California governor turns in signatures for crime initiative
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown turned in nearly a million signatures on Friday backing his bid to ask voters to approve new ways to reduce California's prison population, a spokesman said.
Brown wants voters in November to increase credits that allow adult inmates to get out of prison more quickly and to allow earlier parole for non-violent felons.
The measure "will give voters a chance to improve public safety by providing incentives for people to turn their lives around," campaign spokesman Dan Newman said in an email.
The Democratic governor submitted the higher number of signatures to ensure that he has the more than 585,000 valid signatures required for a constitutional ballot measure this year.
California's district attorneys say his initiative would increase crime and undermine laws designed to protect crime victims' rights.
"With crime rates rising dramatically across the state of California for the first time in decades we believe the voters will be extremely reluctant to pass a measure that allows violent felons who have committed crimes along the likes of domestic violence, human trafficking, rape of an unconscious person and assault with a deadly weapon to be let back out on the streets before serving the time sentenced by a Judge," California District Attorneys Association chief executive Mark Zahner said in a statement.
Zahner said opponents will begin campaigning next week "to oppose this and protect victims and the future safety of Californians."
Opponents said previously that they may not be able to financially match the $24 million that Brown has in his campaign account. But they enlisted support from critics including Marc Klaas, a national advocate for abducted children whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered in 1993.
They also challenged the governor's proposal in a lawsuit that is awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court. The district attorneys say Brown acted improperly when he amended his plan onto a ballot measure dealing with the juvenile justice system.
The justices let Brown's supporters collect signatures while they consider whether his amendments were so different and came so late that they violated state law.
Brown argues that his initiative is necessary to avert the possibility that federal judges could order the release of inmates to avoid crowded conditions. He also wants to cement into state law several judges' orders that already help reduce the prison population by speeding how quickly felons can be paroled.
Brown told business leaders earlier this week that his measure would partially reverse the fixed sentencing system that he signed into law nearly 40 years ago when he was governor for his first two terms.
"What I didn't take into account was that if you tell someone on the day of sentencing, 'You have 5, 10 , 15 or 50 or 60 years and you can't do anything to change that,' you do take away incentive and you do create more violence in prison and you do create more rule breaking," he said. Brown said his proposal, among other things, would allow inmates to earn time off their sentences "by good behavior, by really changing your life."