Now is not the time to scale back on criminal justice. The current attempts to repeal California's Death Penalty and to weaken the "three strikes" law by way of Propositions 34 and 36 should be soundly rejected.
A year ago, the Legislature enacted the most widely sweeping change to the criminal justice system in decades by way of AB109, otherwise known as realignment.
The result of realignment is that criminals convicted of felony offenses ranging from drug manufacturing, distribution and dealing to commercial burglaries, auto theft and virtually every other type of theft offense can no longer be sent to state prison. Counties must now warehouse these offenders for their terms of incarceration in overcrowded local jails as well as supervise them upon release. It is too soon to effectively measure the impacts both to the county pocketbook and to crime victims. In this environment, prosecutors and police need more tools, not fewer, to help them investigate and prosecute crime; now is not the time to take away those tools.
Californians support the death penalty. They would support it even more if the Legislature, the attorney general and the governor would remove current roadblocks to its effective implementation. Those obstacles have been put in place by vocal, wealthy individuals who want to push their own agendas onto Californians and are willing to spend millions of dollars to do so.
Rather than argue as they have in the past that the death penalty is cruel and unfair, the opponents now make the economic argument that it's too expensive and takes too long to implement. How convenient that the very folks so staunchly opposed to it the ACLU, for example are the ones who have caused the very delays that they now complain about.
California is full of smart people who can enact the necessary changes to make the death penalty work. Before buying into the it's-too-expensive argument, take the time to visit www.waitingforjustice.net and learn more about the death penalty in California and then please vote "no" on Proposition 34.
Now is not the time to modify the "three strikes" law. It is working exactly as intended by the Legislature and the voters when first enacted in 1994.
There is widespread misunderstanding about the application of the law; it does not mandate life sentences for petty crimes.
If a criminal has twice before been convicted of a statutorily defined "serious or violent" felony and then commits yet another felony, he would be eligible for a possible sentence of 25 years to life. That actually rarely happens. Prosecutors routinely exercise their discretion to dismiss priors so that the defendant will receive a sentence that is appropriate for his crime and background. Judges also have this discretion so they can take action if they believe the prosecution is too tough.
If Proposition 36 passes, approximately 4,000 career criminals (who have at least two convictions for crimes such as robbery, rape, kidnaping and carjacking) will be eligible for resentencing and release into the community.
If Proposition 36 passes, a powerful tool that is currently wielded with great discretion and care will be taken away from prosecutors. Violent and sexual predators who could otherwise be removed from our streets permanently if caught, charged and convicted of a new "nonserious" felony offense, would now only be subject to a possible doubling of their sentence. The inescapable result will be more victims of violent crime.
Please take a look at www.threestrikes.org and vote "no" on Proposition 36.
Fladager is Stanislaus County's district attorney.