Sunday Commentary: Reisig Blames the Homeless Problem on Prop. 47

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DA Jeff Reisig

During the campaign, it was pointed out time and again the disconnect between the voters of Yolo County, who overwhelmingly supported most reforms, and the positions of DA Jeff Reisig, who opposed reforms.  But Mr. Reisig, as well as the Davis Enterprise in editorials, continue to insist that he was among the most progressive DAs in the state.

And yet, here we have it, well after the end of the campaign nearly three months ago, with Mr. Reisig still fighting against those progressive reforms.

In an article that appeared this week in the Daily Democrat, Mr. Reisig claims that the “explosion of homelessness” is related to the passage of Proposition 47.

Prop. 47, approved in November 2014, reclassified crimes, particularly drug offenses and low level property crimes, from felonies to misdemeanors and was supposed to transfer the savings into rehabilitation efforts and programs that would combat recidivism.

Mr. Reisig told the paper that Prop. 47, while “well-intentioned” has “has spurred an uptick in homeless individuals across the state.”

He said, “We can’t ignore it now.”

According to him, “the homeless population falls into three categories — the ‘truly destitute’ individuals who lost their jobs, suffered a tragedy and are desperate for help; those suffering from mental illness; and those who are ‘driven by addiction.’”

“This category has exploded in the last few years,” Mr. Reisig explained

He argued, “It is this third category of drug-addicted homeless that have been affected by Prop. 47.”

He claimed it has created “a ‘turnstile’ of offenders both homeless and otherwise. It also eliminated the legal compulsion of treatment that existed before the law was passed.”

Mr. Reisig said that the misdemeanor charge is a “ticket” with the failure appear rate between 60 to 80 percent.  He said, “A homeless person facing a misdemeanor drug charge can simply not show up to their court hearing, perpetuating the problem.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” Mr. Reisig added, noting that misdemeanors do not typically result in jail time and offenders are often “right back on the street.”

Unfortunately, the Daily Democrat only interviewed Mr. Reisig.  He presented no data to back up his claims.

The first point to make is that if there is a connection between homelessness and Prop. 47, no one else other than Jeff Reisig is drawing the comparison.  With all of the studies looking at the problems of homelessness, you would think one of them would draw the link if there were some validity.

The homeless population has increased in recent years, rising 14 percent from 2016 to 2017.  It had risen only nine percent over the previous seven years.

But part of the problem here is that Prop. 47 was supposed to take the savings and reallocate it to community and social services.  That has not happened and therefore some former inmates have ended up on the streets with no safety net or support system.

But there are no studies showing us how many people.  Without good data, everyone is guessing.  Or basing it on their ideology.

Nor is there data showing that the previous system worked.  There were high recidivism rates and high incarceration rates.  They point to things like drug court, but drug court never worked like it was purported to do so.  If it had, we wouldn’t have needed reform efforts like Prop. 47 in the first place.

If there is a failure of Prop. 47, it is in the lack of resources to deal with the underlying problems of addiction.  Why is Jeff Reisig spending his time, energy and political capital fighting against Prop. 47, rather than lobbying the legislature for actual funding to fund the rehab programs, and creating resources to work with homeless individuals?

There was an article in the LA Times in February.  The number of people living on the streets and shelters rose 75 percent from 2010 to 2017.  They report, “If you took out Los Angeles, national homelessness would have dropped last year for the first time since the recession.”

A 2016 report from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) shows that “California’s increase in homelessness runs counter to the national trend. From 2010-2015, homelessness nationwide dropped 11 percent, overall, with a 26 percent drop in the unsheltered population.”

The causes in California’s increase include high cost of housing, unemployment, low wages, mental illness with a lack of services, and substance abuse coupled with the lack of needed services.

“Homelessness is often complicated by addiction and mental illness. Statewide, the number of psychiatric beds decreased by 30% between 1995 and 2010, according to the California Hospital Association,” the survey found.

Everyone is quick to blame various factors – but without resources for treatment and services, this is a battle that seems doomed.

The bottom line: Jeff Reisig, while his comments lack any kind of statistical grounding and the article lacks any kind of alternative theories on the rise of homelessness, is correct to an extent – the rise of untreated mental illness and substance abuse are contributors to homelessness.

But Mr. Reisig is using this to attack Prop. 47 rather than attack what is really a systemic failure of the state to deal with the homeless issue, across the board.

