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Opinion: Prison Realignment, Release of Criminals Critical in Your Choice for District Attorney

Published on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | 5:40 pm

Los Angeles County is being overrun by criminals released into our communities and you can do something about it! Demand answers from your candidates for District Attorney of Los Angeles County.

In the final weeks of this election cycle, the voters of Los Angeles County will face some important choices. One of the most important races to follow is that of District Attorney for Los Angeles County. When choosing which candidate to vote for, one of the most important issues for you to consider is that candidate’s position on the prison and criminal justice system realignment program. Demand to know where each of the two candidates, Alan Jackson and Jackie Lacey, stand on realignment and what each of them will do keep these criminals behind bars.

California is facing a drastic reversal in lowered crime rates from the last twenty-plus years. Communities across the state will see significant increases in property crime rates in 2012 now that the legislature and governor have abandoned the tough sentencing laws that brought the lowest crime rates in decades. It was only the state’s failure to maintain a functional criminal justice system that will lead to the wholesale release of tens-of-thousands of prisoners into our communities.

Residential and commercial burglaries, auto thefts, and drug-trafficking offenses, including some 200 other felonies that used to result in state prison sentences have been reclassified as non-serious crimes. In Los Angeles County, where one-third of the state’s prisoners originate, an already over-crowded county jail system does not have the capacity to keep many of these offenders behind bars. In order to ease overcrowding in the county jail system, time behind bars averages about 20% of the actual time of sentence. Eighty percent of prisoners sentenced are given less than two years, a fraction of a typical state prison term. Even then, county jail sentences are automatically credited 50% of time behind bars for good behavior.

A cavalier attitude of a high-ranking state corrections official that “people are just going to have to learn to lock their doors” is offensive to law enforcement and the people we protect. The option to send our prisoners out of state to prisons at less than half the cost was rejected. Again, according to this same official, the answer was, “Why should we send our money to another state?”

Police departments across the county have had to reassign hundreds of officers away from patrol duties in order to perform compliance checks on released prisoners. The state has provides little or no money to police chiefs and promises less money for confinement if the tax increase on the November ballot does not pass. The governor is holding public safety hostage to increase the chances of passage.

As a voter, don’t be satisfied with an answer that “we must work within the system”. Realignment is flawed, broken, and never should have seen the light of day. It was passed by a soft-on-crime legislature and governor with little debate and even less input by police chiefs. It is intended to save the state money by shifting the cost of housing prisoners to local governments.

Demand that your choice for District Attorney takes a zero-tolerance stand on prison realignment. California voters took a stand on coddling criminals after Jerry Brown’s father was governor. His policies led to yearly increases in crime and are a mirror image of what this governor is trying to do. It took decades for new laws to bring lower crime rates. It one stroke of the pen, Governor Brown and the legislature have reversed this and have put our communities at greater risk. Your choice for District Attorney must promise to work to reverse this.

Joseph Payne

Chief of Police

South Pasadena Police Department

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