California police unions are preparing to battle new transparency law in the courtroomc

The Fredericksburg, Va. Police Department has introduced the use portable video camera devices worn by all on-duty officers. The Taser Axon Flex is the product in use. (Copyright, Robert A. Martin/Freelance)

Just as a landmark police transparency law is going into effect, some California police agencies are shredding internal affairs documents and law enforcement unions are rushing to block the information from being released.

The new law, which begins to unwind California’s strictest-in-the-nation protections over the secrecy of law enforcement records, opens to the public internal investigations of officer shootings and other major uses of force, along with confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying while on duty. But the lawsuits and records destruction, which began even before the law took effect Jan. 1, could tie up the release of information for months or years, and in some instances, prevent it from ever being disclosed.

“The fact that police unions are challenging this law is on some level not surprising,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, one of the principal supporters of the new law. “They have a long history of fighting tooth and nail against transparency.”

Before this year, the public couldn’t access police disciplinary records outside of a courtroom. The same prohibitions, which were first put into place four decades ago after a push from police unions, applied to prosecutors as well. California was the only state in the nation where that was the case. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Gov. Brown Sues to Prevent Voters from Enacting Criminal Justice Reforms

PrisonGovernor Brown, having been rebuked multiple times last month by the California Supreme Court for “abuse of power” in issuing pardons and commutations, has now resorted to a lawsuit aiming to prevent voters from enacting common sense fixes to his badly flawed Proposition 57.

The soon to be ex-Governor is now attempting to block the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act” from appearing on the 2020 ballot by claiming the Secretary of State erred in setting the number of valid signatures needed for the initiative. That measure had received sufficient signatures to appear on the 2018 ballot, but multiple counties failed to verify signatures by the deadline imposed by the Secretary of State. Of course, the governor and his office never registered any objection when the Secretary of State published the required signature threshold, nor did he attempt to intervene via a lawsuit before the signature gathering effort commenced.

What is notable about the lawsuit is that it reinforces the utter duplicity Brown used to gain passage of Prop 57. Brown deliberately repeated the falsehood during that campaign that only “non-violent” inmates would be eligible for early release under Prop 57, knowing full well the voters would never have approved an initiative granting early release to inmates convicted and sentenced for violent crimes.

However, as we have pointed out repeatedly during the campaignand since, the failure to define who qualified as a “non-violent offender” left the prison doors open to many convicted of arguably violent crimes. Not only were violent prison inmates made eligible for early release, many have since been released thanks to Prop 57. Now, in a cynical move that directly contradicts his false assurances to voters, Brown’s new lawsuit argues that the proposed fixes to Prop 57 should be thrown off the ballot because it would make it harder for violent offenders to obtain early release.

Governor Brown was able to fool voters last time, but the documented release of multiple violent inmates thanks to Prop 57 has terminated that talking point. His recently filed lawsuit is a desperate attempt to prevent voters from correcting the failings of Prop 57.

Michele Hanisee is president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Brown Grants Clemency to 95 Convicted Murderers

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

A decision by Gov. Jerry Brown to commute the sentence of a man convicted in a 1979 Ventura County robbery-murder was done over the objections of District Attorney Gregory Totten and the victim’s family.

Jahn Vann was sentenced on Feb. 25, 1980, to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the killing of Daniel Nack, officials said.

On Monday, Brown granted Vann’s request to reduce his sentence to 40 years to life with the possibility for parole, Totten’s office said Wednesday.

Vann’s was one of 131 commutations and 143 pardons the governor granted on Christmas Eve, according to Brown’s office. Totten’s office said 95 convicted murderers’ sentences were reduced Dec. 24. …

Click here to read the full article from the Ventura County Star

San Francisco Car Break-In Epidemic Continues

Police carIn September, when the FBI released national crime statistics for 2017 that showed San Francisco had the highest rate of property crimes per capita of any of the 20 largest U.S. cities, officials were quick to say the problem was getting better.

Last year saw about 54,000 property crimes in the city – about 150 car break-ins, burglaries and thefts a day. But the San Francisco Police Department depicted the city as having turned the corner on the problem, using better coordinated responses to cut car break-ins by 14 percent. They said the criminal gangs who were behind most of the break-ins were less active.

Yet a San Francisco Chronicle story printed earlier this month suggests that police have exaggerated their progress.

“Politicians and police have bragged repeatedly that property crimes and car break-ins are down from last year’s epic high. But what they don’t mention is that they’ve actually gone up in the area patrolled by the Central Station, which includes most of San Francisco’s major tourist destinations: Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, North Beach, Nob Hill and much of the Embarcadero,” the Chronicle noted.

“Through October, Central Station had seen 9,106 property crimes, a 13 percent increase from the same time period last year. Car break-ins are up 4 percent, and burglaries, which include home break-ins and shoplifting, are up a whopping 48 percent.”

Overall, the city is averaging 144 property crimes a day – only a slight drop from 2017.

