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Proposed Ballot Measure Would Treat Certain ‘Quality Of Life’ Crimes As Cry For Help




A man stands in front of a homeless encampment, with the Hollywood sign in the background, on September 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
A man stands in front of a homeless encampment, with the Hollywood sign in the background, on September 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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A former California assemblyman is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that he hopes will address certain types of so-called “quality of life” crimes while at the same time not resigning the people who commit those crimes, many of whom are often homeless, suffering from mental illness or both, to jail time right away.

Under “California’s Compassionate Intervention Act,” crimes like public intoxication or defecation, panhandling, or public drug use would still be prosecuted, but instead offenders would be sent to a special court that the legislation would create. That court would then decide “whether a person committed those crimes due to economic need, a drug dependency, or mental-health issues” and then determine an appropriate sentence for the crime committed, which could include drug rehab, connections to homeless and other service providers. Once the defendant completes the sentence, the crime would be wiped from his or her record so that it would not hinder that person from future work or housing opportunities. Opponents say the measure would just shift the burden to an already backlogged criminal justice system and worry that the cost to create the new court could mean valuable tax dollars being diverted from other areas.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll hear the pros and cons of the proposal from the perspective of its co-author and a health policy advocate. You can join our live conversation with your questions or comments on the ballot proposal by calling 866-893-5722.

Guests:

Mike Gatto, author of “California’s Compassionate Intervention Act,” attorney and co-founder of Actium LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm, and former California State assemblyman from the 43rd district, which includes Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and several L.A. neighborhoods including Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Atwater Village; he tweets @mikegatto

Jen Flory, policy advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty, an organization providing legal representation and policy advocacy on behalf of Californians experiencing poverty; she tweets @JenAFlory