Senator Hollingsworth Denounces Prisoner Early Release Bill
Senator Hollingsworth Comments on Prisoner Early Release Bill
Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth addressed the Senate floor to denounce the Prisoner Early Release Bill. To view a video of Senator Hollingsworth’s floor speech, please click here.
Mr. President, Senators –
The first, foremost, primary, and most important role of government is the protection of the public safety. It is the protection of people from very, very bad people who would take their life, brutally assault them, take their property, and otherwise commit crimes against them. That is our first and foremost responsibility in this Legislature – in this state government.
And what we have here today that is being characterized as a problem with prison populations is just not correct. And what we have today that is being further characterized as a larger problem with our criminal justice system is absolutely not correct. And I and my colleagues could not disagree more vehemently.
What we have today, and I will explain this in detail, is we have the failure with this measure to take on increasing costs of an agency, a bureaucracy that have been foisted on it by the courts, and inefficiencies, and lack of attention. But it is not due to a increase in prison population. We do not have that problem.
Since 1999 the prison population was 162,000. Today, with 5 million more California’s population, the prison population is 162,000, but we are spending billions more on that system. That is a financial management problem, not a prison population problem. Your remedy is to let bad people go and to take away people’s liberty, life, and their property. You are saying with this measure that we need to change the criminal justice system because it’s not working.
Let me be clear. In 1993, we had almost 400,000 cases of violent crime every year in this state – with a whole lot less people. And what did we have pass then. Because of this body, in the early eighties and mid-1990s, refusing to act on skyrocketing cases of violent law, the people took in their own hands passed 3 strikes, truth in sentencing, 10-20 life – and what happened?
In 1994 it started dropping. And last year what did we have? Less then 200,000 cases. Less then 200,000 cases of violent crime with the same number of prisoners and many more millions of Californians. So tell me that that is a criminal system that is not working. That’s a prison system that needs adjustment, not a criminal justice system. And you cannot say you are not making tremendous changes to that when you are talking about changing criminal laws to let people out early…in order to change what is a felony to a misdemeanor… in order to change vehicle theft if its less than 2500 bucks…and to give good time credits for doing nothing but showing up in your cell. This is an exploitation of a fiscal problem for an agenda that you have wanted to do but the people have taken away from you at the ballot box because they have the power of initiative.
So today we have put on the table many proposals that would save much more than the 1.2 billion dollars. Throughout this process we have proposed changes that would not let people go, that would not change our criminal justice system…that would put savings back into the system…they have not been incorporated into this proposal. Today we attempted to amend what is before us a terrible proposal and you rejected every one of those amendments.
Tell me, if this is a fiscal crisis, and the resolution of a fiscal crisis, why is there a sentencing commission in there that takes the legislative authority dually granted to an elected body by the people and gives it to something extra-governmental? Something completely outside of the power of the people to change, and then winks and says, “You know what…we can reject those recommendations if we want to, but if they choose to lower the type of sentences that has made this state safer than it has been from the 1950s those will have the force of law” Without one elected member of the Legislature ever voting to ever change that sentence. And then you have the gall to put a felon on there to advise people? I wonder what he will recommend?!
This is the exploitation of a fiscal problem in order to achieve a liberal agenda that the people have taken away from you. You have rejected real savings that the Republicans have offered in order to accomplish that exploitation. And it should be rejected.