5 California governors oppose drug initiative

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Five California governors came together
Thursday in rare bipartisan opposition to a ballot initiative they fear
would harm public safety by easing punishment for drug offenders.

Proposition
5 would divert tens of thousands of drug offenders annually from
prisons or jails into treatment programs. It expands on a similar
initiative approved by voters in 2000.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
was joined by predecessors Gray Davis, Pete Wilson, Jerry Brown, and
George Deukmejian at Thursday’s event at a Los Angeles County’s
criminal courts building in downtown.

By SOLVEJ SCHOU
Associated Press Writer

“We’ve cracked down on sex
offenders and drug dealers and gangs,” Schwarzenegger said.
“Proposition 5 will take us in the opposite direction … It was
written by people who care more about the rights of criminals.”

The
Yes on 5 campaign said the governors’ united front shows California
prisons are a bipartisan failure. Under the governors’ collective
watch, prison crowding ballooned to the point that federal judges are
considering population limits despite the state’s construction of 21
new prisons since the 1990s.

Proposition 5 shortens parole for
most drug and property crimes. It prohibits sending many paroled drug
offenders back to prison unless they commit a new felony or have a
record of committing violent or serious crimes.

All five
governors last successfully opposed a 2004 initiative that would have
eased California’s three-strikes sentencing law. But Deukmejian missed
that event four years ago, issuing a statement instead.

“It’s very rarely we get together like this, Democrats and Republicans. I love this,” said Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Former
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, now the state’s attorney general, said the
ballot measure “destroys accountability (and) weakens the power of
judges” because it limits their ability to punish offenders who don’t
attend treatment programs or stay off drugs.

Davis, a Democrat,
and Wilson, a Republican, both criticized state spending required under
the measure. The Legislative Analyst’s Office projects the measure
could cost the state $1 billion a year for treatment programs. But the
nonpartisan analyst says that could be more than offset because an
estimated 17 percent of prison inmates would be diverted to treatment
programs.

“At best this is a well intentioned idea at the wrong time,” Davis said.

Wilson and fellow Republicans Deukmejian and Schwarzenegger said the measure would be dangerous at any time.

“The
people who got us into this mess are now teaming up with the prison
guards union and opposing any solutions,” said Yes on 5 spokesman Tony
Newman.

The wealthy, influential California Correctional Peace
Officers Association this month dropped an expensive effort to recall
Schwarzenegger in midterm, deciding to concentrate instead on opposing
ballot measures like Proposition 5.

The union has since put more
than $1.8 million into derailing the measure backed by billionaire
investor and liberal activist George Soros and the New York-based Drug
Policy Alliance Network.

That prompted Yes on 5 television ads
this week accusing guards of supporting crowded prisons because they
enjoy more overtime pay. They counter No on 5 ads that feature U.S.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein calling the measure “the drug dealers’ bill of
rights.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>