Photo courtesy Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel).
Photo courtesy Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel).

State Sen. Patricia Bates revealed a list of crimes Thursday that would be covered under a bill that seeks to modify Prop. 57, which increased opportunities for parole of nonviolent felons and to allow judges, not prosecutors, to decide if some juveniles can be charged as adults.

Under the Laguna Niguel Republican’s bill, which was introduced last month, the list of “violent felonies” would expand to include the following:

  • Vehicular manslaughter.
  • Human trafficking involving a minor.
  • Battery with personal infliction of serious bodily injury.
  • Throwing acid or a flammable substance.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon by a state prison inmate.
  • Discharging a firearm at an occupied dwelling, building, vehicle or aircraft.
  • Rape where victim is legally incapable of giving consent.
  • Rape of an unconscious person.
  • Rape/sodomy/oral copulation of an unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs.
  • Inflicting corporal injury on a child.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Arson of a structure or forest land.
  • Arson of property.
  • Solicitation to commit murder.
  • Grand theft of a firearm.
  • Any felony involving the personal use of a deadly weapon.
  • Holding a hostage by a state prison inmate.
  • And exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure.

“Californians approved Prop. 57 last year with the intention of showing leniency to offenders who are truly non-violent,” Bates said. “Unfortunately, many voters were not aware that the state’s definition of `non- violent’ includes deeply troubling crimes that most would consider violent due to the physical and emotional harm inflicted on victims. My bill would help address a major weakness of Prop. 57 and keep California’s communities safe.”

Bates also believes that though the proposition seeks to save tax dollars, it could lead to more crimes from felons released earlier than before the new law.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday regarding a rash of murders in Santa Ana, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he believes there has been an increase in crime since the state implemented efforts such as realignment to reduce prison overcrowding and voters approved Prop. 47 to reduce many nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

“We’re experiencing an increase in crime,” Rackauckas said. “And it’s not just limited to violence.”

He added, “Our sense of it is when you have realignment with early release from prison coupled with Prop. 47 a lot of peole who would be sent to prison are now going to county jail. We think that’s connected to a rise in crime.”

Rackauckas said his observations were “based on conversations I’ve had with various police chiefs, and it’s not limited to our county. We don’t know the amounts yet, but we know that’s the trend.”

The third annual Crime Report for Southern California that UC Irvine researchers put out this week predict lower violent and property crime rates in much of Southern California this year.

John Hipp and Charis Kubrin, the authors of the study, who are UCI professors of criminology law and society, predict violent crime will drop by 21 percent in 82 percent of cities in the region. Property crimes are expected to go down by 11 percent in 79 percent of cities, they said.

Orange County, they predicted, “will experience slightly larger decreases in crime compared to the region overall. The cities in Orange County are projected to have, on average, 21.5 percent less violent crime and 11.5 percent less property crime. Fully 94 percent of the cities are projected to experience decreasing violent crime and 81 percent are projected to experience decreasing property crime.”

In 2015, the top 10 cities with the lowest violent crime rates in the region included Irvine, Yorba Linda and Aliso Viejo, the research showed. Top 10 cities with the lowest property crime rates in the region in 2015 included Rancho Santa Margarita, Aliso Viejo, and Yorba Linda.

Kubrin said she was part of the research team that showed there was only a slight uptick in property crime due to realignment and that it was too early to draw conclusions about how the propositions will affect the crime rate.

“We’re right back where we started,” Kubrin said. “Now it’s Prop. 47 and 57 in terms of an increase in crime without having any evidence of the linkage of the two.”

It’s possible Prop. 47 could lead to an increase in the crime rate, Kubrin said.

“But we have no empirical evidence to show that,” Kubrin said. “There’s been no study of Prop. 47’s impact on crime.”

The professor added, “I worry about the politicization of criminal justice reform and using anecdotal evidence or perceptions to guide the policy discussion, which is happening now.”

The California Attorneys from Criminal Justice also criticized the proposed legislation.

“The proposed bill ignores the fact that prosecutors already enjoy extraordinary discretion to charge individuals with multiple felony offenses which carry extremely long prison sentences,” said Ignacio Hernandez, the executive director of the organization. “This, in fact, resulted in mass incarceration and prisons so overcrowded as to violate minimal constitutional requirements. Prop 57 was passed by the voters as a response to the wealth of evidence gathered over many years that longer prison sentences not only fail to make our communities safer, but they contribute greatly to their decline. Efforts to circumvent the will of the voters and return to the old, failing system based on fear instead of reason should be rejected.”

— City News Service

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