California’s Justice Realignment, Proposition 47 And the Rising Crime Rate

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California’s Justice Realignment and Proposition 47

A rise in violent crime may be an early warning sign of what is to come as a result of California’s sweeping justice realignment system and the passage of Proposition 47.

Violent crime jumped more than 10 percent in Riverside County between January and June this year since 2014. The County’s top prosecutor suspects that the double digit increase may be an early warning sign of the results of California’s justice realignment system and the passage of Proposition 47.
Riverside County District Attorney Michael A. Hestrin talked about what he believes is behind the increase in crime during the Randall Lewis Seminar Series presented by the UC Riverside School of Public Policy’s Center for Sustainable Suburban Development.
Hestrin explained to Ron Loveridge, director of the CSSD, that Riverside County communities saw significant increases in almost every category of crime during the first half of this year.
“Normally when crime goes up during times of recession or economic downturn, it’s focused in “hot spots,” said Hestrin, “What you’re seeing here is different.”
Riverside County’s 10.63 percent jump in violent crime, pales in comparison to the 26.92 percent increase in violent crime in Cathedral City where robberies increased by 150 percent. Riverside, the most populous municipality in the Inland Empire, was stunned to see robberies increase by 14.48 percent.
“There’s more than a suspicion,” said Hestrin, “That the increases are due to the justice system realignment mandated by Assembly Bill 109 in 2011 and voter approve Prop 47 last year.”
AB 109 amended more than 500 criminal statutes to help reduce prison overcrowding mandated by Federal Courts. Justice realignment has also forced California counties to incarcerate state prison inmates in overcrowded and less secure local jails. According to Hestrin, in an attempt to make room local jails regularly release “the best of the worst” inmates only days or weeks into their years-long jail sentence.
On top of that, the passage of Prop 47 reduced many felony drug sentences to misdemeanors. Theft crimes less than $950 in value have also become misdemeanors.
The cumulative results of both crime initiatives and its effect on the justice system have finally started to emerge.
“Right now we have no misdemeanor folks in our jails,” Hestrin said. “Getting a misdemeanor in Riverside County is a lot like getting a traffic ticket. You don’t go to jail anymore.”
Hestrin also commented that without a progressive sentencing system, many misdemeanor offenders and drug addicts see no reason to stop.
“There’s got to be a legislative fix so they eventually qualify for a felony,” said Hestrin.
In the meantime, Hestrin said police and prosecutors must do tough enforcement, in conjunction with crime intervention and prevention.
Hestrin detailed an array of DA office programs to accomplish those goals and facilitate citizens who are at high risk of becoming criminals.
He knows it is a small number of people committing a majority of the crimes. “They’re very aware of Prop 47 and we need to close some of those loopholes.”

By: KJ THOMAS

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