Ink Out Loud: No consequences for convicts in California | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Ink Out Loud: No consequences for convicts in California

Mandy Feder
Ink Out Loud

It was just days after the 2011 AB-109 came into play. A troubled young man released from prison returned to his mother’s semi-rural Northern California home. She didn’t show up for work for a couple of days. Friends called authorities to report her missing.

Her body was finally recovered in her septic tank.

Assembly Bill 109 was an initiative designed to reduce state prison populations by sentencing new, non-serious, non-violent or non-sexual offenders to county jails instead of state prison. Soon county jails were packed beyond capacity. Crime, violent and otherwise, immediately spiked throughout the state.

Word got around on the street quickly. Brazen, seemingly bullet-proof criminals were confident that their risk would outweigh their punishment.

One woman shoplifted from the same department store every day of the week. She was arrested and released within hours each time. She finally got sick of being bothered by the same officers. She charged at them like a bull in the middle of the day in the crowded store. Both officers were injured. She had a long history of violent crime.

We are still in the throes of the fallout from AB-109, and life in California is about to get more dangerous.

Enter Proposition 47, which calls for treating shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft and possession of small amounts of drugs including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

The intention of the proposition was to save hundreds of millions of dollars per year in reduced prison and jail costs.

The savings are supposed to be diverted to support rehabilitation programs, but the cart was put before the horse. Those funds are not yet available, but many prisoners have been released and many more will follow.

According to an article in the Eureka Times Standard, “Humboldt County Chief Probation Officer Bill Damiano said this revenue is currently the ‘missing part of the equation’ for drug treatment programs as funding from the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000, which was approved by voters under Proposition 36, has been dried up since 2008.”

Nearly every law enforcement agency warned voters of the potential dangers of Proposition 47. Perhaps some voters were taken in by it’s title, “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.”

That is an odd way to describe a proposition that so clearly endangers people in neighborhoods and children in schools.

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals issued the following warning: “NADCP is in full support of community alternatives to incarceration, however after a careful review it is clear that Proposition 47 provides for virtually no accountability, supervision or treatment for addicted offenders. While Proposition 47 has several areas of grave concern, NADCP’s opposition is focused on two important factors: Proposition 47 removes the legal incentive for seriously addicted offenders to seek treatment and will have a negative impact on Drug Courts in California.”

Without consequences behaviors remain stagnant or worsen. Members of the law-abiding public become imprisoned by the actions of those who either don’t know better or won’t do better. Without accountability, the very people we are trying to help are placed at higher risk as well. We cannot continue to pass laws without the ability to enforce them.

“Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Mandy Feder is the Managing Editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Contact her at mfeder@tahoedailytribune.com or by phone at 530-542-8006.


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