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Californians are compassionate at their core. They love to give second chances, especially to people who may have made a wrong turn and need a helping hand to get back on track.
That’s what the people had in mind when they cast their votes for Proposition 57 in 2016 – creating an opportunity for a second chance.
Proposition 57 was sold to voters as a chance to lend a helping hand to misdemeanor lawbreakers. It would give criminals convicted of nonviolent crimes the opportunity apply for early parole and take their first steps back into society - a second start for people who veered off track.
This proposition was a call for compassion that Californian answered. Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished.
Proposition 57 provided a loophole for dangerous criminals. The language that allowed nonviolent criminals to rejoin the community also – unbeknownst to voters – applied to some convicts who committed horrific crimes.
California has a very specific definition of violent crime. State law only singles out 23 felonies as “violent.” Inmates convicted of crimes that aren’t on that list became eligible for early parole when Proposition 57 passed.
So what kinds of crimes are considered “non-violent?”
Raping an unconscious person, human trafficking of children, exploding a bomb to injure people are just a few examples. Thanks to a poorly-written initiative, people convicted of these kinds of crimes can now be released back into the community long before they serve their full sentence.
The politicians behind this initiative told us one thing, but the reality was very different. We were told that people convicted of sex crimes wouldn’t be able to get out early. That was a lie. Sadly, the state will be forced to follow the language in the law and consider these convicts for early parole.
Even though it passed with the best intentions in mind, Proposition 57 has turned out to be a disaster. It needs to be fixed.
Assembly Republicans are working on solutions to undo the damage. An initiative called the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act” may give California voters the chance to right the mistake. We are also supporting bills that add crimes that slipped through the cracks to the state’s list of violent felonies.
Californians are compassionate but we have our limits. Some people deserve a second chance, while others need to serve their entire sentence. The law must reflect those values. As it stands, Proposition 57 is a public safety disaster.
Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle serves the 1st district in the California Legislature, which includes all or parts of Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.