By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
While Baca was devising new avenues to help bangers out of the gang life, Governor Gray Davis was finding new roadblocks to replicating such programs, pulling funds for locally developed juvenile-crime-prevention initiatives from the Schiff-Cardenas Crime Prevention Act (AB2885) before signing it -- an innovative semi-veto that left only the hard-edge strategy of apprehend and prosecute funded. The original bill set aside $121 million for prevention and deterrence. Specific programs were to be shaped, and spending to be funneled through various counties‘ Juvenile Justice Coordinating Councils, multi-agency task forces chaired by Attorney General Janet Reno. Prospective projects ranged from truancy and mental-health counseling for at-risk youth to substance-abuse and drug-diversion programs and close monitoring of probationers and parolees. Los Angeles County was slated to receive $34 million.
In announcing his plan to do away with that part of the act, Davis says, “The programmatic justification for the juvenile-justice programs in the bill is insufficient” and their benefits “unclear.” Although the bill enumerated several criteria by which programs would be evaluated -- juvenile arrest rate, restitution rate, community service and probation-completion rates -- the assessment formula was not specific enough, explains Calvin Smith of the state Finance Department. As a counter-proposal, the governor offers slightly more than half the funds ($71 million) for such efforts, but adds several conditions: The money may not go to existing locally funded programs, and legislators must include “a mechanism for the programs . . . to be measured and assessed.” As written, the bill “amounted to block grants to the counties,” says Smith. Davis demands as a final condition that $9 million be included for Turning Point Academy, a six-month “boot camp” that would accept about 300 juveniles per year who had been expelled for bringing weapons to school.
“We need to invest an equal amount proactively, at the front end,” says state Senator Adam Schiff, one of the bill’s authors and a former federal prosecutor, after chairing a hearing on youth violence in Glendale July 20. “When D.A.s can decide to send 14-year-olds to prison with adult murderers and rapists, we should be spending some money on prevention,” agrees state Senate majority leader John Burton, alluding to one of the draconian terms of Proposition 21, approved in the March primary.
Besides offending backers of the legislation, Davis‘ decision upset lawmakers because of his unprecedented attempt to pick and choose among spending items within a single bill, blocking the $121 million for prevention while approving another $121 million for police and prisons. A governor can sign a bill, veto it or reduce everything in it proportionately, but “he can’t rewrite it,” says Burton, who promises, “There‘ll be an effort to assert the separation of powers outlined in our constitution.”
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