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PROP 57: CRIMINAL SENTENCES

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Updated at 1:30 PM on Nov. 9, 2016

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Prop 57 has passed by a margin of 63.6% yes and 36.4% no.  It will allow certain non-violent offenders to get out on parole earlier, and require that judges decide if  minors are tried as adults.

 

What would Prop 57 do?

It would affect two areas of our sentencing laws – juveniles and adults.

  • Juveniles: Most of the time defendants under the age of 18 are tried as juveniles. But sometimes if the crime is serious enough, juveniles as young as 14 can be tried as adult and given an adult sentence. Serious crimes include murder, robbery or some sex offenses.  Right now prosecuting attorneys make that decision. Prop 57 would change that.  It would have judges make that decision after a hearing is held. If prop 57 passes fewer minors would be transferred to adult courts.
  • Adults: Prop 57 would offer prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes a better chance at early parole by giving them more credit for good behavior, completing rehab and classes.  Prisoners would have to serve the time for their “primary offense” in order to be eligible for early release. An estimated 7000* inmates would be immediately eligible. Another 18,000 non-violent felons might be eligible for early parole under Prop 57.

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What are the arguments for Prop 57?

Regarding minors:

  • Judges should be given more discretion by looking more closely at serious crimes my minors and then deciding if the juvenile (age 14 to 17) should be tried in the adult system.  
  • Evidence shows that when minors stay in the juvenile system they are less likely to commit additional crimes.

Regarding adults:

  • California’s prison population has increased 500% over the past several decades. Our prisons are terribly overcrowded.
  • California is under orders by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce overcrowding.  Prop 57 would do that without endangering the public because only non-violent inmates would be eligible.
  • It would give inmates an incentive to participate in classes and rehabilitation programs. Fewer of them would re-offend.
  • Inmates must demonstrate they are rehabilitated and do not pose a danger to the public.
  • All of those released will be supervised by law enforcement.
  • The most violent offenders would remain behind bars.
  • Prop 57 would save taxpayers millions of dollars in prison costs.
  • If California doesn’t reduce its own prison population, a panel of judges would be sent it to do. It’s better if we take things into our own hands.

What are the arguments against Prop 57?

Regarding adults:

  • Prop 57 is poorly written. It doesn’t clearly define what’s “non-violent.” Under Prop 57 crimes like rape of an unconscious person, human trafficking, lewd acts against a child, or attempted to explode a bomb at a school or church would be considered “non-violent” and criminal could be let out.
  • Prop 57 could cut some sentences by as many as 17 years. How? If an inmate only has to serve time for his or her “primary offense”, additional crimes or special circumstances that made their sentence longer would be set aside.
  • Prop 57 could result in high crime rates and less safe streets
  • It also overturns key provisions of the “Three Strikes You’re Out” law and the Victim’s Bill of Rights.
  • Victims would have to relive the trauma with every new parole hearing.

Regarding minors:

  • When judges are given the power to decide when minor should be tried as adults, fewer of them will be. And yet, some 14 through18 years olds have committed heinous  crimes that need to be dealt with more severely. 

Who is in favor of Prop 57?

Governor Jerry Brown supports Prop 57. He says our prisons are horribly overcrowded. He points out that California is under a federal order to reduce overcrowding. He says Prop 57 will do this without endangering the public because only non-violent prisoners are eligible. If we don’t do it the federal government will.

Who’s against Prop 57?

Opponents – mainly prosecutors and police officers – strongly oppose Prop 57. They say Prop 57 is written so even rapist, domestic abusers, and child molesters could get parole early. Some sentences could shortened by as many as 17 years.

Show me the money: 

What does a “yes” or “no” vote mean?

A “yes” on 57 means certain non-violent offenders could get out on parole earlier, plus judges would decide if  minors are tried as adults.

A “no” vote means things stay the way they are.

*Estimate from The Associated Press

 

Click here for a cheat sheet on all the California ballot propositions.

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