BY MIRYAM MORA-BARAJAS
April marks the one year anniversary when Governor Brown signed a bill that made prisoner early release program a reality. This was prompted by the California Supreme Courts decision ordering California prisons to reduce the overcrowding of inmates by 33,000.
Instead of complying with the number 33,000, Jerry Brown decided to take it a step further: he nearly doubled that number to nearly 60,000 prisoners. In October of 2011, prisoners whose latest crime was low risk, regardless of their criminal and violent rap sheet, were freed, without any justice to the victimized community.
The realignment program was directed to designated low-risk offenders. However, you have to first examine the definition of low-risk that legislators created. It includes offenders convicted of: carrying weapons in schools, committing hate crimes, selling guns to gang members, fire, theft … the list goes on.
This has been a dramatic change to the system of corrections, and it is traumatic to the victims of crime.
As a child, I attended a primary school in the city of La Puente. Our family had the misfortune of living next to an alley where it was common for the Sheriff’s helicopter to shine its light on alleys in search of gang members fleeing and hiding between the houses.
I grew up in a community where children instinctively threw themselves to the ground when gunfire sounded. This was learned before they could read and write. Shootings, drug trafficking, gang fights, sexual assault and murder were some of the activities we dealt with in our community.
When some of the gang members were arrested by the police, our community gave a sigh of relief. I always hoped that gangsters were gone forever.
Last April, the County of Los Angeles made history by placing a restraining order that prohibits more than 1,300 gang members from participating in certain activities in La Puente, Bassett, Valinda and portions of City of Industry. By creating a 6 mile security zone through this gang injunction, those areas were protected from over a thousand gang members of Puente 13, Bassett Grande and their rivals.
When La Puente was triumphing against crime, the state gave them a black eye against their efforts. I was deeply saddened to read commentary from La Puente mayor John Solis noting that since the state’s realignment program went into effect, sexual assaults increased by 300 percent and assaults with firearms and stabbings have also increased by nearly 150 percent throughout the city.
A year since California Governor Brown made prisoner realignment a reality, and while lawmakers gathered behind the walls of the Capitol, what will they tell our community when these criminals are arrested and released one day, a week or two later? How can our community have confidence in our political system when they cannot meet its top priority: keeping our streets and schools safe?
MIRYAM MORA-BARAJAS currently serves as the deputy finance director and Latino outreach director for the California Republican Party