Initiative would expand DNA gathering, restrict early parole
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker on Monday proposed a ballot measure that would bar certain convicted rapists and sex traffickers from being eligible for early release and expand the list of crimes for which a perpetrator’s DNA is collected.
Assemblyman Jim Cooper of Elk Grove, a former Sacramento County Sheriff’s captain, said he’s taking the measure to California voters because Democratic leaders repeatedly stonewalled legislation to enact similar changes.
“This initiative holds bad people accountable,” Cooper said at a news conference outside the Capitol flanked by prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
The measure needs 365,880 signatures to go before voters in the 2018 general election. It would roll back criminal justice reforms implemented through voter-backed Proposition 47 in 2014 and Proposition 57 in 2016.
Proposition 57 allows nonviolent inmates to petition for early release and to participate in programs such as anger management and substance abuse courses that can help knock time off their sentence. No one is automatically released without going before the parole board.
Cooper and the California Public Safety Partnership said the list of nonviolent crimes is too expansive because it includes things like rape of an unconscious person and child sex trafficking, among other offenses. The initiative would add 15 crimes to the list of violent offenses that are not eligible for early release.
The expansion of DNA collection, meanwhile, would target certain crimes that were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors under Proposition 47, eliminating the state’s ability to gather DNA evidence. Prosecutors and family members of crime victim’s said that collection can help ensure perpetrators are put behind bars.
“You can’t stand and deny justice to these people,” said Stan Van Tassel, whose aunt was murdered in 1973. Her killers were convicted in 2017 based on DNA evidence.
Tom Hoffman, former head of the parole division for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the proposals should be debated in the Legislature rather than going before voters.
Lenore Anderson, president of Californians for Safety and Justice, criticized the measure as “misguided.”
“It’s not really driven by what works to stop the cycle of crime,” said Lenore Anderson, president of Californians for Safety and Justice.
This story has been corrected to show the ballot measure will not block certain convicted criminals from participating in rehabilitative programs. It will expand the definition of violent crimes to block more inmates from early release.