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

Comments

  1. Everything “Moonbeam” touches turns to (excrement).
    He should probably get the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

  2. Incarcerated felons, cease their unlawful acts on the public. Whats not to understand ! What these political snowflakes don’t understand: Three-Strikes and your Out.

  3. The Jerry Brown question is: Will they vote Democrat? It is just that simple.

    Google “Two Minute Conservative” for more.

  4. Family of victims who died by those criminals have to sue the commie traitor librat leaders of CA state moon beam Brown and state congress. Illegals, criminals and commie are inside government & justice system mostly in CA, NY, Chicago, and in DC.
    Since they allowed all invaders, dead people and felons can votes to raise taxes, criminal & illegals loving and protection law so off course all this illegal bills passed. This madness laws will stop if families of traitors who made laws and signed these laws and judges die by DUI, rape, robbery.

  5. Point one: Los Angeles is not the largest county in the state and union. San Bernardino county is.

    Point two: “Anecdotes about addicts being arrested over and over and over without consequence have been common in police circles for more than two years”…LOL. That’s been going on for more than two years. I’m retired local LEO and we’re not stupid enough to think we can win the war on drugs. Make that twenty plus years, my dear author.

    Doing away with the cash bail requirement is so irresponsible, not even the whacko liberals are buying into it. Drug users being released on OR is not something new, however, sexual assault and violent crime suspects being released on OR is something new and it’s not acceptable. Thus, the backlash. Did they think this was going to do anything other than make our streets unsafer and our communities breeding grounds for crime?

    How this bill got passed is now evident. Idiots like Bonta and Hertzberg are to blame. There’s too many like them in our local government and it’s our fault. Voting or not voting, has it consequences.

  6. Any politician who supports free bail or Prop 57 should immediately be removed from office and put in the nearest high security crazy house available.

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