Early Release Plan Will Jeopardize Public Safety

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With the Governor’s recently released 2008-09 budget proposal, it has never been clearer that tough decisions will have to be made in order to reduce government spending. In an attempt to avoid picking winners and losers however, the Governor has chosen to address California’s massive $14.5 billion budget deficit by proposing across-the-board cuts.

One option the Governor presented to save the state money is not only incredibly dangerous, but an ineffective fiscal strategy. He is proposing to let 22,159 felons out of prison before their sentence has ended and reduce the parole population by 18,522 people. Such a plan is a recipe for disaster and will jeopardize the safety of families in Orange County and throughout the state.

The Department of Corrections claims, however, that public safety won’t be threatened by this early release plan. They say only ”non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders” would be released before their sentence has ended. But that doesn’t paint the whole picture.

Current state law is so vague that many dangerous crimes are not considered serious or violent. Given this deficiency in state law, some of those eligible for early release under the Governor’s plan include: gang members who recruit others, some types of stalkers, repeat drunk drivers, weapons traffickers and drug dealers who manufacture drugs around children.

After these inmates obtain an early release, they would then return to the county in which they committed their crime. That means Orange County could see 1,188 criminals back on the streets. In addition, there is a nearly 70% recidivism rate among these particular criminals, resulting in 15,400 new victims statewide and over 830 in Orange County alone. This simply cannot happen.

Worst of all, the true cost savings resulting from this plan is questionable, at best. It would result in just a 3.27 percent savings in the Department of Corrections’ budget next year, or 0.3 percent of the general fund, but this doesn’t take into account costs associated with the rising crime rate that is likely to occur.

Last year, Republicans and Democrats worked together to enact prison reforms to address California’s severe prison overcrowding. Our reforms would improve inmate rehabilitation programs and add more beds to address prison overcrowding. The Legislature took these important steps to prevent the early release of prisoners and ensure public safety.

We cannot sit by idly and allow felons to be released before they have paid their debt to society and received proper rehabilitation In my opinion, if you do the crime, you must do the time. Allowing the early release of serious and repeat criminals places our families and our communities at risk. The Legislature and the Governor must work together to find better, safer alternatives to cut wasteful government spending to reduce the deficit, without threatening public safety.

I remain committed to stand firm with my Republican colleagues, as well as the California District Attorney Association, State Sheriffs Association, Chief Probation Officers, and the Peace Officers Association to reject this irresponsible proposal and work to keep Californians safe. Orange County residents deserve safe neighborhoods where our children can play and walk to school without fear.

Doing the Public’s Business

Recently, the Assembly voted on a bill, AB337 (Dymally), which would have reduced criminal penalties for possessing crack cocaine or purchasing it for the purpose of sale. However, if you try to find out what the vote tally was or the names of the 37 Democrats who voted yes, you cannot do it. Immediately after the vote was taken and the measure failed to gather the necessary 41 votes, 46 legislators voted to expunge the record, wiping out the official tally. When I was in the Assembly, I always fought efforts to expunge any vote. To me, once a legislator votes up or down, he or she should be accountable for that vote, even if the bill fails. And therein lays the catch. The 37 Democrats who supported reducing penalties on crack cocaine do not want to see that fact in their opponents’ campaign literature this fall. Yet, in my mind, the 46 Democrats who voted to protect the bad votes of 37 of themselves are just as culpable. For more details, including the list of Democrats who did not vote, sign up for the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert and then go to this link:

http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/010261.html

Calling All High School Artists

I am pleased to announce the start of my Annual Legislative Art Competition.

Eligible participants must currently be enrolled in a high school located within the 35th Senate District.

The contestant winner will have his/her artwork displayed in the State Capitol for one year and be invited, along with a family member, on a special Capitol tour and a lunch with Senator Harman.

Qualifying pieces must be conceptually original, two-dimensional, and no larger than 32” x 32” x 4”. Pieces must also be appropriate to hang in the State Capitol. Categories include but are not limited to paintings, drawings, collages, prints, computer-generated art and photography.

All entries must be received at either Senator Harman’s Capitol or District office no later than 4:30 pm on Monday, April 28th. Please call Emanuel Patrascu at (714) 957-4555 with questions or for further information.

Deadline Approaching for all Senate Fellowship Applications

This is a friendly reminder to college students that the deadline for submitting Senate Fellowship applications is quickly approaching. Application packets for the 2008-2009 California Senate Fellows Program are now available in my District and Capitol offices and can also be accessed online.

The deadline for submitting applications is February 27th.

Participation in the Senate Fellowship Program is a wonderful way to gain experience into understanding how the State Legislature operates and I’m hopeful that eligible students in Southern California will take advantage of this wonderful program. Whether your career goals are in the public or private sector, this program provides valuable training.

Senate Fellows are offered a stipend of $1,972 per month plus health, vision and dental benefits. They also earn 12-units of graduate credit from California State University, Sacramento for the academic portion of the program.

Anyone who will be at least 20-years of age and a graduate of a four-year college or university by September, 1, 2008, is eligible to apply. There is no preferred major. Individuals who hold or are pursuing advanced degrees are encouraged to apply.

Eighteen 2008-2009 California Senate Fellows will be selected in May to serve as full-time Senate staff for eleven months beginning in October 2008. Fellows are assigned to the personal or committee office of a Senator and work as a part of the public policy staff team in Capitol. Responsibilities include helping develop legislative proposals, researching and analyzing bills, responding to constituent inquiries and writing press releases and speeches.

Senate Fellows Program: www.csus.edu/calst/senate

Assembly Fellowship Program: www.csus.edu/calst/assembly

Executive Fellowship Program: www.csus.edu/calst/executive

Judicial Administration Program: www.csus.edu/calst

Judyth Piazza is the host of the American Perspective Radio Program, a cutting edge radio program that is full of inspiration and information. It’s intended to help people succeed in life.

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Award winning journalist, Judyth Piazza is also the founder of The SOP News Network (www.thesop.org) and content Manager/Editor for Newsblaze (www.newsblaze.com)