Capitol Alert

California gubernatorial candidates share views on criminal justice changes

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants crime survivors and criminal justice reformers to continue to lead the charge from the “bottom up.”

Treasurer John Chiang, the eldest son of immigrant parents and whose sister was murdered, said their religious faith sustained his belief in redemption.

And Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor, reached back to the 1990s to recount his bona fides fighting against three strikes, mass incarceration and capital punishment.

The three candidates in next year’s race for governor offered their support and shared a little about their records at a forum Tuesday organized by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. The group is pushing back against the tough-on-crime laws that permeated politics in the 1980s and 1990s.

Villaraigosa, raised by a single mother in Boyle Heights, said it’s long been an area about which he’s passionate, linking it to providing a strong education.

“I took on the death penalty. I took on ‘three strikes, you’re out’ while I was on the ballot. I put forth proposals to reform ‘three strikes, you’re out.’ I was taking on prison building in 1994, when my voice was one of the few challenging the fact that we were putting more people in prison than any place in the world,” he said.

Newsom, the lone statewide politician to endorse Proposition 47 in 2014, which made nonviolent offenses like drug and property crimes misdemeanors instead of felonies, last year became the face of the Proposition 64 measure to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

“What you guys have done in the last few years is rather extraordinary,” Newsom told the audience. “You guys have changed the narrative. And at the end of the day, unless we change the narrative on the issue of criminal justice reform, we’re never going to substantively change the policies.”

He implored them to keep it up. “We’ll get there on (repealing) the death penalty,” Newsom said. “God’s delays are not God’s denies. There’s change afoot.”

Chiang, whose late sister, Joyce, was 28 when she went missing and was found murdered, said the ability to meet organizers’ program priorities often ties back to finances, and making sure there’s enough money in the state budget.

“If you don’t understand the state’s finances you can’t support the programs that we so direly and deeply need in California,” Chiang said.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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