The CSAC report notes: “Given the intractable nature of the problem, cities and counties are turning more and more to comprehensive collaborative approaches to help systematically address the root causes and immediate issues associated with homelessness.”

They note: “Solutions often center on effective outreach, short and longer term housing options, mental and behavioral health services, job trainings and more.”

What is missing?  Where the state funding for this?  Why isn’t the legislature putting more resources into treating mental illness and substance abuse?

To me, that’s where this crisis is rooted.  Charging people with felonies is not going to fix this problem either.  Creating the resources, services and support systems takes time, personnel and money, but is far more likely to succeed than the heavy stick approach advocated by Mr. Reisig and other law enforcement officials.

We aren’t going to arrest our way out of this problem, and Mr. Reisig has to recognize that we aren’t going to charge our way out of it either.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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50 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Reisig Blames the Homeless Problem on Prop. 47”

  1. Keith O

    The homeless population has increased in recent years, rising 14 percent from 2016 to 2017.  It had risen only nine percent over the previous seven years.

    Sounds to me like Reisig has it right, Prop 47 is contributing to the homeless problem.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Maybe. Would like to see more data. Regardless, the fix isn’t to charge them with felonies. The solution is the same as before – resources for services, mental health and substance abuse.

        2. David Greenwald Post author

          As far as I can the increase in homeless in California, is completely driven by LA COunty. Meaning outside of LA county, the homeless population has actually declined.

  2. Jim Hoch

    Reisig is hardly the first or only person to link Prop 47 to both homelessness and a variety of petty crimes. In SF the massive increase in auto burglary is primarily attributed to prop 47.

    “Why isn’t the legislature putting more resources into treating mental illness and substance abuse” Because the this industry does not offer the same level of bribes to state legislators. If you look at our own Bill Dodd you will see that the homelessness issue is not nearly as important as the “Garage Door Crisis” we did not know we faced. However Dodd has been unwavering in his Garage Door Militancy and he cannot get to everything. 

     

  3. Don Shor

    From the Daily Democrat article:

    Without a legal compulsion for treatment, the DA’s Office has been working with the Woodland Police Department to find other solutions.

    One such effort is HOST — Homeless Outreach Street Team — where officers on patrol interact and aid homeless individuals, including those who congregate in Freeman Park.

    “The WPD strategy is a good strategy,” Reisig said. “They are out there engaging individuals.”

    That, David, is what a progressive DA would do. I think you should work on getting a more balanced view of Mr. Reisig.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      He talks a good game, but it’s mostly lip service.

      Another that was raised to me by someone with knowledge – homelessness has been declining in Yolo County and in fact, in California in general other than LA County.

      1. Jeff M

        Your opinion of Reisig reminds me of the opinion of one of my divorced friends who frequently expresses the same about her ex-spouse who remarried and is functional and happy.  The glass is always half empty and the victim lives on.

        May I suggest some meditation to help you compartmentalize your emotions so you can objectively and rationally assess the topic?  Because you are anything but objective and rational on the topic of Jeff Reisig.

        1. Jeff M

          Reisig was an early adopter of restorative justice techniques with neighborhood court.

          This is just one of many examples of what I have provided you as evidence that you refuse to accept.

        2. Ann Block

          Reisig was an early adopter of restorative justice techniques with neighborhood court.
           
          This is just one of many examples of what I have provided you as evidence that you refuse to accept.
           

          This is just simply not true, or as his colleague at the top of the federal admin would say “alternative facts”.  Restorative justice programs have been around California for almost 30 years, with Fresno and Oakland being two of the  earliest adopters.  My ex started the program in Oakland, and I was a volunteer in it — it was called a “Victim Offender Reconcilation Program”.  Renaming or repackaging, such as for  “Neighborhood Court” doesn’t mean Reisig should get credit as an “early adopter” as that simply is not true.  Neighborhood Court, IS however, a great idea — and would be a great program for Yolo County, were it used appropriately, and not mainly for Davis noise complaints and college alcohol issues — e.g. basically “victimless” crimes.  For a restorative justice program to truly “restore” victims and the community, the crime is usually more serious — such as burglary, and the offender does work or compensates the victim directly (program only takes cases where the victim wishes to engage in the  process), apologizes, and otherwise makes it up to the victim and the community. I’m very much in favor of such programs — but the watered down NC that we presently have is a long way from the truly incredible programs around California.

