Prop. 57 Favored Violent Criminals Over Public Safety

Police carWe told the truth about Prop 57 prior to the November 2016 election; that it would free violent felons years early. We said it would free sex offenders. We said it would free criminals whose sentences were enhanced due to prior violent strike offenses. Well, the sex offenders already sued and won their claim that they are entitled to be considered for early release based upon the language of Prop 57. Now the third-strikers with violent criminal histories have done the same and won.  An Appellate Court decision this past week made that crystal clear, ruling that under Prop 57, inmates serving three strike sentences for what are clearly violent crimes are entitled to early release even if decades remained on their sentence.

Prop 57 was a poorly drafted, last minute initiative that hijacked another initiative regarding direct filing of juvenile charges. The California Supreme Court ruled that it could go on to the ballot despite failing to comply with a 2014 law prohibiting wholesale changes in pending initiatives and requiring 30 days of public comment. In his dissent, Justice Ming W. Chin cogently noted that Prop 57 was “exactly the sort of measure that would greatly benefit from public comment and the opportunity to make amendments” as they would “easily expose its drafting flaws.”

A key drafting flaw was the farcical claim that Prop 57 only applied to “non-violent” inmates. That is because the proponents failed to define what were “non-violent” crimes, with a legal presumption that any crime not explicitly defined as “violent” would qualify for early release. As we have highlighted time and time again, demonstrably “violent” inmates have been released early thanks to Prop 57, including criminals who have committed horrible beatings and stabbings of women in domestic violence situations and stabbings and assaults on fellow prison inmates and correctional officers.

However, there is a partial fix in 2020 that will help fulfill the promise of Prop 57 proponents to California voters that “violent” inmates would not be eligible for early release under its provisions. The “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act” will be on the ballot, and among other provisions will reclassify crimes currently considered “non-violent” under Prop 57 as “violent,” ensuring inmates serving time in prison for these crimes are ineligible for early release under Prop 57. Because Prop 57 was a constitutional amendment, it will be difficult for the citizens to fix all the bad drafting, but the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act is a start.

resident of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Needs Criminal Justice Reforms to Fight Crime

Police carThe “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018″ will appear on the 2020 ballot, as the failure of some Registrars to timely validate signatures prevented it from qualifying from the 2018 ballot. The initiative will make commonsense changes to fix problems caused by AB 109, Prop. 47 and Prop. 57.

While some supporters of changes to the California criminal justice system acknowledge that those changes have been “plagued by a lack of vetting and thorough debate” a very vocal minority, including Governor Jerry Brown, adamantly refuse to acknowledge any faults. Brown vetoes such changes. In other instances, the Legislature simply refuses to consider any changes.

The initiative has and will continue to come under attack by those adamantly opposed to any fixes to Prop. 47, 57 and AB 109. An old legal adage is: “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table.” The campaign to oppose the initiative will be a “pound the table” approach, mixed in with some deliberate half-truths designed to mislead the public.

One most recent example of “half-truth” was a recent and deliberately deceptive LA Times editorial, which as written would have readers believe the initiative would drop the limit for felony theft charges to $250 from the current $950. The truth is the initiative does not broadly lower the dollar limit for felony theft. Instead, it applies to the discrete instances where a repeat thief has two or more prior and separate convictions and commits a new theft where the value of the money, labor or personal property taken in the new theft exceeds $250. The change in short, imposes the potential of a felony consequences only for repeat offenders who already have two or more prior convictions.

The LA Times also blithely asserts that “even under current laws, savvy prosecutors can add up the value of stolen goods in order to bring felony charges.” Actually, savvy prosecutors know that published case law such as People v. Hoffman (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 1304 and People v. Salmorin (2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 738, prohibit aggregation. Savvy prosecutors know that the Attorney General, in cases such as People v. Chaney (Case No. A147169), People v Wilson (Case No. E063844) and People v. Wallace (Case No. E063760) has conceded on appeal that amounts from separate theft offenses cannot be aggregated. Savvy prosecutors know that prior legislation to allow aggregation of theft amounts, such as AB 2287 (Lackey and Wilk), have failed to pass.

