Voter Cheat Sheet — Prop. 57 Gives Inmates Earlier Parole; Prop. 63 Regulates Ammo and Guns
Before Angelenos head to the polls on Nov. 8, we are breaking down the ballot into some quick reads to get you up to speed on what's up for a vote. Read more about the other propositions here.
Proposition 57: Earlier Parole of Some Prison Inmates
With the state’s prison system still reeling from the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the prison population, Proposition 57 picks up where prior prison-population reforms left off by giving inmates who are serving time for “nonviolent” crimes the opportunity for early release.
Opponents say "nonviolent" is ill-defined by the state and that Proposition 57 will let criminals — particularly sex offenders — out of prison too early. It's worth noting that this measure would only allow for earlier parole; it wouldn’t guarantee it. The parole board would still have to make the call.
There were about 128,000 inmates in state prison as of early summer, and around 30,000 of them would be affected by this measure. Approximately 7,500 inmates would become eligible each year for early parole under Proposition 57, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
What crimes are nonviolent? It’s easier to take the state’s definition of violent crimes and work backward. There are 23 offenses that the state considers "violent," and anything not on that list — which excludes crimes such as arson and some sex crimes — might be considered nonviolent, according to Proposition 57's opponents. The measure's proponents agree with that interpretation of "nonviolent," but they say sex offenders already don't get early parole considerations under prior sentencing reforms, and that's unlikely to change if Proposition 57 passes.
Proposition 57 would continue to try to shrink the prison population by amending the state's Constitution to allow a point system promoting rehabilitation, in which inmates can earn credits for good behavior and for participating in rehabilitative programs. And it would give judges the authority to decide where to hear juvenile cases, a decision that's typically left to prosecutors. Last year, fewer than 600 juveniles were tried in adult court — a figure that, according to the LAO, is relatively low.
“We know what works,” Gov. Jerry Brown and two other supporters wrote in the argument in favor of Proposition 57. “Evidence shows that the more inmates are rehabilitated, the less likely they are to re-offend. Further evidence shows that minors who remain under juvenile court supervision are less likely to commit new crimes.”
Proposition 63: Regulation of Ammunition Sales and Tightening of Firearm Accountability
Of the 17 ballot measures voters face in November, this is among the most confusing. Lawmakers passed a sweeping package of gun-control legislation this summer, which preemptively amends this proposition.
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It’s not entirely clear if the amendments to the measure would withstand a legal challenge, but that’s a story for another day (Kevin de Leon, the Democratic leader of the Senate who sponsored the legislation amending Proposition 63, says it is legally sound).
Under Proposition 63, ammunition sales would be regulated by requiring buyers to get a four-year, $50 permit, which would need to be shown at the time of purchase. If someone were to become “prohibited” from purchasing ammo, the California Department of Justice would yank the permit.
But here’s the confusing part: If Proposition 63 passes, these permitting provisions will be almost immediately replaced with an entirely different background-check system — the result of those Legislature-approved amendments. The amended system would require that dealers instead check with the DOJ at the time of purchase to verify the buyer is not prohibited, for which the DOJ could charge $1 per purchase, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Proposition 63 also would require that dealers have a license to sell ammo and would make violations a misdemeanor. Out-of-state purchases would need to be shipped to licensed dealers in the state. And dealers would be required to report stolen or lost ammo to law enforcement within 48 hours (owners would need to do so within five days).
Under the measure, courts would be required to inform anyone who was just convicted of a crime that bars gun possession to surrender his or her firearm to law enforcement or sell it to (or store it with) a licensed dealer.
In March, the DOJ estimated there were almost 12,000 Californians who may illegally own firearms due to prior felonies, a history of domestic violence or mental health issues, according to Capital Public Radio. The DOJ has reduced that number since it peaked in 2013 at 21,000. But in recent years, the department has had trouble further reducing the number; the list grows by an estimated 2,000 gun owners each year.
Proponents say Proposition 63 is about saving lives. Opponents, mainly law enforcement groups, say criminalizing some of these offenses will waste resources and “overburden an already overcrowded court system” without addressing the root causes of some of the more high-profile mass shootings, like radicalism.
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