Assembly stalls prison plan
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The California Assembly couldn't muster enough votes to pass a prison reform package last night that would reduce the state's inmate population by 37,000 over two years. The Senate Thursday narrowly passed the plan, which would allow low-risk offenders to serve the last 12 months of their prison sentence on house arrest and lessen parole supervision for non-violent parolees.
To the chagrin of Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo and local police chiefs, the proposal would turn some felony property crimes like vehicle theft and writing a bad check into a misdemeanor by increasing the monetary threshold from $400 to $2,500. This measure along with releasing elderly and incapacitated inmates early came under the most fire in the Assembly.
Over Republican opposition, the Senate approved the measure on a 21-19 vote.
"It is undeniable that the real failure of our criminal justice system is that it fails to distinguish between violent offenders and non-violent offenders," said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) in a prepared statement. "Of course, we want to keep violent criminals off our streets and out of our communities, and this reform package is a necessary step to do that because it concentrates our incarceration efforts on the violent criminals.”
Flippo along with the California District Attorney's Association opposed the budget plan. "These proposals if passed will jeopardize public safety because thousands of felons will go virtually unpunished and our local crime rates will inevitably rise," Flippo said in a prepared statement.
Combined with other corrections cuts, the bill is expected to save the state $1.2 billion this fiscal year and get the state close to meeting a recent federal order to reduce its prison population by 40,000. The Assembly is expected to take up the bill again on Monday.