SLO County law enforcers take stand against early release bill
October 13, 2016
Proposition 57, California’s parole for non-violent criminals initiative, would actually put thousands of violent prisoners back on the streets well before their sentences have been served, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said at a news conference Wednesday.
Backed by the police chiefs of six SLO County cities, as well as the Cuesta College chief, County Supervisor Debbie Arnold and Atascadero Councilman Brian Sturtevant, Dow stated his case as to why California voters should reject Prop. 57, a ballot measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Supervisor Lynn Compton and San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx were also said to be opponents of the initiative.
Prop. 57 calls for giving felons convicted of non-violent crimes stronger chances of receiving parole. If passed, the initiative would give those offenders more opportunities to earn credits for good behavior, and it would make the prisoners eligible for parole once they complete just the term issued for their primary offense.
Dow and his fellow opponents of the initiative essentially argued the authors of Prop. 47 constructed the ballot measure using Orwellian language.
Under state law, only a short list of crimes are classified as violent, Dow said. The SLO County DA then went on to list numerous crimes classified as non-violent.
Dow’s list included: rape of an unconscious victim, human trafficking of minor for commercial or sexual exploitation, placing a bomb at a school or place of worship, domestic violence resulting in a traumatic injury, assault on a peace officer with a firearm, sexual abuse of a child 14 years or older and discharging a firearm on school grounds. Prisoners convicted of these charges would be eligible for early release as a result of Prop. 47 passing, Dow said.
Dow also said state prisons have already been emptied of nonviolent offenders due to prison realignment law AB 109 and Prop. 47, a 2014 initiative that reduced penalties for certain crimes
“There truly are virtually zero nonviolent offenders in state prison today. They’re either in the county jail or they’re on our streets,” Dow said.
Dow also argued Prop. 57 would make victims scared to report crimes out of fear their abuser would come out of prison early and harm them again.
Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley compared proponents of Prop. 57 to snake oil salesmen. Like Dow, Haley said the initiative would set loose violent offenders.
In addition to allowing for felons to more easily obtain parole, Prop. 57 would also allow judges, not prosecutors, to determine whether to try juveniles as adults. Proponents of the initiative say the measure is needed to reduce overcrowding in state prisons, and it would save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.