Sacramento, CA – A coalition of crime victims, public safety leaders and law enforcement officers have teamed up in an effort to convince California voters to classify over 20 crimes – including rape of an unconscious person and trafficking a child for prostitution – as violent offenses.
Under California’s current law, a slew of offenses most people would likely consider to be “violent” are not legally designated as such.
As a result, offenders convicted of crimes such as kidnapping a child for prostitution, drive-by shootings, felony assault with a deadly weapon, or solicitation to commit murder can be released from prison early, because their crimes were considered to be non-violent, according to the Keep California Safe website.
Detonating a bomb, abuse of an elder, assaulting a police officer with anything other than a firearm, serial arsons, and felony hate crimes are also not considered to be violent offenses.
The proposed Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2020 seeks to expand “the list of offenses that disqualify an inmate” from being eligible for early release onto parole.
“Recent changes to parole laws allowed the early release of dangerous criminals by the law’s failure to define certain crimes as ‘violent,’” the proposed legislation read. “These changes allowed individuals convicted of sex trafficking of children, rape of an unconscious person, felony assault with a deadly weapon, battery on a police officer or firefighter, and felony domestic violence to be considered ‘non-violent offenders.’”
Consequently, so-called “non-violent offenders” have been made eligible for early release after serving “only a fraction of the sentence ordered by a judge,” and have repeatedly been allowed to remain in the community after their release, “even when they commit new crimes and violate the terms” of their parole, according to the document.
Under the proposed legislation, offenders who violate their parole for a third time would be subject to a mandatory hearing to determine whether or not they should be returned to prison.
The proposed legislation noted that protecting citizens from violent crime is of the “utmost importance.”
“Murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals should not be released early from prison,” it read.
Crime Victims United President Nina Salarno Besselman, a former Sacramento County deputy district attorney, blasted California’s current laws and urged citizens to support the initiative.
“You can pimp a child for sex, beat a spouse or rape a young woman who passes out at a frat party, and it’s not considered a violent offense under state law, and that’s offensive,” Besselman wrote in an editorial published by CalMatters.
“Until California goes on record that assaulting an unconscious woman, beating up a spouse or sexually abusing a child are in fact unacceptably violent crimes, one wonders how serious the state is about stopping them,” she added.
California State Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), said that the state’s current laws have abandoned crime victims.
“We need to protect the public,” Cooper told KXTV. “There's been a lot of legislation over the past three or four years – and some needed reforms, I'll agree with you – but we've gone way overboard. And at what point—you don't hear folks talking about victims in here. What are we doing to protect victims?"
The initiative has qualified for the 2020 ballot, KXTV reported.