California voters prepare to put criminal justice reform on trial

In November, California voters will have a chance to restore some sanity to the state’s criminal justice system over the objections of pro-criminal activists who reformed it into the mess it is today.

A rollback of California’s Proposition 47 will likely be on the ballot in November. Proposition 47 softened penalties for nonviolent felonies such as fraud and shoplifting, leading in part to the surge in organized retail theft plaguing California neighborhoods. The repeal proposition that would be on the ballot would allow repeat drug and theft offenders to be hit with felonies rather than repeated soft misdemeanors and would make it easier for prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers with homicides.

Laws are only as good as the prosecutors who are enforcing them, though, which is why voters in Oakland and Los Angeles will be contemplating their own changes. Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price is facing a recall as Oakland, California, has been consumed by a violent crime surge. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon almost faced a recall, but instead, he will limp into a general election following a lackluster primary performance.

It is a reckoning that is far overdue, and it undoubtedly will invite more frantic claims from criminal justice reform activists. Californians will undoubtedly hear about how crime is down, which is easy to say when people stop reporting crimes because they know it won’t change anything when weak laws and weaker prosecutors let criminals run free. It is also not true, as both violent and property crimes have risen through at least 2022 and are widening the gap compared to national rates.

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Californians also undoubtedly will hear about “a failed era of mass incarceration” (i.e., putting criminals in jail), “California’s prison overcrowding crisis,” and “discredited policies” of putting repeat criminals in jail so they don’t commit more crimes. Indeed, Politico is already highlighting those activist talking points, which will join claims such as those from Gascon’s defenders or from Price herself, who argue that district attorneys don’t actually have an effect on crime. All of this is to hide the simple reality that Californians see: Repeat criminals are waltzing back into society and terrorizing communities.

California voters will be asked in November whether they believe what activists with their own political agenda are telling them or whether they believe the drug overdoses, homeless encampments, and locked-up retail displays that they see with their own eyes. Given that even California’s Democratic leaders have started posturing as tough on crime, don’t be surprised if (and when) Californians choose safety over rosy concepts of “reform.”

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