Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner on Friday said California must consider early parole for thousands of sex offenders. To make things even more interesting the San Diego Union-Tribune (SDUT) penned an editorial slamming Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) for his hand in the Proposition 57 debacle.
About the Editorial
According to the SDUT, their editorial board has had a long-standing, vested interest in seeing criminal justice reform take place in the Golden State. In good faith, however, their editorial board could not back Proposition 57 because of the fact that the initiative failed to define what a "nonviolent crime" really is.
Even so, in 2016, our board could not bring itself to endorse Proposition 57, a deeply flawed measure Gov. Jerry Brown trumpeted as a big step forward for the criminal justice reform movement. The problem was that the measure was originally supposed to target juvenile justice, but it was revamped into a much broader constitutional amendment that stated anyone convicted of a nonviolent felony offense would be eligible for early parole consideration. A lower court ruling said the changes were unacceptable, but in June 2016, the California Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the grounds that a 2014 state law allowed flawed measures to be fixed before being put before voters.
At the time, the only dissenting justice — Ming W. Chin — said the decision twisted the intended use of the law and ignored the risks of putting measures before voters without the normal reviews by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state Department of Finance and other interested parties. Chin also warned that the measure failed to clearly define what a violent felony was. How prescient.
Soon after, Chin’s worries about a lack of vetting were vindicated when Brown’s aides acknowledged to columnist Dan Walters that under Proposition 57, such brutal crimes as rape of an unconscious person or violent child abuse were classified as “nonviolent.” That’s because they were not included among the crimes specified as violent felonies in section 667.5 of the California Penal Code.
In other words, Gov. Jerry Brown knew that legally, Proposition 57 fell in a gray area. He knew that this would have legal repercussions yet he proceeded and let Californians into believing that they could help people who were unjustly sentenced.
SDUT added fuel to the fire by calling Brown out for his deception and lies:
What a mess. Gov. Brown’s reputation as the sharpest politician in Sacramento has taken a major blow. And the California Supreme Court’s assertion that his revisions “fixed” Proposition 57 has never seemed more absurd.
You know things are seriously wrong in the Golden State when a very liberal editorial board is calling out one of their own.
The Governor's Response
But, of course, Brown had to respond to the editorial that attacked him. And you have to give the SDUT credit for publishing his response.
Proposition 57 makes legal system better
Re: “Proposition 57 a debacle for Jerry Brown because of potential early parole for sex offenders” (Feb 12): For an editorial board that claims to have “advocated for criminal justice reform more often than any other editorial board in California,” it was rather shocking to see the Union-Tribune revert to the shameless fear-mongering that spawned decades of mass incarceration.
Instead of offering an honest assessment of Proposition 57, the editorial board rehashes the same shoddy arguments it peddled for the 2016 election, this time citing a lower court’s decision, which I believe is clearly wrong. Voters soundly rejected these claims when they passed Proposition 57 by a nearly two-to-one margin.
The bigger point is this: Proposition 57 vests broad discretion in the secretary of corrections and the Parole Board to protect our community and fashion a rational system of punishment and rehabilitation. This is a job for dedicated and experienced professionals, not cynical politicians. Yes, we can make our system better, and we will.
Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Governor of California
How is pointing out that roughly 10,000 sex offenders can be released early "fear-mongering," Mr. Brown?
Gov. Brown Dropped the Ball
Jerry Brown was warned early on about the possibilities of Proposition 57 falling into murky legal territory. Did he care? No. Did he decide to change his plan of attack and have the ballot initiative rewritten? No. Instead, he pushed full steam ahead. He sold Californians on the notion that this was best for everyone involved: inmates who received extraordinarily long sentences for things like drugs would be released sooner on good behavior, taxpayers would see less of their hard-earned money being spent on state prisons and correctional officers would have a bit of a break from overcrowding. Seems great, right?
All Brown did was cause a nightmare. Sex offenders who are currently incarcerated are going to be filing lawsuits up the ying-yang to be considered for early parole based on "good behavior" and being "upstanding" inmates. Their past crimes, no matter how heinous they were, are going to be thrown out the window, all because the Governor had too big of an ego to admit his initiative needed to be rewritten to protect the public from predators.
Congratulations, Jerry. You just failed every sexual assault victim out there. Kudos to you.