The initiative will also make commonsense changes to parole that will assist law enforcement in the supervision of convicted criminals. The legislature approved similar changes with unanimous bipartisan support in AB 1408. But that legislation was vetoed by the governor.

The initiative will allow Governor Brown to keep his promise to voters that “violent” inmates will not be released early under Prop 57. The initiative allows him to do so by specifying the violent crimes not eligible for release. Dozens of similar attempts by the legislature to do so have failed.

These changes, along with authorizing DNA collection to help solve violent crimes and exonerate the innocent, and reforming theft laws to address serial thieves and organized theft rings, are commonsense fixes.

The ADDA and our allies are happy to debate the substance of the initiative with opponents. We are also equally committed to calling out the table pounding and misleading claims that will be made by those opponents in the months leading to the 2020 election.

resident of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Prison inmates are down, but costs still going up

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies inspect a cell block at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he plans to implement all the reforms suggested by a commission in the wake of allegations that a culture of violence flourished in his jails. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

When Jerry Brown’s first governorship began in 1975, California had about 20,000 men and women behind bars in its prison system, but that number would increase more than eight-fold.

As crime rates rose to record levels in the 1970s, Brown, the Legislature and voters responded with laws creating new crimes and/or increasing prison terms for old offenses. Those laws, more that were added in the 1980s and 1990s and more unforgiving attitudes by prosecutors and judges, triggered a flood of new prison inmates.

Democrat Brown and his Republican successors, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, undertook a massive prison construction program that eventually added 23 new human warehouses.

By 1990, the state’s prison population had quintupled to 100,000 and by the time Brown returned to the governorship in 2011, it had reached 162,000, just slightly below its peak.

Since then, however, it has declined sharply to a current 129,000, thanks to federal court orders attacking prison overcrowding, more lenient attitudes on parole and probation, diversion of some low-level felons into county jails, and two ballot measures – one sponsored by Brown himself – that reduced penalties.

Some law enforcement authorities contend that California’s penal pendulum has swung too far, and that having fewer miscreants locked up and more on the streets is sparking a new surge of crime.

Voters could weigh in on the issue under a proposed ballot measure that would restore harsher penalties for some crimes, even as the Legislature considers bills to lighten sentences even more.

One might expect that with prison populations having dropped by about 25 percent, costs would also have decreased.

Not so. In fact, they have continued to increase, and with fewer felons behind bars, the per-inmate cost has skyrocketed to about $75,000 a year, roughly the price of a Stanford University education and more than twice the national average.

Brown’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year pegs state prison and parole costs at $12 billion. But that’s not the total cost because one of the steps to reduce overcrowding was to shift more felons into county jails and probation programs, with money – $2 billion currently – to pay for them.

That $14 billion is only slightly less than what taxpayers spend through the state budget on higher education. But why, one might wonder, did costs escalate as the number of inmates declined?

The biggest reason is that the system is still housing more inmates than its designed capacity and, therefore, no prisons have been closed. Fundamental operating costs, including the number of prison guards and their ever-increasing salaries and fringe benefits, especially pensions, are unaffected.

Another big factor is that – also thanks to federal court orders – prison health care costs have exploded to $20,000 per inmate. That’s by far the highest in the nation, nearly four times the national average, and also roughly twice the average cost of health care for Californians not behind bars.

The future is cloudy. Under the more lenient laws and policies in effect now, inmate populations may decline slowly, perhaps to the point at which some prisons could be shuttered.

However, prison unions and the communities that see their prisons as economic boons will resist closures. And if the pending ballot measure on sentencing passes, the inmate decline could be stopped.