        3. David Greenwald

          Along those lines back in 2013, we had David Gottleib, a Fresno County judge speak in Davis at our annual event.  They are light years ahead of where we are in terms of restorative.

        4. Jeff M

          Restorative justice programs have been around California for almost 30 years, with Fresno and Oakland being two of the  earliest adopters.

          LOL.  Yolo County compared to Oakland and Fresno?  Did you lose your nickle down the sewer but decide to look for it in the green and sunlit park?  Please point out another COMPARABLE community that implemented a neighborhood court system before Reisig.  Oakland and Fresno are not Yolo County.

          For a restorative justice program to truly “restore” victims and the community, the crime is usually more serious — such as burglary, and the offender does work or compensates the victim directly (program only takes cases where the victim wishes to engage in the  process), apologizes, and otherwise makes it up to the victim and the community. I’m very much in favor of such programs.

          I’m not.  This is a key difference I have pointed out between social justice liberals and most everyone else… that former having an opinion that theft and burglary should be more socially tolerable and thus forgiven with many second chances.  I am in favor of criminals paying back the victims to receive a reduced sentence, and I support leniency for minors on their first offense.   But we should not accept theft and burglary as “mistakes” adults make.  Stealing demonstrates a broken morality.  Stealing is very harmful to the victims.  It often harms the same low-income demographic that generates the most theft.  Go to Europe and South American countries where this “soft of theft” theme dominates and houses require iron bars, and gated communities.  And people cannot walk the streets at night without armed guards escorting them.  No thanks.  I would prefer zero tolerance laws and enforcement and thus giving the wold-be crooks some help to seek alternative legal and productive means of enriching themselves.

        5. Jake Whitaker

          Mr. Greenwald, I believe that your argument here is inaccurate. Fresno’s VORP restorative justice program is exclusively for juveniles, whereas Neighborhood Court is an adults-only program. You are comparing two things which are not equivalent. As far as Oakland, the only thing I’ve been able to find is a restorative justice program in the school discipline system. This is also not equivalent to what Neighborhood Court does, but it’s worth noting that the Yolo Conflict Resolution Center is working on something comparable in Davis. YCRC was founded by individuals who were intimately involved in the creation of Neighborhood Court.

          At the time of Neighborhood Court’s founding, only San Francisco had implemented an adult restorative justice diversion program. Yolo’s Neighborhood Court was the second of it’s kind in the state, so the claim that Reisig was an early adopter is accurate when you give it the proper context.

          In fact, numerous District Attorney’s Offices throughout the state have come to observe Yolo County’s program in attempts to start similar programs in their own jurisdictions, including Sacramento and Solano Counties. In this way, Neighborhood Court is helping lead the way for the creation of comparable programs throughout California. This is an accomplishment worthy of recognition.

          As a so-called progressive, your attempts to undermine what is at it’s core a progressive initiative seem incredibly disingenuous. If you don’t like Reisig, that’s fine. You are entitled to your opinion regarding the man, but at least give credit where credit is due.

      2. Don Shor

        He talks a good game, but it’s mostly lip service.

        Another that was raised to me by someone with knowledge – homelessness has been declining in Yolo County and in fact, in California in general other than LA County.

        What would you prefer he do, within the limits of the law and his budget resources?
        As to the purported decline in homelessness, I could not readily find any data via google that demonstrated that at the county level. So I’d be curious about the basis for that. Homeless populations are hard to measure, but as far as I can see data over the last few years showed a decline and then a slight uptick a couple of years ago. I don’t know if the numbers are in here or not: https://www.policymap.com/2018/06/local-and-national-trends-in-homelessness/

          1. Don Shor

            Useful. I think, though, that you could say that the data has fluctuated by 5 – 10% over the last decade and the most recent numbers show the population at the low ebb of the fluctuation. I’m sure there is a stat-jargon term for all of that. I wouldn’t yet come to a conclusion that the homeless population of Yolo County is on a consistent downward trend.

          1. Don Shor

            Here’s what he actually said:

            “the homeless population falls into three categories — the ‘truly destitute’ individuals who lost their jobs, suffered a tragedy and are desperate for help; those suffering from mental illness; and those who are ‘driven by addiction.’”

            “This category has exploded in the last few years,” Mr. Reisig explained

            He argued, “It is this third category of drug-addicted homeless that have been affected by Prop. 47.”

            Emphasis added. Neither he nor you have provided data about that, because homeless populations are not measured by the causes of homelessness. So he’s making an assertion that is probably neither provable nor falsifiable without a lot of effort by whoever does those surveys.

