Monday, September 25, 2023








        Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democrats in Sacramento are working steadily these days to close several California prisons, perhaps as many as six.


        The stated benefits include saving money and doing something to address mass incarceration of Blacks and other minorities, which is partly the result of the much-maligned federal and state “war on drugs.”


        But despite support from the elected chief prosecutors in several of the most populous California counties, there are dangers.


        Take some provisions of a bill that came within a hair of becoming law this fall, one that would allow most convicts, including murderers and rapists, to petition for re-sentencing and eventual parole if they can show “mitigating circumstances” drove them to their crimes, no matter how heinous.


        This measure, known as SB 94, will surely be back for another try next year with a different number. It does not specifically call for prison closings, but if it becomes law, could significantly reduce the population in high-security prisons and justify one or more prison closings.


        The proposal is also considered likely to be amended to include virtually all inmates currently under death sentences or serving terms without possibility of parole. The 2023 version exempted anyone who murdered three or more persons.


        No doubt, some of those involved have reformed, at least to some degree. Others have grown older and feebler. But some remain threatening, regardless of the findings of parole boards.


        One example cited by the City Journal, published by the conservative Manhattan Institute, is Timothy Chavira, convicted in 1986 of beating and stabbing to death his stepmother. For this, he received a sentence of 26        years to life. He was released from prison in 2017, but returned there three years later after stabbing a retired woman doctor in El Sereno, an area of Los Angeles.


        Now he has a new sentence of life without possibility of parole – unless SB 94 or its likely heir should pass.


        No one knows how many Timothy Chaviras now reside in California prisons, where they can harm no one but their themselves or fellow inmates until and unless they are released. In fact, some are already wreaking havoc on other prisoners, as inmate-on-inmate murders and beatings have reportedly increased this year.


        This did not deter supporters of SB 94, who got the bill through the state Senate and its ironically named Public Safety Committee before it was suspended for now by state Assembly leaders.


        Sponsored by Democratic Sens. Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Corey Jackson of Riverside, among others, it is certain to reappear later this year or next.


        That’s especially likely since the measure has been supported by state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta and the ultra-liberal district attorneys of Los Angeles and Alameda counties, George Gascon and Pamela Price.


        Essentially, they all back early releases for many of the worst of the worst among California convicts.


        Gascon and Price were elected on promises to go easier on serious criminals, including omitting some earlier felony “strikes” against them as sentencing factors and enforcing no-cash-bail policies wherever possible, despite the fact California voters by a large margin in 2020 passed a referendum canceling a law that sought to eliminate cash bail statewide.


        Prisoners who would be eligible for parole and/or reduced sentences under SB 94 or its presumed successor could also see any special circumstances (like use of a firearm in their crime) disregarded.


        Politicians like Wiener, who knows he will never face a serious reelection challenge because his district is so heavily Democratic, have not been dissuaded by seeing this bill placed in suspension.


        That’s in keeping with the pattern he followed in pushing over several years for housing density measures like SB 9 and SB 10, which essentially ended single-family zoning throughout California. His bills were suspended multiple times, but eventually passed and became laws when Newsom signed them.


        So long as Newsom remains hell-bent on reducing prison populations to save money, SB 94 and its like will never die, but always return until a soft-on-crime Legislature eventually passes it, as happened with no-cash-bail.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment