A Vote of Leniency

there arial, pharmacy sans-serif;”>By Leo G. Alvarez

Literally, the chickens have returned to roost. In this case, early release prison inmates are coming home early thanks to lenient and un-caring Federal judges.

Let’s backtrack. In settling lawsuits some federal judges said California’s uncaring prison system was not providing adequate medical treatment to prisoners because of overcrowding. Their “cure” was to bring the prison populations down. Their solution was early release.

Enter our bleeding heart do-gooders who decided the best and quickest way to do this was to reduce sentences by making some felony crimes misdemeanors thereby, decreasing time to be served and sending prisoners to jail rather than prison. As to those currently in prison, those who were convicted for non-violent crimes were also considered for early release. This was placed on the shoulders of California voters through the initiative method.

No one, except those who deal with criminals out of jail or prison saw what this was leading to months and years later. Their cautions were heard but not listened to.

It sounded good. But what was the “hole” in the law is that consideration was not given to the prisoner’s criminal record, but his last conviction. Further, what was not seriously considered was that none of this was going to change the personalities or perceptions of these inmates. They are not referred to as “career criminals” for no reason.

They, too many times, had a history of failed classes in school, were survivors of child abuse, had brushes and arrests with law enforcement, pushed out the doors of schools in a hurried manner while still years behind their classmates. Their parents could not deal with behavioral problems and eventually, but still loving them, shrugged their shoulders and stopped parenting.

The justice system then became the “parent” and for too many, gangs became their family, and the public their main source of income which came from burglaries, robberies and thefts.
Once incarcerated, Juvenile Hall and the jails became their elementary school where exchange of information and education came from “career” criminals. They learned the law as it applied to them and in some cases how to circumvent it, how to deal with law enforcement out on the streets, oh, and yes, their rights.

Once in the Prison-University system their education continued from “professors” whose tenure was measured in years behind bars. Their fraternities were gangs who controlled street gangs from behind bars so once “graduated” from prison they had connections to further their career path.

This is something the compassionate public never considered.

On leaving prison they may be met by representatives of their “home” probation departments (they are no longer on parole) because they cannot be trusted to report to probation which is a condition of their release. A violation of probation will net them a slap on the wrist or a few days in jail. Possessing no legal job skills they will probably continue on their career path as they reconnect with friends in the hood and contacts they formed while in prison.

Their playing field is now a little friendlier, and the rules have changed in their favor. Penalties for breaking the rules have become more lenient, fewer crimes with prison penalties, more with jail time and probation rather than parole upon release.

And in the end who is footing the bill and has now seen the crime rate rising, and an increase in violence? LOOK! The same victims who cared about them so much that they voted for leniency.

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Leo Alvarez is retired from Oxnard PD and is President of the Children’s Wall of Tears™ www.thecwot.org

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