Monday Morning Thoughts: Yolo DA Blames Homeless Crisis on Prop 47

On Facebook last Friday, the Yolo County DA posted from a Fox-LA article which cited Dr. Drew Pinsky calling Prop. 47 “murder” and calling on lawmakers “to modify legislation enabling mental illness crisis.”

Writes the DA’s office: “California is experiencing a massive homeless crisis. Every community in Yolo County is affected as well. Data shows that nobody in California has come up with a solution that has slowed or reversed the crisis yet. The number of people living on the streets keeps rising. Why? Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction and mental health expert, recently shared his opinion in the attached news story.”

“The fact is — (Prop) 47 is murder. It is murder,” Dr. Drew told FOX 11 during a Good Day LA interview last Monday morning.

“It’s not just solving the mental health and addiction problem for the homeless — the homeless problem is a mental health and addiction problem,” Dr. Drew said. “If you don’t have leverage, some consequence for using… they will use until they die – and that is murder.”

Dr. Drew says that only 10 percent of people with a drug problem seek treatment. “80 percent of people say that they don’t want it and they don’t need it — that’s the nature of the disease.”

The article notes: “Although Dr. Drew does not believe this should be a criminal justice problem, he is calling on lawmakers to reform Prop 47 in order to help the mentally ill get the treatment they need.”

But that’s the problem—prior to Prop. 47, drugs and other non-violent offenses were dumped into the criminal justice system.  Prop. 47 was then supposed to free up money for health-based issues.

The homelessness crisis is more complex—driving it is a housing market that has grown tighter and has priced many people who had been living on the margins onto the streets.  At the same time, the state has failed to address problems of mental illness.

However, the solution to homelessness is not that complex—it is simply expensive.  We need to put money into services and mental health treatment; we need to treat drug addiction as a health crisis rather than a criminal justice problem.  All of that takes money and resources which we have been unwilling to provide.

Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig opposed Prop. 47 from the start and he continues to oppose it.

Last year he blamed Prop. 47 for producing “a revolving door of low-level arrests” in Yolo County.

In 2018, the Appeal accused Jeff Reisig of “using his prosecutorial discretion to circumvent Proposition 47 and Proposition 57, two measures that passed in 2014 and 2016 intended to reduce state prison populations.”  They note that “by using a felony charge known as ‘conspiracy to commit misdemeanor’—the charge makes any theft conducted by more than one person a felony regardless of the amount—Reisig is threatening to send people to prison for minor acts of theft.”

“It’s like rolling through a spinning turnstile,” Mr. Reisig said. “Our efforts … have been pretty dismal.”

It is interesting to compare his views on Prop. 47 to those of the progressive candidates in Los Angeles.

What the LA Times wrote about Jackie Lacey could have written about Jeff Reisig.

The LA Times hammers her for opposing Prop. 47, “a landmark reform measure to convert simple possession of small amounts of drugs and some petty thefts from felonies to misdemeanors. When it passed, she was slow to embrace the changes it brought, and could not adequately report how the decrease in felony prosecutions affected her office’s budget and workload.”

Rachel Rossi charged, “We have a problem in our district attorney’s office where it is still seen as a criminal issue and not a public health issue.

“Across the country, people have started to see that the war on drugs was a failure,” she said.  “It was a war on communities and on people.  But in our county, we’re continuing that war.

“Today our district attorney claimed to be so innovative to expunge all marijuana convictions, two years too late,” she said, noting that Lacey initially opposed the legalization of marijuana.

George Gascón pointed out he was one of the architects of Prop. 47, which he called “the first major step nationally to decriminalize drug use and bring the prison population down.”

He said it has succeeded in reducing the size of the prison population, “especially men of color in California jails.

“I believe that drug addiction is something that has been dealt with through the health system, not through the criminal justice system,” he said.

But, once again, apparently that’s not how Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig views it either.  He’ll tell you he is for things like drug court, but as the Appeal put it in 2018, he has “remained a steadfast opponent of criminal justice reforms favored by many California voters. He is one of the many prosecutors in California who have decried Prop 47 as a ‘public safety disaster.’”

—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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  1. Alan Miller

    I agree with Dr. Drew Pinsky 100%, regarding the addicted.  Also believe those homeless due to mental illness, inability to pay rent, and the ready (themselves) to seek addiction recovery deserve a societal hand.  It is a delicate balance to avoid society enabling of the addicted while helping those who need a society hand . . . but deny Pinsky’s point at great peril!

    (Note: I know the response – studies show, blah, blah, blah. Everyone has their studies)

    1. Bill Marshall

      Alan… I say again…

      Mental illness, may or may not correspond to addictions, and even those do not account for ‘homelessness’…

      Have gotten to know many… and yes, the bulk have MH issues and self-medicate with drugs… BUT, some have PTSD (call it MH) and their only addiction is cigarettes (which they were introduced to, while in the military)[and technically, nicotine is a ‘drug’]… some have MH issues, no addictions… some are just SOL in their lives (no family, financial support, sometimes by familial abuse that they needed to escape from)…

      The “so-called homeless” (your term) are not monolithic…

      You are absolutely correct… “it is a delicate balance” (your words)… solutions approach the level of rocket science… many homeless have a “constellation” of problems… not a single one… others have less than ‘a constellation’… it is a spectrum…

      I opine that we should do what we can, knowing that the problem is inherently “unsolvable” for all... all we can do is help those who need, and can positively respond to, help.

      One of the folk I tried to help, seemed to positively respond to help… then, ‘failed’… now, with others’ continuing efforts, he’s ‘stable’, and seems to be progressing … I think I am a better person for having tried, even tho’ I couldn’t solve the problem… a hard fact for an engineer…

      In general, homelessness, addictions, other ills (parental abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc.)  are not ‘solvable’… no formula to make those go away… but, with individual/societal efforts, with individuals, there may be success… better to light a candle than curse the darkness… I opine that we do what we can, then accept things we cannot change… that would be wisdom…


    2. Tia Will


      Where, but through studies on effectiveness & safety would you have us get actionable information on medical diseases, prevention, and cures? Would you have us ignore studies on viral spread or new antibiotics for bacterial infections? How about on new surgical techniques? Does “everyone have their studies there too?” Do you really want us to stop research, because….”blah, blah, blah”?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Thank you for that… will drill down, but quick perusal leads me to believe there may be good insights, although my main impression of Dr Drew lines up with ‘an entertainer’/self promoter…

        1. Tia Will

          As is usually the case when a performer starts advocating, they may indeed make some good points. However, there is an inevitable tendency to dramatize ( “47 is murder”) and oversimplify. What is lost in the desire to draw viewers or listeners is complexity since many will not stay around for more than the inflammatory sound bites.

        2. Alan Miller

          I agree with the point of view, attacking one messenger is not an argument and I won’t participate in that direction.

          As example:  many did not appreciate Jack Kevorkian being seen as a symbol of the euthanasia movement, and felt he hurt their cause.

    2. Tia Will

      Thank you for posting this Don. Pointing out deficiencies in existing law and making positive suggestions for what might work better is a far cry from calling the actions of those who supported ineffective or inadequate laws, murder.

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