As the last four decades have shown, what we euphemistically call “criminal justice” is ultimately just another political issue that, like others, is subject to the whims of voters and politicians.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Prop. 57: Judicial Depravity in California

Police tapeIn November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act. Championed by Governor Jerry Brown, the measure expanded parole possibilities for nonviolent offenders and barred prosecutors from filing juvenile cases in adult court. Last month, California’s Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 57 could be applied retroactively. On those grounds, California’s Third Court of Appeals “conditionally reversed” the conviction of one of the most violent criminals in state history and expanded his prospects for early release.

Daniel Marsh was just 15 on April 14, 2013, when he broke into the Davis home of 87-year-old Oliver “Chip” Northup, an attorney and popular bluegrass musician, and his 76-year-old wife, Claudia Maupin, a pastoral associate at the Davis Unitarian Church, where the couple met. A police report said that the two were killed “in a way that manifested exceptional depravity,” which was no exaggeration. The autopsy report runs 16 pages and 6,658 words, noting that the murderer stabbed Maupin 67 times and Northup 61 times. Marsh disemboweled both victims; he placed a cell phone inside the corpse of Maupin and a drinking glass inside Northup.

In his lengthy interview with police, Marsh said that Maupin told him to “please stop.” Marsh kept on stabbing because “she just wouldn’t die.” The stabbing “just felt right,” and the double murder and mutilations, Marsh said, “felt amazing,” gave him “pure happiness,” and “the most exhilarating enjoyable feeling I’ve ever felt.” He inserted the phone and glass to throw investigators off track, and when police accused him of the murders, his first response was “I’m a kid.” Marsh’s public defender sought to have the confession tossed, but Judge David Reed rejected that bid. Marsh then offered an insanity defense, bringing in expert witness James Merikangas, a psychologist and neurologist, who claimed that Marsh was in a “dissociative state” when he killed.

Prosecutors Michael Cabral and Amanda Zambor made the case that Marsh was sane at the time of the murders; a Yolo County jury agreed, and in December 2014, Judge David Reed sentenced Marsh to 52 years to life in state prison. The killer received an additional year for use of a knife, but got no extra time for lying in wait or committing torture. The double murderer, now 20, would be eligible for parole after 25 years, when he would be in his early forties.

On February 1, 2018, the California Supreme Court addressed the case of Pablo Lara, a juvenile charged with kidnapping and raping a seven-year-old girl. The court ruled that Proposition 57 “applies retroactively,” because “the possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court — where rehabilitation is the goal — rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment.” Proposition 57 “reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles,” and therefore, the court ruled, Proposition 57 “applies to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted.”

On February 22, the Third Court of Appeals ruled that the case of Daniel Marsh “was not fully briefed until July 2017.” Therefore, “this initiative applies retroactively to defendant’s pending appeal, and that we must conditionally reverse for proceeding in juvenile court.” So all that painstaking work by Cabral and Zambor has been set aside by a three-judge panel headed by Kathleen Butz, an appointee of Governor Gray Davis. Also on the panel was Jerry Brown appointee Cole Blease, former attorney for the California Teachers Association. The appeal ruling does not name Northup and Maupin, the victims of the savage and pointless murder.

A proceeding will determine if Marsh was indeed suitable for trial in adult court. If so, the court will restore Marsh’s conviction for the two murders. If not, he will be re-sentenced as a juvenile and face a maximum punishment of incarceration until age 25. Whatever one chooses to call it, the proceeding is clearly a new trial for a sadist who has never shown the slightest remorse for his savage actions. In 2014, when the court declined to toss Marsh’s detailed confession, Maupin’s daughter Victoria Hurd said that the decision “restores faith in humanity in the midst of this depravity.” In 2018, when Hurd got word of the reversal, she told the Sacramento Bee: “This is so wrong. It’s come barreling back into our presence.”

Marsh is not the only shut-and-open case in the Proposition 57 pipeline. According to California’s attorney general, there were 71,923 juvenile arrests in 2015, 29.7 percent of which were for felonies. Five hundred and sixty-six juveniles were tried in adult court, and 88 percent were convicted. YOUNG MAN CONVICTED IN 2014 MURDER WANTS NEW TRIAL AFTER PROP. 57 PASSES, read a headline in the San Diego Union-Tribune about Kurese Bell, convicted of murder at age 17. PROP. 57 COULD TURN BACK TIME FOR MINORS CHARGED WITH MURDER, the Lompoc Record announced.

