Criminal justice 'reforms' eroding our safety

By Senator Scott Wilk

Crime in our streets in on the rise. Our state has begun to plunge in safety ratings in a way reminiscent of the 1980s and 90s. This time, neither due to a crack-cocaine epidemic nor the emergence of gangs in our neighborhoods. No, this time it’s due to a gang of leaders in Sacramento, under the dome of our State Capitol, who have sent us spiraling back in to public safety oblivion.

The cause; some of our worst offenders are breaking out of our jails and flooding our streets thanks, not to Hollywood-esque escape plots, but instead to a host of public safety ‘reforms’ implemented by Sacramento Democrats over the past few years that continue to erode any sense of public safety in our communities.

It started in 2011. California put in place sweeping changes to our criminal justice system with seemingly no forethought as to the consequences of their actions.

Assembly Bill 109 was the first step on to the slippery slope we now find ourselves tumbling down with no control. It mandated, amongst other things, a relaxing in post release supervision.

The effects of this change have led to some serious and even deadly impacts in our communities. In just the last 18 months four California police officers have lost their lives at the hands of criminals who, were it not for AB 109’s lax supervision mandates, would all have been behind bars the day their heinous crimes were committed.

The perpetrators were all recently released from our criminal justice system and had both reoffended in the time leading up to the murders, one being arrested five separate times since his last stint in jail.

Previously, all these cases would’ve constituted parole violations for the three career criminals and soon-to-be cop killers – violations that would’ve landed them back behind bars the day they committed these horrific crimes.

But, thanks to these radical changes in public safety policy they were let go, setting in motion events that ended with four officers laid to their early rest and three communities – including those in the 21st Senate District who were cut deeply by the execution of L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Owen in late 2016 – reeling in the wake.

Unfortunately, these are the extreme but not only examples of the majority party’s failures as both violent and property crimes have skyrocketed in our state where police are now forced to play ‘catch-and-release’ with criminals who would have otherwise been bound for the jailhouse.

In 2014, Democrats came back for more, duping voters in to supporting a measure that ultimately led to the release of thousands of California’s prison inmates back in to our communities. Proposition 47 has now seen an estimated 10,000 criminals sprung from our prison system directly in to our communities.

It included no enhanced supervision, no treatment for those addicted to drugs and alcohol, no accountability whatsoever. It was a jailbreak, plain and simple.

Even worse, the initiative also made it harder to lock up these criminals in the future and the ramifications of these failures are already being felt throughout our state.

As kids we’re told to learn from our mistakes. But apparently some in our state never adopted that principle because just as the negative impacts of AB 109 and Prop. 47 became apparent they once again displayed their penchant for punishing California’s communities – rather than its criminals – by bringing forward another round of dangerous ‘reforms.’

Proposition 57, passed in 2016, will ultimately release nearly 35,000 more prisoners on to the streets. This time though, they won’t be ‘low-level offenders’ as claimed with Prop. 47. No, this time they’ll be rapists, arsonists, sex offenders, human traffickers; by most any standard they will be the dregs of our society.

As these and other changes continue to be implemented we will see more and more crime in our streets. More and more criminals on the loose. And more and more, there will be a need for conscientious legislators and committed law enforcers to do what we can to clean up the messes of these rash and reckless policies and keep our communities safe.

To the people of California, I promise that I will be a champion for them in this cause. That I will do all I can to ensure real reform is brought to California’s public safety policy; reform that prioritizes the good people of this state, not the bad ones.

[Also published at the Antelope Valley Press Sunday, February 11]