Last week, our first public conference on a specific topic went quite well. The genesis for this effort resulted from one of the cities in my District and several constituents raising concerns about the recent rise in crime statistics. This provided us with an opportunity to collaborate with the Association of California Cities – Orange County and the University of California, Irvine, to host two very informative panels. The topic was "The Future of Crime in California: Prop 47 & 57 — Reduced Penalties & Sentencing" (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Propositions 47 and 57 — December 8, 2016 december 8, 2016 john moorlach).
The moderator was Greg Lucas, the State Librarian of California. Those serving on Panel One, discussing "What does the data say about the impact on communities & the Justice System — Crime rates, families, employment issues, prisons & recidivism," were Magnus Loftstrom from the Public Policy Institute of California, Marisa Arrona, Californians for Safety & Justice, Chris Bieber, Deputy Chief Probation Officer of Orange County, and Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel.
Panel 2 participants, addressing "Where do we go from here? Prop. 57 and beyond," were California State Senator Robert Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys), Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes, UCI Criminal Justice Professor Carroll Seron, and Drew Soderborg with the California Legislative Analysts’s Office.
I want to thank them all for their participation and professional discussion on Propositions 47 and 57.
The Daily Journal covered the conference and provides its perspectives in the piece below.
BONUS: This Wednesday is our annual Christmas Open House. You are invited. To RSVP, please call Jacob Ashendorf at 714-662-6050. An invitation flyer is provided below.
Merits, flaws of criminal justice initiatives aired at forum
By L.J. Williamson
Law enforcement officials and proponents of criminal justice changes debated the merits of Propositions 47 and 57 at a Thursday panel discussion at UC Irvine.
Though Irvine Chief of Police Mike Hamel and Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes expressed opposition to both measures, Marisa Arrona of Californians for Safety & Justice and Magnus Lofstrom of the Public Policy Institute said it was too early to fully assess the impacts of Prop. 47, which changed some felonies to misdemeanors.
Arrona and Lofstrom also said it was premature to assess Prop. 57, which is barely a month old, at the event sponsored by state Sen. John Moolach, R-Costa Mesa, and the Association of California Cities.
Prop. 57 allows parole hearings for individuals who have served their primary sentence, minus enhancements, and requires a judge to determine whether or not a juvenile can be tried in the adult system.
Disappointed in what he has seen since the initiative was passed in late 2014, Hamel said that even if Prop. 47 reduced the number of county jail inmates, it was important to look at costs, such as the value of stolen property, and how those costs offset incarceration savings.
He cited a 2015 increase in property crime that he said was the largest increase his region had seen since 2008.
Lofstrom said the state was just beginning to get data that was useful to evaluate the impact of Prop. 47 and noted that although violent crime numbers had risen, they couldn’t be solely attributed to the initiative, because similar increases had been seen in 38 other states. The primary schism between the panelists was the division between those that saw repeat offenses rooted in a failure to prevent crime and those who saw them as a result of inadequate punishment.
Prop. 47 is about preventing crime, Arrona said, rather than just addressing it after the fact. She also said part of the problem with data collection was that the criminal justice system is arranged as "a system of silos" that operated independently of one another and shared little information.
Barnes argued that crime was directly correlated to incarceration: getting criminals off the street and into jail would drive crime down and any proposal to release them would drive it up.
UC Irvine Professor Carroll Seron replied, "I don’t think it’s that simple."
Seron said it was premature to make projections about an initiative passed barely a month ago and said that any crime reduction program needs to consider the collateral consequences of incarceration, which impacts not just individuals, but their families and communities.
Senator Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said it was important to bear in mind that Prop. 57 "does not release one person." The measure simply gives inmates access to parole hearings and evaluation by professionals, he said, and replaces the system of release based on a number of years with release based on rehabilitation.
Both supporters and detractors of the measures, however, agreed that more options were needed to deal with homelessness, mental illness, and drug abuse.
Orange County Chief Deputy Probation Officer Chris Bieber said that rather than being given re-entry assistance, individuals are released in the middle of the night out of jail and onto the street.
"As it is now, there’s not a lot of options for officers on the street — either cite and release or bring them back to the station," Bieber said.
There is, as of now, no third option, such as a detox center, that might help address underlying causes of crime, he added. "You have to have a safety net in place."
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Moorlach, 37th District.
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