As with the case of Daniel Marsh, these judicial reconsiderations will have nothing to do with potentially exculpatory evidence or errors in trial; they are politically and ideologically driven attempts to overturn legal and proper verdicts. Relatives of Claudia Maupin, Oliver Northup, or other victims have good reason to see these efforts as perverse, even depraved.

Criminal justice reform under fire in California

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies inspect a cell block at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he plans to implement all the reforms suggested by a commission in the wake of allegations that a culture of violence flourished in his jails. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Not only has it been a disappointing year for the lawmakers and civic leaders behind the recent push for sweeping reforms of California’s criminal justice system, their achievements are under harsh fire in Los Angeles County.

Last December, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, proposed to largely scrap cash bail on the grounds that it wasn’t essential to getting people to show up for their trials, was destructive of individuals’ lives and would sharply reduce costs and crowding at county jails. But while one of the two related bills the lawmakers introduced passed the Senate on mostly party lines, the other stalled on the Assembly floor, only getting 35 votes in support. The bail bonds industry has strong relationships with both parties, especially in urban areas where bail bond agents are often significant donors.

On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced their support for the measure – but for review and passage in 2018, not the remaining few days of the current legislative session.

The support of Brown and Cantil-Sakauye was depicted as good news by Bonta and Hertzberg. But the governor’s and chief justice’s delay in getting on the bandwagon and the Assembly’s coolness to the concept showed that bail reform never enjoyed as much support as two other recent criminal justice reform measures. Adopted by state voters in 2014, Proposition 47reclassifies several nonviolent crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies for those without criminal records involving crimes of violence or related to guns. Approved in 2016, Proposition 57 made it easier for those guilty of “nonviolent” crimes to win parole.

Reforms face intense blowback in L.A. County

Now, however, enthusiasm for these reforms has faded in the largest county in the state and nation.

In Los Angeles County, some law enforcement and women’s groups are upset with Proposition 57 over how many of the crimes it considers “nonviolent” involve considerable violence, including types of sexual assaults.

But many local leaders, politicians, law enforcement members and citizens are furious over the effects of Proposition 47. They say it amounts to a “get out of jail free” card for drug addicts who no longer face incarceration for their crimes but who face no punishment when they don’t honor requirements they meet with drug counselors. Anecdotes about addicts being arrested over and over and over without consequence have been common in police circles for more than two years. Similar stories abounded in a harsh October 2015 Washington Post analysis of the early effects of Proposition 47. It concluded the well-meaning state law kept addicts out of jail, but not out of trouble.

These concerns led Los Angeles County supervisors to vote 3-0 on Aug. 15 to set up a commission to examine “the challenges and opportunities” created by Propositions 47 and 57 and AB109, a 2011 state law that “realigned” criminal justice by having those convicted of many “low-level” crimes serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons.

The reforms have been the focus of anger over two gun murders on Feb. 20 in Los Angeles County, allegedly committed by convicted felon Michael C. Mejia – one of a family member, the other of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer. Mejia had been released from state prison 10 months before the killings and the Los Angeles gang member reportedly committed several parole violations without being sent back to state prison before Feb. 20.

After the killings, Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper and the Los Angeles Police Protective League blamed AB109 and Proposition 47for making it easier for Mejia to avoid being returned to state prison for breaking parole.

Reformers said Proposition 47 had nothing to do with Mejia’s treatment. They said that while AB109 changed how Mejia was treated after being released from prison, it did so by assigning responsibility for his oversight to the Los Angeles County Probation Department – not the state corrections department.

But the argument that the county was blaming state reforms for its own failings never took hold. The day after officer Boyer’s death, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said state reforms were “putting people back on the street that aren’t ready to be back on the street.” He said his jail system had so many dangerous inmates that it amounted to a “default state prison” – undermining claims that reforms would have positive or benign effects on local communities.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Could Free 9,500 Inmates in 4 Years

Corrections officials announced new criminal sentencing rules on Friday that aim to trim California’s prison population by 9,500 inmates after four years.

