Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and District Attorney Jackie Lacey added their voices Thursday to the chorus of law enforcement opposing Proposition 57, the statewide ballot measure that would make non-violent felons eligible for early parole.
McDonnell and Lacey echoed opponents' arguments that under Prop. 57, some violent felons might come up for early parole consideration. The measure says violent criminals would not be eligible, but opponents point out that it relies on the state penal code’s definition of violent crimes - and that definition does not include some violent offenses, such as domestic abuse and certain types of rape.
Supporters of Prop. 57 say the opponents are misrepresenting the issues, that it's a common sense approach to a Supreme Court mandate to reduce prison overcrowding.
Under the measure, non-violent felons who have completed their primary sentence and passed a screening for public safety would be eligible for parole, regardless of whether their sentence had been enhanced.
The measure, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot, would also allow prisoners to cut time off of their sentences by meeting certain educational and other rehabilitation goals. But Lacey said it sets the bar too low.
"That’s what concerns me," she said, "is that people are getting out when they may not have learned their lesson."
The measure's backers argue that this provision is reasonable.
"We’re not talking about huge big chunks of time" off of sentences, said Laura Dixon of the Chief Probation Officers of California, which supports Prop. 57. "We’re talking about incentivizing people for their rehabilitation services. We know when we provide incentives for these folks it makes them more likely to participate in them, and the more likely they are to participate the less likely they are to re-offend."
Prop. 57 would also give judges, rather than prosecutors, the power to decide whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult. Lacey said she had no problem with that provision.
Gov. Jerry Brown is the prime force behind the measure; it's been endorsed by the California Democratic Party and several statewide labor unions. The California District Attorneys Association, the California Peace Officers' Association and the California Police Chiefs Association all oppose Prop. 57.