CA Voters Could Face Dueling Crime Initiatives

Advocates are gathering petitions to put propositions on the November ballot that could either overturn criminal justice reform plans approved in previous years, or extend them further.

California crime victims and law enforcement leaders are urging urged voters to support a ballot initiative that would roll back parts of 2014 and 2016 measures that critics say impede investigations and free violent offenders too soon, the Associated Press reports. Crime Victims United of California President Nina Salarno Besselman says the rollbacks are needed “to restore balance to our criminal justice system.” On the opposite side, a reform group wants to scale back further what was once the nation’s toughest law targeting repeat offenders. Both initiatives could be before voters this November; backers are gathering the 366,000 signatures needed to put each on the ballot. The tug of war comes amid get-tough rhetoric from the Trump administration and against a backdrop of court decisions that capped the state’s prison population.

One proposed ballot measure would reinstate DNA collections for people convicted of certain property and drug crimes, allow prison sentences for serial thieves and bar the earlier release of criminals convicted of crimes including child sex trafficking, assault with a deadly weapon, attacking police, and raping an unconscious person. Domestic violence survivor Jennifer Adkins said her attacker was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2015. Under recent legal changes his sentence was reduced to three years and he is due for release next year, she said. El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini said stories like hers show recent changes “have exacerbated that revolving door.” Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice, which initiated a 2014 campaign reducing penalties for certain drug and property crimes, said that, “In many ways I see this initiative as a desire to revert back to the failed policies of the past.”