CALL FOR JUSTICE
The People’s Fair Sentencing and Public Safety Act of 2018 is a proposed ballot initiative aimed at curbing wasteful spending of precious tax dollars through safe and sensible sentencing reform. For decades our state has needlessly wasted billions of taxpayer dollars by implementing irrational sentencing laws. Indeed, the cost of imprisoning each of California’s 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record $75,560 in the next year, more than enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University!* Failure to properly address the prison crisis has led to a decline in budgeting for education, public health care, social programs and other areas of concern.
At the forefront of this dilemma is California’s controversial “Three Strikes Law”, Enacted in 1994, the Three Strikes Law was touted as a mechanism for incapacitating violent repeat offenders such as child molesters, rapists, and murderers. However, certain provisions in the law have lead to many nonviolent offenders being sentenced to gratuitous “life sentences.” As a result, millions of precious tax dollars are being needlessly wasted annually to house nonviolent, low risk, and aging inmates.
This is magnified by the manner in which the penal code classifies certain crimes. In some cases, property crimes such as burglary and robbery do not involve any violence yet are classified as violent felonies. This act seeks to rectify this illogical practice by amending the penal code to make a distinction between violence and nonviolence. Under federal guidelines this very distinction exists; 18 USC 3559 (3)(H)(i), (ii). The amendments will serve to protect nonviolent offenders from suffering miscarriages of justice.
In November of 2016, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 57, which many believed would remedy prison overcrowding and save taxpayer’s dollars by offering a chance for early release to “all nonviolent” offenders. However, CDCR and state officials disregarded the will of California voters and arbitrarily excluded nonviolent third strikers notwithstanding Propositions 57’s clear mandate.
The People’s Fair Sentencing and Public Safety Act of 2018 reinforces the will of the People by:
- Saving hundreds of millions of tax dollars which will be reinvested in education to offset sky high college tuitions. Some of this money will also be allocated to lower education institutions with designs on better educating our youth.
- Investing in rehabilitation, and youth crime prevention programs.
- Requiring resentencing as second strikers for third strikers convicted of nonviolent crimes. This entails sentencing the defendant to double the time the crime normally carries, plus any additional sentence enhancements that were used in the original sentencing hearing.
- Comporting with current resentencing regulations that promote public safety concerns by ensuring that child molesters, rapists, murderers, and other dangerous offenders remain behind bars.
- Alleviating prison overcrowding, and federal intervention.
It’s time to stop playing on the public’s fears, and time to implement smart and safe strategies to combat the injustices we face today. Locking up nonviolent, low risk, offenders and throwing away the key is not conducive to liberty, justice, and the American way. Indeed, fair sentencing is a catapult for positive change in our justice system. By focusing on the expansion of educational opportunities, rehabilitation, and crime prevention programs, The People’s Fair Sentencing and Public Safety Act of 2018 validates the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Perhaps by removing some of the causes we might end the effect.
*The press democrat: Monday, June 5, 2017, p.A5, by Don Thompson Associated press