Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Monday, June 23, 2014
Heritage Foundation Backs Sentencing Reform Merging ‘Compassion and Common Sense’
By Heritage Foundation @ 2:51 AM :: 3299 Views :: Justice Reinvestment

Will Conservatives Back Sentencing Reform Merging ‘Compassion and Common Sense’?

by Melissa Quinn, Heritage Foundation Daily Signal, June 23, 2014

 A former day room is now used to house prisoners at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California. (Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

'A big problem on our hands': Prisoners bed down in a former day room at the California Institution for Men in Chino, Calif. (Photo: Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

A voter initiative aims to attract bipartisan support for relieving prison overcrowding by reducing sentences for non-violent crimes and putting the savings into community programs.

The question inching closer to the ballot seeks to downgrade low-level felonies — petty theft, receiving stolen property, forging and writing bad checks, minor drug possession — to misdemeanors. Those already convicted for such crimes would be considered for resentencing.

Violent crimes including rape, murder, and sex offenses could not be downgraded, however.

The state is California and the initiative is called the Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.

“It’s common-sense reform that seeks to go ahead and humanize offenders that are guilty of personal drug possession and shoplifting,” businessman and philanthropist B. Wayne Hughes Jr., a major proponent of the initiative, said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “Those are crimes that are not worthy of being called a felony.”

Supporters say the initiative, proposed for this fall, would save California taxpayers $150 million to $250 million per year, amounting to as much as $1.25 billion over five years. The proposal would redirect the money to mental health and drug treatment, crime prevention programs in schools, and victim services.

>>> Surprising Ingredient for Bipartisan Reform: ‘Orange Is the New Black’

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and former San Diego Police Chief Bill Landsdowne sponsored the initiative. More than 812,000 Californians signed a petition to put the question on the November ballot – far exceeding the roughly 504,000 signatures needed.

State officials have until June 26 to review signatures and determine whether the measure qualifies to go before voters.

So far the initiative primarily has gained traction with Democrats. Hughes, one of few conservatives to offer his public support, made his fortune with Public Storage,  the self-storage giant started  in 1972 by his father.  Last year he founded Serving California, a nonprofit Christian ministry assisting ex-offenders, crime victims, and veterans. He also is a donor of The Heritage Foundation.

“This measure brings hope and reform and a reset opportunity for thousands of fellow Californians, and I think that it’s the right thing to do,” Hughes said.

'The least of the least': B. Wayne Hughes Jr. prays with inmates at California's Centinela State Prison (Photo: Serving California)

‘Least of the least’: B. Wayne Hughes Jr. prays with inmates at California’s Centinela Prison (Photo: Serving California)

Conservatives tend to argue that such initiatives put convicted criminals back on the streets, endangering public safety, notes John Malcolm, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Some, however, see the benefit of programs aimed at repairing dysfunctional relationships as well as sentencing reforms that can reduce ongoing costs to taxpayers.

Hughes contends that low-level felons are stuck in a system that breeds re-incarceration. Instead of going to prison and getting a “first-class education” on how to become a criminal, he told The Daily Signal, some offenders will be able to put their lives on a better track under the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. Hughes added:

We have people in our community that are hurting. We have a big problem on our hands. One of the ways to solve that is to look at things not just through the lens of punishment, but through compassion and common sense reform.

>>> Turning Bipartisan Policy Into Partisan Politics

Under Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, California’s prison population hovers around 117,500. The state’s penitentiaries, though, were designed hold just under 80,000 inmates.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata upheld a lower court ruling that California must reduce its prison population because of rampant overcrowding. The high court said poor health care for prisoners was one result and a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision sent state officials scrambling to find ways to reduce the overcrowding – one of which was to send inmates to other states. The Golden State has until 2016 to comply.

Hughes said the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act serves dual purposes: It helps Californians and complies with the court order.

“Having an initiative that would take the pressure off would give some of the ex-offenders a chance to remove the yolk of a felony from around their necks,” he said. “It’s a way to hit the reset button.”

In addition to California, 29 states have begun implementing sentencing reforms, Malcolm said.

When Texas lessened sentences for drug offenders, for example, it led to the lowest crime rates in the state since 1968. In Michigan, rates for violent crimes as well as property crimes decreased after the state eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offenses. The changes were applied retroactively.

At the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a pitch for sentencing reforms, especially for first-time drug and alcohol offenders.

Christie, a prospective Republican candidate for president, said:

When we say we’re pro-life, we need to be pro-life for the entire life. We need to stand up for the hurt and the wounded. From the womb until natural death, we need to be there even for those who stumble and fall, to be there to lift them up.

Other Republicans have eyed sentencing reform as a way to cut costs, especially in a stagnant economy. But Hughes said California conservatives he has encountered aren’t convinced initiatives such as the one he champions could work.

Gaining their support, Hughes said, requires a serious discussion:

If we’re going to go ahead and be in touch with each other, we have to look at places that are uncomfortable with us. There’s a large bandwidth of our society that’s hurting. … For us as a society, we can begin to judge ourselves by how we treat the least of the least. And the least of the least are the ones who are in prison.

Inmates at Centinela Prison pray for B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who founded a prison ministry. (Photo: Serving California)

Inmates at Centinela Prison pray for B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who founded a prison ministry. (Photo: Serving California)

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

808 State Update AM940

ABCDEFG Blog

ACA Signups Hawaii

ACCE

ALEC

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Life Advocates

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

American Mothers of Hawaii

AMVETS-Hawaii

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Audit The Rail

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii 

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust 

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

CAFR Hawaii

Castaway Conservative

Children's Alliance Hawaii

Children's Rights Institute

ChinaTownWatch.com

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Citizens for Recall

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

Conservative Forum for Hawaii

CSIS Pacific Forum

DAR Hawaii

DeedySupport.com

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina

E Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe

Farmers For Choice Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Get Off Your Butts!

God, Freedom, America

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aganst Assisted Suicide

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crime Victims' Rights

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defending Marriage

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Families for Educational Choice

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Firearm Community

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii Meth Project

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Right to Life -- Big Island

Hawaii Right to Life -- Oahu

Hawaii Shield Law Coalition

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation

HI Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

HIEC.Coop 

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Homeless Crisis

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

Horns of Jericho Blog

House Minority Blog

House Republican Caucus YouTube

HPACC

Hump Day Report

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

Judgepedia Hawaii

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

KeyWiki

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii

NARTH

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

OurFutureHawaii.com

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons 

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Salvage The Rail

Save the Plastic Bag

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

SIFE Remington

SIFE W. Oahu 

Sink the Jones Act

Smart About Marijuana--Hawaii

St Marianne Cope

State Budget Solutions Hawaii

State Policy Network

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Harriet Tubman Agenda

The Long War Journal

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Truth About Trade & Technology - Hawaii

UCC Truths

Union Members Know Your Rights

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

Valor in the Pacific

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT