By Avery Bissett.
Citing an increase in violent crime rates, a coalition of law enforcement and victim’s rights groups announced last week a proposed ballot initiative that would partly roll back recent criminal justice reforms.
Calling itself the California Public Safety Partnership, the group includes Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne-Marie Schubert. “These reforms make sure that truly violent criminals stay in jail and don’t get out early,” Schubert told the L.A. Times.
California voters in recent years have rolled back some of the state’s tougher criminal justice laws.
In 2014, Proposition 47 downgraded various nonviolent crimes – such as certain drug offenses and property crimes – from felonies to misdemeanors. The money saved was allocated to crime-prevention programs such as mental health and truancy prevention.
Proposition 57, passed in 2016, allowed those convicted of nonviolent felonies to apply for early parole, in addition to allowing certain inmates to earn credits toward release by participating in rehabilitation programs. These inmates still must go before the parole board.
Both ballot measures passed by comfortable margins.
The proposed initiative would expand the collection of DNA samples to seven misdemeanors that were felonies prior to Prop. 47’s implementation. Currently, DNA is collected only for felonies.
The initiative also makes serial theft – stealing more than $250 or the equivalent after two previous similar convictions – a felony. Under Prop. 47, the current threshold for felonies in cases of theft is $950.
While the measure’s sponsors cite “serious problems being caused by recent criminal justice reforms,” it’s unclear the effect Props. 47 and 57 have had on crime. Violent crime rates for 2016 are up 4.1 percent from 2015, but they are still well below the peak of violent crime rates in 1992, according to the 2016 California Crime Reports. Meanwhile, property crime was down 2.9 percent
The ballot measure’s proponents must obtain 365,880 signatures by the end of April 2018 to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.