What Was California Thinking?


Back in 2014, the political leadership of California became alarmed at the rapidly rising prison population in the state. The state was also under court order to reduce the overcrowding in state prisons. The people of California set a grand objective to reduce the number of convicts in the state. Fewer people going to prison has to be a good thing — right?

The first thing they did was pass Proposition 47 — the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. That sounds like something everyone would want. 58% of Californians voted in favor of the measure. There was just one problem. Reduced prison population was the objective — not the outcome. Nothing in Prop 47 was designed to actually reduce crime. It redefined drug use and theft of property valued at under $950 as misdemeanors rather than felonies. Punishment would no longer be imprisonment, but a fine of $1,000. The objective of prison population reduction was achieved by not incarcerating criminals, rather than by eliminating criminal behavior. Perhaps the voters should have read past the title of the proposition.

Prop 47 also allows those imprisoned under previous guidelines to petition for early release. If a convict is in prison for stealing less than $950, he is now eligible for early release. As many as 10,000 state prisoners have been released. Thousands more have been released from country jails. An additional 15,000 are expected to be released with the closure of five correctional facilities. I can feel the neighborhoods getting safer already.

In a further demonstration of out-of-control liberalism, the voting public elected district attorneys who are more inclined to work as advocates for, rather than prosecutors of criminals. Even though he’s only been in office for six months, a recall effort is currently underway for Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, due to his soft-on-crime policies. He was even sued by his own prosecutors for restricting their ability to seek enhanced sentences. News flash: Gascón shouldn’t be recalled. He should have never been elected.

Los Angeles may have been unwise, but San Francisco was totally insane. The City by the Bay elected Chesa Boudin as its District Attorney. His parents were members of the Weather Underground and served time in prison for the murder of two police officers and an armored car guard. After his parents were incarcerated, Chesa was adopted and raised by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who were also unrepentant terrorist members of the Weather Underground. If those names sound familiar, they’re the same Bill and Bernardine who are friends and supporters of the Obamas. Now that he’s in office, Boudin is more interested in social justice than criminal justice. It’s a real shocker, but it turns out a person raised by people determined to bring down our society is not particularly interested in defending it. He, like many of his fellow leftist DAs, simply chooses not to prosecute criminals that don’t fit the social justice narrative. The voters of California are getting what they asked for — good and hard!

The end result of these changes was foreseeable to anyone who understands human nature — which is clearly beyond the understanding of Democrats in general and California leftists in particular.

Drug use has skyrocketed in California. Sleeping, drugged-out junkies litter the floors of BART train stations. Fortunately, junkies do have an easy means to support their drug habits. They can simply steal stuff — with no risk of jail time.

Theft has become a very simple business venture in California. On average, a shoplifter is caught once for every 48 times he steals. However, he’s only charged 50% of the time. Based upon the dollar value that qualifies as a misdemeanor, and the fine for getting caught, shoplifters will have to pay a $1,000 fine for every $91,200 that they steal. For them, the fine is simply the cost of doing business. Merchants are even reporting that shoplifters carry calculators to make sure they don’t exceed the $950 threshold. They may be strung out on heroin or fentanyl, but they’re clearly smarter than the people that passed Prop 47.

Thanks to Prop 47, the streets are now flooded with career criminals. Fortunately, they’re not committing felonies anymore. Now they’re committing misdemeanors that look remarkably similar to the felonies which formerly would have landed them in prison.

The police have stopped arresting all but the most violent criminals. The prosecutors will release them anyway. Declining to arrest people over and over again isn’t dereliction — it’s a process improvement. Giving criminals a pass achieves the same outcome as catch and release — at much less risk and expense. Why catch and release when you can just not catch?

Even though crime has skyrocketed, the prison population is down. So our neighborhoods must be safer, right? If things don’t feel safer in California, consider this: making it no longer a felony to steal stuff, doesn’t mean people aren’t still stealing stuff. They’re just not being arrested for it. But the felony numbers are down, so the neighborhoods and schools must be safer.

Here’s a novel idea to lower the prison population. Instead of eliminating the penalty for committing crimes, let’s start teaching our children that crime is wrong and socially unacceptable. Of course, we would also need to teach them personal accountability, but that’s anathema to liberal thinking. We can’t be accountable for our own actions and still be victims of systemic [insert your chosen ism].

John Green • American Thinker

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