Californias Proposition 5, which would do all sorts of strange things to the states Penal Code, changing the way Californians actually live, has predictably been overshadowed by Prop 8, which has only symbolic importance for its most ardent, passionate and aroused supporters. (Yes, but what symbols!)
Prop 5 is massively long – 57 sections over 20 pages of small type – making it difficult even for those of us trained to endure long statutes to be sure exactly what it does.
But the California Secretary of States website does include this very amusing “rebuttal” to arguments against Prop 5 from Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, who (according to his own website) ran for Congress as a Republican and for the Senate as a Libertarian without having to hang up his robe:
Under Prop. 5, judges make the call as to which nonviolent offenders get into treatment and which don’t. Judges know how to separate dangerous offenders from deserving cases. We do it every day.
Nothing in Prop. 5 prevents judges from sentencing dangerous offenders for the crimes mentioned by opponents.
Its not really a criticism of judges to say: balderdash and blatherskite. No ones particularly good at predicting future violence except in the obvious, Tasmanian Devil cases. But judges are demonstrably bad at it.
From Englands reliably excited Daily Mail we learn (if thats the right verb to use in connection with the Daily Yell):
Criminals on probation commit a murder every week, official figures show.
In the past two years, offenders under supervision have been convicted of 121 murders.
Meanwhile, 44 have been convicted of manslaughter, 103 of rape and 80 of kidnapping.
(Nice short paragraphs, no?)
In comparatively unpopulated New Mexico, our number of homicidal probationers is much more modest, according to my local paper, the Albuquerque Journal:
At least 13 people sentenced to probation in the past five years have been charged with committing homicide while serving their sentences, according to a survey of court records.
Two of them have been charged with multiple killings while on probation, bringing the total number of deaths to 16.
(Those monstrously long paragraphs! They wind on and on like mountain roads!)
Sixteen deaths is pretty horrible, but I dont think anyone should be surprised that probationers (allegedly) committed them. As the best recent justice of our Supreme Court mildly observed in a Halloween op-ed, “The unpredictability of behavior of an unpredictable population is a real challenge to those working in the system.”
Its hard to know when some people are done being dangerous. That works both ways, of course. We learn about the dangerous people judges let out, but not about the undangerous sent away to prison.
There may be some excellent reasons for voting for Prop 5, but faith in the ability of judges to predict the future dangerousness of drug-abusing criminals isnt one of them.
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