We the People Org is a watchdog organization for all Americans. In our fight to promote social justice in the United States, we have created an all inclusive organization filled with a socially and culturally diverse group of American people who come from many different backgrounds. We the people was formed in 2014 by a small group of concerned family, friends, social advocates and interested attorneys to deal with the problem of mass incarceration in California and the need for prison and sentencing reform. During those early days of advocacy we determined there was a national need for an organization devoted to exposing social injustice and to work affirmatively to make change. We launched our non-profit in early 2016 and are now in the process of growing our organization to promoting social justice nationally.

In 2017, we took our first active step towards initiating change by drafting an initiative, THE PEOPLE’S FAIR SENTENCING AND PUBLIC SAFETY ACT OF 2018 to close the legal loopholes in California that have kept our prison population at historic levels and substantially above capacity.

Signature Gathering Underway for Initiative Aiming to Release Non-Violent ‘Third Strikers’ from California Prisons

A California social justice advocacy group is hoping to bring relief to a section of the state’s prison population the group says was left behind by recent criminal justice reform efforts. “We The People Org,” founded by long-time California criminal defense attorney Tom Loversky, is gathering signatures in an effort to get the “Fair Sentencing and Public Safety Act of 2018” onto the November ballot.

The initiative would be a further step toward dismantling the State’s “Three Strikes Law,” Loversky said. If approved by voters, the initiative would require a “Third Strike” in most cases to stem from a violent offense and would require inmates serving life sentences for a non-violent third strike to be re-sentenced.

Loversky said the initiative is designed to fill in some of the gaps left by recent reform efforts, such as Proposition 57 and Proposition 36, which helped reduce the state’s swelling prison population.

“Prop 57 was passed by the voters with the intention of doing that, but what happened is there were some loopholes that were taken advantage of so that a great many non-violent offenders have still been kept in custody and are doing life sentences,” Loversky said.

Specifically, Loversky is referring to “Third Strikers” serving life sentences because of a non-violent third strike. Prop 57 ended up not being applied to “Third Strikers,” and Prop 36, which removed a third strike for certain non-violent offenses, did not affect inmates with a “serious,” but non-violent third strike.

“People are being held for long, long periods of time without the ability to go back into the public even though they’ve been rehabilitated,” Loversky said. “So we’re hoping to change that.”

Kevin Chatman, originally given more life sentences than he could count on one hand after receiving a third strike for a non-violent crime, was released after serving six years because of Prop 36. He’s now working with We the People Org to further reform efforts.

“’Three Strikes’ is a terrible law and we need to get rid of the ‘Three Strikes’ law,” Chatman said. “Prop 36 was very good for it and did a lot of things, but it didn’t get everything.”

Chatman said most of the nearly 3,000 inmates serving life sentences for a non-violent third strike have been rehabilitated and would be good, law-abiding citizens if given the opportunity.

“We want an opportunity to have a good job, pay our bills, be tax-paying citizens, and be good neighbors,” he said.

Releasing non-violent third strikers would amount to significant cost-savings for the state, Loversky said. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that in time, savings could exceed $100 million annually, although counties would end up incurring additional costs upwards of $10 million because of increased “county community supervision populations.”

According to Loversky, the money saved by the state would be shifted towardrehabilitation efforts, juvenile offender prevention programs, and tuition relief in higher education.

The initiative would not apply to certain inmates, however, including those whose third strike is for certain sex crimes, a firearms-related offense, or if a prior offense was for rape, child molestation, or murder.

Loversky said he’s confident that if passed, most inmates released as part of the initiative would stay out of trouble.

“There is good, solid rehabilitation going within the Department of Corrections [and Rehabilitation], so when these people get released, they’re not going out and committing more crimes,” Loversky said.

NBC

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THE PEOPLE’S FAIR SENTENCING AND PUBLIC SAFETY ACT OF 2018

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LETTER OF INTENT

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

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CREDITS
#1 Lizzy Stewart: Mom / activist
#2 Geri Silva: Activist formed facts and fair chance program
#3 Jeremy Stewart: Son- offender- victim of California’s unfair sentencing laws.
#4 Bill Roberts: Former Los Angeles former Los Angeles DA
#5 Gretchen Burns Bergman: New Path and Mom United
#6 James Whitehouse: appellate attorney
#7 Dan Liffick : Executive producer/Director

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