They include steps like reducing inmates’ sentences up to six months for earning a college degree and by up to a month each year for participating in self-help programs such as alcohol and substance abuse support groups and counseling, anger management, life skills, victim awareness, restorative justice and parenting classes.

Virtually any inmate except those on death row or those serving life-without-parole sentences would be eligible to earn the credits and lower their sentences.

It’s the latest step in a years-long drive to dramatically lower the state’s prison population in response to federal court orders stemming from lawsuits by prison advocates and pressure to turn away from mass incarceration.

The proposed changes follow voters’ approval of Proposition 57 in November. The initiative lets certain felons seek parole more quickly and gave corrections officials broad discretion to grant early release credits. …

Click here to read the full article

Veterans Live in Safer Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

veteransNational statistics on veterans are grim. As of November 2014, an average of 550 veterans return every day (that is 200,000 troops each year). They have a hard time readjusting. The unemployment rate of veterans since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is higher (11.1 percent) than non-veterans (around 8.6 percent). Twenty percent of veterans between 18 and 24 years old are unemployed. That is so even with the aggressive recruitment by federal agencies, where almost half of all new employees come from the services. It’s estimated that 1.4 million veterans are living below the poverty line.

All of the difficulties take a physical and social toll. Mental illness and substance abuse are widely reported. As of June 2011, 20 percent of all suicides nationally are veterans. Almost 20 percent of homeless people are veterans. As of November 2015, more than 10 percent of the death row are veterans.

There is cause for optimism. Looking at data from the L.A. Mapping Project, compiled by the Los Angeles Times, one can generalize that veterans who live in America’s second largest city tend to live in fairly safe neighborhoods. More so than those who live in neighborhoods with fewer veterans. For example, the three neighborhoods identified as having the highest proportion of veterans – Green Valley (19.5 percent), Elizabeth Lake (18.4 percent) and Lake Hughes (18.4 percent) – have no incidences of violent crime in 2017.

The three neighborhoods accounted for the lowest percentage of veterans – Central-Alameda (1.8 percent), Chinatown (1.3 percent) and University Park (1.0 percent) – have moderate levels of per capita violent crime (61.4, 18.4, and 38.1 incidences per 1,000 residents, respectively). The average violate crime rate in the 207 neighborhoods is 27.7 incidences per capita. Eight neighborhoods have over 100 incidences of violent crime per capita. Vermont Vista (155.1 incidences per capita and 6.6 percent veterans population) has the highest violent crime crate.

Creating a model using the data, one can observe that the more veterans there are living in a neighborhood in L.A., the lower the violent crime rate. More specifically, for every 1 percent increase in the percentage of veterans living in a neighborhood, there is a decrease of 2.6 incidences of violent crimes.

For example, 101 veterans currently live in Chinatown, the fitted model predicts that 7.1 percent of the neighborhood’s population need to be veterans (an increase of 448 veterans) for the violent crime rate to be eliminated. Gramercy Park, which has 115.5 incidences of violent crimes, needs 44.4 percent of its population to be veterans (3,179 veterans, or an increase of 2,240) to eradicate violent crimes. If Hancock Park (violent crime rate 27.2 incidences per capita, close to the city mean), wants to eradicate violent crime, the municipal government would have to see that 10.4 percent of it residents come from the veteran population. That is 822 veterans, or a 326 increase from the current 496 veterans living in the neighborhood.

But a note of caution. The causation of the two variables can run in either direction, or in both ways. A neighborhood’s violent crime rate may change because veterans moved into the neighborhood (street gangs, murderers, etc., may withhold their crime sprees out of fear of the veterans), or veterans moved into a neighborhood because they saw that it had a low violent crime rate and that it was safe. As with many social phenomena, both scenarios are possible.

