Don’t be fooled by deceptive Proposition 57

Valley Voices

August 31, 2016 5:54 PM

By James Ardaiz

Headline news: Gov. Jerry Brown scolds Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims about her opposition to his Proposition 57. I say, “Good for you, sheriff.”

Now the disclaimer. When you receive the statewide ballot explanation of the various propositions, my signature, James A. Ardaiz, retired presiding justice Fifth District Court of Appeal, will be on the opposition arguments to Prop. 57. Why? Because it is a misleading and disingenuous ballot proposition that will decrease public safety and increase crime.

If I were to ask, “Would you vote to reduce the amount of money spent on prisons if it would increase crime?” I am confident your answer would be “no.” And if your answer is “no” then vote “no” on Prop. 57, because that is exactly what it will do.

This proposition describes itself as reducing the number of “nonviolent” criminals in prison. That’s a dishonest description. Why? Because it uses a special definition for what is a violent criminal. The penal code has a specific section that lists certain crimes as “violent” and “serious.” They are categorized that way because they are singled out for special punitive treatment.

When Prop. 57 refers to “violent,” what it is referring to is that special group. It isn’t referring to other crimes that anyone who has been in the fifth grade knows are in fact violent. They are in the “non-violent” category.

What are some “nonviolent” crimes under Prop. 57? Rape of an intoxicated person, drive-by-shooting, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence involving trauma, and corporal injury of a child, to name a few. Does anybody over the age of 10 think those are not violent crimes?

Brown is pushing Prop. 57 because he says he wants to correct the mistake he made with promoting his Determinate Sentencing Reform when he previously was governor. Mistake? Law enforcement told him then it was a mistake. Result? A disastrous rise in crime through the early 1990s and the advent of Three Strikes.

Now he wants to “fix” the system again? Why? It is all about money. The governor doesn’t want to spend more money on prisons but he will on high-speed rail. I guess he thinks we will all be safer on a train.

Now he will say that this is in response to the “prison overcrowding” order of the federal courts but the only reason for that was because the state refused to increase prison costs by spending more money on medical care for prisoners. So to get the extra money to increase medical care it had the choice of reducing the number of prisoners or putting more money into prisons.

What was the governor’s choice? Release prisoners. Instead of calling it “prisoner release,” he opted for “realignment.” The result: Crime is climbing at a breath-taking pace: more murders, robberies, rapes and more cops shot. But nobody wants to take responsibility for that.

The governor should take responsibility for the consequences. Just in this last year, the murder rate in California increased by 9.7 percent. What does that mean in people terms? It means that 164 more Californians died as a result of the crime increase. Rape is up over 35 percent.

What does that mean? It means 3,265 more women were raped. Robbery is up 8.5 percent. Assaults on police officers are up by nearly 1,000 new cases.

That is the result of the governor’s prison realignment, the watering down of Three Strikes, and voter approval of Proposition 47, which styled itself as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” Now the governor will say that crime statistics are rising everywhere. Yes, that is true.

But there is one thing that the statistics also show: Crime wasn’t rising before the liberals tried to “fix” the sentencing laws. You want to fix things? Then you own the results, and the victims pay the price.

Was Mims wrong to be critical of Prop. 57? No.

I am proud of our sheriff and to use a movie reference, it is “High Noon” on this issue. Mims may not be Gary Cooper, but I’ll take her on my side protecting the community anytime. She doesn’t back down on principle, and she knows what victims look like.

James A. Ardaiz of Fresno is an attorney. He retired as presiding justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in 2010.

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