Two California Ballot Measures Will Test Attitudes on Crime

Police tapeOver the last few decades, Californians have seen crime spike upwards to crisis levels and then decline just as sharply.

Their attitudes about crime have been just as volatile, translating into ever-changing waves of policy.

When crime rates were rising in the 1970s and 1980s, it became the state’s No. 1 political issue. Republicans used it to win elections and Democrats responded with a slew of anti-crime bills, many of them signed by Jerry Brown during his first governorship, that created new crimes and increased penalties for old offenses.

The crime issue’s potency continued well into the 1990s, symbolized by voter approval of a “three strikes and you’re out” law aimed at repeat felons. Prison populations exploded, eventually increasing eight-fold.

However, rates of violent crime peaked in the early 1990s and began a long descent – why is still being debated – and simultaneously, the state’s political orientation shifted leftward. In this decade a new generation of liberal legislators and an old governor – Jerry Brown – have been dismantling the tough penal policies of the earlier era, arguing that they disproportionately targeted the poor and the non-white and failed to rehabilitate offenders.

Federal court orders to decrease prison overcrowding provided another rationale for legislative measures and ballot measures, including one that Brown personally sponsored in 2016, that have completely transformed criminal justice policy. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org