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The changes in California sentencing policy made over the past six years are resulting in major increases in both violent and property crime according to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

The Foundation cites FBI Uniform Crime reports for 2015 and 2016, which show increases in both violent and property crime in California.  The most recent report, released in January, indicates that of the state’s 69 largest cities, 46 had increases in violent crime in the first six months of 2016, including Los Angeles (+16.6%), Burbank (+50.7%), Riverside (+22.5%), and Pasadena (+18.1%).

“There is no question that soft-on-crime sentencing policies beginning with the 2011 adoption of AB109, the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment law, have created this environment,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.  “With more than 30,000 habitual felons left in California communities under this law, and no prospect of a prison sentence for new drug and property convictions, Realignment has turned our county jails into revolving doors,” he added.

The Foundation reports that habitual felons, including parolees, convicted of new property or drug crimes under this law get “flash incarceration” and reduced supervision on probation.  Once a criminal is on probation, the consequences don’t increase for committing more property and drug crimes.

Recent examples include the June 13 arrest of Eric Culverson for dealing drugs to students at Claremont High School.  (Claremont Patch, June 14.)  Culverson was previously convicted for drug dealing and was sentenced to probation.  If convicted again, the most Culverson can receive will be a short stay in a Los Angeles county jail and another release on probation.

On June 12, Selma police shot and killed Johnny Platas, a habitual felon sentenced to probation and an anger management class for beating his wife in January.  He was shot after stabbing his wife and attacking a responding officer with a knife.  (Fresno Bee, June 13.)  Had Platas just beaten his wife again, he would have at most received a flash incarceration and another release on probation.

On June 10, an Antioch man, on probation for assault with a deadly weapon, was arrested for burglarizing two downtown businesses. (Eastbay Times, June 11.)  If convicted, Stanley Holton Jr., will be sentenced to county jail and more probation.

On June 9, Los Angeles County Deputies arrested Jack Albert Davis for kidnapping, confining, and beating his girlfriend for at least a week.  Davis had been re-released on county probation after violating state parole earlier this year.  He had prior convictions for theft, drugs, burglary, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, and several domestic violence incidents.  (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 10.)  Due to the victim’s serious injuries and the kidnapping, if convicted, Davis might actually be eligible for a prison sentence.

On June 3, police arrested Javeon Gregory Curtis for theft at a Pasadena variety store and attempting to stab a security guard.  Curtis was on probation for a previous assault conviction.  (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 4.)  If convicted, Curtis will likely receive a flash incarceration and another release on probation.

On May 31, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies arrested Jaime Benjamin Garcia, an ex-felon on probation, for possession of a loaded .357 Magnum revolver and eight grams of methamphetamine. (Valley News, June 2.)  If convicted on the drug and gun possession charges, Garcia will face time in county jail and more probation.

“Criminals free on probation under Realignment are committing scores of crimes like these every month.  If nobody gets seriously hurt or killed, the law lets them back onto the streets in a few weeks,” said Rushford.

“Back in 2011 we were told that Realignment would reduce crime and save the state money, but it was recently reported that California is now spending $75,500 per year per inmate, the highest inmate housing cost in the U. S., and an increase of $10,000 since 2015.  In addition, counties are suffering from substantial increases in county jail and policing costs to arrest, prosecute, and jail thousands of criminals no longer eligible for prison.  Crime is up, costs are up, and right now the Legislature is considering passing a bill (SB 620) that would eliminate the sentencing increase for the use of a gun during the commission of a felony…perfect!” he added.

CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.

In 2016, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation helped win four U. S. Supreme Court decisions benefitting law enforcement and crime victims.

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