There are many reasons why Proposition 47 is opposed by current San 
Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, Sheriff Bill Gore, District 
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and virtually every one of the established 
law enforcement associations in California.

Here are just a few: Stealing any handgun worth less than $950, now a 
felony, would automatically be a misdemeanor - and nearly all stolen 
handguns are worth less than $950; the language is so loose it would 
even make possession of date-rape drugs a misdemeanor; and the 
provisions for shoplifting and bad checks could cost retailers and 
consumers millions.

Finally, the prison money that would be saved and diverted to 
treatment programs, schools and crime victims - Lansdowne estimated 
it at $100 million to $200 million - is peanuts for a state the size 
of California. Which means thousands of criminals would be back on 
the streets where they would still not get treatment for their mental 
health disorders or their addictions.

Well-intentioned though it might be, Proposition 47 would be anything 
but good public policy. We again urge California voters to read the 
fine print - and reject it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom