Can California afford Prop. 6?

October 22, 2008 7:13:48 PM PDT
Supporters of Proposition 6 say the initiative would make neighborhoods safer by making it tougher on criminals, especially gangs. Opponents say Proposition 6 would worsen prison overcrowding plus it would cost taxpayers too much money.

Proposition 6 increases penalties for several crimes including felons carrying guns, people caught with methamphetamine and those violating gang injunctions.

"You have to send a message to these people. These gang members, these punks that hey, there's going to be consequences to your actions. You're not going to do six months or a year. You're going to do 10, you're going to do five," said San Francisco Police Union Chief Gary Delagnes.

The initiative would make numerous revisions to California criminal laws. Among them, allowing juveniles as young as 14 to be prosecuted as adults if they're involved in gang related crimes.

The initiative also provides money for intervention to stop kids from joining gangs. Its co-author is State Senator George Runner of Lancaster.

"We believe what you try to do is get individuals especially young people into prevention programs and then if they still commit a crime, what you try to do is intervene early before they go to jail or prison," said St. Sen. Runner.

Proposition 6 could be expensive. The legislative analyst estimates that the funding for the various criminal justice programs in this initiative could cost a $1 billion or more.

"It requires the state to spend an additional $500 million to $1 billion dollars a year and it takes that money from education, from k through eight and from colleges and universities," said San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi.

"I do not believe in ballot box budgeting," said San Mateo County District Attorney Jim Fox

Fox is also concerned about the funding.

"I don't believe it's appropriate through the initiative process to carve out one billion dollars from a state budget which is a disaster right now," said Fox.

Senator Runner says it's only a small percentage of the state budget.

"The past budgets for previous years have already included about $600 million of those dollars so in one sense, the new dollars we're dealing with are only about $300 million," said Runner.

Much of the money would go to prisons because the number of inmates is expected to increase.

Delagnes says it's time to stop cutting criminals slack.

"If this legislation was intact and the judges were putting people where they're supposed to put them you can cut the homicide rate in San Francisco by 50 percent," said Delagnes.

"In California, we have a 70 percent recidivism rate. That means seven out of 10 people released from prison are back within a year. What Proposition 6 does, it essentially rewards a failed system," said Adachi.

The initiative would also eliminate bail for undocumented immigrants charged with violent or gang related crimes. It would also require criminal background checks for public housing recipients.


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