CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, October 24, 2008

Prop. 5 is no boon to violent offenders

As a law professor who teaches criminal law and procedure in California, I feel compelled to weigh in on the debate over Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act. I write not as a supporter of Proposition 5 but as a law professor concerned that voters are provided correct information. A poor interpretation of Proposition 5, promoted by some biased parties, has so taken hold that several large newspapers (including The Times) have come out against the measure based on this view. I will propose what, in my view, is an accurate reading of Proposition 5 and its likely effect on California's criminal justice system.

Misleading claim: Proposition 5 gives criminals a "get out of jail free" card.

This is political messaging, not accurate analysis. According to the California Legislative Analyst's Office, Proposition 5 would expand existing programs that offer treatment in lieu of incarceration, making probation-supervised treatment an option for tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders each year. These treatment programs include a system of graduated sanctions designed to ensure that defendants who have the potential to succeed remain in treatment and punish those who fail to meet the requirements. Similar criminal justice-treatment partnerships exist now and are widely recognized as a viable and cost-effective alternative to incarceration. Proposition 5 simply expands these successful programs. [Mark Godsey]

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