California has adopted laws in the last decade that helped reduce the prison population by more than one-third, or 50,000 people. A group of prosecutors and law enforcement leaders has placed Proposition 20 on the November ballot to expand the list of felonies for which convicts are ineligible for early parole, increase penalties for repeat shoplifters, and collect DNA samples from adults convicted of some misdemeanors. Proponents argue it is needed to fix flaws in past measures they say are putting the public’s safety at risk, including the early release of potentially violent criminals. Opponents, including civil rights leaders, Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Gov. Jerry Brown, say it wrongly rolls back criminal justice reforms as crime has declined, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Brown, who led past reform efforts, called the initiative “very inhuman.” He said it would remove incentives for prison inmates to pursue educational opportunities and demonstrate good behavior to improve their chances of getting out early. “Proposition 20 is supported by a very narrow group of people who don’t accept even the modest prison reforms that I was able to achieve,” Brown said. “It’s driven by ideology and, in some cases, by a total lack of understanding of human nature and no sense of redemption or allowing people to put their lives on track. It’s vindictive.” Proposition 57, approved by voters in 2016, increased parole and good behavior opportunities for those convicted of nonviolent felonies. The new initiative to be voted on Nov. 3 makes key changes in that and two other laws.