This has policy implications. Veterans, like all people, prefer to live in safe neighborhoods. In L.A., neighborhoods with no recorded violent crimes in 2017 have at least 9.6 percent veterans in their populations. It is good incentive for the municipal government to lower crime rates, for example through gentrification, to create safer homes for veterans readjusting to civilian life.

Another implication is attracting veterans to neighborhoods with higher crime rates, if it is true that veterans thwart off violent criminals. The municipal government can experiment with tax breaks for veterans who move to neighborhoods that are traditionally plagued with violent crimes – for example, choosing those neighborhoods above the mean crime rate.

As with most prescriptions in public policy, introducing veterans into a neighborhood to reduce crimes should not be seen as a silver bullet solution. Crime control requires a blend of preventative measures (e.g., education, public campaigns), police mobilization and deterrence in conjunction with the criminal justice system. Veterans, by playing a part in affecting on all three factors, should be rewarded for it.

Gary Lai was the founder and director for ten years of the anti-poverty campaign TKO Poverty.

Will New Initiative Add to Current Crime Problem?

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

At about the same time Gov. Jerry Brown was explaining his new initiative to reform the determinate sentencing law, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was telling Town Hall Los Angeles that law enforcement was facing a losing battle with crime. The sheriff argued that ballot measures back to Proposition 36 in 2000 easing drug punishment through Proposition 47 voiding prison for some felonies and AB109 prison realignment have led to increased crime.

Will Brown’s new initiative proposal add to the crime problem by making it easier for non-violent offenders to gain parole?

Sen. Jim Nielsen thinks so. He stated in a press release: “Violent and property crimes have increased in cities across the state from Sacramento to Los Angeles. Weakening the criminal justice system will only increase the victimization of California citizens.”

Nielsen laid the fault in the crime increase at Proposition 47, which reduced many felonies and misdemeanors, allowing arrestees to escape the threat of prison.

Sheriff McDonnell said he supported the spirit of what Prop. 47 was trying to do but fixes are needed because it is not working. Prior to Prop. 47, a criminal arrested for stealing goods valued less than $950, or on certain drug charges, faced either time in jail or a treatment program. McDonnell said the leverage of jail time no longer exists. People know they won’t get locked up for a theft under $950, he said.

The sheriff said the AB109 prison re-alignment law put state prison inmates in county jails, which are not equipped to handle them. Jails are intended to house people pre-trial, not to house long-term prisoners, McDonnell said. One state prisoner shifted to the L.A. county jail is serving a 42-year term.

The realignment program was designed to free up space in state prisons. Brown’s proposed initiative would further that goal by giving judges and parole boards more discretion.

Allowing judges to judge specific circumstances and mete out appropriate justice is a common sense philosophy.

But at what cost to public safety?

While McDonnell said it wasn’t his intention to bash Prop. 47, he noted that crime in the county was up 11.2 percent over the last year with 40 percent of those freed under Prop. 47 re-arrested. One individual has been re-arrested 22 times.

McDonnell said he wanted to work with Prop. 47 supporters to meet the goals of the initiative while at the same time adding fixes that return incentive and disincentives for individuals to obey the law.

One Prop. 47 supporter who listened to the sheriff speak was Tom Hoffman, a long time law enforcement official who serves as a Senior Public Safety Adviser for the non-profit Californians for Safety and Justice, an organization that advocated for Proposition 47.

Hoffman took exception to the sheriff putting responsibility of increased crime on Prop. 47. Hoffman said crime statistics all across the country have gone up about the same rate as in California.

Given reports of increased crime issued by the police and a recent spike in gun sales, it can be assumed citizens of California feel less safe. Yet, the governor’s initiative is counting on a changed attitude toward crime and punishment as indicated by the passage of Proposition 47 and the Three Strike law reform.

A couple of months ago I wrote that a spike in crime could bring back the rise of politicians like former Gov. George Deukmejian who rode a tough-on-crime image to high state offices. If the Brown gambit adds to the perception that crime is increasing because of government actions there likely could be a political push-back.

