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State's early prisoner release plan will cost us
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Consider the following scenario. It does not represent the extreme, nor has it been dramatized - this is an everyday crime scenario in California's Central Valley:

During early morning hours, police officers make a routine traffic stop and find evidence of stolen goods taken in recent burglaries from three different homes. The police also determined that the vehicle was stolen from a home in the area. The thieves entered a home while the residents were sleeping, took the car keys and subsequently stole their vehicle. Further investigation reveals a pry bar that was used for committing home and vehicle burglaries, and of the three suspects, one is a parolee "at- large," and the other is a juvenile who is on probation for the prior crimes.

Our Central Valley cities are flooded with criminals just like these, and a tidal wave of more is just months, if not weeks away. The reason is that the state legislature is attempting to save money by "early-releasing" some 20,000 convicts from the state prison system. The claim is that these convicts are "non-violent," and will not harm the safety and security of the communities to which they will be returning. Any such assertion is pure folly, if not an outright misrepresentation.

According to the California Police Chiefs' Association, "the Legislative leadership is poised to push a budget that will take $5.4 billion from local government, provide for the wholesale release of felons from state prison, wipe out all 51 Bureau of Narcotics task forces, and, for the first time in the state's history, require local law enforcement to pay to use the state's crime labs."

Facts gleaned from the Rand Corporation, a respected research institution, suggest that, "For every 5000 felons who receive an early release, 45,500 new crimes will be committed over a three year period, and 9,000 of those crimes will be violent felonies." In effect, any vote that leads to the early release of felons on that scale will "deterministically create new crime victims." The math is simple. Releasing some 20,000 felons into our communities will likely result 190,000 new victims. And, we need to keep in mind that the recidivism rate for convicts is more than 70 percent.

If these cost-savings measures become reality, the state will have successfully transferred the cost of these criminals right onto the backs of taxpaying citizens like you and I. There will be no savings - except maybe to the state itself, but the cost to citizens in our communities in terms of stolen property, increased insurance premiums, stolen vehicles, injuries and even deaths will be much more than the $1.2 billion that the state is attempting to save. The quality of life in California will also be adversely impacted with more neighborhood drug activity, and more cases of desperate and homeless people "living on the fringes" and doing whatever they must to survive. Crime in our region is already far beyond what is tolerable, and it is sure to get much worse.

On top of the state's threats to early-release prisoners is the impending decision by the Ninth District Federal Court to release anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 prisoners early because of lawsuits alleging prison overcrowding. The aforementioned figure would be adjusted downward if the state makes its own early-release move, but regardless, the effects on the people will be devastating.

The assertion that the prisoners proposed for early-release are non-violent and do not represent a threat to public safety is simply untrue. First, it takes many crimes (I have heard estimates from 8-13 crimes committed) before a criminal [finally] ends up in state prison, and a majority of them have violent crime somewhere in their background. The last crime committed that led to a prison sentence, indeed, may have been for a non-violent crime, but one only need to look into a given criminal's past to see the totality of their criminal propensities.

The state's budget mess has been long in the making and it will not be corrected for a long time to come. Drastic cuts are necessary and they must be made quickly in order to save the state from bankruptcy. And, we must not forget that the first and foremost purpose of government is to provide public safety and services. There are many other services which are not critical to the government's mission that should be cut before leaving law-abiding citizens in harm's way.