With Tough-on-Crime California Ballot Measure Looming, Justice Reform Groups Mobilize

By Darlin Navarrete and Jocelyn Lopez 

SACRAMENTO, CA – Mobilization from criminal justice reform advocates have been initiated to prevent a proposed ballot measure to undo California’s moves to pass stronger criminal penalties, according to an article from Politico.

Advocates for criminal justice reform “fear the initiative to crack down on drug, and property crimes,” sponsored by retailers and prosecutors, said Politico.

Additionally, the article notes that this measure has a high probability of landing on the November ballot, in which a series of victories on overhauling sentencing and incarceration will be reversed.

The article also notes a digital advertising campaign funded by the same group of individuals who have campaigned for lighter criminal penalties. This six-figure campaign “urges Californians to reject the tough-on-crime ballot measure and instead push for changes in the Legislature.”

The story notes those funding the tough-on-crime measures include corporations such as Target, Home Depot, and Walmart, and is also supported by Republicans, including State Senator Republican Kevin Kiely.

According to the article, reformers said, “It’s a dangerous scam that will not work. It will only set California’s progress back decades, making us less safe.”

The struggle over the bill is part of a long history of California’s struggle over criminal justice, reports Politico, noting after an era of mass incarceration, over the last decade California, largely a growing liberal state, had been moving in the opposite direction.

Politico cites 2014 and 2016 ballot initiatives passed by voters reduced some drug and property crimes to misdemeanors. These initiatives also permitted “earlier releases from prison, and in 2020 they rejected a ballot measure that sought to restore some of those penalties.”

The article also states instead of revisiting past ballot initiatives, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic lawmakers are advancing a packet of bills, “targeting repeat or organized retail theft, enhancing penalties for selling fentanyl, and making it easier to prosecute car thieves.”

Since the measure in 2020 failed, the “ballot measure’s backers believe enduring public frustration with retail crime and public drug use” has altered the perspective substantially for stricter punishments, Politico wrote.

Two Democrats, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, have endorsed the measure and the group raised more than $7 million, signaling its measure could resonate with California, the Politico article concludes.

About The Author

Darlin Navarrete is a first-generation DACA student with a bachelor's in Political Science with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics from UCLA. Being an honors student, Navarrete enjoys an academic challenge and aspires to attend law school and become an immigration attorney. Her passion for minority rights and representation began at a very young age where she identified injustices her family encountered and used them as outlets to expand her knowledge on immigrant rights and educate her family. Outside of academia, Navarrete loves spending time with her family, working on cars, and doing community service.

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