My View: Yolo DA Calls for Stopping the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline’ – or Does He?

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA  – The Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig, long an advocate for harsh policies, insists that he has changed.  Let’s give him some credit here—he’s worked really hard to find some sort of middle ground.

The key question is whether this is an image change or a policy change—and at this point it still appears to be image-driven rather than policy-driven.

“I’m not an ideologue,” said Reisig in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.  “I’m not in the same category as hardcore progressives that are looking to fundamentally rip down the system and rebuild it. I view our job more as threading the needle of criminal justice reform and public safety at the same time.”

In the last two years, Jeff Reisig has sought out the middle ground—threading the needle perhaps between what he describes as the hardcore progressives like Chesa Boudin or a George Gascón, but also attempting to acknowledge that “the justice system was changing.”

As the LA Times pointed out, “There was a small group of prosecutors examining their roles and asking what they could do to reform the system from within. It interested Reisig, but he didn’t see himself reflected in their political ideologies.”

The question is what has he really done in terms of change?  His two biggest new projects are data transparency and partnering on the Penal Code section 1170(d) for a handful of early releases.

On the other hand, he seems to have mainly aligned himself with the mainstream, hard-on-crime prosecutors on most issues.  For example, his office is challenging the constitutionality of AB 1950 and has signed onto a letter with most of the hardcore DAs opposing early prison release by CDCR.

The rhetoric is there.

The next town hall he is planning caught my eye: “Nothing is more important than our youth!  Join the Yolo County Town Hall to Talk with community leaders and help us stop the school to prison pipeline.”

Notice he is appropriating the progressive language of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

But what does he mean by that?

In 2012, we ran a story: “Yolo County Highest Direct File Rate of Juvenile Cases in the State.”

That was almost a decade ago.  California has since ended the practice of direct filing.  They did it by passing Prop. 57 and SB 1391.  And, by the way, both of those were strongly opposed by Jeff Reisig.

But has he changed on this?  No.  In a recent townhall he continued to blame the crime increase on Prop. 47 and Prop. 57.

In August, Reisig put a lot of the trend on Prop. 47 and Prop. 57.

“In 2014, the voters California passed Proposition 47,” he said.  “The big thing it did was it decreased the penalty for the personal possession of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and those types of drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. And that had a pretty profound effect on how those crimes were then investigated and enforced. And so when you see the drug offense line steadily decreasing… that’s what it is. Prop. 47 was passed and we see a marked decrease in the number of drug cases that the police agencies were sending to the DA.”

With respect to the increase in property crime and violent crimes which he said have crept up since 2017, he explained that voters in California passed Prop. 57 “which allowed for the early release of felons from prison for certain offenses.”

As a result, he said, “We have seen an increase in the recidivism rate among many of those people who’ve been released.”

Reisig continued, “I’m not surprised that you started to see an uptick in violent crime and property crime. Since that initiative was enacted.”

And of course, he challenged SB 1391 all the way to the state Supreme Court, which the court unanimously affirmed.

“The pain and suffering that the Legislature and the governor have inflicted upon victims’ families, now and forever, by enacting a juvenile-court-no-exceptions rule that shields and limits accountability for even the most heinous and violent young killers in our society is unfathomable,” Reisig said. “California is less safe today.

“Our position then, as now, is that 1391 is unconstitutional but (the legislature) passed it regardless,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig in a quote in the Bee in 2019.

Even the Renwick Drake case doesn’t show the DA learning a lesson from the prosecution there.  He played the release of Drake after more than a decade in prison as an acknowledgment of Drake’s progress rather than an initial miscarriage of justice.

Had Drake been arrested today, as a 15-year-old, he would not have made it to adult court in the first place.  He would have been in juvenile court, where a 15-year-old who only played a minor role in the crime belongs.

Instead, Drake was direct filed as an adult.  He faced overcharging and, fortunately, the jurors acquitted him of attempted murder which would have carried a life sentence—but he still spent well over a decade in prison.

It will be interesting to see what the DA has to say about the school-to-prison pipeline.  To me, the school-to-prison pipeline has been interrupted in California, over the vociferous objections of the Yolo DA.

So has the DA really changed?  Or has he just gotten more creative with his messaging?

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. Keith Olson

    Notice he is appropriating the progressive language of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

    How dare he Progressivespeak.

    I never knew there was a “progressive language”.


      1. Alan Miller

        Explain to me what the school to prison pipeline is

        I’m guessing that’s when people are in school and they get in a pipeline that runs from a secret passage behind the janitor’s closet and ends up in at a secret door behind the history section in the prison library.  Students and prisoners regularly trade places, exchanging sentences and educations.  With the occasional unintentional execution of a student for murder.

        But seriously, what is the purpose of using dogwhistle terms?  It it to bring people together?  No, it’s to alienate the perceive opposition and therefore increase misunderstanding, dogma, demonization and polarization.  If people are really trying to bridge gaps, solve problems and inform, they will not use terms that persons outside their inner-circle only understand.  It’s great for the ego, but terrible for society.

        Orwell of course talks in great detail about the power of the manipulation of language.  There are non-fiction books which directly deal with the power of words and language.  None of these techniques are unique.  Of great concern is that most people doing this seem to not even be aware of what they are doing and the harm it is causing, only aware of the warm inner glow of their own ego when an ally clicks the like button.

        1. David Greenwald

          “But seriously, what is the purpose of using dogwhistle terms? It it to bring people together? No, it’s to alienate the perceive opposition and therefore increase misunderstanding, dogma, demonization and polarization. If people are really trying to bridge gaps, solve problems and inform, they will not use terms that persons outside their inner-circle only understand. It’s great for the ego, but terrible for society.”

          I’m sorry but, huh? A serious problem has been the criminalization of youth, especially young men of color and schools through the installation of cops on campus have criminalized to a large extent very normal adolescent activity. I don’t think trivializing the issue is a good take, frankly.

  2. Alan Miller

    The Davis Vanguard:

    Where everyone is assumed innocent until proven guilty, and everyone is assumed innocent after being proven guilty.

    (Except Kyle Rittenhouse, who is assumed guilty after being acquitted by a jury.)

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