  4. Jeff M

    The first point to make is that if there is a connection between homelessness and Prop. 47, no one else other than Jeff Reisig is drawing the comparison.  With all of the studies looking at the problems of homelessness, you would think one of them would draw the link if there were some validity.

    The studies on this topic that you would care to accept frankly suck.

    They would be generally unreliable confirmation bias supporting a certain political, ideological or money-making agenda.

    I would much more readily believe a DA who has a daily job dealing with the ACTUAL, REAL situation than I would some ivory tower academic activist, or rattle-brained ACLU attorney.

    Why is it that people belonging to a certain worldview reject common sense, rational qualitative observation unless it is supported by a peer-review academic paper done by narrow-minded math-brained people that do their analysis in a windowless basement?

    Reisig’s observations make complete sense.  Just like your claim that all the lefty anti-law enforcement and pro-criminal propositions and laws would not result in a material increase in crime victims make no sense.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “The studies on this topic that you would care to accept frankly suck.”

      Please show me one such study and demonstrate its flaws. Thanks.

      “Reisig’s observations make complete sense. ”

      If they are not founded on empirical observation (math brained talk), then it doesn’t matter.

      1. Jeff M

        If they are not founded on empirical observation (math brained talk), then it doesn’t matter.

        Thanks for confirming my point.

        When you walk outside and see and feel the raindrops, do you deny it is raining until you read a report founded on empirical evidence?

        Or maybe, if your political agenda requires that the population believes we are in a perpetual drought, it would serve that agenda to deny what you can easily see and feel while demanding the studies that suit your political agenda.

        1. Eric Gelber

          When you walk outside and see and feel the raindrops, do you deny it is raining until you read a report founded on empirical evidence?

          No. By definition, if it’s raindrops, it’s raining. That’s direct empirical evidence.

          When you walk outside and see two homeless people where yesterday there was one, do you question whether it’s due to Prop 47? Without evidence of causation that rules out other explanations, yes.

        2. Jeff M

          When as the DA your office has an increase in cases where the accused is a homeless person with drug addiction problems released after Prop-47, then it is analogous to seeing and feeling the rain.

        3. Jim Hoch

          “evidence of causation” is unfashionable here on The Vanguard and with advocacy groups generally, regardless of political outlook. Examples too numerous to mention.

          1. Don Shor

            I don’t think that the DA provided any evidence of causation in his comments either, I think that he simply drew an inference based on his observations of the system from his end and somewhat biased by his previous view of Prop 47. I don’t see evidence for or against his assertion presented here, either. So this is one of those things that has neither been proven nor falsified.
            I don’t quite follow what would be Reisig’s preferred alternative, since he doesn’t provide that. He says that Prop 47 prevents them from compelling treatment, but I doubt you’d find evidence that compelling treatment works. They’re probably homeless simply because they’re not in jail; jailing people for minor drug offenses doesn’t really seem like a very viable long-term answer. The previous system wasn’t working. He says the present system is making things worse. David disagrees. But none of this gets to how the DA’s office, or other agencies, would best deal with homeless, drug-addicted individuals.

        4. Eric Gelber

          When as the DA your office has an increase in cases where the accused is a homeless person with drug addiction problems released after Prop-47, then it is analogous to seeing and feeling the rain.

          No, Jeff. Correlation does not imply causation. The purported increase followed many other events as well, including the election of Donald Trump and the 20th season of The Bachelor. Prop 47 may be the cause or it may be one of many factors or it may be unrelated. What difference does it make? What it should not be is an excuse for not taking steps to effectively address the issue.

        5. Jeff M

          A DA’s work experience would absolutely precede any study.  Why not trust the professionals on the ground unless you find the facts inconvenient to your worldview?

        6. Eric Gelber

          Why not trust the professionals on the ground unless you find the facts inconvenient to your worldview?

          Facts are facts (regardless of Kellyanne Conway’s view of alternative facts). But you confuse facts with conclusions drawn from those facts.
           

  5. Jeff M

    Here is a recent Reisig interview in the Winters Express.

    https://www.wintersexpress.com/local-news/jeff-reisig-yolo-district-attorney-profile/

    It demonstrates a thoughtful, deep-thinking, caring and progressive DA who balances the primary role of his job – to keep the residents of Yolo County safe from criminals – with the larger view of fairness in how justice is administered.

