Criminal justice reform is needed, but a California ballot measure called Proposition 57 championed by Gov. Jerry Brown is being marketed to voters deceptively, relies on an agency “with a rough track record,” and should be defeated, editorializes the San Diego Union-Tribune. What became Proposition 57 got its start as a measure that would make simple reforms in the juvenile justice system. Then Brown replaced his initial language with a far-reaching constitutional amendment that would allow “nonviolent” felons to win parole more quickly. These prisoners can win sentence credits for good behavior and for rehabilitation and educational achievements.
The central selling point of a misleading ballot description — that it would help only “nonviolent” felons — accepts the state’s esoteric classification of many violent crimes, including rape of an unconscious person, as not being violent, the newspaper says. Brown’s allies say of course such criminals would never get early parole. A bigger problem is that Proposition 57 shifts authority for determining sentencing credits from the legislature to the corrections department, raising the prospect that every governor could have different policies and empowering an agency with a history of issues. The State Auditor’s Office has faulted the department repeatedly, including a 2011 report that said officials did a poor job in evaluating prisoners’ likelihood of committing new crimes and a 2008 report knocking the sloppiness of their parole practices.