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California Gov. Proposes Shortening Probation Terms To Fight Spike In Crime

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced his plan to reduce the maximum probation sentence to two years.

Sacramento, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed shortening probation terms for offenders the first step in fulfilling his pledge to overhaul the state’s probation system.

Newsom said Friday that he planned to put “an unprecedented amount of money” into a plan to better serve those who were on probation for misdemeanor crimes, KCRA reported.

Officials said that most misdemeanor offenders on probation are not participating in any services or programs.

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The initiative is seen as an attempt to do something about the recent upsurge in petty crime that has spiked in urban areas since criminal justice reforms did away with jail time for some property crimes, KCRA reported.

“This goes directly to the car break-ins, this goes to the petty crime issue, this should be celebrated by the law enforcement community because of the intensity of services we want to provide,” Newsom said.

San Francisco gang members have been traveling to Los Angeles to steal from tourists’ vehicles since they now know they won’t become incarcerated for their crimes, KCRA reported.

The governor sent a budget to the legislature on Jan. 10 that requested $210 million over a four-year period to restructure the state’s probation system.

In the plan, Newsom proposed reducing the maximum probation sentence for all crimes to two years, down from five for felony convictions and three for misdemeanor offenses, according to KCRA.

The governor said supervising people for longer than two years “costs money and for small little petty things you throw people back in the system and that cycle of violence perpetuates itself.”

“This will be controversial because it’s a change,” Newsom said. “The data and the evidence and the science bears out, you front-load services — those first 18 months are determinative.”

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The Chief Probation Officers of California supported the governor’s plan to reduce probation terms, KCRA reported.

The group said that research showed Newsom is correct in his assertion that focusing on the first two years “is the best way to help change their behavior and reduce re-offense.”

But numerous other law enforcement organizations and agencies oppose the governor’s plan, KCRA reported.

California Police Chiefs Association President Ron Lawrence said that longer probation terms give officers a big window in which they can check offenders’ homes and vehicles for gun, drugs, and other contraband.

Lawrence said his organization would support improvements to the probation process but nothing that actually lessens offender accountability, KCRA reported.

“… where we really struggle and are opposed to changes are anything that would lessen accountability. Lessening the tail on probation would frankly lessen that accountability,” he said.

Lawrence said probation supervision tended to discourage additional criminal behavior.

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Newsom’s reduced probation plan comes at the same time law enforcement across the state are adjusting to numerous other criminal justice reforms that have just gone into effect, KCRA reported.

California is now sending less serious offenders to jail instead of prison, allowing earlier parole, and has reduced many drug felonies to misdemeanors.

“We need to wait and see what some of the other reforms do to the crime rates before we do what he’s proposing,” Lawrence said.

Sandy Malone - January Sun, 2020

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