[Hpn] CALIFORNIA'S GOVERNOR PLAYS TOUGH ON CRIME, NY Times, 5/23/00

Thomas Cagle nh-adapt@juno.com
Wed, 24 May 2000 07:23:51 -0400


While this may not look like an issue to homeless advocates. IMO it is.
The standard is being dropped to include a variety of property crimes
that could easily include simple civil disobedience as part of a three
strikes law. This puts clearly our asses on the line. 

Tom C

On Tue, 23 May 2000 14:50:19 -0700 CAVC <CAVC.Sam@att.net> writes:
> CALIFORNIA'S GOVERNOR PLAYS TOUGH ON CRIME
> Moderate Democrat Embraces Hard Line
> By Evelyn Nieves
> New York Times
> Tuesday, May 23, 2000
> 
> SACRAMENTO, May 16 -- It was the height of the bitterly fought 1998
> campaign for governor of California, and Gray Davis, a Democrat, was
> trying to prove that he would be tougher on crime than the 
> Republican
> attorney general, Dan Lungren, who was running on a record of two
> decades in law enforcement. As governor, Mr. Davis -- then the 
> state's
> lieutenant governor, with a record as a moderate -- insisted he 
> would be
> harder on crime than anybody. He would give judges discretion to
> sentence 14-year-olds to death; he would let them consider 
> supporting
> nonunanimous jury verdicts. Indeed, Mr. Gray said in a televised 
> debate,
> on issues of law and order, he considered Singapore -- a country 
> that
> executes drug offenders -- "a good starting point."
> 
> No one took that remark literally. But these days, Democratic 
> lawmakers
> say it sometimes seems as though Mr. Davis was only slightly
> exaggerating.
> 
> Halfway into his second year in office, the governor is establishing
> himself as more of a conservative on criminal justice issues than 
> his
> Republican predecessors, or any other elected official in California 
> --
> if not the nation.
> 
> The governor has essentially removed the "time off for good 
> behavior"
> incentive that makes inmates model prisoners by refusing any
> recommendation the parole board has made to grant a release. He has
> announced that any judge he appoints should reflect his sentiments 
> "or
> resign."
> 
> He has blocked efforts to soften the state's "three strikes" law, 
> which
> can put someone in prison for life for stealing a bicycle if it is 
> his
> third felony conviction. He has vetoed a modest bill that would 
> grant
> reporters greater access to inmates in the state's closed-door 
> prison
> system, which has been rocked in recent years by corruption scandals 
> and
> has indicated he will veto a similar bill introduced this year.
> 
> Moreover, the governor -- who broke with the Democratic Party and
> endorsed Proposition 21, the youth crime initiative passed in 
> November
> that allows 14-year-olds convicted of felonies to be locked up in 
> adult
> prisons -- has stocked the parole board and other posts with ex-law
> enforcement officials who are considered hard-liners, very much like 
> his
> Republican predecessor, Pete Wilson, had done. Mr. Gray has also 
> sided
> with police groups against civil rights groups in refusing to 
> approve a
> bill to track racial profiling by police agencies.
> 
> California, already in a class by itself in terms of crime and
> punishment because of the "three strikes" law, continues to be one 
> of
> the strictest states in the nation, if not the strictest, on law and
> order, said Frank Zimring, director of the Earl Warren Legal 
> Institute
> at the University of California at Berkeley.
> 
> Governor Davis, through a spokesman, has declined repeated requests 
> over
> several weeks for an interview, saying he was too busy. But the 
> governor
> has continually cited polls showing his approval rating at more than 
> 65
> percent as proof that voters endorse his stance on law and order.
> 
> His spokesman, Michael Bustamante, says that the governor campaigned 
> as
> a centrist, made moderation a theme of his first two State of the 
> State
> speeches and told Democrats at last year's state convention exactly 
> how
> he planned to lead. "Governor Davis laid out how he intended to 
> govern
> from the center," Mr. Bustamante said then.
> 
> As a calculation, political observers say, the governor's move to 
> the
> far right on crime and punishment is a safe bet.
> 
