Parole for non-violent criminals approved

Parole+for+non-violent+criminals+approved

Joe Kendall, Staff Photographer

by Georgina Vargas, Staff Writer

Proposition 57 is an effort for California to decrease the overpopulation in prisons by allowing judges and prison officials to have more authority than prosecutors over court cases for adults and juveniles.

This proposition was favored 64 percent with 48 percent of the votes counted at press time.

Prop. 57 is a way to save the state money and release nonviolent offenders early from prisons and instead use the finances on community-based programs.

There are two sides to Prop. 57: the effect on juveniles and effect on adults.

Megan Welsh, criminal justice professor at San Diego State, said this measure will allow judges to make the decision for youths to be tried as an adult. This will lead to more reasonable outcomes because judges are more impartial in decision making and prosecutors are tougher, Welsh said.

Until now, the previous law currently allowed prosecutors to decide if a child would be tried as an adult.

“If you give a child adult punishment, you won’t get the same rehabilitation support,” Welsh said.

 Prop. 57 minimizes the number of children that will be tried as adults for crimes they commit and allow them to go through intervention programs.

“It is more important to invest in rehabilitation programs than keeping them locked up in prison,” criminal justice senior Brian Tew said.

Research shows rehabilitation programs help people get back on track which makes this proposition a promising step in the state, Welsh said.

In adults, the passage of Prop. 57 will make it easier for nonviolent criminals in jail to be eligible for parole and go to rehabilitation programs.

This does not mean that minor offenders will be getting out of jail immediately now that Prop. 57 is  passed.

“The issue is that you’re being unclear about what is a non-serious crime,” Welsh said.

Tew said now that the proposition has passed, people will have to go through a board of experts and a judge to be approved to be on probation, which will ensure serious offenders do not get released.

Governor of California Jerry Brown was in support of this proposition. He said there are a large range of estimates on the amount of people that may potentially be released from jail.

“Historically, we’ve seen that as we’ve implemented and shifted gears away from prisons and toward rehabilitation, it hasn’t had the effect on crime that some opponents of these laws thought it would,” Welsh said.

One argument against Prop. 57 is that people who are on probation may return to crime.

“There hasn’t been enough time since Prop. 47 was passed in 2014 to be able to get significant results about jail population and crimes,” Chad Tillman, public administration graduate student, said.

Prop. 47 was passed as a law that changed drug possession felonies to misdemeanors to decrease the number of people being sent to jail.

Tillman said there are other ways to look at crime, such as paying attention to contributing factors to crime rates. A growing economy and employment have also been linked to crimes occurring in California.

The nonviolent offenders have not been clearly defined and the solutions for the crimes have not been addressed in the proposition.

“First, the behavior that Prop. 57 is looking at is saying that it’s no longer bad behavior and if it’s not bad behavior, why are you punishing it?” Tillman said.

It might save money, but also cause more problems in the future.

The measure will not change the severity of felonies to avoid putting fewer people in prison. Changing the status of minor felonies would decrease the number of people going to jail and downsize the numbers in prisons.

One type of nonviolent criminal who would be eligible to apply for parole is someone who committed sexual assault while under the influence.

Tillman said this might make the law seem like it is undermining the violation of someone’s body.

Connor Peterson, marketing junior, said Prop. 57 would not guarantee anyone getting parole and that judges are capable of knowing the difference between the severity of each crime, which would work out in decision-making.

Sarah Rebymetcalme, theatre and film sophomore said he thinks there is overcrowding in prisons, but that they don’t need to let people out of them.

“We have the death penalty, but we don’t really ever use it so people are in death row forever and then that is also why there is so much overcrowding,” he said. “I also think that non-violent crimes should be taken out. Those definitely they should be let out because stuff for drugs and other stuff  is part of the reason why there is overcrowding.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email