Capitol Alert

Victims ‘kneecapped’ by Jerry Brown’s prison initiative, advocate says

Marc Klaas: Victims 'kneecapped' by Jerry Brown

Crime victim advocate Marc Klaas ripped California Gov. Jerry Brown's prison and parole initiative at a press conference with district attorneys and victims' rights groups on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. They promoted their opposition to Brown’s ball
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Crime victim advocate Marc Klaas ripped California Gov. Jerry Brown's prison and parole initiative at a press conference with district attorneys and victims' rights groups on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. They promoted their opposition to Brown’s ball

It was only a press conference, with district attorneys and victims rights groups on Wednesday promoting their opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative to make certain nonviolent felons eligible for early parole.

But the fact it came together this early in the election year, the prosecutors said, was an indication that opposition to Brown’s initiative will be more organized – if not better funded – than before.

Many law enforcement officials remain stung by the passage in 2014 of Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for some drug and property crimes. Opponents of that initiative had difficulty raising money and ran an anemic campaign.

Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath, president of the California District Attorneys Association, acknowledged Wednesday that district attorneys will not be able to match the fundraising of Brown, who holds about $24 million in two campaign accounts. But he said district attorneys, voices of authority in their counties, will rally opposition to the measure in their communities.

The news conference came as the California Supreme Court considers the legality of the initiative. The court last week temporarily stayed a lower court’s ruling blocking the measure, allowing Brown to begin collecting signatures over the weekend.

It’s like we’re being kneecapped by the executive branch of the state of California.

Marc Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was killed by parolee Richard Allen Davis in Petaluma in 1993.

In their legal challenge, the District Attorneys Association and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert argue the initiative was improperly filed as an amendment to a measure concerning juvenile justice. At issue is how substantially the amendment changed the content of that initiative.

In addition to letting certain felons convicted of nonviolent offenses seek early parole, Brown is seeking to restructure how the state awards credits for good behavior.

District attorneys and victims’ advocates said Wednesday that what counts as a “nonviolent offense” includes many serious crimes, and that softening penalties disrespects victims.

“It’s like we’re being kneecapped by the executive branch of the state of California,” said Marc Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was killed by parolee Richard Allen Davis in Petaluma in 1993. “No consideration is being given to victims of crime, and all of the consideration is being given to those individuals who committed those crimes against the victims in the first place.”

Brown has said his initiative will better prepare prisoners to re-enter society, improving public safety.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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