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Letter to the Editor: Prop. 57 Would Accelerate Already Alarming Rise in Crime

Proposition 57 is a misguided, far-reaching change in the law that will allow dangerous criminals to get released early from prison.

The campaign in favor of Prop. 57 is incredibly misleading. Prop. 57 proponents say that it only applies to prisoners who committed nonviolent crimes, but there is an eight-page list of violent crimes that fall outside of a legal, technical definition of “violent.” Some of these so-called nonviolent felonies include rape, domestic violence, arson, human trafficking, vehicular manslaughter, gang crime and assault with a firearm.

Furthermore, Prop. 57 allows prison bureaucrats the constitutional power to grant sentence reductions for all felons — including those who committed violent felonies without any input from voters, legislators or judges.

Proposition 57 will make tens of thousands of dangerous inmates eligible for significantly earlier release. The rights of victims that were guaranteed over the past 40 years in a host of public-safety initiatives will be cast aside in Prop. 57 in order to give prisons the power to release dangerous felons early without listening to the voices of victims, victims’ families, prosecutors, law enforcement and sentencing judges.

Simply stated, Prop. 57 will endanger public safety, not enhance it.

Back in 1976, Californians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, celebrated the end of the vague system of sentencing in which only prison bureaucrats knew the length of time a prisoner would serve. The system operated in the dark behind the walls of the institutions. Prop. 57 returns us to the old system and allows sentence reductions without transparency.

The stated goal of Prop. 57 is to save money by releasing criminals back into our communities, but there is little mention of justice, public safety or victims’ rights. In 2007, California’s prison population ballooned to more than 170,000 inmates. Since then the Legislature adopted Prison Realignment, the voters approved Prop. 36 and Prop. 47, and the prison system has enacted its own polices. Due to those changes the inmate population is down to below 130,000. This is an unprecedented, massive inmate population reduction.

With crime rates moving back in the wrong direction, now is not the time for a misleading plan that would result in the early release of dangerous criminals. California spending on prisons has dropped to $10 billion and spending on education now exceeds $80 billion.

As an alternative to releasing hardened, dangerous criminals early, let’s allow our investment in our children and young adults to work to keep people out of prison in the first place.

Prop. 57 will allow the early release of dangerous criminals at a time when crimes rates are going back up. Thirty years of committed police intervention and prosecution efforts succeeded in driving down crime rates to historic lows.

Proponents of Prop. 57 want to rehash failed policies that contributed to historically high crime rates of the 1970s and ’80s.

Stephen P. Foley
​Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney’s Association

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