Yet residents’ anger over the property crime epidemic goes far beyond the numbers and the criminals responsible. Letters to the editor and online posts show disbelief at how few consequences there are for the break-ins. In 2017, only about 1 in 60 cases ended with an arrest. Even cases where stolen credit cards are used illegally – a crime that usually provides investigators with strong, clear evidence – rarely end in prosecution.

Failure to use signs to warn tourists blasted

And citizens who try to help police report deep frustration and a belief the “smash and grab” break-ins are not taken seriously. In February, the NBC Bay Area television station interviewed a car break-in victim who provided police with videos of at least 50 car breaks-in near his home, with none apparently leading to criminal prosecution. His frustration with the police was backed up by a spokesman for San Francisco District Attorney George Garcon (pictured) who said officers needed to make more arrests.

But the visitors industry – which generates $9 billion a year – is also frustrated with Mayor London Breed and city supervisors. As Chronicle columnist Heather Knight wrote recently, the best insurance against a vehicle break-in is having literally nothing of value in sight within a car – the everyday practice of locals who drive. Yet instead of getting this message across by requiring that car rental agents directly verbally warn customers, the city merely requires that a warning be part of rental paperwork. Knight also called the city’s failure to put up warning signs at the most popular visitor sites “incredible.”

TV crew reporting on problem itself victimized

The national media has been reporting on the crime wave in San Francisco since 2017. In September, the “Inside Edition” show staged a sting in which valuables with GPS trackers were left inside a car at a tourist site. It was soon broken into, leading reporter Lisa Guerrero to later confront one of the two thieves.

But later that day, as Guerrero was interviewing a car break-in victim who complained about police indifference,  “a car belonging to the ‘Inside Edition’ crew was broken into, resulting in two broken windows and the theft of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment,” according to the show’s website.

Crime in San Francisco isn’t as severe in other categories, according to the FBI. The city had the 75th worst rate of violent crimes out of the 298 cities the agency tracked.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

How Gov. Jerry Brown Made Juvenile Criminals a Privileged Class

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

On September 30, 2018, California governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1391, which bars prosecution of those as young as 14 as adults, whatever the gravity of their crimes. The next day, in Yolo County juvenile court, public defender Andrea Pelochino requested that Judge Samuel McAdam advance case JD-18-332—that of Daniel Marsh—to January 1, 2019, when SB 1391 would take effect. The request was unusual in that the offender was not on trial, because Marsh, 21, had already been tried, convicted, and sentenced for torturing, murdering, and mutilating Oliver Northup, 87, and his wife Claudia Maupin, 76, in their Davis home in April 2013. Marsh drew a sentence of 52 years to life, but with a possibility of parole in his early forties.

Two years into his sentence, Marsh caught a break. In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, also championed by Brown, which barred prosecutors from filing juvenile cases in adult courts. California’s Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 57 could be applied retroactively, and California’s Third Court of Appeals “conditionally reversed” Marsh’s conviction pending a “transfer hearing” to determine if he was suitable for adult court. If not, he would be released when he was 25, a prospect that Northup and Maupin’s surviving families found chilling. As Northup’s daughter Mary noted, that would amount to only nine years served, for two murders.

At the Donovan Correctional Center near San Diego, Marsh began to prepare for what amounted to a new trial, with no new exculpatory evidence. The burden of proof would be on the prosecution to show that he was suitable for adult court. “I see myself as a resilient, loyal and kind-hearted individual who may not always say the right thing but always means well,” Marsh said in a TED talk put up on YouTube in May, but since removed. He showed no remorse for the murders and portrayed himself as a victim of sexual abuse. “There is no such thing as evil people in this world,” Marsh explained, “only damaged people.” In effect, this was advance testimony for his hearing, with no possibility of cross-examination.

In a surprise move, attorneys put Marsh on the stand. “I’m not who I used to be,” the convicted killer claimed. Asked if he had anything to say to the families of the victims present in the courtroom, Marsh protested that “nothing I can say will be enough.” He continued: “I’m sorry I took them away from you. I’m sorry for the pain I caused you. I can’t give you the apology you deserve. I can’t look at you.” Indeed, he didn’t look at them, and the words came out as mechanical and soulless as those uttered by the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Marsh grew more animated when grilled on details of the crime. Asked if he identified as a murderer, he said “I did,” adding, “I tried to kill more people.” Did he research psychopaths? “I wanted to be one,” he answered. Did he research serial killers? “I wanted to be one. I admired them for killing people.” His testimony recalled the first police report, which said that the murders had been committed with “exceptional depravity.”

Last week, McAdam ruled Marsh suitable for adult court, reinstated the original conviction, and sent him back to prison. The ruling represented a triumph in California judicial history: a convicted double murderer and aspiring serial killer would serve his original sentence. Victims’ families found some relief, but with SB 1391 soon to become law, what lies ahead is uncertain. As McAdam conceded in his ruling, “it will soon be the law of California that even a 15-year-old who commits a brutal double murder of strangers in his neighborhood will be adjudicated in juvenile court and not adult court, without any weighing of factors.” And that could make Daniel Marsh, an exceptionally depraved double murderer, the poster child for California’s criminal-justice system after Jerry Brown.

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