> California is rather conservative when it comes to crime issues, 
> with
> voters consistently approving initiatives that strengthen laws 
> against
> offenders.
> In fact, California, which has the biggest court and prison system 
> in
> the country, led the prison-building boom, and Governor Davis is
> expanding it.
> 
> Both his supporters and critics regard the governor's stand as a
> political buffer against potential challengers who might fault him 
> for
> being soft on crime. But to the state's Democratic leaders -- eager 
> for
> change after 16 years of Republican governors who made hard lines on 
> law
> and order the benchmarks of their administrations -- Mr. Davis's
> inflexibility on criminal justice issues is becoming the defining
> characteristic of his administration as well.
> 
> Former Governor Wilson, who started the Proposition 21 youth crime
> initiative that Governor Davis endorsed, praised his successor as "a
> pleasant surprise on the stance he has taken on criminal justice, 
> both
> in terms of his appointments and his support of tough standards as 
> well
> as prevention."
> 
> California is enjoying a drop in its crime rate, though there is no 
> way
> to tell if it is attributable to such policies. Most other states,
> including those with less stringent stands on criminal justice, have
> experienced declines in their crime rates as well.
> 
> Even so, the governor's critics -- almost all of them from within 
> his
> own party -- say that in these good times, when the public is 
> content
> and the state coffers are flush, any governor would receive similar 
> high
> approval ratings.
> 
> In fact, they say, it is precisely during these times that the 
> governor
> can afford to show some independence rather than plod along the
> politically safe path to a second term.
> 
> "The thing that has been somewhat surprising is the kind of 
> iron-clad
> approach he has," State Senator Tom Hayden said. "Absolutism is
> something that you expect from an ayatollah, but it's surprising in 
> a
> governor in a state that's very complex and diverse.
> 
> "It's O.K. to lay down the rules, but there's been any number of
> occasions when flexibility is called for," he added. "I've seen any
> number of his appointees who share the same approach, but who 
> display
> routine flexibility. He's not bending to them. He's the hard-liner 
> in
> their ranks."
> 
> After a year in which the governor's stance on crime caused barely a
> ripple of attention, except for regular scoldings in newspaper
> editorials, his stance has received greater scrutiny and political
> disapproval in recent weeks. Or, as an editorial in The Los Angeles
> Times put it, "the honeymoon is over, brought to an end partly by 
> his
> prickly, controlling style and partly by his aversion to taking
> political risk."
> 
> In March, the governor suffered his first major political defeat 
> when
> the State Senate blocked a conservative Republican from serving 
> another
> term as chairman on the state parole board, a consequence of a 
> federal
> court ruling that the board had violated the Americans with 
> Disabilities
> Act.
> 
> James W. Nielsen, a former Republican state senator, had been named 
> to
> the board of prison terms, as the parole board is called, by 
> Governor
> Wilson in 1991 and re-appointed in 1995. Mr. Davis re-appointed him 
> to
> fill out the remaining nine months of a term last May and tried to
> extend it.
> 
> But the Senate leader, John Burton, a Democrat from San Francisco
> considered the state's most powerful legislator, refused to hold a
> confirmation hearing on the appointment.
> 
> Mr. Burton, increasingly vocal about his disagreements with the 
> governor
> over law and order, said he was outraged by a federal judge's ruling
> criticizing Mr. Nielsen -- who actively campaigned against Mr. Davis 
> in
> 1998 -- as "callous" to the rights of disabled prisoners seeking 
> full
> access to parole hearings. Some prisoners who used wheelchairs had 
> to
> crawl up stairs to attend the hearings and deaf prisoners who used 
> sign
> language had their hands shackled at hearings.
> 
> Mr. Davis turned the political defeat into a victory of sorts by 
> naming
> Mr. Nielsen to head the state youth parole board.
> 
> In a recent interview, Mr. Burton said that Mr. Davis's 
