April 12, 2007
Op-ed from California legislators urging commission
California Senators Gloria Romero and Don Perata make their case for SB 110, a bill to create to create California's first sentencing commission, in this Sacramento Bee op-ed piece. Here is a taste:
Members of the Legislature have begun debate on a slew of prison reform bills. We are knee deep in a prison crisis and now is the time for action -- not rhetoric, scare tactics or labeling. Specifically, the Senate Public Safety committee recently heard our Senate Bill 110, which would create a Sentencing Commission for California.
The commission would be charged with the responsibility of collecting and analyzing sentencing and corrections data, developing statewide sentencing policies and achieving uniformity and consistency in our sentencing practices. In creating a sentencing commission, we will join 21 states that have a body that conducts some form of sentencing policy review, plus Washington, D.C., and the federal government.....
We need resolve, and we need action, and SB 110 is the prescription we require. The commission, as proposed, would be independent and nonpartisan, not allied with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation nor with the governor. It should not be merely advisory. It should command accountability; it should have teeth....
Everybody agrees that CDCR is in a state of crisis. The budget for the department has now ballooned to $10 billion and the governor has proposed spending an additional $11 billion this year to build new prisons and expand jail capacity. Yet our recidivism rate is more than 70 percent, and our parole system has been dubbed a billion-dollar failure. Not one but three federal judges have threatened to take complete control of the system, and the governor already has declared a state of emergency. June 4 is our deadline to find overcrowding relief before the court establishes a panel of judges to impose a cap....
We hear those critics who say Democrats are being "soft" on crime. But looking "tough" on crime isn't really worth much if in the end we can't deliver a correctional system that can pass constitutional muster. And looking "tough" on crime isn't really worth much if we can't even protect the public's safety.
We can't build or export our way out of this crisis. It will take political will and backbone to provide systemic relief that includes parole success, rehabilitative programs, sentencing reforms and, yes, perhaps, additional beds.
April 12, 2007 at 06:33 PM | Permalink
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The last paragraph of the analysis by the staff of the Senate Public Safety Committee (i.e., Romero's own staff) says:
The author may wish to explore whether these restrictions are sufficient to ensure that the commission's mandate under this bill could not be construed to be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.
That strikes me as deferential staffer-speak for "You gotta be kidding, boss."
Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 12, 2007 7:17:30 PM
Undoubtedly without surprising anyone, Mr. Scheidegger spins it. The entire quote is this:
This bill contains the following two provisions restricting the
authority of the commission:
The Commission would be required to retain "the
statutory classifications of offenses as infractions,
misdemeanors, alternate felonies or misdemeanors, and
felonies existing in California as of January 1, 2008
. . . "; and
The sentences provided by the commission would be
subject to rejection by a statute passed by a
two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
The author may wish to explore whether these restrictions are
sufficient to ensure that the commission's mandate under this
bill could not be construed to be an unconstitutional delegation
of legislative power.
So obviously the question was is these restrictions are enough. Senator Romero is probably the most widely informed on the prison issue and she of course "explored" it.
Posted by: George | Apr 13, 2007 4:10:46 AM
No spin. There is a very serious question whether the bill as written is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. That's what the paragraph I quoted implies with or without the one that precedes it.
Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 13, 2007 12:46:33 PM