Valley law enforcement leaders Thursday gathered to urge a “no” vote on Proposition 57, which advocates say will amend the state constitution to allow parole consideration for “nonviolent” felons, and opponents argue will endanger public safety through an early release of offenders convicted of violent crimes such as rape and assault with a deadly weapon.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims became the face of opposition to Proposition 57 last week when Gov. Jerry Brown criticized Mims in a voice mail for issuing a campaign mailer against the measure. That prompted Mims to counter that the governor was mistaken about the measure’s potential impact. She cited the case of Arthur Lindsey, a 77-year-old repeat criminal convicted of 10 charges, including rape and possession of a firearm by a felon. Lindsey would be eligible for release under Proposition 57, Mims stated.
Mims also received unexpected support before the gathering from reality television star and fugitive hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman, who also attacked Proposition 57 in a letter to the governor.
The law enforcement officials who gathered with Mims at the Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association building Thursday contend the governor cannot argue that only nonviolent inmates would be released under the measure.
“The governor is the best advocate we have on Proposition 57,” Mims said. “Just the fact that he didn’t know what is in it should be very scary.”
Dyer: Prop. 57 ‘ill-conceived’
Said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer: “It is nothing more than an ill-conceived proposition designed to enhance the ability of career criminals to get out of prison before their time.”
Dyer and others argue that the measure will worsen crime even more than the recently passed Proposition 47, which increased early release of some state prisoners by turning felonies into misdemeanors. The chief said crime in the city rose 16 percent in 2015 and is up by 16 percent so far this year.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp noted that the state prison population has recently declined by one-third, causing a crime spike.
“It (Proposition 57) will be even more disastrous than all the other early release programs combined,” she said.
Bounty hunter backs Mims
Chapman, the reality star who echoed Mims’ attack on Proposition 57, is well-known to fans of the reality genre for tracking down criminals who skip court and leave bondsmen on the hook for the bail. In perhaps his most famous case, he ran afoul of authorities in 2003 after he went south of the border to capture fugitive cosmetics heir Andrew Luster.
“The most egregious notion of Proposition 57 … is this list of ‘nonviolent criminals’ who will all of the sudden be eligible for early release,” Chapman said. He cited Luster, the fugitive he captured in Mexico, whom he said drugged and raped his victims, as the sort of criminal who could be released under the measure.
“A blanket early release on supposed ‘nonviolent’ criminals will not aid in their rehabilitation,” Chapman concluded. “It will simply put a strung-out junkie back on the streets to continue his or her life of crime.”
Mims said the Luster case shows “the danger of what it takes to put someone into custody and what it takes to put them back,” when they escape authorities.