> inflexibility --
> "because he thinks a Democrat becomes a moderate by being tough on
> crime" -- ignored the possibility that people could be "redeemed."
> 
> Mr. Burton was referring to the high-profile parole case of Robert
> Rosenkrantz, who has served 15 years in prison for second-degree 
> murder.
> In June 1985, Mr. Rosenkrantz, who is now 34, killed the man who
> exposed his homosexuality to his father at a high school graduation
> party; he was sentenced to 17 years to life.
> 
> Prison officials have said he is a model inmate; numerous 
> psychologists,
> as well as the prosecutors, trial judge and detective who worked on 
> the
> case all recommended that Mr. Rosenkrantz be released.
> 
> Last month, a state appellate court took the unprecedented step of
> ruling that the parole board had abused its discretion when it found 
> Mr.
> Rosenkrantz unsuitable for parole. Under the order of a state court
> judge, who sided with Mr. Rosenkrantz when he challenged the board's
> denial, the board reluctantly set a release date for Mr. Rosenkrantz
> last year. But the governor stepped in and rejected the parole, 
> saying
> Mr. Rosenkrantz "was not currently suitable" for release. The 
> appellate
> court, ruling against the board's appeal, upheld the lower court's
> order.
> 
> The case became an issue concerning another appointment to the board 
> Mr.
> Davis has made. The appointee, Leonard G. Munoz, a former Los 
> Angeles
> police officer who had been serving on the board since last year 
> without
> confirmation by the state Senate, was part of the panel that 
> rejected
> Mr. Rosenkrantz's bid for release.
> 
> [On Thursday, the State Senate confirmed the Munoz appointment 30-4,
> after hard lobbying by Governor Davis. Senator Burton, who voted 
> against
> the appointment, warned in a floor speech that unless the governor
> loosened his parole policies, the Senate might abolish the board.]
> 
> John Vasconcellos, a Democrat from Santa Clara who is chairman of 
> the
> State Senate's Public Safety Committee, said that the board, under 
> the
> governor's edict to never approve the release of anyone convicted of
> murder, "have held Kafkaesque hearings in which conclusions have 
> nothing
> to do with the facts."
> 
> The governor, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on the
> Rosenkrantz case.
> 
> In recent days, the governor has had to confront reporters who want 
> to
> know why he continues to reject a bill that would grant journalists
> greater access to inmates.
> 
> The bill, which is similar to one he rejected last year, would 
> restore
> the ability to conduct interviews with inmates, a policy changed in 
> 1995
> by the California  Corrections Department after a series of scathing
> articles in The Orange County Register about conditions in state
> prisons.
> 
> Carole Migden, a Democratic Assemblywoman from San Francisco who 
> wrote
> both bills, said she thought it was important to keep the issue 
> alive
> even if the governor vetoed it again. Ms. Migden added that though 
> she
> was disappointed, she did not think the governor's stance on law and
> order was out of line with the voters.
> 
> "I'm sure he wants to get re-elected," she said, "just as you want 
> to
> keep your job. Everybody wants to keep their job."
> 
> Indeed, a politician, especially a Democrat, loses nothing in 
> gaining a
> reputation as an unyielding hardliner on law and order, said Mr.
> Zimring, the University of California professor.
> 
> "He loses nothing except if someone were writing the next 'Profiles 
> in
> Courage,' " he said. "I don't think Davis would make it into that. 
> But
> politically? There is no serious downside."
> 
> ------------------------------------
> Citizens Against Violent Crime (CAVC)
> "Three strikes and you're out for VIOLENT AND SERIOUS FELONIES"
> 
> CAVC is a Political Action Committee whose goal is to amend 
> California's
> three-strikes law to apply ONLY to violent and serious felonies.
> 
> Sam H. Clauder II, Political Director
> 12922 Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, CA  92840
> 714.780.8901, 714.543.6400, CAVC.Sam@att.net
> 
> _______________________________________________
> 

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