“Costly. Ineffective. Unproven. Wasteful. Dangerous.” These are the words that the No on 6 Campaign has been trying to get across to voters. The reasoning behind Proposition 6, like many other ballots before it, strikes a chord with voters on a first reading. Tougher sentences and more funding for law enforcement will keep hardened criminals off our streets and kids safe, right? But what if it’s not just “hardened criminals” that are affected? In fact, people could be put behind bars for something like failing to update a current home address.
Proposition 6 is proposing to do just that, with the creation of over 30 new punishments for crimes, as well as lengthier sentences that don’t reflect the crimes being committed. Not only will criminal penalties and laws be affected, but the proposition also expands funding for police and law enforcement. Each year the state would be required to allocate a minimum of $965 million from the General Fund for the construction of new prisons and facilities, an amount that would increase in following years according to the California Consumer Price Index.
Longer sentences would be given for gang-related crimes, methamphetamine sales and vehicle theft, resulting in an increase in people behind bars that the taxpayers will ultimately have to pay for (approximately $43,000 per inmate). Due to the current economic crisis, giving away the hard-earned money of citizens and putting it toward unproven programs that lack oversight and accountability is not only risky, but just plain irresponsible.
The most absurd and upsetting provision of the proposition is that kids as young as 14 years old – many of which are first-time offenders and can be rehabilitated – would be tried as adults rather than juvenile delinquents for certain crimes.
Countless studies have shown that balanced programs are the most effective in reducing crime; appropriate sentencing, concerted efforts between community service and mental health workers, as well as drug and alcohol services, are the only guaranteed way to reduce crime in the long term. New crimes will be created, meaning that prisons will be overcrowded with offenders for inconsequential crimes.
Locking more people up for certain “crimes” and giving harsher sentences that are disproportional to the crime committed is an oversimplified solution to a difficult problem, not to mention a dangerous misuse of the criminal justice system.
Defenders of the proposition have exploited the victims of tragic gang-related crimes and their families in order to push forward their agenda to get Proposition 6 passed. Yet the coalition in opposition to Proposition 6 includes teachers, firefighters, nurses and religious leaders, such as the California Catholic Conference, California Teachers Association, California State PTA, California State Firefighters Association and California Nurses Association.
All of these people dedicate their careers and lives to ensuring the well-being of others, and all of them understand that Proposition 6 is a grossly misguided effort. In order to provide the funding, cuts would have to be made from areas that are already suffering, such as education, health care, emergency services and programs for the elderly. It would also stall progress already being made in effective gang and crime prevention programs, such as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Cal GRIP” that launched last year.
Although on the surface Proposition 6 offers safety and crime prevention, in reality it is a drastic and excessive effort that will ultimately waste billions of taxpayer dollars without ever providing tangible results for reducing crime. With Americans facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, there is no doubt that a no vote on Proposition 6 is the obvious choice for voters on Nov. 4.
Lila Kooklan is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion