Special to the Rio Linda Messenger from Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost
A discussion taking place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is the reduction of jail populations due to the high risk of spreading COVID-19 in the jails. Most recently, the Governor’s office announced a further reduction of the state’s prisoner population by 8,000. For many people in my District, these actions receive great concern for public safety implications. As an assurance, announcements about releases remind the public that prisoners being released are strictly non-violent offenders. But are they really?
California has a history of creating policies answering the call for criminal justice reform that reduces penalties and jail populations. On the surface, that sounds fine. Overcrowding in jails and prisons is a serious problem, and if we can reduce those populations by revisiting what society deems worthy of a stay in jail, why not do just that? The problem though, is that it is not exactly what has occurred in the past. Violent crimes have been redefined to omit actions I think most people would agree should merit some serious jail time.
Measures like Proposition 47, Proposition 57, and AB 109, have left crimes like domestic violence, rape of an unconscious person, and the trafficking of children out of what constitutes a violent crime when considering parole. To me and others, that is a ghastly omission. And since the implementation of those measures, California has seen a steady increase in violent crimes, particularly in the most populous cities. It is not difficult to draw a line from the release of violent criminals to an increase in violent crimes.
Fortunately, Californians will have the opportunity to rectify the situation moving forward. The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2020 will be on the ballot as Proposition 20. Proposition 20 will restore violent crimes, such as felony assault with a deadly weapon, back to being considered violent crimes, and prevent the early release of some of California’s most dangerous criminals.
Proposition 20 has other components to address rising crime rates in California, including theft. Many I have heard of and even witnessed individuals running out of stores with stolen goods with no fear of consequences because if they steal less than $950, under Proposition 47, it is not a felony, and therefore more trouble to prosecute than it is worth. Proposition 20 will change that to make the 3rd time being caught stealing over $250 worth of goods a felony. This will address the increase in theft seen since the implementation of the “criminal justice reforms.”
Among the reforms of Proposition 20, there are also changes to the parole process and acquisition of DNA from criminals. DNA continues to be invaluable in solving unsolvable crimes. Increased use of DNA can not only reveal the guilty but exonerate the innocent. What Proposition 20 does not do is put the pin back in the grenade. We cannot retroactively send people back to jail, and we do not need to do that in all cases. What we can do is make sure that California becomes safer moving forward. Keeping violent criminals off the streets for as long as possible seems to me like the best way to start.
Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me, call me at 916-874-5491, or e-mail me at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.
Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes all or part of the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, Rio Linda, Elverta, Gold River, Rancho Murieta, North Highlands, Carmichael, Foothill Farms and Fair Oaks