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WHO WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR EARLY RELEASE UNDER THE GOVERNOR'S PLAN?
An exclusive column penned for the FlashReport by Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian (R-Stockton)
January 31, 2008
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Republican Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, Vice Chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee..]
If you are new to the FlashReport, please check out the main site and the acclaimed FlashReport Weblog on California politics.
California families have a right to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. Too many families are afraid to go out at night or walk alone in their communities for fear of becoming a crime victim. That’s why I oppose a proposal by Governor Schwarzenegger to release thousands of inmates from prison before they have paid their debt to society.
Last year, I was proud to work in a bipartisan manner to co-author the prison reforms contained in AB 900. We dedicated $7.7 billion to build 53,000 new prison beds to reduce overcrowding, took steps to improve inmate health care and overhauled rehabilitation programs to give inmates the opportunity to become productive members of the community upon release.
Setting aside partisan differences, we worked together to keep Californians safe.
But all of our good work could disappear overnight under a troubling new plan proposed in the Governor’s budget. Citing California’s $14.5 billion deficit, the Department of Corrections has proposed the early release of more than 22,000 felons and the reduction of the parole population by 18,500 parolees. This plan would have a chilling impact on public safety in our state.
The Administration claims that only so-called “non-violent” and “non-serious” offenders would be granted early release under this plan. But under California law, thousands of dangerous criminals are inaccurately classified as being “non-violent” or “non-serious” criminals when they are anything but.
The state’s definition of what constitutes a “serious” or “violent” offense does not include a number of crimes that put Californians at risk. As a result, a large number of offenders who have committed crimes and pose a threat to society could soon slip through the cracks and become candidates for early release.
What types of criminals could be eligible to be released? Here is a partial list:
Any of the excluded offenses, up to, and including, murder, where the person was not convicted in criminal court but was tried as a juvenile (whether or not made a ward of the Youth Authority/Division of Juvenile Justice).
Stalking when the person did not have the requisite prior convictions or an injunction/protective order.
Recruiting gang members, including through the use of force.
Possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to use it to intimidate a victim or witness.
Driving under the influence with injury and with prior DUI offenses.
A felon in possession of a firearm.
Manufacture, sale, or possession of deadly or dangerous weapons.
Being armed with a firearm during the commission of a felony or an attempted felony (unless the underlying felony is one of those exempted from eligibility by the bill.).
Manufacturing methamphetamine or PCP where this occurs in a structure where a child under the age of 16 is present.
Possession of ammunition designed to penetrate metal or body armor.
A felony that is a hate crime. (Unless the underlying offense is one of the excluded felonies.)
Do we really want thousands of dangerous, unreformed criminals turned loose into our communities?
Statistics show that many of these inmates could return to their criminal past and commit violent crimes again if granted early release. In fact, one of the most brutal serial murderers in California history, Charles Manson, was classified as a low-level, non-violent felon before his “family” went on a mass murder spree.
The Governor’s early release plan ignores the principle that the most important role of government is public safety. Whatever words they may use, there is no doubt that California families will be placed in grave danger under this plan.
We must never allow California’s budget problems to get in the way of our duty as lawmakers to protect our communities from dangerous criminals. We must stand reject this irresponsible early release plan and work together to find responsible budget savings that don’t put Californian’s in harms way. _________________________________________________________________
Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton, is Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee and represents the 26th Assembly District in the California Legislature. You can write to Assemblyman Aghazarian, via the FR, here.