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    Nov 1, 2008

    Vote ____ on Prop 9

    Hopefully you have your General Election Voter Information Guide handy, because I don't have links readily to each of the propositions. I am instead going to presume you have the guide nearby for reference, or have already read or have heard something on them.

    Prop 9

    This Proposition is an effort to change existing law concerning victims rights, parole hearings, and parole revocation. The term "parole revocation" is defined as the process of returning an individual to prison, for up to a year, for violating terms of parole.

    Restitution - here is what exists:
    • crime victims have the right to be notified of, to attend, and to state their opinion at, sentencing and parole hearings.
    • victims right to obtain a judicial order of protection from harassment by criminal offender.
    • victims right to obtain restitution (replacement of stolen/damaged property or reimbursement of costs) from the criminal offender that caused them to suffer loss.
      currently the court must order full restitution unless there is compelling and extraordinary reason no to do so, however judges do not always order restitution.
    • the right to "safe, secure & peaceful" schools for students and staff of all levels of education of minors (Grades PK - 12).
    Restitution - what would change:
    • requires restitution, without exception, be ordered from all convicted offenders, in every case in which a victim suffers loss.
    • requires that any monies collected by the court or law enforcement for purpose of restitution would be used for that purpose first, before payment of other fines and obligations the offender may legally owe.
    • expansion to victims rights, regarding notifications, to include the right to attend all public criminal proceedings, including release from custody after arrest, but before trial.
    • expanded victims rights to participate in other aspects of the criminal judicial process, such as conferring with prosecutors on charges filed.
    • law enforcement and criminal prosecution agencies required to provide specific details to victims, including details regarding victims rights.
    • additionally crime victims would have the right to: (a) prevent release of their person information to criminal defendants, (b) refuse to be interviewed or provide pretrial testimony or other evidence requested by criminal defendants, (c) protection from harm by the accused, and (d) the return of property no longer needed as evidence.
    • the State Constitution would be changed to specify that the safety of a crime victim must be taken into consideration by judges in setting bail for persons arrested for crimes.
    Early Release of Inmates - here is what exists:
    • A credit, or point, system has been established allowing opportunity for an inmate to reduce the time of sentence based on good behavior and participation in rehabilitating programs.
    • Due to overcrowding, many of the State's counties have self, or court, imposed population caps on prison population. As direct result, inmates are sometimes released early to comply with the limit imposed by the population cap.
    • Some sheriffs use alternative methods of reducing jail population, such as house arrest with GPS devices.
    Early Release of Inmates - what would change:
    • in effect, overriding the imposed population caps, requires that sentences are carried out in compliance with the sentencing orders and not be "substantially diminished" by early release.
    • directs that sufficient funding be directed (by legislators and/or county board of supervisors) to house inmates for the full term of their sentencing, less any authorized credits which reduce that sentence.
    Parole: Granting and Revocation - here is what exists:
    • the Board of Parole Hearings handles 2 types of cases - consideration for parole, and determination whether parole violators are returned to prison for up to 12 months (revocation).
    • those denied parole must wait 1 to 5 years before another hearing.
    • State provided legal counsel to potential parolees as well as parolees facing revocation.
    • crime victims given 30 days notice of parole hearings.
    • victims limited to 2 family members, or 2 representatives to attend the parole hearing.
    Parole: Granting and Revocation - what would change:
    • (regarding life sentences) extends the waiting period for subsequent parole hearings to 3 to 15 years, though the inmate can periodically request, but is not guaranteed, a sooner hearing.
    • notice to victims would be extended to 90 days.
    • no restriction on the number of victim's family members that can attend the parole hearing, and victim representatives would be allowed to attend and testify at the hearing regardless of whether members of the victim's family were present.
    • anyone in attendance of the parole hearing would be eligible to receive a transcript of the proceedings.
    Revocation Procedure - here is what exists:
    • parolees are entitled to a hearing (to determine if detainment is necessary) within 10 business days of being charged with violating parole.
    • parolees are entitled a hearing (for resolution to revocation charges) within 35 days.
    Revocation Procedure - what would change:
    • extends detainment hearing to 15 business days and revocation hearing to 45 days.
    The arguments for and against this one are more about emotional sympathy and "costs too much money" than anything else. Here is the strongest of each standpoint ...

    Opposed: Victim's Bill of Rights is already in place, and less than 1% of eligible manslaughter and 2nd degree murder inmates have made parole in the last 20 years.

    Approves: (example) Marcella Nicholas' daughter, Marsy, was killed (shotgun at close range) by her boyfriend. Mere days after his arrest, Marcella came face to face with her daughter's killer in a grocery store. No notice was given Marcella that he made bail.
    (example) Helter Skelter inmates Bruce Davis and Leslie Van Houten have had 38 parole hearings in 30 years time. That means families of the victims have had to attend 38 hearings in 30 years.

    Fewer hearings and stricter litigation will mean fewer tax dollars spent on the parole process. The potential is also there to increase tax dollars spent on housing these inmates longer term. No one can honestly project which will cost less or more.

    I'm on the fence with this one, but I'm not here to make your decision for you. Vote your conscience, but do go vote.

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