Tuesday, April 2, 2013 • Senate, Assembly Republicans to propose realignment reforms to keep Californians safe

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, April 2, 2013 edition of the Lassen County Times.

Responding to the numerous incidents of innocent Californians becoming victims of crime as a result of a mass influx of criminals into their communities, Senate and Assembly Republicans recently unveiled a package of reforms they say will fix some of the serious flaws in Governor Gerry Brown’s public safety realignment law putting people at risk.

Since Brown’s public safety realignment plan took effect, communities across California have seen increased incidents of crime as serious and repeat felons are being granted early release and being set free to commit new crimes,” said Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, of Tulare.

“Sadly, these reports are not isolated incidents,” she said. “Our legislation represents the narrowly crafted, common-sense solutions Californians are demanding to fix the serious flaws in Brown’s law and keep their communities safe.”

Former chairman of the Board of Prison Terms, Senator Jim Nielsen, said, “The anticipated dire consequences of realignment — from the potential escalation in lower-level crimes like home burglaries to the early release of dangerous felons from overcrowded county jails — is sadly a reality. Criminals now face diminished- to no-consequences for their continued victimization of innocent citizens. Convicted felons must know that there are consequences for continuing to victimize. The absence of consequences does not promote rehabilitation.”

Grand Old Party lawmakers said early figures and reports from individual jurisdictions show Californians are less safe today because of Brown’s public safety realignment law. According to figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, crime rates in California skyrocketed between the period from January to June 2011 and January to June 2012, just as the realignment law was starting to be implemented. Murder and rape crimes each increased nearly 8 percent, while burglary and motor vehicle theft each increased more than 10 percent. Comparatively, crime rates in other states and nationally either decreased or remained relatively flat.

Republicans said their measures were narrowly crafted and focused on solving the problems experienced by communities under Brown’s public safety realignment law since it was first implemented in October 2011.

Republicans have authored proposals to:

  • Help law enforcement keep closer tabs on dangerous offenders out on the streets;
  • Increasing penalties against criminals who shouldn’t have guns;
  • Provide funding fairness for local governments; and
  • Ensure sex offenders, dangerous criminals and repeat felons serve their time in state prison.

“As a mother of five, nothing is more important to me than keeping our children safe from those who would cause them harm,” said assembly Public Safety Committee Vice Chair Melissa Melendez. “We cannot allow Californians to live in constant fear of increased crime and violence because of a deeply flawed law. Our reforms will ensure that individuals who committed very serious crimes are locked up in state prison, not sent to overcrowded local jails where they could be returned to the streets to target additional victims.”

Last week, Brown acknowledged there were flaws with his public safety realignment plan, saying, “Yeah, we make mistakes, but we correct them as we go.”

Many Democrats in the legislature have also voiced their concerns with realignment and are calling for reforms to fix this misguided law. Republican lawmakers said they had already attracted Democrat support for some of their reform ideas, and hope to work with them to attract bipartisan support to pass the changes necessary to protect our communities.

“Realignment has overburdened counties by giving them responsibility for hardened criminals but far less resources than they need to adequately supervise and rehabilitate those offenders,” said Senator Anthony Cannella. “Many counties did not have the programs or space to properly deal with these criminals. We must address the flaws of realignment caused by inadequate and inequitable funding and provide more resources to local criminal justice agencies.”

Republicans said advocates for public safety and crime victims were strongly supporting their realignment reform package, calling them necessary steps to protect citizens and ensure justice is served for victims and their families.

“If it weren’t for realignment, my daughter would be living her life normally right now. If it’s the last thing I do, to my last breath I will work to see that realignment is changed,” said Diana Munoz, mother of Brandy Arreola.

Brandy was the victim of a brutal domestic violence attack in 2012. Her attacker, a former boyfriend, had been arrested the month prior to the attack for violating parole and for failing to register as a sex offender. He had been arrested multiple times since 2004. He was sentenced to 100 days in jail, but served just two days due to overcrowding in the local jail. Two weeks later, out on the streets, he brutally attacked his girlfriend. Absent Brown’s public safety realignment plan, party lawmakers said the alleged attacker would have been back in prison as a result of his parole violation and Brandy would be leading a normal, healthy life today.

To learn more about the impact of Brown’s public safety realignment law on communities throughout California, visit the “California Crime Watch” website at cacrimewatch.com.