As a result of a lawsuit brought by inmates of California state prisons, the United States Supreme Court ordered the State of California to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates over a three-year period of time. I
n response the California State Legislature passed The Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011 (AB 109). The goal of AB 109 was to transfer responsibility for incarceration and supervision of certain non-violent, low-risk offenders from the State to its 58 counties. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the implementation of AB 109, but it is nothing to celebrate.
Up and down the state, the release of so-called non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual, “low-risk” inmates has been marked by dozens of reports of murders, rapes, attempted murder, kidnapping, stabbings and other crimes committed by inmates released early at the county levels as a result of AB 109.
On Monday, September 10, 2012, 26-year-old Michael Cockrell repeatedly stabbed Lisa Gilvary, 46, and her roommate, Jennifer Gonzalez, 20, during the course of a home invasion burglary. He then laid in wait and viscously attacked Fresno police officer Jonathan Linzey, 32, when he came to their aid. Ms. Gilvary died at the scene and Cockrell is now facing a possible death sentence. In March 2012, Cockrell was released from prison after serving only six-months of a three-year sentence under AB 109.
The state says that AB 109 only applies to ‘low risk” offenders, so it’s okay, but Michael Cockrell was considered a “low risk” offender! I can assure you that the State and I have very different definitions of “low risk.” It’s no wonder AB 109 has been called an abysmal failure, a disaster, and a deception that is dumping dangerous felons at our doorsteps.
In Lancaster, more than 300 offenders were released under partial supervision to Los Angeles probation officers since Realignment began. Nearly 200 of these offenders have been rearrested for new crimes or charges.
Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti “expressed frustration with the lack of jail space, which has resulted in early releases and created the perception of a revolving door at the jail. Failure to appear warrants totaled 4,569 in the first six months of the year, a 32 percent increase from last year, when there were 3,453.”
The California legislature needs to repeal AB 109. The State needs to drastically reduce the type of offenders it allows to be shifted to the county level. The state must take an inmates or parolees criminal history into consideration when determining who is eligible for AB 109. County jails are simply not equipped to handle many of the dangerous, repeat offenders AB 109 has sent them. Nor should we, as parents, have to worry about these same dangerous criminals being released early from overcrowded jails into our neighborhoods.
Crime exacts a heavy toll: on government, on society as a whole, but especially on victims. The cost of crime has three dimensions: a dollar amount calculated by adding up property losses, productivity losses, and medical bills. An amount less easily quantifiable includes the forms of pain, emotional trauma, and risk of death from victimization. And finally a dimension that cannot be quantified – the loss of life, and the trickle-down effect of extreme trauma or even death on the families of victims, their friends and communities held hostage by the threat of fear.
In 1996 the National Institute of Justice calculated the cost of crime. A single murder costs society $2,940,000, a rape (5) at $86,500, and a robbery with injury at $19,000. A fundamental duty of government is to protect society, to ensure that we walk safe streets and that the weak among us are not threatened by fear, intimidation and violence.
Every time that a so called nonviolent felon who has been released onto the streets commits an act of violence government has failed in that duty. When our government turns its back on the fundamental duty to protect innocent citizens, its skewed priorities must be revealed and it must be held accountable for its actions.