Voting rights to be restored for tens of thousands of felons in CA

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

Los Angeles County probation Chief Jerry Powers said he hasn’t heard the question over allowing low-level felons to vote posed better than by his 12-year-old son: “Dad, what part of voting makes us less safe?”

“Only a 12-year-old can put it that way. There’s not a single part of allowing these individuals to vote that is going to make our society less safe,” Powers said Tuesday on the steps of an Oakland courthouse, where California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the right to vote will soon be restored to tens of thousands of low-level felons in California serving out their sentences under the community supervision provisions of the state’s recent criminal justice reforms.

“If we are serious about slowing the revolving door at our jails and our prisons and serious about reducing recidivism, we need to engage, not shun, former offenders,” Padilla said. “And voting is a key part of that engagement. It is part of a process of becoming vested, having a stake in the community.”

Gov. Brown Pardons105 Ex-Cons, Changes His Mind On One

Gov. Jerry Brown offered Christmas Eve pardons to 105 Californians. But before the paperwork reached the Secretary of State’s office, that number was reduced by one.

After facing questions from the Los Angeles Times, Brown retracted the pardon of Glen William Carnes, who, as a teenager, was convicted of a drug-related crime. The governor’s office based its pardon decision, in part, on an order from the Orange County Superior Court, which stated there was evidence “he has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen.”

However, a Times investigation called into question whether the ex-con had been fully rehabilitated:

“However, federal records show Carnes was disciplined by investment regulators in May 2013. He signed a consent settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that states he agreed to be barred from financial investment. The document alleged that he hid an outside business deal and provided investigators with ‘false and misleading statements that minimized and mischaracterized his involvement.’ Carnes did not admit guilt.

“Securities and Exchange Commission records show the business deal that led to the sanction became what is now Carnes’ company: Global Vision Holdings, a publicly traded corporate umbrella of which Carnes is listed as CEO, chairman of the board and chief financial officer.”

Carnes: “You’ve got to be kidding me”

An exasperated Carnes couldn’t believe the governor, who has granted 510 pardons since 2011, was rescinding his pardon.

“Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me,” Carnes said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “I was told by attorneys that it didn’t need to be disclosed.”

He added, “I cannot believe this is happening, I’ve waited 20 years for this. This is wrong.”

The case demonstrates the fickle nature of gubernatorial pardons, which Brown has brought back into fashion. Pardons, which are available to any individual that has been convicted of a crime in California, are only granted in extraordinary cases. A convict must obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, which is an order from a superior court declaring that a person convicted of a crime is now rehabilitated.

“A gubernatorial pardon may be granted to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior and have lived productive and law-abiding lives following their conviction,” the governor’s office stated in its press release announcing the Christmas Eve actions. “Pardons are not granted unless they are earned.”

Other pardon recipients overjoyed

The 104 pardons that remained in effect were granted to Californians convicted of non-violent drug and burglary offenses who had completed their sentences. The pardons offer the rehabilitated convicts a chance to regain certain rights, including the right to serve on a jury, own a gun and work as a parole or probation officer.

“It’s a second chance,” Francois Dominick, a Bay Area recipient of a pardon, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s what it is. I’m employed and doing the right thing and haven’t been in any trouble. I got my second chance, and I won’t blow it.”

Pardon for Modesto man who stole wine as teenager

Among those pardoned by the governor was a Modesto man who stole “expensive wine out of a wine cellar and drank it.”

Michael J. Moradian Jr., who has since been honored for his work in the Central Valley, explained his crime was a foolish mistake he committed as a teenager.

“I was a senior in high school when it happened,” he told the Modesto Bee. “I made poor choices at the time. It opened my eyes and totally changed my life. I was on the road to destruction in high school, but it woke me up.”

Since his youthful indiscretion, Moradian has volunteered with Central Valley non-profit organizations — work that earned him recognition in 2013 from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.

“Mike is a good friend and a good man!” State Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, posted on his Facebook page in support of the governor’s pardon.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com