    Yolo County is very lucky to have him despite what Davis liberals and their criminal cohort think.

    “I’m not a D.A. who believes in ignoring the law,” Reisig says. “I know some of the folks who were running with D.A., not just here but in other parts of the country, believe that the D.A. should ignore parts of the laws that they think are wrong. That’s not how I view my job. My job is to enforce the law that is on the books, and use good discretion…I’ll let the folks in Sacramento decide what’s the law, and then I’ll deal with it.”

    This is the key consideration, and frankly one that always irks me.  California is controlled by liberal Democrats.  They implement the laws and a DA has to comply with them.  If David and others are upset with the choices made by the DA, they have two choices to remedy it.  One is to lobby for legislative change to the law.  The other is a lazy approach to use the fake news to demonize the DA to attempt to replace him with a soft-on-crime social justice activist.

    1. David Greenwald

      Your comment ignores a good deal of the discretion that a DA has and the variability in the charging decisions.  You’re basically buying into Reisig’s excuses for his charging policies – that’s fine, but recognize them for what they are – ad how reasoning.

        1. Don Shor

          favoring criminals.

          Interesting that you phrase it that way, because at the time they’re apprehended, charged, and tried, they are not criminals. The crimes are alleged, and they are defendants.

        2. Jim Hoch

          “Criminals” are people who have committed a crime.”Convicted criminals” are people who have been convicted of committing crimes.

          To say someone has policies favoring criminals does not require a conviction.

          1. Don Shor

            “Criminals” are people who have committed a crime.”Convicted criminals” are people who have been convicted of committing crimes.
            To say someone has policies favoring criminals does not require a conviction.

            Um, no. The person who has been accused of committing a crime is not a criminal. Defendants are not criminals by definition until convicted. You can certainly call a defendant with a prior conviction a criminal. But nobody is a criminal until convicted of a crime. That’s pretty basic, IMO.
            David does not, in my opinion, “favor criminals.” You could argue that he favors defendants. My reading of his many articles on these topics is that he favors greater police accountability with respect to the use of force, and different use of prosecutorial discretion regarding minor offenses.

        3. Jim Hoch

          “a person who has committed a crime.” Just as a “polluter” is someone who pollutes whether or not they have been accused or convicted. 

          To say a particular person is a criminal is an opinion that does not require a conviction either. There are thousands of articles online where various authors have called George W Bush a “war criminal” despite his never being convicted of such.

          To accuse a particular person of a particular crime may be considered libelous absent a conviction but not always.

        4. Jeff M

          Fine.

          I will change:

          Recognize your interests for what they are… DA activism favoring criminals.

          To…

          Recognize your interests for what they are… DA activism favoring those accused of crimes and those convicted of crimes over the victims of crimes and also over the damage to society as a whole resulting from greater leniency for those that are accused and convicted of crime.

  6. Jeff M

    I have pointed this out before.

    American liberals in general lack self control and thus project on others that they too will lack self-control and thus they feel that society should both have more rules for all, and also be more empathetic to certain people lacking self-control… especially under-represented minorities and non-conservative low-income whites… because lack of control empathy abounds for these cohorts (and they also serve to benefit the Democrat party).

    Conversely, American conservatives have greater self-control and project that on others that they too should exhibit greater self-control… and are more apt to see those lacking self-control as morally broken and in need of external judicial control.  And conservatives are fully focused on the individual in terms of delivering criminal justice… does not matter what demographic cohort.

    Conservatives also, in general, reject the liberal view that many lack self-control.  Conservatives believe that most people have the capacity for self-control except when they choose otherwise or are morally broken.  They believe that morally broken people are not easily repaired except by faith and observance of primary Judea-Christian beliefs and values (because, American conservatives believe there is no other acceptable and strong enough moral foundation that is compatible with American values).  American conservatives also believe that there should be just consequences for immoral/illegal behavior that harms others regardless of the empathy for lacking self control.  American conservatives will help and celebrate redemption and moral repair, but expect people that do the crime to do the time.

    In consideration of all this, conservatives should see Reisig as an okay DA, and liberals should see Reisig as an okay DA… and thus, he should be considered the perfect DA to keep the people of both political views satisfied.   We hear all the time that liberals would like a world with more collaboration, compromise and togetherness.  But these days it seems a big lie as even the most moderate right and left-leaning political players gets attacked and taken down by the angry mob/army of the left.

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