Tricky measure allows release of violent felons

Dan Walters has this column with the above title at Cal Matters on the continuing harm from Jerry Brown’s deceptive 2016 initiative, Proposition 57.

Six years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown tricked California voters into passing a ballot measure that, he said, would make it easier for non-violent felons to earn paroles and thus ease the state prison system’s severe overcrowding.

Brown and other supporters of Proposition 57 spent millions of dollars on the campaign. “All of us learn. I’ve learned in 40 years,” Brown said, “I think prisoners can learn.” The initiative, Brown argued, “orients the prison toward rehabilitation, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Innocent people died as a result.

Brown’s trick was to omit a definition of “non-violent felony” in the measure. Under pressure from the media, his campaign reluctantly acknowledged that the definition would be any crime not mentioned in an obscure section of the state Penal Code that lists 23 specific violent offenses.

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Dozens — and perhaps hundreds — of prison inmates who met the state’s generous provisions for earning parole have been released and inevitably some have continued to commit violent crimes.

Smiley Martin, who is awaiting trial for using a fully automatic pistol in a shootout with rival gang members in downtown Sacramento last spring that left six persons dead and 12 wounded, is one beneficiary. He had been released because his domestic violence conviction did not qualify as a violent crime.

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