It's open season on law-abiding Californians.
At least that's the message coming from Sacramento.
The State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to review more than 9,200 outstanding warrants of parole violators starting next week.
But don't fret, we are told they will start giving "do not go to jail" cards to non-violent criminals first and will steer clear of sex offenders. The end goal is to relieve state prison and county jail overcrowding while easing the workload of parole agents, allowing them to concentrate on more serious felons.
If you think this is a great idea, ask police officers who is responsible for committing 90 percent of the crimes. You might be a bit surprised to find out that it is 10 percent of the criminals. And what is one of the most effective ways to go after them? You guessed it, getting them on "lower level" parole violations.
Car thieves and burglars are considered non-violent criminals. Several of the most prolific car thieves were ultimately tripped up by parole violations.
What Sacramento is proposing will ultimately weaken what is arguably the most effective law enforcement tool available to protect the general public from repeat criminals. You don't need a warrant to search a parolee's person or place of residence. What is taking place next week starts a trip down a slippery slope where parole violations will be diluted when it comes to real consequences, therefore robbing society of a degree of protection.
It sound callous but even non-violent criminals that ended up spending time in state prison earned the stay. With perhaps the exception of some drug users who may not have stolen or done other crimes while trying to secure funds to buy drugs or while doing drugs, you are going to be hard-pressed to find a criminal in the state prison or parole system who hasn't victimized a law-abiding citizen.
Conditions of parole are made to protect society, not to avoid inconveniencing the government.
Other states - notably Arizona - have found ways to incarcerate criminals in large numbers without raising the ire of federal courts or breaking the proverbial bank. That's because those states have carefully crafted laws that pass constitutional muster and aren't as accommodating of inmates as we are in California. Part, not all, of our prison overcrowding is political in nature. And it's not just from the people who want to throw all criminals in the slammer and throw away the key. It is as much the fault as those pushing for prison reform.
On Jerry Brown's first watch as governor, he came up with conjugal visits. Lo and behold a number of children were born from such visits. Sometimes they were born to lifers. And guess who ended up paying for the cost of feeding, sheltering, and clothing a large number of the kids conceived behind bars? They are California taxpayers. And who are the kids most likely to commit crimes? They come from low-income families where a father figure is absent.
We have a system in place that commits more resources, often dictated by the courts, to provide a better level of care for criminals than veterans.
Parolees are expected - and required - to follow certain rules before they are allowed to enter society without a lot of strings attached. If they can't follow a simple rule such as reporting to parole agents, what makes anyone believe they have been truly rehabilitated?
If you are caught violating a condition of your parole that says you can't consume alcohol and you kill a family of four while driving under the influence, then you need to suffer the consequences of your actions,
What is happening in Sacramento next week is not a step toward reforming the justice and prison system, but a step toward weakening it in the name of expediency.
Perhaps some of the things warrants should be dropped. That decision, though, should not be left up to bureaucrats. Instead, it should be done out in the open.
In short, the Department of Corrections is taking steps to make life easier for themselves by negating the authority of the legislature and the justice system created on behalf of the people.
They've got a daunting job, but that doesn't justify letting convicted criminals off the hook for their irresponsible actions, no matter how trite those actions may seem on the overall scheme of things.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.